Support of an Apostle - Part 4 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
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.
If others be partakers of this power over you,
This does not mean any tyrannical power and jurisdiction that some had over them, with respect to the practice of religion; but the right to maintenance (the teacher’s privilege of partaking of the believers material things), which either the false apostles, Judaizers (who were perverting the gospel and attempting to put the believers partially back under the law of Moses), or the true ministers of the word there, claimed, and did enjoy. It is interesting, that the Judaisers had taken the right (whether it was theirs or not) to be maintained by the believers in the assembly at Corinth. They had no right, but they had taken it, nevertheless. Paul had earlier alluded to the ministry of Peter (Cephas): “Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5; ASV). Though it has not been confirmed, it is probable that Peter ministered in Corinth: “Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor 1:12; ASV); (also see I Corinthians 3.22, 15.5)—and was supported during that time by the church. The same is probably also true of Apollos (see 1.12, 3.4-6, 22; 16.12). If the church supported them, their founding father Paul was no less deserving.
are not we rather?
Who has given greater evidence of the apostolic mission? Who had labored more or who has done you more good than Paul and Barnabas, especially Paul, who was more than an ordinary minister; an apostle, and the first to preach the Gospel to them. Note, Ministers should be valued and provided for according to their worth. It was Paul and his helpers—not those conceited, self appointed Judaizers—who were worthy of support.
Nevertheless we have not used this power;
Paul had the right to be supported by the church, but he had never exercised that right, because he did not want to hinder the response of anyone to the gospel. Had he been materially recompensed for his ministry, some might have assumed he was simply another itinerate preacher motivated by profits—“At least we don't go around selling an impure word of God like many others…” (2 Cor 2:17; GW)—and would have refused him a hearing. To avoid being a stumblingblock—“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Cor 8:9; KJV)—to any, Paul relinquished the right to receive support from those to whom he ministered. Paul and others (perhaps Barnabas) had not demanded their right for support, however they had worked to earn their own living and not be a burden to the church. Paul was not required to work this way, but he chose to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
“But suffer all things” is the story of Paul’s life, for he suffered many things as he preached the gospel among the heathen: famine, thirst, nakedness, hard labor, and many other hardships. He put up with the hardships of “working two jobs” so that no pagan inquiring about Christianity would be put off by the financial obligation of supporting a missionary. A minister of the gospel who is true to his calling will suffer lack of material things rather than bring reproach upon the gospel. Many times a minister could request many things that he needs for the comforts of life, but fearing that he may bring reproach upon the gospel by someone accusing him of preaching for money, he suffers the loss of these things, and carries on without them.
“Lest we should hinder the Gospel of Christ” suggests that some might imply, that they preached the Gospel only for monetary gain, and not for the salvation of souls, and the glory of Christ. Some people criticized the traveling Greek philosophers who accepted fees for popular lectures. Socrates believed that a teacher who accepted money for his work would not speak as freely with his audience as he might otherwise. Paul renounced his right to support, since by claiming it he could hinder his success. He denied himself, for fear of offending a weaker brother; but asserted his right to support for fear that his self-denial would prove prejudicial to the ministry. It is plain, in this case, that justice, and not self-love, is the principle by which the apostle is motivated.
In order not to “hinder the gospel of Christ,” the Apostle Paul continues to “suffer all things.” Paul is not justifying something he did, but only something that he has the right to do, a right which he did not exercise. Paul has a right to be supported for his work. Yet, he doesn’t want to do anything that would hinder the gospel of
Christ. Therefore he doesn’t receive any remuneration; he supports himself by plying his trade, which is tentmaking. If he would have accepted support, he would have gained financially, but he would have lost morally and spiritually; because God called him to win souls—not to get ahead financially.
In our day there are many religious rackets. To say there are not is to be as blind as a bat. Unfortunately, there are men who make merchandise of the gospel of Christ—there is no doubt about it. However, it is God’s method that those who have a spiritual ministry are to be supported by those who benefit.
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?
Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things
The phrase “Do ye not know” implies that the readers should have known and understood the fact that Paul was presenting. He is presenting his FIFTH ARGUMENT to support his claim that he had a right to receive maintenance from those whom he ministered to—The Church at Corinth. He began this argument in 9.7, but now he expands on it by giving two more examples of his right to receive support. Once again he points back to the Law of Moses and the temple priests to illustrate how they relate to the minister and things that are sacred. There are three passages that should be read at this point since they have to do with the maintenance of the priests and Levites—Leviticus 6.16-26, Numbers 18.8-19, Deuteronomy 18.1-4.
“They which minister” does Not include the priests in the temples of the Heathen gods, as the Ethiopic version suggests; but here it is the priests in the temple at Jerusalem, who were employed in slaying the sacrifices, taking off their skins, cutting them into pieces, laying them on the wood upon the altar, and burning them, along with other services they performed, which were well known to the Corinthians, since many in this church were Jews. They would have considered that those “serving in the temple or at the altar” were working and therefore they derived their livelihood from the job. It may be that Paul's mention, in the previous verse, of not being a “hindrance” to the gospel, was precisely what prompted the thought of the rich extravagance and gratuity of all priests, pagan and Jewish, and of the “hindrance” which the conduct of such priests certainly causes.
Barclay gave a detailed account of all the profitable benefits which Jewish priests claimed under the temple system, pointing out that, at a time when the average family had meat only once a week, many of the priests were suffering “from an occupational disease caused by eating too much meat.” They had grown lazy, wealthy, and contemptuous of the poor. Paul would not be LIKE THEM. Nevertheless, Paul did not deny, but rather affirmed, the appropriateness of the servants of temples living from the temple revenues, the application being that ministers of the gospel should live from the revenues of the churches.
live of the things of the temple?
When the appointed priests of God made the peace offering on the altar, a portion of the offering was consumed on the alter and a portion of it was designated for the priest’s personal use. The priests were made rich by almost everything that was brought into the temple by those desiring to worship God: tithes and firstfruits, and other offerings, and presents in money or goods. This system was designed by God for the priests and Levites, since they had no other way to earn a living and support their families. The priests and Levites had no inheritance among the children of Israel, and therefore provision was made for them in this way. Many of them were rich and lived lavishly, which is apparent from the liberal gifts of one family of Levites for Passover Offerings, “Conaniah and his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, and Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad, the leaders of the Levites, gave the Levites 5,000 sheep and goats and 500 bulls as Passover sacrifices” (2 Chron 35:9; (GW).
and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
The priests were constantly beside the alter to offer sacrifices. The priests and Levites always stood in their ministry, some doing one thing, and some another; some slew the sacrifice, others sprinkled the blood; some took away the ashes, others laid the wood, others brought up the parts of the sacrifice when slain, skinned, and cut it up, and laid the pieces on the altar; some parts the altar consumed by fire; but then there were other pieces which by law were reserved for the priests, and upon which they and their families lived. The priests were appointed by God just as Paul had been appointed; and if they lived off the things brought into the temple; why shouldn’t Paul be taken care of by those to whom he ministered. They were his own children in the faith, since they had been born again through the message he had delivered unto them.