Contributor: Alex Alajiki
In last week’s study, we started off on the journey of our liberty in Christ and how exercising our liberty interlocks with other believers around us. We learnt that we owed other believers; especially the weaker ones a duty of care. In today’s study, we will be looking at the topic: “Proper Use of Liberty part1 - Waiving rights for the Gospel” a study of exercising liberty as it pertains to the ministers of the Gospel and how the church should view it.
1) Paul’s Apostleship Declared and Defended: 1 Cor. 9:1-2
“Am I not free [unrestrained and exempt from any obligation]? Am I not an apostle? Have I not [a]seen Jesus our [risen] Lord [in person]? Are you not [the result and proof of] my work in the Lord? 2 If I am not [considered] an apostle to others, at least I am one to you; for you are the seal and the certificate and the living evidence of my apostleship in the Lord [confirming and authenticating it].”
There was obviously a challenge here about the Apostleship of Paul; especially because of what we see in 1Co 9:11, 13, 14. Paul's not exercising this right was made a plea by his opponents for insinuating that he was himself conscious he was no true apostle (2Co 12:13-16). This was what precipitated his response that leads to the revealing of the qualification of an Apostle. Paul knew that to be an apostle in the same sense as the original twelve apostles (with Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot, as we see in Acts 1:26), he had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22). His encounter with Christ on his journey to Damascus met this requirement (Acts 9:2-8, 27; 22:6-21; 26:12-18).
2) Paul’s Rights as an Apostle; 1 Cor. 9:3-7
“This is my defense to those who would put me on trial and interrogate me [concerning my authority as an apostle]: 4 Have we not the right to our food and drink [at the expense of the churches]? 5 Have we not the right to take along with us a believing wife, as do the rest of the apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas (Peter)? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to stop doing manual labor [in order to support our ministry]? 7 [Consider this:] Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?"
In these verses, Paul continues his response from the first two verses directed at those interrogating him and challenging his authority as an apostle. He gets practical and direct! He compares himself with Apostle Peter and the other apostles, unafraid. From his comment, here, we learn that it is right for ministers, missionaries, etc. to marry, and to take their wives with them when on ministrations. But there are people, like Paul, who can do better without being married. There are circumstances, like his, where it is not advisable that they should marry, and there can be no doubt that Paul regarded the unmarried state for a missionary as preferable and advisable. Probably the same is to be said of most missionaries at the present day, that they could do better if unmarried, than they can if burdened with the cares of families. He lays it bare by asking them in verse 7 a question that would challenge their common sense and reveal their ignorance: “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?"
He uses three illustrations from human life and business to show that the principle which has been adopted in the Christian Church is not exceptional. A soldier receives his pay; the planter of a vineyard eats the fruit of it; and the owner of a flock is supported by selling the milk.
3) Paul’s Apostolic Rights Supported; 1 Cor. 9:8-11
“Do I say these things only from a man’s perspective? Does the Law not endorse the same principles? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain [to keep it from eating the grain].” Is it [only] for oxen that God cares? 10 Or does He speak entirely for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake: The plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the harvest. 11 If we have sown [the good seed of] spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?"
The preceding verses calls for the Corinthians to apply common sense from the human perspective; but just in case common sense did not work out for them, Paul balances it with drawing their attention to the Word of God – the ultimate guiding authority. He states that if God can care for some ordinary oxen asking that they MUST NOT muzzle it (tie up its mouth) while it’s treading out the grain how much more his Apostle while in service; preaching the Gospel!
Paul also refers to God’s divine principle of seed time and harvest in verse 11 – “If we have sown [the good seed of] spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (Gen 8:22)
4) A Christian leader’s right to receive wages; 1 Cor. 9:12-14
"If others share in this rightful claim over you, do not we even more? However, we did not exercise this right, but we put up with everything so that we will not hinder [the spread of] the good news of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who officiate in the sacred services of the temple eat from the temple [offerings of meat and bread] and those who regularly attend the altar have their share from the [offerings brought to the] altar? 14 So also [on the same principle] the Lord directed those who preach the gospel to get their living from the gospel."
Obviously, the other apostles and religious leaders and teachers were claiming maintenance, and were supported without personal labour; but Paul and Barnabas waived this right and worked with their hands (Acts 18:3 – “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” so that their lack of understanding would not get in the way of accepting the Gospel. And that working for their upkeep was a matter of choice and not because they were unqualified.
In verse 13 Paul references the priests that officiate in the temple of God stating that they eat from the offerings of meat and bread and other offerings brought to the altar so that the Corinthians will see that it is scriptural. (Lev.6:26, Deuteronomy 18:1)
In verse 14, Paul brings it home; that the same principle that applies to the oxen and those who officiate in the sacred services of the temple or who regularly attend the altar also applied to those who preach the Gospel. Inferring that although he and Baranabas waived their rights of reaping material things from the church in Corinth for the sake of the Gospel, it shouldn’t be misunderstood or taken for granted