Lesson 29: "The Lord Ordained That They Which Preach the Gospel Should Live of the Gospel." (I Corinthians 9:14)
I Corinthians 9:1-27
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson#29. Welcome again! Chapter 9-27 verses. And I would assume another question. Another question that we don't have. But, it's clear that some, in some way or another, had questioned Paul's apostleship. Undoubtedly, the elders at Corinth or whoever sent the questions to Paul asked Paul how to deal with that question. Furthermore, it would appear that either by those who wrote the question (or possibly through others) Paul had learned that one of the arguments used by those questioning his apostleship was that he did not take support from the Corinthians, thus indicating Paul's inferiority to others who were being supported or had been supported by the Corinthian congregation, i.e. in their view. Now, this is NOT said in the chapter and I might be reading too much between the lines, but if the apostle Peter had visited Corinth as it would appear he had, I would be inclined to think it was probably some of the Corinthians that considered themselves Peterites (i.e. followers of the apostle Peter or Cephas, 1:12). Thus, it was the ones that looked upon Paul and Peter as competitors that questioned Paul's apostleship. At least, that would seem reasonable to me. It very well may have been that Peter had taken or accepted support or a maintenance allowance from the Corinthian brethren. I emphasize again, it MAY have been. Whatever the circumstance that prompted the question, it is clear from Paul's answer that Paul did NOT take support or maintenance from the Corinthian brethren. At any rate, some in our day have assumed it is wrong to pay preachers. I recall very vividly one lady who rode to church with my wife and me for about three years. She expressed this view over and over. Possibly you know people who take that view even today. I am inclined to think some preachers, so called, HAVE taken advantage of their position for money. But, even so, that does not prove legitimate preachers should not be supported. However, here is the official view. Are you ready? Let's read the entire chapter and then we'll comment. Let's read, beginning in I Corinthians 9:1. "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this: have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forebear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care of oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel? But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law of Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
All right, verse one is four short questions. The first two of these questions are in reverse order in the American Standard Version, but the same questions. (1) Paul asked: "Am I not an apostle?" If Paul WAS an apostle, obviously, he was to be paid as an apostle. (2) "Am I not free?" In other words, was Paul a slave and not entitled to wages? They knew, of course, that Paul was not to be counted as a slave. (3)"Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" Paul had obviously explained to them how the Lord had appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). And they had seen miracles that had proved Paul's credentials. Paul said (himself) back in 2:4 that his preaching was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," i.e. the Holy Spirit and miraculous manifestation. In 14:18, Paul said he spoke with more tongues, i.e. languages (that he had not learned) than any other. The Corinthians KNEW THAT, and thus, when they thought it over, they had within themselves the proof of Paul's apostleship. However, one of the requirements for being an apostle was to have seen Jesus after He arose from the dead. That is established, you will remember in Acts 1:22, at the appointment of Matthias. Then (question #4), "are not ye my work in the Lord?" The very fact that they had been converted through Paul's teaching and the church of our Lord was planted at Corinth was another proof of Paul's apostleship. Jesus said, "by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20). Then Paul carried that thought into verse 2. In other words, even if someone else should refuse to recognize Paul as an apostle, they who were doing the questioning must recognize Paul as an apostle. Or in refusing to do so, they were admitting they were not Christians, or in other words reprobates. According to verse 3, I understand Paul to be saying he had been asked that question before and had always answered using the following points. Then in verse 4, Paul broke into a series of questions, about 10 questions in the series. (#1) "have we not power to eat and drink?" i.e. am I not entitled to be fed? And thus, if an apostle, which he had already established up above, he was entitled to be supported by the church. Notice that Paul said, "power to eat or drink," i.e. authority to demand financial support for his daily bread. (#2) "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas." The point is that Paul had the authority and the right to be married the same as any apostle and thus demand support for his wife, as others no doubt had done. Paul did not exercise that right and authority. Did that make him any less of an apostle or did that make him an inferior apostle in some way? Of course not! In verse 6, question #3, Paul uses a little of his satirical sarcasm by asking if he and Barnabas were exceptions to that rule. Then, as was Paul's style, Paul began to illustrate his point. Please observe Paul's style here if you will. Do you remember back in chapter 3, Paul illustrated using the vineyard or the idea of husbandry and also in the same place he illustrated God's church as a building? Do you remember in the middle of chapter 7, Paul used circumcision and slavery to illustrate his point. Here in chapter 9, Paul began the same kind of reasoning or illustration in verse 7 and carries his illustration for several verses. We'll get back to Paul's illustrations in a moment, but before we do, take a look at the people Paul referred to in verses 5-6. He said some of the other apostles were married. He referred to the brethren of the Lord, i.e. the sons of Joseph and Mary, James, Jude, Simon and Joses. You will remember James was apparently an elder in the Jerusalem church we conclude from Acts 15:13, 22 and Acts 21:18. Here we learn that at least some of the brethren of the Lord were married. Cephas, of course, refers to the apostle Peter, we have already said. Verse 5 here is saying Peter had a wife, and 1 would infer from this that Mrs. Peter traveled with Peter, at least some of the time. We learned that Peter was married back in Mark 1:30, you will remember. It is interesting that our Catholic friends claim Peter was the first pope and the pope can't get married. You can see from this and what was said back in chapter 7 about marriage, that all that celibacy they push is a bunch of bologna. It's simply not scriptural. It's interesting also that Paul should mention Barnabas here. Do you remember Barnabas? The last time Barnabas was mentioned was in Acts 15:39 where Barnabas and Paul disagreed and parted company. Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus. Paul's reference here tells us that even though these brethren had an honest disagreement they still respected each other. Furthermore, Paul's reference here would imply that the Corinthian Christians knew of Barnabas also, and although we have no other record, Barnabas had his influence even among the Corinthian Christians. We also learn, of course, Barnabas, like Paul, was not married.
Now, Paul's illustration! There are three questions in verse 7. The first question is related to war or military. The second question conies from their experience with growing grapes. And the final question, animal husbandry or caring for the flock. These three questions appeal to reason or human understanding. Then in verses 9-10, Paul showed that the Old Testament taught the same thing. The question in verse 11 means essentially, how does a little earthly support compare in importance to the riches of the gospel that Paul had freely taught them already? Paul's question at the beginning of verse 12 shows clearly that others had been supported by the Corinthians. This Paul did not condemn but simply asked: if they had supported others were they not just as obligated, if not more obligated, to support Paul and Silas and Timothy? Then Paul said, "We have not used this power," i.e. he and the other preachers with him waved this right to support, the same as in Thessalonica. Do you remember II Thess. 3:9? The two passages are very parallel. With two questions in verse 13, Paul reminded them that in the Mosaic period the priests were supported by the things of the temple. In verse 14, Paul gives the conclusion. The Lord has appointed that the gospel should be preached in the same way in the Christian age, i.e. the burden of preaching the gospel is committed to the Christians themselves; so in verse 14, Paul stated the principle. In verse 15, lest the Corinthians should feel bad that they had not supported Paul as he was entitled, Paul told them he wanted to do it that way, i.e. Paul wanted to support himself. He continues the thought into verses 16-18. It adds up to the fact that Paul had set a goal for himself to preach the gospel without charge; he says in verse 18, "that I abuse not my power in the gospel." The tent making business must have been good. Paul did receive money from Philippi you will remember Phil. 4:15-17. Paul did encourage the Corinthians to participate in a benevolent project for the benefit of the poor saints in Judea. We learn this in 16:3. Although, this was mostly done undoubtedly through Timothy which you will remember Paul was sending to Corinth according to 4:17, and we learn also in 16:10. We shall discover more details of this project later. Paul did not want the Corinthians to send him anything. However, it was appropriate for them to support those that ministered to them in the gospel. Then notice in verse 19, Paul said he was free from all men, i.e. he was not a slave; Paul said, "I made myself servant unto all." That was another way of Paul saying he was volunteering his life as a slave to win as many as he could to the gospel. Paul had learned that this spirit of self-sacrifice had won the hearts and minds of many. Paul said in essence that when he dealt with the Jews he tried to accommodate the Jews in any way he could, i.e. within the limits of his conscience. To the Greeks he accommodated the Greeks. When he was with the weak, he accommodated the weak. Paul did not seek to insult anyone. Those without the law in verse 21 means the Greeks and pagans, i.e. non-Jews who did not follow the Mosaic law. Paul did not insist they become proselyte Jews first. Keep in mind how Paul expressed this. It becomes very significant to understand what Paul said at a later time for the benefit of understanding the Judaising teachers. Paul's top priority was saving souls, and he didn't frustrate that goal in any way. Then true to Paul's style, Paul illustrated his point in verses 24-27. This illustration comes from the athletic games and contests that were so widely celebrated among the Greeks and the Romans. The athletic game here referred to is running. In a running contest, the way the Greeks did it, all ran; only one received a trophy. Christians should be just as zealous as those athletes. Christians should observe much of the same; in that, they should run to obtain. They should be temperate in all things. The athletes worked hard in preparing themselves. Athletes took care of their muscles not to over stress them or strain them, but they developed their muscles to accomplish as much as possible in the contest. "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." (verse 25) There were two major contrasts, in the athletic games only one person won in a race and only one got a trophy, a piece of worthless materialistic substance that soon corroded away. In the Christian contrast, so-to-speak, anyone could win who followed the rules, ran the race and finished the course. And another contrast is that Christians receive an incorruptible crown, or a more valuable gift, everlasting life. Thus, the implication is that Christians should do a better job in preparing themselves than the athletes who participate in worldly games. Paul in following his own advice says, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air (i.e. as one who does not have a sense of accomplishment): but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." That doesn't sound like once saved always saved to me. Have a good day.