Paul Was a BiVocational Preacher   Leave a comment

Have you noticed how Hollywood can spend millions producing what they are certain will be a blockbuster, only to watch the movie bomb in the box office? Then along comes a small-time producer, who spends peanuts producing a flick that becomes the latest rage. Think the original Star Wars movie.

Image result for image of bi vocational pastorIt’s all too common to see an athlete sign a ridiculously lucrative contract only to be injured or have a sub-par season. Then a rookie can sign the league minimum and have an explosive year. You can’t always judge a movie by its budget or an athlete by his salary. Furthermore, you can’t judge a servant of Christ by his pay or lack thereof.

I know may be hard to believe as people genuflect before some televangelists in their limousines and million-dollar mansions, but the apostle Paul chose not to receive payment from the church at Corinth. Instead, he established a church in this sin-hardened city at his own expense. He served them freely so that the gospel would have an open door to travel through. It would be hard to argue that Paul’s personal sacrifices didn’t bring about great results for God’s kingdom.

Modern Christians have also been called to have a godly work ethic as ministers of the gospel. Some of us will be paid, others will serve as volunteers, yet, we are all called to represent Christ … to serve Jesus with our lives.

Paul started by building a lengthy argument for ministers being paid or at least supported by the church they serve in. In 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul began by reminding the Corinthians of his apostolic identity.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  1 Corinthians 9:1

Paul’s four rhetorical questions all expect a positive answer, and they become increasingly specific. Certainly he enjoyed the liberty that every other believer had. Moreover, he possessed the rights and privileges of an apostle. The proof of his apostleship was twofold. He had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21-22) on the Damascus road (Acts 22:14-15; 26:15-18), and he had founded the church in Corinth, which was apostolic work (see Romans 15:15-21).

If I am not an apostle to othersat least I am to youfor you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 9:2

There were some who doubted Paul’s apostleship (Galatians), but the Corinthians shouldn’t have because they themselves were the proof that he was an apostle. If the Corinthians denied Paul’s apostleship they denied their own validity as a church. Paul, therefore, took the opportunity to work that issue into his discussion seeking to nip it in the bud. He explained that the Corinthians were the “seal” of his apostleship. A seal in the ancient world was a warm blob of wax into which a signet ring was pressed to seal a letter or package. It was an assurance that the contents had not been opened; it showed who owned the contents; and it showed the genuineness of the contents, that it was sent by the right person. The Corinthians were Paul’s work in the Lord, proof that he was obeying God’s guidance.

As a Christian, you should have your own “seal” of people you have impacted and influenced for eternity. Like Paul, our goal must be to see lost people trust in Jesus Christ and then grow to maturity in Him. In light of eternity, nothing else will matter.

This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wifelike the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6

Paul started by sharing his apostolic rights to make his living from the gospel. His argument was based on a barrage of rhetorical questions that persuasively presented a rationale for his financial support, then he concluded it was best for him to forgo those rights in Corinth (9:12b). Paul lived what he preached and he firmly believed that proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

So have you ever noticed that when people work for free, they and their services are worthless. Since Paul was serving for free, some questioned his credentials. In Corinth, orators, teachers, and philosophers were well paid. It was unthinkable that someone like Paul would not receive a paycheck. So Paul built an air-tight case for remuneration and then insisted he would not make use of his rights. For Paul, proclaiming Christ demanded paying a price.

In the context, “the right to eat and drink” is a figurative reference to financial support. It means to “eat and drink” at the expense of others. Six different times the word “right” is used in this chapter. It’s a very central issue. Paul was saying that he had a legitimate claim to receive financial support from the people to whom he ministered.

All of these questions expect a positive answer. Paul stated that apostles have the right to be married and to cease to work outside of ministry.

Whoever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, 3  or does the law not say this as well? 1 Corinthians 9:7-8

Paul gave five reasons why he had the right to be supported by the churches to whom he ministered, why he shouldn’t have to work at a trade to earn a living, so he could devote his energy to study, prayer, preaching, and teaching. He began with an appeal to common sense with three illustrations from everyday experience in the workplace. 

  • Soldiers don’t work at their own expense.
  • Farmers eat from the proceeds of their fields.
  • Those who tend the flock get to use the milk.

Just like soldiers, farmers and herders, a Christian worker has a right to expect benefits from his labor.

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxenis he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for usbecause the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest.  1 Corinthians 9:9-10

Paul used Scripture to back up his reasoning, quoting the Old Testament law regarding the treatment of oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 commanded God’s people not to muzzle the ox while it was in the process of threshing, to allow it to eat the grain. If God cares so much about the animals who served His people, how much more must He care for the people who serve them?

If something is true on a lower scale, it is certainly true on a more important, higher scale. If mere animals are given the right to eat as they are working in the fields, certainly human beings made in the image of God have that same right. God is more concerned about getting across a principle for human beings in this text than He is about getting across a principle of animal husbandry.

Several times Paul asserted that the Old Testament was written as an example for New Testament believers (see 1 Corinthians. 10:6, 11; Romans 4:23-24; 15:4). This is an important reminder that the Old Testament is of great benefit to each and every one of us. We should read it frequently and look for opportunities to study it. Perhaps the price that you need to pay in proclaiming Christ is to spend some time studying the Old Testament. After all, it makes up ¾ of your Bible. To effectively proclaim Christ, we must be familiar with the Bible as he and the apostle Paul knew it.

If we sowed spiritual blessings among youis it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from youare we not more deserving? 1 Corinthians 9:11-12

In 9:11-12, Paul appealed to the inherent fairness of paying ministers. Spiritual things are intrinsically more important than physical things. The former will last forever whereas the latter are only temporary. Consequently, those who benefit from spiritual ministry should physically support those who minister to them (see Galatians 6:6). In spite of this spiritual principle, Paul surrendered his rights because proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

But we have not made use of this rightInstead we endure everything so that we maynot be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ9:13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple 5  eat food from the templeand those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? 1 Corinthians 9:12b-13

Paul referenced the Old Testament Jewish custom pertaining to the temple and the priests and Levites. The concept of paying God’s servants is not a New Testament notion; it dates back to the Old Testament. Paul saw his gospel ministry as priestly service (see Romans 15:16).

In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Paul closed his argument in powerful fashion, explaining that Jesus taught the same right for servants to be paid (Matthew 10:10Luke 10:7). Case closed: full-time vocational servants have the freedom to be paid.

My church pays our pastor, but a lot of churches don’t. Some are too small or new starts, so cannot afford to pay a large salary. I know quite a few pastors who serve in a voluntary fashion while supporting themselves bi-vocationally. There’s nothing wrong with that if those pastors feel called to service in that fashion and the church can’t afford to pay a salary. But I know some big churches that don’t pay their ministry staff because, they claim, there’s no Biblical mandate to do so. They apparently skip 1 Corinthians 9. If the church can afford a huge new building, but isn’t paying the pastor … there is something wrong in that church.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boastingbecause I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarilyI have a rewardBut if I do it unwillinglyI am entrusted with a responsibility. 1 Corinthians 9:15-17

Having argued vigorously for his right to the Corinthians’ support, Paul then proceeded to argue just as strongly for his right to give up this right. This section gives the reader a window into the apostle’s soul.

Paul explained that his passion for lost people and preaching the gospel consumed him. Consequently, he would go to any and every length to share Christ. Paul actually felt it was better to die than to receive any financial support from Corinth and lose out on freely boasting in the free offer of the gospel. This idea of boasting is used in Paul’s Bible—the Old Testament, of glorying in God. So when Paul used the word “boast” in his writings, he wasn’t talking about personal accomplishments. He was talking about what the Lord has done through him in spite of his weakness.

Why was Paul so adamant that he should not be paid for preaching the gospel? If he had the right, why not capitalize on it? Paul said that he could not legitimately boast in his ministry of preaching, because God ordered him to do it. He stated that he was “under compulsion” (9:16) and had been entrusted with a “stewardship” (9:17). There was an irresistible call of God on his life, and he couldn’t take any personal credit for doing it. He was a man on fire for God! “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The word “woe” occurs frequently in the Old Testament prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment. Paul felt the weight of severe consequences if he chose to forego preaching for another profession. Since God dramatically called Paul to preach, he had to proclaim the gospel. There was no reward in simply doing what God had called him to do (see Luke 17:10).

What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of chargeand so not make full use of my rights in the gospel. 1 Corinthians  1 Corinthians 9:18

Paul’s “reward” was demonstrating love to people by freely preaching the gospel. His highest pay was the privilege of preaching without pay. Of course, Paul also believed that his loving service would be recognized in the future by his Lord (see 3:12-14). However, Paul recognized that we do not get rewarded for our calling in and of itself, only for the manner in which we fulfill it. Thus, Paul sacrificed much and served well so that he might one day be rewarded for his service.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to allin order to gain even more people.To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the JewsTo those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weakI have become all things to all peopleso that by all means I may save some.1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Paul described his passion to do whatever it takes to win lost people to Christ. Six times in this paragraph Paul stated his desire to reach the lost. He reached the lost by adapting his methods according to the group he tried to reach. Paul pursued anyone and everyone:

  • Jews;
  • “those who are under the law” probably includes Gentile God-fearers and proselytes to Judaism as well as ethnic Jews;
  • “those who are without law” refers to Gentiles apart from any Jewish influence; and
  • “the weak” most likely refer to Christians with weak consciences. Paul must therefore be using “win” in the broader sense of winning to a more mature form of Christian faith.

Paul’s missionary principle had practical applications and still does. For missionaries it means learning the local language and customs to make the gospel understandable in the local environment. For those in campus ministries it means bringing to college students a message that challenges them on an academic level and shows that Christianity is not anti-intellectual. The applications of “being all things to all people” are endless. I have friends share Christ in bars, homeless camps, AA socials, homosexual clubs, and Mormon churches. If Christianity is to make a mark in the 21st century, fresh and radical methods will need to be pursued.

I do all these things because of the gospelso that I can be a participant in it. 1 Corinthians 9:23

Why does Paul go to such great lengths to win lost people? The work of the gospel was the hub of Paul’s life. Everything revolved around it. Paul lived in the way he did to become a “fellow partaker” of the gospel. He did not “share” the financial blessings of the Corinthians, but he expected to get a “share” in the rewards of the gospel eventually. He turned down rewards from particular congregations, but he expected that God would compensate him for that which he had lost. To become “a partaker of the gospel” means to receive its ultimate reward: to gain “the prize” that Jesus gives.

Brad suggested I should say something about how this correlates with our voluntarist principles. It comports very well because we are completely allowed to CHOOSE to give of our time and money as we see fit. We object to GOVERNMENT taking money from us involuntarily to give it to “charities” that often make the situation they purport to address worse. Most Christians in American churches give very generously of their NET income. Imagine if we had access to our GROSS incomes? How much more would we give to programs that are designed to help people out of difficult circumstances and give them the skills to overcome current and future difficulties? By and large, churches do a much better job of getting people out of poverty than do government programs because the aid is not offered in perpetuity. It’s time-limited and goal-focused because funding is finite. Churches can’t extort money from people, so they have to live within a budget and address needs in effective ways. There is no incentive to continue serving the same people forever because the vast majority of Christian ministers are lay people working on a strictly voluntary basis, raising their own funding. That is what existed in the 1st century and it is still the standard today for God’s people. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, yes, pastors and other ministers who work on a full-time basis for churches that have healthy budgets should be paid.

Advertisements

What's Your Opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Real Science

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts" - Richard Feynman

Marsha Ingrao

Traveling & Blogging Near and Far

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." ~C.S. Lewis

Darlene Foster's Blog

dreamer of dreams, teller of tales

All About Writing and more

Advice, challenges, poetry and prose

Tapestry ~ Treasures

My life is but a weaving between the Lord and me!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Echoes of Life, Love and Laughter

S.R. Mallery's AND HISTORY FOR ALL

Everything Historical And Much More...

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog with a view - on books, music, humour and health

The Lil' Mermaid

Dream. Believe. Achieve

susanne matthews

Living the Dream

MomzillaNC

A blog about issues, life in general, and being a mom, and sharing my poetry.

Felix Alexander Writer

Storyteller Philosopher Poet

YOURS IN STORYTELLING...

Steve Vernon - Nova Scotia writer, storyteller and master of the booga-booga

Dreaming In Blushh

You Are In A Beauty Contest Every Day Of Your Life💕 Beautiful.Colorful.You

Breaking the rules

with a smile

Aurora

Where the world begins

Twisted Thoughts

Pardon my Random Thoughts

%d bloggers like this: