Have We No Rights?
1 Corinthians 9:1-27
This week’s lessons remind us of the pricelessness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the end of yesterday’s lesson, we read that Paul claimed to have a right to the financial support of the Christian community. To support this view he gives a series of arguments. First of all, in verse 7, he deals with what I would call a universal principle. The principle is simply that the laborer is worthy of his reward. He illustrates this in different ways. He talks about a soldier. The soldier does not serve at his own expense; he has a right to be paid. He says a man who keeps a vineyard has the right to eat of its grapes when the harvest comes. He says a shepherd has a right to some of the milk of the flock. Who in the world would ever question that principle? If an individual is working for a company, that individual has the right to the wages that are commensurate with that job. And Paul says, “When you’re talking about adequate support for work done, just looking about generally in the world, this is a principle which all men everywhere recognize.”
His second argument is that the Old Testament teaches the same thing. This is what you find in verses 8 through 10. He says, “It is written in the Law of Moses, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ ” He is quoting from Deuteronomy 25:4. He wants them to think about why God said that. Is it only for the sake of oxen? Did God have a special concern for oxen that he does not have for other animals or for people? No, God wrote that for our benefit. It’s the principle that if a person labors in a certain endeavor, he has a right to a fair portion of the reward. If you’re working in a business and it produces a certain amount of profit, you have a right to share in the profit.
In verse 11 he gives another argument: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest?” He is saying if you are going to weigh material things over against spiritual things, spiritual things are of greater value since they are eternal. So, it is an obvious principle that if someone is giving that which is of great value, there is nothing wrong, in fact, there is a right to receive something of lesser value in return.
In verse 12 Paul raises a fourth argument. The Corinthians themselves reveal that they recognized this principle because they were supporting other teachers. So Paul points out that if others have a right to be supported by them, shouldn’t the apostles have it all the more? He is saying that even if they disagree with his other arguments, they could not possibly argue against what they were already in the practice of doing. Paul said that as apostles they had the same right as the other teachers being supported.
His fifth point has to do with the temple worship. In verse 13 we see that everywhere in the ancient world, even in the Greek world, those who share at the altar have a right to some of the offering. He mentioned this earlier. It involved this whole matter of the meat that was sacrificed to idols. A portion would be sold, and a portion would go to the priest, and a portion was consumed in the offering. Everyone recognizes that. If a person is serving in the temple, he has a right to the support of the worshipers. He then refers to the teaching of Jesus Christ. In verse 14 he says, “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from it.” He gives a fairly detailed argument. Paul obviously thought this was important enough to elaborate at length because, I imagine, he suspected he had enemies that would say, “Oh, he doesn’t have any rights. He’s just trying to push something over on us because he wants to get money out of us or some such thing.” That is not what Paul is doing. Paul’s emphasis is entirely the opposite.
List all the examples and arguments that Paul gives to support his right to financial compensation for his work of the Gospel.
Read Romans 10:14-15. In what ways have you participated in the Gospel ministry by sending others to preach the good news? Look for practical ways that you can support the missionaries of your church both in prayer and financially.