A pastor once said, “Congregations often get their idea of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something amazing, cutting edge, and glamorous. . . . With hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all—they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won’t have to bother with following Jesus anymore.”
Ina sense this had happened to Paul and the church in Corinth. They wanted someone with charisma, a leader, someone they could follow. A Peter or Apollos. But rather they received a man who came in weakness. And according to some of them not one of the original 12 apostles. Because of this, and maybe because he already had work, they decided to also treat him a lesser apostle, and Paul was receiving no support from this church. They were showing their contempt for Paul not just in words but with their wallets.
And that’s where they missed the point. They were not giving to receive the gospel, they were supposed to be giving in response to the gospel. Churches should desire to support not the pastor so much as the gospel. Why do you give? To match the budget, and get the bills paid, or because of what God in Christ has done for you.
All for the sake of the gospel!
- Supporting the gospel is imperative
- Refusing support for the sake of the gospel
Supporting the gospel is imperative
Paul begins in chapter 9, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?” Remember in chapter 8 when Paul spoke about rights. In Chapter 8 he said, “you have the right to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but for the sake of the weaker brother, don’t do it.” Now he gets into an example from his own life, he says I have the right to earn a living from the preaching of the gospel. In fact, if anyone has a right it is Paul. Therefore, Paul starts off with these questions. All of them rhetorical expecting a positive answer. Of course, Paul is free! Of course, he is an apostle! Of course, he has seen the Lord! And of course, the church in Corinth is his workmanship in the Lord!
You of all people should know this, Corinthians! He says in verse 2, “If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” In other words, you are living proof of Gods work through me. Of all people you who believed through the message I gave should see me as one sent by God! It was ME of all people that God by his grace to change you, so that you have received eternal riches in Christ! The fact that there is a church there is a seal of God choosing me as an apostle to the gentiles.
And then Paul begins his defense. He says in verse 3, “This is my defense to those who would examine me.” He is standing on trial, and he is the defendant, and he lays out the evidence, from his own life in verse 3-7, and from the scriptures in verse 8-12.
“Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of our Lord, and Cephas?” It’s almost as he is quoting the church and turning it into a question. They were acting as if he had no right to eat and drink, and no right to take a long a believing wife. “Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?” The other apostles seemed to have no problem convincing the church to hand over the goods, to allow them to take spouse. They were giving only when the liked the pastor. And stopped when they didn’t like Him anymore.
Which makes no sense! The church can easily pay people according to giftedness, and not according to faithfulness. To this Paul says, look at yourselves. You are Christian because God worked through me! I have done battle for you, “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense” .I have planted you! “Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit.” I have shepherded you! “Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?” If soldiers, famers, and shepherds get wages, then should I not receive the wages?
It seemed as if these Corinthians had never offered to help. As long as he doesn’t ask for help, we are not going to offer it. He needs to ask. Till then we can better use our money on other pastors who need it. . And this is not just something that is common sense in every industry, that a worker is worth his wages, but it biblical.
This is the point Paul makes in verse 8-9. “Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Paul says go and read your Bibles. In Deuteronomy 25:4 its says that a worker is worth his wages. This law was not written for oxen. Oxen can’t read. It was made for humans to read. To make a point. Its cruelty animals to cause them to go hungry when right before their eyes there is an abundance of food as they tread out the grain. And here Paul is saying there is an abundant harvest of which he should reap.
He goes on to make his argument from the Old Testament and bit later when he says. “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the alter share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” There is the right stated bluntly. Those working in the service of the gospel, including Paul, are entitled to financial support. The argument is watertight, and there is no getting around it. That was the churches obligation. But he will not make use of it for the sake of the gospel. Not for the sake the pastor, but for the gospel! This brings us to or second point.
Refusing support for the sake of the gospel
Paul, however, is a man who knows how to turn lemons into lemonade. The potentially humiliating fact that he, in contrast to his rivals, has not been deemed worthy of support is actually a sign of his seriousness and commitment to the gospel. Paul makes this his boast - not that he has refused support from the Corinthian assembly, but that he has not made use of his clear right to demand it (cf. 1 Thess. 2.7-9).
Verse 12b “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Why? Not because he didn’t have the right, but for the sake of the gospel. He never ever wanted to put a stumbling block in the way of the gospel. How might this happen. If the pastor asks for something, someone may think it wrong or too much, and not be able to listen to the preaching with the same freedom as before, because he has something against the person. The gospel is already a stumbling block, Paul did not want to put anything else in the way to people receiving it.
Nothing should ever get in the way of the gospel. Not even a lack of compensation. The gospel take priority. That is the theme of both chapter 8 and 9, and even 7. The priority is the kingdom of God. That is the bigger lesson. Everything should be in subservience to the gospel message. Therefore, he has made no use of the rights, nor would he ever!.
Verse 15-16 says, “But I have made no use of any of these rights, not am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.” He says I don’t want your money – in fact it might show that financial security for me comes before the gospel! NO way! I would rather die. This is a pastor who cares about one thing. The gospel. If anything, else came above that he would rather die. Even though it was his right to get his living by preaching he was going to lay all his rights down.
The gospel removes all ground for boasting, so that we might boast only in it. This is why in two lines it looks like he contradicts himself, “For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.” His boast in only in the gospel which leaves no ground for boasting in himself or anything else. This is why he says (16) he says, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting.” The gospekempties us – humbles us. It speaks of our need not of our greatness. IT is given freely. Totally and free. There for he says, “Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” It is the very nature of the gospel that it is free, that lays the necessity upon every gospel preacher! Woe is me if I do not preach.
In that sense preaching the word is a prophetic ministry. Like Jeremiah says, “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Or Amos when he says, “The lion has roared— who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken— who can but prophesy?” The Sovereign LORD has spoken in the gospel through Jesus Christ – he has commissioned Paul to preach this good news – and woe is he if he does not!
“For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.” Remember in 1 Corinthians 4 Paul said that the Apostles should be regarded as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” A steward is one who the master entrusts his household affairs to.
Later in 1 Corinthians 4, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” It is God who appointed him a steward, and it is God he is called to obey.
But he does it not just because he is a steward and required by the king to live out this particular calling, but he also does it of his own will, and because of that he says, “I have a reward.” What then is my reward? That in my preaching, I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”
In refusing to exercise his right to receive financial support from those he serves, he gets to boast in Christ that he can share in his sufferings! He is legitimately giving up something for the Lord. He is saying for the sake of the gospel I am laying aside my right for financial support.
This is not an arrogant, self-serving boast. It is a joyful claim that he is sacrificing something he is not required to give. Have you ever done that for the sake of the gospel?
He receives the award of gratification in giving away the good news about Jesus for free. We can be glad dear brothers and sisters when the gospel causes us to give up something. And it will. But we will do so gladly and willingly counting it all joy that we have the chance to share in the sufferings of our Lord! .
Romans 8:17 ff says, “if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This is made even more clear in Peter when he says, “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
This is exactly what Paul is saying. I am not ashamed that I am not receiving anything from you. In fact I can boast, or better yet glory in God in this matter. In fact it is this gospel suffering that shows that it is truly the gospel that is at work in you. If you have never given anything up that that you wanted to keep you have not understood the gospel call on your life. The gospel is the peral of great price for which we are willing to forego all of lifes luxuries if need be.
Dear church to conclude, Paul speaks to the church and says, that if the people receiving the gospel will not provide it is anindication of their low esteem for the Gospel or the pastor. . When Christ becomes lord he becomes lord not just in a spiritual Sunday kind of way, but in a very practical, 24/7, body and soul kind of way. All belongs to him and is to be used in service to our Lord Jesus. So woe to the church that receives the gospel, and does nothing in terms of supporting it. Those who know the gospel and have received the gospel, and life out of the gospel, will also abundantly want to support gospel ministry..
On the other hand. The mystery with which Paul is entrusted compels him to preach regardless of outcome. Why because he is simply following in Jesus’ footsteps. Salvation cost Jesus everything and it costs us nothing. The glory of the gospel is that it is extravagantly free. Anyone can come and receive the full pardon that comes through Christ. Drug dealers, church kids, prostitutes, all get the same deal: free forgiveness, redemption, and adoption in Christ. The gospel isn’t just cheap. It’s free. Gloriously, delightfully, dizzyingly free. Jesus really did pay it ALL.
And in this way, it cannot be bought and sold like some commodity. Some would like it that way. There is the story of Spurgeon who was once invited by a wealthy man to come down and preach in a country church in order to help them raise funds to pay a debt. The man told Spurgeon he was free to use his country house, his town house, or his seaside home.
Spurgeon wrote back and declined coming and said, ‘Sell one of your homes and pay the debt yourself’ The gospel is not for sale. It must be given free. So, in this way the church does not pay the pastor in the sense that others get paid for services. The payment is simply a result of the gospel. And the pastor does not preach because he gets paid. He preaches as a result of the gospel. And that’s what this chapter is about. The gospel. The church gives in response to the gospel. The pastor preaches because of the nature of the gospel.
What are you willing to give for the gospel?