Support of an Apostle - Part 3 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
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.
Verse 10 continues the line of thought that was begun with verse 9.
It is interesting that Paul reaches into the Book of Deuteronomy and uses this verse in his letter to the Corinthian Christians. “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?” It establishes the fact that the Law of Moses was the voice of God speaking. This quotation also illustrates the fact that there are certain statements in the Word of God which, even though relating to the natural and physical are designed to convey spiritual truths that need to be seen and understood. And then he adds… “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. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (1 Cor. 9:9–11). Do you see how Paul is applying this? He is saying, “Pay your preacher.” “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). The man who is ministering to you in spiritual things is feeding you spiritual food. You, in turn, are to feed him with material things. That is how Paul is applying this verse.
“For our sakes, no doubt, this is written.”
Certainly, if this principle can be applied to the brute beast, it should be applied much more to mankind in general.
“That he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.”
That is, he should be rewarded. It is only natural and right, but more than that, it is scriptural that one should expect profit from his labors.
The law says this about oxen for our sakes. Note, those who labor to do our souls good should NOT have their mouths muzzled, but have food provided for them. He argues from common fairness: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”(v.11). What they had sown was much better than they expected to reap. They had taught them the way to eternal life, and labored energetically to put them in possession of it. Surely, it was not in the least bit out of line, that while they were involving themselves in this great work, to expect to be supported in their own worldly life. They had been God’s instruments to convey to them the greater spiritual blessings; and that should be reason enough for them to claim as great a share in their carnal things as was necessary to support them? Note, those who enjoy spiritual benefits by the ministry of the word should not begrudge maintenance to those who are employed in this work. If they have received a real benefit, one would think they could not refuse them this. Does it show gratitude or fairness to do them so much good, and yet receive so little in return?
Paul is not suggesting here that God does not like animals. God does care for the animal kingdom—a truth which Jesus taught in Matthew 6.26: “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?” Neither does Paul mean that God is not thinking of the oxen at all. The Greek word translated “altogether” in verse 10 signifies “as doubtless it is.” That is, “There is no doubt this is written for our sakes, to set forth the truth that he who ploweth should plow in hope, and he that thresheth in hope should be a partaker of this hope.”
The same is true in the spiritual life. We, who sow spiritual things, feeding the church from the Word of God, should do so in hope and faith, trusting the Lord to take care of our physical needs through those to whom we minister. If animals are allowed to share in the food they help to produce, then surely God will take care of a minister whom He called, ordained and sent as His undershepherd. Indeed, He will take care of His own.
Paul testifies, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have
learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content… And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:11, 19; ASV). God will supply our every need—through one source or another. Paul was trying to get the believers in Corinth to understand that if they did not give to the support of ministers and supply their physical needs, the believers themselves would be losers—they would lose in rewards.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
Paul’s third illustration grew out of verse 10 and his discussion of Deuteronomy 25.4, but it concerned a basic principle of community reciprocity: beneficial service should be rewarded. If Paul had been used to bring spiritual riches to the Corinthians—“that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge” (1 Cor 1:5; ASV)—material recompense was surely not too much to expect.
Paul asked the question, "Am I not free," as he opened this chapter (v. 1). He asked the question in order to assert the right of his companions and himself to exercise their personal judgment on all ambiguous matters where there is no direct ruling from the Lord. In the case of the Corinthian Church he asserts these rights even more firmly than any other apostle might have done, because under Christ he was the founder of that church. Undoubtedly, in his mind the Christian ministry has its rights as well as its privileges; and freedom of thought within the range of the gospel with which it is entrusted, the right to marry and to the adequate material maintenance of home life are to be ranked among them. As we have seen, Paul reinforces his statements with quotations from scripture and illustrations drawn from everyday life.
When the apostle says, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things,” he is comparing preachers of the Gospel to sowers of seed; the seed they sow is the word of God, which is like seed, because of its smallness and dreadfulness in the eyes of carnal men; however, just as the choicest seed is laid aside for sowing, the Gospel is most choice and excellent to true believers; like seed, it has a generative quality through divine influence. And unless seed is sown into the soil, it will not produce fruit; likewise, neither does the word of God, unless it has a place in the heart, where, like seed in the ground, it can increase gradually, and produce fruit in the life of the believer; and new life in the heart of a new Christian. The sower, after he has cast his seed into the soil, must wait long and patiently for it to spring up and increase; so do the faithful dispensers of the Gospel: and what they sow or minister is of a spiritual nature; it comes from the Spirit of God; He is the one who directs it; He qualifies men to preach it, and by His power men are born-again.
The argument that Paul makes here is based upon the concept of common equity; what is fair: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? What they had sown was much better than they expected to reap. They had taught them the way to eternal life, and then they worked hard to bring them to where they were willing to accept it. Certainly, it was not too much to expect that while they were involved in this work, they would receive support for their own secular life. They had been God’s instruments for bringing to them great spiritual blessings; so it is only fair for them to share in their carnal things; as much as is necessary for them to make ends meet. Note, those who enjoy spiritual benefits by the ministry of the word should not begrudge maintenance to those who are employed in this work.
Notice that Paul used the personal pronoun “WE” twice, denoting the ministers—Paul, Timothy, Titus and others who had sowed spiritual things in their assembly. Then he uses “YOUR carnal things,” to stress the difference between the ministers and members of the assembly. He asks, “is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” That is, “Can the necessities of the body be compared to the necessities of soul and spirit?”Jesus asked, “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt 16:26; ASV). With such a great difference in value, we dare not compare spiritual things with carnal.