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1 Corinthians 9:11–12

“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? 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.”

Sadly, many people see God’s law as entirely negative or oppressive. Certainly, the law of God is a burden for those who have not yet been converted to Christ; however, we cannot blame that on the law. The fault lies with sinners, whose unregenerate hearts make the law burdensome (Rom. 7:7–12). The law in itself is a good thing, the Lord’s gift to bless human beings. Paul demonstrates as much in 1 Corinthians 9:8–10, where he notes that a law given to benefit oxen (Deut. 25:4) also had human beings in view. If lesser animals such as oxen have a right to eat of the fruit of their labor, people made in God’s image have the right to a wage for their work.

Paul makes this argument while defending his Apostleship. Since he did not take financial support from the Corinthians but other Apostles received wages for their gospel ministry, many Corinthians concluded that Paul may not have been an Apostle. Clearly, the Corinthians thought that since Apostles have the right to earn a living from preaching the gospel, all true Apostles will be supported by the gospel and anyone not thereby supported could not be an Apostle.

As is often the case in 1 Corinthians, Paul agrees with the premise of his audience but not with their conclusion. In today’s passage, he says once more that Apostles have a right to financial remuneration for gospel ministry. He uses rhetorical questions to prove that the spiritual benefits granted to the Corinthians through his preaching and teaching entitled him to receive material benefits from them. In fact, since other Apostles who had been less instrumental in the work in Corinth had a rightful claim to material support from the Corinthians, Paul was even more deserving because he planted the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 9:11–12a; see Acts 18:1–11).

Of course, Paul had the right to financial support and therefore the right to be called an Apostle. The issue was that the Corinthians did not understand that merely possessing a right does not mean one must take advantage of it. Sometimes it is better for believers, including the Apostles, to freely not make use of their rights for a greater good. In this case, Paul did not take financial support from the Corinthians because he thought doing so would have created an unnecessary obstacle to the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12b). Many first-century religious teachers and philosophers went about peddling their teaching in a clear attempt to steal from the faithful. Paul did not want gospel teachers to be associated with such charlatans.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Commenting on the support of those who preach the gospel, John Chrysostom writes that “those who contribute to their teachers receive more than they give.” The spiritual benefits we receive from good gospel teaching far outweigh any material benefits we can give. That alone should make us willing to support the work of the gospel financially. We always receive much more than we give.

For Further Study
  • Leviticus 19:18
  • Deuteronomy 24:14–15
  • 1 Corinthians 9:15
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:9

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From the April 2021 Issue
Apr 2021 Issue