1 Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? ~ 1 Corinthians 9:1-19
Paul is talking to those of whom he had a right to receive support for his ministry. He says,“are not ye my work in the Lord?”
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? ~ 1 Corinthians 9:2-6
Notice that Paul says, “have not we power to forbear working?” In other words, Paul says, don’t we (he and Barnabas) have the right to be supported and not have to work to support themselves – don’t miss this point.
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:7-12
The power Paul is referring to in the verse above is the power to receive support for his ministry. Paul and Barnabas had the power or right to be supported by the Corinthian church. However, Paul and Barnabas elected not to do so.
Now think about that. The apostle Paul and Barnabas, who was also an apostle, chose not to solicit support from the Corinthians but to work instead. Paul says, “we have not used this power.” This is a reference to the power to garner support.
Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas use this power? Paul tells us exactly the reason why they didn’t: “Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.”
Those who receive support for their ministry must be very careful that they do not hinder the gospel of Christ. Many minsters have compromised the truth of the gospel because their pay check was at stake.
When ministers are beholden to people for support, there can be a real temptation to compromise and not minister the Word of God with the utmost integrity.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:13-15
Though support for those who minister is an ordination of God, Paul chose not to use this privileged.
Notice verse 15 carefully. Paul chose not to employ his right of support and he tells the Corinthians he has not written to them to get their support. Paul then says something very astounding that I don’t think many people even know is in the Bible: Paul says, “it would be better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.“
What does this mean? Paul would rather die than to not be able to glory in the fact that he had given the gospel FREELY!
Let that sink in.
Paul chose not to use his right to gain financial support from the Corinthians because he gloried in ministering the gospel for free, and that is why he elected to work and pay his own way. Now notice the following:
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:16-17
When Paul says, “I have nothing to glory of” in verse 16, he is referring to financial or material support. He then says, “for necessity is laid upon me.” In other words, I have to take care of my own needs. Then he says, “yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
At the beginning of verse 17 Paul says, “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward…”
Paul carefully guarded against wrong motives, and was driven with a passion to minister the gospel freely and without burdening God’s people. This is why Paul so often payed his own way.
How many times have you heard television preachers use so much of their air time asking for money, or using gimmicks to get money? Many times they will even quote Paul. Yet Paul’s way of thinking was the polar opposite of theirs.
So I ask every minister who reads this, if you were no longer paid, or supported for your service, would you continue to do it? Would you find ways to do what God has called you to do?
If not, why are you even doing it? You only have a reward if you do it willingly!
Now notice what Paul says next:
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. ~ 1 Corinthians 9: 18-19
Paul chose to pay his own way so that he would not abuse his power and he was careful to always minister the gospel freely and willingly. This was something close to Paul’s heart. This is something he would not allow anyone to rob him of glorying in.
Paul wanted to stand before God and be able to say, “I obeyed you willingly, and I freely gave them the truth. I did not do it for personal gain.”