The principle of giving offerings for the upkeep of the ministers of the gospel carried over into the early church. The Jewish believers appeared to have no problems with this issue, but Apostle Paul had much teaching to do on this issue, particularly with the Corinthian church. As a general rule, Paul supported himself in the ministry, although it was not necessary to do so.

He taught several principles of giving to ministers in his letters to the Corinthians. One of these interesting teachings based on the principles of the law is  in found in 1 Cor 9. This is a direct reference to the commands to give tithes and other offerings to the Levites as well as the command for the Levites to take portions of the sacrifices offered. The general principle is encapsulated in verses 11, 13 and 14:

If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

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?

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Paul built his argument in the preliminary verses of 1 Cor 9, in which he showed the believers the following:

  • As the apostle to the Gentiles, they were his work in the Lord. They therefore owed it to him to provide for his needs.
  • Furthermore, any one who does any kind of labor will eat the fruit of his/her work.  In the law, God even made allowances for the provision of the oxen that labored in the field (1 Cor 9: 7-10).
  • God gave specific instruction as to how the priests were to sow the material things given by the  Jews. This prevented the priests from being deprived and also prevented extortion. Those who disobeyed the divine guidelines came into disfavor. For example, the sons of Priest Eli were so greedy that they would command their servants to take the meat offerings from the altar while they were raw (1 Sam 2: 12-17). Under the law,  the priests were to be given the shoulder, jowls and the inner parts after the sacrifice had been burnt (Deut 18: 3).
  • Paul said that he preached the gospel without asking for money in order that he would not abuse his power in the gospel (1 Cor 9: 18). I have seen ministers of the gospel doing  questionable practices to make money, such as making people pay for prophesies as if they had the power to give a prophetic word without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Application

Ministers called to preach the gospel are obligated to answer the call. It becomes very trying when the money is not available to meet daily needs. However, one must be careful not to prostitute the ministry- preaching only when money will be paid or only where lucrative offerings will be received. Like Paul, ‘woe is me if I preach not the gospel”  (1 Cor 9: 16).

God will reward the labor done in His name. In the same breath, however, believers who receive the ministry of life from any minister must apply the word by rewarding the minister in whatever way they can. How can we repay someone who saved our lives or gave us direction for the future that led us in the right path?

May God bless you richly!

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