Support of an Apostle - Part 1 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
January 22, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson 7.4: Support of an Apostle
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9.7-14
1 Cor 9.7-14 (KJV)
7 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?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 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 for oxen?
10 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 that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 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.
13 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? 14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
In the following verses (vs. 7-14) Paul introduces six successive arguments to prove the right of a minister to be supported by his congregation.
1. From the ordinary laws of human justice (1 Corinthians 9:7).
2. By analogy, from the Law of Moses (1 Corinthians 9:8-10).
3. From the obligations of common gratitude (1 Corinthians 9:11).
4. From their concession of the right to others who had inferior claims (1 Corinthians 9:12).
5. From the Jewish provision for the maintenance of priests (1 Corinthians 9:13).
6. By the rule laid down by Christ himself (vs. 14).
7 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
Here is Paul's FIRST ARGUMENT and there are three illustrations, taken from people's ordinary occupations that demonstrate the principle of payment received for service rendered. The soldier, the farmer, and the shepherd all live by their labor; why shouldn’t the minister have the same right to compensation? His work is as complicated, as laborious, and as useful as theirs; is there any reason why he should not receive compensation?
In an army, the soldiers are supported (Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?); the farmer is fed by the field he plants (Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?); the shepherd is supported by the sheep he cares for (Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?).
Therefore, it should not seem out of the ordinary to the Corinthian Christians that Paul has the right to be supported by the people he ministers to.
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?
Here is an analogy taken from the payment of soldiers. The Christian pastor is a soldier in the Lord’s army, and his weapons are unique, according to 2 Corinthians 10:4: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” A soldier (or warrior) has a right to his wages. The Christian ministry is compared to warfare, and the Christian minister to a soldier: “Timothy, my child, I'm giving you this order about the prophecies that are still coming to you: Use these prophecies in faith and with a clear conscience to fight this noble war” (1 Tim 1:18; GW). The Christian life is often compared to warfare (or to a struggle for victory; see Ephesians 6:10-17, 1 Corinthians 9:7, 2 Corinthians 10:4), and the services of the Christian minister are equated to those of a soldier: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…No man that warreth entangleth himself with the
affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim 2:3-4; KJV).
The meaning of this part of the verse (first part) is that he should boldly go into battle as a Christian and a minister in that holy service in which he was appointed, and endeavor to secure the victory. He is engaged in a “good war” if his cause in righteous. He is a “good soldier,” who is faithful to his commander and to his post; who is attentively observing the motions of the enemy, and fearless in courage when engaging with them; who never forsakes his flag, and who continues faithful until the period of his enlistment is over, or until he passes away in death. The Christian minister should be such a soldier.
Have you ever heard of a soldier who went to war, at any time, who paid his way there and paid all his own expenses? The soldier has a right to receive pay from the one who employed him. He will not go at his own expense. This was a matter of general fairness; and this was the principle adhered to by all those who enlisted as soldiers. Accordingly, Paul says it is only fair that the soldier of the Lord Jesus should be supported by those who employed him, and he should not be required to support himself. And why, some may ask, should he receive any less maintenance than the man who devotes his strength, and time, and talents to the defense of his country? The work of the ministry is as demanding, and as self-denying, and perhaps as dangerous, as the work of a soldier; and common fairness, demands that anyone who devotes his youth, and health and life to benefitting others should have a livable salary. Shouldn’t a person who seeks to save people be as well compensated, as the man who lives to destroy them? Paul’s meaning is, that since ministers of the Gospel are the good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and are engaged in spiritual warfare, in fighting the good fight of faith, against the enemies of God, it is only reasonable that they receive a fair salary from those they minister to.
who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?
This is the second illustration to show that ministers of the gospel have a right to support. The argument goes like this: It is logical that those who labor should receive fair compensation. A man who plants a vineyard does not expect to labor for nothing; he expects to be paid for his labor, and he looks to the owner of the vineyard for his pay. The vineyard owes its beauty, growth, and fruitfulness to him. It is reasonable; therefore, that he should receive compensation for his work from the vineyard owner. “So, you can say, we labor for our wellbeing. We obtain benefits from our hard work . We spend our time, and strength, and talent for your benefit; and therefore, it is reasonable that we should be paid while we labor for your good.” The church of God is often compared to “a vineyard;” and this adds to the beauty of this illustration.
The church, in Scripture, is called a vineyard: “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:…And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:1-2; KJV). The plants are the Lord’s, but he uses the ministers’ hands to plant them. Everyone who plants a vineyard expects that there will be fruit at harvest time; if he hires laborers to plant and tend the vines, and pick the fruit, he anticipates that he will have to pay them the wage they have agreed upon. The church of Christ is a vineyard, and it is often called by that name in Scripture; ministers are planters, vinedressers, and laborers in the vineyard.