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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 9:1-14; kNOw your Rights!

03/09 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 kNOw Your Rights!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140309_1cor9_1-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐ τὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ; 2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι, ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ. 3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη. 4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν; 5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; 6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι; 7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει; 8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει; 9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται· Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ, 10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. 11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; 12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται; 14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 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. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul overbuilds the case that he as an apostle has the legitimate right to be supported by the churches that he serves. He builds this case so thoroughly that no one would dare to dispute that he has this right. He musters evidence from the example of the other apostles, from the example of basic principles common to all society, from Old Testament law, from the precedent of priestly shares in temple offerings, and from the command of the Lord Jesus himself. He does all this in the context of the Corinthians insisting on their so-called rights that were really not legitimate rights, as he will show in the next chapter. He builds this bulletproof case for his rights so that he can stagger them with the concept that even when you do have legitimate rights, the path of love may be to voluntarily forgo those rights for the good of others.

Paul asks a lot of questions in this section. Rhetorical questions, to which the answers are obvious. He expects his readers to be able to fill in the correct answers and in doing so powerfully affirm his rights. He begins with this: ‘Am I not free?’ Paul is passionate about freedom. He wrote to the churches in Galatia passionately defending the freedom that we have in Christ. He says

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

He will come back to this issue of freedom and how to use it in the second half of this chapter (v.19).

His second question is “Am I not an apostle?” and he follows this with two more questions that affirm his calling as apostle. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” A primary prerequisite of an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus was to have actually seen Jesus. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and personally commissioned him to bring the good news about him to the Gentile nations (Acts 26:14-18). “Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?” Paul points to the existence of a church of God in Corinth as evidence of the authenticity of his apostleship. He begins this letter by addressing:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

And he gives thanks to God

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

The very fact of their existence as followers of Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth is proof positive that Paul was sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the people there. Their existence as believers was dependent on the fact that the apostle Paul preached the good news to them. So he says:

2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

God’s grace was extended to the pagan city of Corinth through Paul, and many who were entrenched in the false beliefs of that culture were supernaturally transformed into Jesus followers through his preaching. Paul claims in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

The church in Corinth was the evidence that Paul was sent out by Jesus. Even if no one else in the whole world acknowledged Paul as an apostle of Jesus, the followers of Jesus in Corinth must acknowledge him. This is his defense to anyone who would challenge his calling.

Apostles’ Rights

Then starting in verse 4 he unleashes a tirade of rhetorical questions defending his rights.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Who would deny someone the right to eat and drink? But in the context, he is saying that if someone receives services from someone without paying for those services, that is to deny them the right to eat and drink. In chapter 8 we see that the Corinthians were defending their purported right to participate in idol feasts and eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul asks the question ‘don’t we have the right to eat at all?’ The question here is not food connected with idolatry; the issue here is the right to basic subsistence. Paul has the legitimate right to be compensated from those he serves in preaching the gospel.

That right goes beyond himself.

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul is not claiming the right to be married. That is a given. When he laid out the advantages of singleness in chapter 7, he was careful to make it clear that marriage is good and a legitimate option. Paul claims here that the church is obligated not only to pay his own personal expenses, but also the expenses of his family if he had one. If he comes to preach the gospel, those to whom he preaches are obligated to provide for his needs and the needs of his wife. He points to the other apostles as examples of this. We don’t know much about the family lives of the other apostles. We are told in the gospels that Peter (or Cephas) had a mother-in-law (Mt.8:14), which would imply that he was married. The brothers of the Lord, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Mk.6:3) apparently were also married. James, we know from the book of Acts, became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. According to Paul, most of the other apostles and the brothers of Jesus who were serving the church were married, and they and their wives were supported by the churches. For Paul’s original readers, this was common knowledge that did not need to be defended; it was the basis of Paul’s defense of his rights.

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is asking if he and Barnabas were the only exceptions to the rule. All the other apostles and leaders of the churches were supported by the churches they served. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John left their fishing to follow Jesus. Matthew left collecting taxes to follow Jesus. Why were Paul and Barnabas not allowed to stop making tents and be provided for by the churches?

Soldier, Vinedresser, Shepherd

Paul continues to build his case. He asks three more rhetorical questions that point to the normal expectation in society for one’s occupation to provide for one’s own needs.

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Soldiers don’t go to serve their country and pack a sack lunch for battle. It may be simple and basic, but their needs are taken care of. And in that day, the soldier was entitled to share in the spoils of war. The one who plants the vineyard does so expecting to enjoy the fruit that the vineyard produces. The shepherd who tends the flock enjoys the dairy products that come from the flock. In our day we could ask ‘who goes to work and expects never to get a paycheck?’ This is absurd. A principle so basic and so common sense that someone who works for a living expects to make his living by his work must certainly be applied to someone who gives his life to proclaiming the gospel.

Interestingly, all three of these illustrations, the army, the vine, and the flock are all used in the bible to describe the people of God. The soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd or pastor all are occupations used to describe those who are entrusted with the leadership of God’s people. Paul says to the elders in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for (shepherd) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And Peter exhorts the elders:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In Matthew 20, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the master of a house who hired laborers for his vineyard. In Matthew 21, he told a parable about a master of a house who planted a vineyard and leased it to those who would tend it, and went on a journey expecting to come back and enjoy its fruits. Jesus said in John 15

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Paul viewed his own work as a field hand. He says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience….

and

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In 2 Timothy, he says:

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Jude says

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

His point in all of this is that those who serve as a soldier, those who work in the vineyard, those who tend the flock all expect to have their needs met through that work. How much more those who defend and advance the truth, feed the sheep and tend the branches so they stay connected to the vine and produce fruit?

The Law

Paul moves now from common-sense human illustrations to a biblical defense of his right to make a living by the gospel.

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

Deuteronomy 25:4 says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Paul takes this and applies it to himself and others who preach the good news. This may seem a bit of a stretch, until we actually turn back to Deuteronomy and find that this one statement about oxen is sandwiched in a whole section where everything else is dealing with protecting the rights of laborers, hired servants, the poor and needy, widows, orphans, foreigners, those in debt and those found guilty of minor offenses, making sure that they are protected, cared for, clothed and fed. In that context, if a beast of burden has the right to eat some of the produce while it is working, how much greater the obligation to care for a human person created in the image of God. Paul takes this scripture and says that it was written for our sake. As Luther said, God did not have this written for oxen because oxen cannot read. This was written for rational humans, because we labor in hope of sharing in the produce. Again, these farming metaphors are directly applicable to gospel ministry. Paul uses this scripture also in 1 Timothy 5 as a basis for caring for those who preach and teach in the church.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If an ox is entitled to eat of the good grain that he is threshing, surely he would be entitled to eat of his regular feed. Paul says:

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If we have invested in you things of greater eternal value, is it too much to ask that we share in the lesser temporary material benefits?

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul argues that the Corinthians were financially supporting other workers.

12 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.

Surely the apostle who brought to them the good news in the first place has a rightful claim to be supported by them. He says in

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If he is serving in a church, he has the right to be supported by that church. Paul tips his hand to where he is going with all this talk about his rights. He has not made use of these legitimate rights in order to remove every possible obstacle to the gospel of Christ. The good news message that forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Jesus to all who believe is primary. If my rights hinder that message in any way, then it is time to forfeit my rights for the sake of the gospel. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul is compounding his defense of the legitimacy of his rights not so that he can finally get what he deserves, but so that he can demonstrate that it is right to surrender your rights out of love for others and for the sake of the gospel.

The Temple

But he is not done yet. He brings up another Old Testament principle and applies it to the New Testament church.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul includes a gentle rebuke here. He asks the Corinthians, who claim to know so much ‘do you not know?’ This is something he expects them to know. Numbers 18 outlines in detail the things that were given to those who served in the Old Testament sanctuary. The contributions, the consecrated things, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, the wave offerings, the best of the oil, the best of the wine, the grain, the firstfruits, all the devoted things, all the holy contributions, and every tithe were given to those who served in the Lord’s temple as their portion to provide for their needs and the needs of their families. The contributions that came to the Lord in the temple were given to those who served in the temple to free them up to serve. Paul connects this Old Testament practice directly to the New Testament church. He says:

14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In the same way. Just as the Old Testament priests were cared for by the donations of the people, so those who proclaim the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. This, Paul says, is no less than a command of the Lord Jesus himself.

When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, …7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. … (cf. Matthew 10:7-10)

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said

Matthew 10:7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus sent his followers out without provisions, expecting them to be provided for by those they ministered to. Those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul is free. He is an apostle. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right not only to have his own needs met, but also the needs of a family through the support of the church. He has the right to stop supporting himself through manual labor and be cared for by the church. Those in common occupations expect to earn a living through their work, how much more those who defend the faith, tend God’s vineyard, and pastor his flock? Those who invest in others eternal good surely have the right to have their temporal needs met. The Scriptures confirm that those who serve God have the right to be provided for thorough the donations of God’s people. The command of the Lord Jesus is that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. And yet in full possession of these inalienable God-given rights, Paul has the radical right to let go of his rights out of love for others and for the sake of the advance of the gospel. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 9, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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