(A) Introduction. (Read the reference)

In this passage Paul is still addressing the question of a believer's freedom and rights. He deals with an instance where he waves his rights for the sake of others.

Paul also anticipated objections to the stand he was taking and so took the opportunity to assert his authority. He defended himself. Paul certainly exercised freedom over food when he was in Corinth. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law ..... so to win those not having the law. v21. The Corinthians knew this and so would question his advice on food sacrificed to idols. Paul was very aware of a critical element at Corinth and he wrote: This is my defence to those who sit in judgment of me. v3.

There are, then, two interwoven strands to chapter 9 - the argument to forgo a right for the sake of others and a defence of Paul's apostleship.

(B) Paul's assertions.

Paul asserted:

(1) His freedom.
Paul asked rhetorically: Am I not free? v1. The Corinthians probably would not question this. Paul showed much liberty in both his preaching and life style during the year and a half he spent with them. However, he feels the need to reaffirm his freedom because of what he said about not eating meat: Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. 1Cor8v13. Paul will return to his freedom at the end of the passage we are studying.

(2) His apostleship.
Paul was in no doubt about his authority as God's messenger to the Gentiles. The Corinthians should have no reservations about this either. It is remarkable that Paul has to assert his authority to them of all people. He employs two arguments:

    (a) He has seen the Lord. Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? v1. This was of great significance to Paul. Elsewhere in Corinthians her wrote: And last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1Cor15v8. That appearance made Paul what he was: But by the grace of God I am what I am. 1Cor15v8.

    (b) The fruit of his ministry - particularly at Corinth. He wrote almost indignantly: Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. vs1and2.

    The numerous converts to Christianity at Corinth were God's seal of approval on his calling. They authenticated his ministry.

Paul's relationship with the Corinthians teaches two lessons:

    (a) It is very possible to be a genuine servant of Jesus Christ and to be overlooked and undervalued. It is not unknown for a flashy, visiting speaker to make a big impression on a church. Folk are in raptures. "Isn't he wonderful," they coo. Yet the old pastor who has held their fellowship together and whose faithful teaching has edified them over the years is but little regarded.

    (b) The best testimonial to our worth is the effect we have had on a church over a sustained period. Is the family we belong to and serve any better for our life and witness?

(C) The Christian minister's right to payment.

(1) Paul uses one argument after another to show that a Christian minister - evangelist, teacher or pastor - should be amply rewarded for their work. The apostle uses arguments from:

    (a) Business - soldiering, viticulture, shepherding and farming. If a shepherd depends upon his flock for sustenance (milk) so surely can a spiritual shepherd expect to be supported. If the man who sows and reaps on the farm expects to experience material reward for his labours so, too, should the man who sows the good seed of the gospel and reaps a harvest of souls.

    (b) The Law. Paul quoted Deut5v24: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." v9. Paul's argument is that if God is concerned that an ox gets some benefit from it's work so a Christian minister should get material reward from his.

    (c) The practice in the temple. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar. v13. The priests in the temple of Jerusalem took part of most of the sacrifices offered by devout Jews. They benefited from being in God's service as should any pastor or evangelist. Paul could not put it more plainly or more emphatically: In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. v14.

Bearing in mind Paul's powerful defence of a paid ministry it is a scandal that so many of God's servants through the years have had such a poor living.

(2) There is a strong suggestion in Paul's teaching on this subject that the sower of spiritual seed is special and that a material reward is the least he can expect. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? v11.

By this Paul seems to indicate that God's servants should be the most highly valued of all. But this is not the case. Most of us are prepared to pay more to keep our cars on the road than our souls in good condition. Some ladies spend more on their hair than they do their pastor.

(3) There is a strong hint in this passage that the Corinthians took Paul's willingness to work for nothing for granted. The believers at Corinth were prepared to support a variety of preachers and their wives: Don't we have the right to food and drink? Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? v5and6.

It is likely that the Corinthians fell over themselves to make a fuss of the visiting celebrities but never sent Paul a penny! There is a touch of bitterness in his remarks: If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? v12.

It isn't always those that deserve honour and support who get it. For example, today there remains a tendency to underrate the unpaid preachers and teachers and to give greater respect to the paid professional. You can see this in the titles we give God's servants: 'Reverend' or 'Pastor' for the professional and plain 'Mr' for the amateur.

(D) Paul did not take advantage of his right to financial support

Some would say that there is something a bit cussed about Paul! After stating so emphatically the right of the gospel preacher to be paid for his efforts he wrote: But I have not used any of these rights. v15. In the main, except for some financial help from the church at Philippi, Paul supported himself and his co-workers by mending tents and other leather goods.

Many would question Paul's judgment and argue:

(1) He made it difficult for those who needed to be paid for their Christian service. I am entirely in sympathy with Paul over this issue and can empathise with him. I have never taken money for any form of church work. My mother used to tell me off for this. She would say, "Take the money, John - if it's offered. You spoil it for those that need it. Take the money and give it to charity." But, like Paul, I never have, although I fully recognise the strength of my mother's argument.

(2) It would have been a blessing to the Corinthians to support Paul. This would allow them to have a stake in his ministry - to be partners in proclaiming the gospel.

We all need opportunities for service - space to work. See exposition on the man blind from birth. If you refuse help that is offered and deny Christians space to work it will hinder them bearing fruit to the glory of God. It is very sad when opportunities for service decline. This year four old people I used to visit have died.

Paul told the Corinthians that they might have supported him and then hastened to add: And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rathr die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. v15. Could this have been rather selfish of Paul?

(3) Paul showed lack of faith. He could be accused of preferring to fend for himself rather than rely on God for sustenance. As a young man this was my attitude. I was asked by Professor Darby at my interview for entry to U.C.L. to study Geography why I wasn't going into the Baptist ministry. I said, "I've seen how the Lord's people support their minister. I'd rather support myself." It made him laugh but I doubt whether there was a smile on the Lord's face.

(4) Paul wasted time on his secular calling - time better spent studying and teaching. I would question this. Some full-time ministers lead very sheltered lives. Paul mixed with all sorts as he sat in the market place plying his needle. I have no doubt he chatted about the gospel to customers and fellow craftsmen. Paul witnessed informally as well as formally - very much a rarity in today's world.

I can remember, many years ago, how men would take a horse to be shod in our village smithy. One or two old men might gather there to talk as well. Sometimes, Ernie the blacksmith, was able to talk about spiritually things. His Christian conversation was punctuated by the ringing blows from his hammer.

(5) Paul lowered his status in the eyes of the Gentiles by doing manual work. Did this make Paul less effective than those who took payment from preaching - the professional orators.

I think my poor old father, a Baptist pastor, lost some respect in the village by going to work on a farm to supplement his income - especially as he dressed like a tramp to do so.

There is a huge contrast between the small apostle, dressed in his rags, squatting in the dust, mending someone's smelly sandals and a well-groomed, avuncular Bishop in his purple vest attending yet another committee meeting. The Bishop looks the part for goodness sake!

(6) I think the most serious charge that can be made against Paul is that he did not show enough humility. He wasn't prepared to accept hospitality and be dependent on others. Lydia had to exert a lot of pressure to persuade Paul and Silas to accept her hospitality. In the end Paul was almost shamed into accepting. See exposition on Acts16v6to15.

There are a lot of people who find it difficult to receive help. They cannot bear to be in anyone's debt. Paul was unlike his Master who was prepared to rely on the financial support of wealthy ladies. But then, Jesus, unlike Paul, was perfect!

(E) Why didn't Paul use his rights?

Paul was free to demand payment and support for what he did. There were excellent arguments in favour of it and good reasons why he should not refuse. So why did Paul choose to pay his own way? Here are four suggestions:

(1) Paul had an independent spirit.
He wrote: But I have not used these rights. .... I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. v15. Now there are good reasons to retain your independence:

    (a) Critics will suspect you of being unduly influenced by your benefactor. Today there was a piece in the Daily Telegraph about Tony Blair using the luxury home of one of the Bee Gee's for a holiday in Florida. Opponents of Blair's habit of using the home's of celebrities accuse him of putting himself in compromising situation. So when Paul, Silas and Timothy accepted Lydia's hospitality in Philippi some might have thought, 'Lydia has got Paul where she wants him. He's under her thumb now.' We have all heard the expression: 'He who pays the piper calls the tune.'

    It was Paul's boast that: I am free and belong to no man. v19. Paul did not dance to anyone's tune. He jealousy guarded his independence - and I don't blame him!

    (b) It gives you more freedom to fearlessly speak the truth. A man who relies on others to pay his wages will think twice before upsetting them. Many years ago a family of Marshes attended our chapel. They paid the pastor's wages. The pastor could not afford to offend the Marshes!

    As an occasional preacher I have valued the freedom that being financially independent has given me. So did Paul!

(2) Paul wanted no-one to question his motives.
The apostle's enemies could never accuse him of preaching for personal gain. This has been an accusation levelled against church leaders through the centuries, often unjustly, as in the case of General William Booth. None of the inhabitants of Corinth could charge Paul with getting rich from evangelism. His desire was: In preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge. v18.

A great musician who plays for free does so because he wants people to hear the music. He loves the music so much that whether he is paid or not he has to perform. Paul loved the gospel like this. It was immaterial to him whether or not he got paid.

A top surgeon who treats the sick of the Third World for free does so because he loves people. He wants to use his skill to make them better. Paul loved the lost. He preached Christ crucified as the only remedy for sin.

(3) To gain credit.
This reason for Paul's free offer of the gospel is rather hidden in the text which is difficult to translate. It is clear that Paul had to preach. He had no choice in the matter: Yet when I preach the gospel I am compelled to preach. v16. He seems to imply that if he preached voluntarily this would be to his credit: If I preach voluntary, I have a reward. The Greek 'mithros', translated 'reward', means 'payment of what is due'. If something is credited to us then eventually we expect payment of what is due.

Paul argued: I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. v16. He repeats this thought when he writes: I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? v17and18. He cannot claim any credit for carrying out his duty. In this he is echoing the teaching of his Master. See Luke9.

Paul reckoned he gained credit by foregoing his rights and offering the gospel free of charge. What is my reward? (What is to my credit?) Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. v18.

I suppose I think a little like Paul. How will preaching be to my credit if I am paid for it? How will I be laying up treasure in heaven if it brings me treasure on earth?

(4) The privilege of evangelising the lost.
There is a slightly different way to look at the verses we studied above. Paul could be saying that preaching the gospel is its own reward. This would be especially true if it was done willingly. A man who plays a lovely composition on the piano is rewarded by the music he is creating. The surgeon who willingly operates for no pay is rewarded by the improvement he sees in his patients.

However, what about the pianist who is forced to play because she is a slave or the surgeon who is compelled to operate under duress? Where is the pleasure for them? Paul is in this position. He is Christ's slave and he has to preach - whether he likes it or not. Paul indicates that as Christ's slave he counts it the greatest of privileges to preach the gospel without payment. This is the only reward he requires - the freedom to preach without remuneration - the freedom to renounce his rights.

I also share this attitude of Paul's. Preaching is something to do for Jesus. It is just so hard to preach, teach or write from pure motives. We can preach for the pleasure of hearing our own voices, for the buzz it gives us to have an audience and to revel in the compliments afterwards. The least I can do is to remove one bad motive, the basest of motives but the easiest to eradicate; like Paul I have never preached for gain.

(F) Conclusion.

Paul's decision to forego his rights and preach the gospel without payment is not without risk or bad consequences to others. His example does make it harder for those who recieve their living from the gospel. However the parsimony of Christians means that few make a good living from the gospel!

Paul's willingness to offer the gospel free of charge:

(1) Shows how important it is to preach Christ crucified.
(2) Indicates how vital it is for men and women to be saved.
(3) Illustrates how spiritual benefit to others may result when rights are waved.
(4) Brings peculiar blessings. For Paul it was his reward, his wages and to his eternal credit. He was a singular man.

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