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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic

Financial Support for Ministers (Part 1)

The Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 1)
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 2)
Introduction: Financial Support for Ministers
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 1)
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 2)
Church Leadership and Authority Conditional
Communal Living

As we get into the study, we want to state in the clearest and most unqualified terms that any selling of doctrine, teaching, revelation, or Bible education in any form is abominable. That is not to say that many sincere and godly people do not commit this practice, but only that they should be made aware this practice is wholly unacceptable and that they should cease from it immediately.

Whenever we enter a Christian bookstore or surf a Christian bookstore online, we are amazed to see Christian leaders engaged in this practice. Impressing upon lay people that from a spiritual point of view they need to check out this or that tape or book, etc, they then go on to sell that information at a profit. This is blatantly wrong.

I wonder, did those men of God have to pay God anything for that information? Even if it took hard work and study to develop, it is still the free gift of God to teach it to them through his Holy Spirit. Should they then turn around and sell it to us at profit? Of course not. How different is this from the medieval Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences? When did it become an acceptable godly practice to peddle important spiritual truth in exchange for money? Since Jesus freely paid the ultimate price on the cross how dare we then charge money to share His teachings.

Now, before anyone starts saying, "What about this verse or that verse?" let's take a look at exactly what the Bible has to say about any form of payment to pastors. What we intend to show is that the New Testament protocol on the extent to which Christian leaders should receive goods for their service has been drastically twisted to support the idea of regular payment (salaries) just for local leaders.

1. True, The apostles, brothers of the Lord, and Cephas had the authority to forbear working as did Paul and Barnabas. They had the right to make their living from the Gospel.

I Corinthians 9: 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? 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. 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.

In I Corinthians 9, Paul is describing the protocols and methods of support for missionaries as we will demonstrate. The protocols for supporting local leadership positions are spelled out in detail not here in I Corinthians 9 but in I Timothy 5 as we will later show.

First, we should compare this set of protocols with the ones Jesus gave when he first sent out the disciple in the Gospel accounts. We find these accounts in Matthew 10:1-14, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6, and Luke 10:1-12. (The second passage in Luke deals with the sending of the 72, not just the 12, but the protocols are the same.)

In these passages, we find Jesus giving his disciples instructions for when they traveled to preach the Gospel. This is missionary work. They were not to set up camp and remain in any one of these villages but only to stay at a village for a time and then move on to spread the Gospel elsewhere. They were not yet acting as elders over local church communities, which would be a stationary function. Instead they were acting as mobile missionaries. Given this fact, we cannot assume any of these protocols apply to Church elders in local communities, a position not to be established for some years to come.

And the protocols Jesus gave them for provision fit perfectly with the standards found for missionaries in I Corinthians 9. They were to stay in one house in every village. They were to take no money with them because, as Jesus said in Matthew 10:10, "the workman is worthy of his meat." But, as Jesus said in Luke 10:7, they were to eat such things as were given them by the owners of those houses and were not to move around.

As Paul applies these things to himself, he does take money but not his own. Instead, he receives voluntary offerings from one Church before he goes to another in order to fund the trip to the other Church. In this way, he would not have to charge anyone at the Church he was going to. At times, he even received support sent from another Church. At other times, he even supported himself as he did in Acts 18.

However, all of these instructions deal with mobile missionaries. Even Paul, who was visiting existing Churches, was not acting as a local leader for any of them. He was traveling from one to the next.

What does this all mean for our study? It means that the instructions regarding provision found in I Corinthians 9 are consistent with those given by Jesus in the Gospels. Since during the Gospels there is no context for stationary leadership positions only traveling missionaries, we cannot take the protocols found in the Gospels and I Corinthians 9 as necessarily applying to the local church elders.

And the protocols for missionaries are specifically tailored for that kind of work. They were to take no money while they traveled. They were not going to settle in any one town. They were going from town to town and would only be in any given place temporarily. In this way, no one household or community would be providing for their needs on a permanent basis. This sort of moving about would necessarily disrupt a man's ability to provide for himself and because he was making that sacrifice, those he was serving were required to provide for him.

But with the arrival of permanent local leadership positions that were stationary (not mobile as missionaries were) there arrived the need for different protocols for their provision. Unlike mobile missionaries, local leaders lives would only be partially diverted from full-time labor. However, they could still work and make a living and so they were not dependent like missionaries were. And, because their position and location was permanent, it would be impractical for one household to meet their needs on a permanent basis.

So, the provisions were different for local leaders than they were for traveling missionaries and the protocols for this different form of leadership are laid out by Paul in I Timothy 5 in accordance with the communal economy of the local Church at that time. This communal economy was inherently supplementary in nature (according to need) and so would be the provision given to these permanent local leaders as we will later demonstrate.

Back to I Corinthians 9 - notice that in verse 13 Paul makes reference to the Old Testament practice regarding the Levitical priesthood. However, despite the fact that he uses their circumstances to support his teaching, Paul still makes no mention of tithes. Nor does he expressly invoke a right to collect tithes.

The comparison to the Levites does not require an extension of the tithe only a comparison to provision coming from their ministry. Paul can talk about a general comparison between the two without implying they are one and without implying he and other Church leaders are a new priesthood replacing the Levites.

We also know that Paul is not intending this statement to require Christians to pay tithes to their leaders because of the phrase "partakers with the altar." When we read Malachi 3, in which God instructs on the payment of the tithe, we understand the tithe was to be brought to the temple. But there is no temple today and the system of service in the temple has changed as signified by the changing of the priesthood (See Hebrews 7:11-12.)

This passage and reference by Paul to the Old Testament no more necessitates a tithe than it necessitates a Levitical priesthood, a temple, or a sin offering (See Leviticus 6:26.)

And regarding the altar, we understand also that the priests were allowed to partake of the animals sacrificed there. But we do not have either an altar or sacrifices today. So, by appealing to these examples of things that Paul knew were obsolete at the time he wrote, Paul could not have been implying a continuation of a particular aspect of that system (tithing) that he does not even name in this passage.

To insist that Paul is upholding the paying of the tithe on these grounds or that ministers in the New Testament are equivalent to the Levitical priesthood is to commit the logical fallacy known as non-sequitor. This means that these conclusions are not mandated by the premises presented in the scripture. For more about logical fallacies please visit our section entitled "Logical Fallicies." For more on the tithe please see our article entitled "Biblical Support for Tithing in the New Testament."

2. This right to "forbear work" is applied here to when someone was doing missionary work abroad.

The word "lead about" in verse 5 (Strong's #4013) occurs only 5 other times in the New Testament. Once it refers to Paul going around looking for someone to lead him while he was blind. The other four times it occurs are all in the Gospels. 3 times it refers to Jesus traveling ministry. 1 time it refers to the scribes and Pharisees practice of doing missionary work to create converts. The implication of this survey is that this word in the New Testament primarily denotes traveling ministry. Unless its occurrence here in I Corinthians 9 is the only case, this word is not used in the New Testament to refer to locally-based, stationary ministry.

3. Paul considered charging for ministry to be an abuse of his power and a potential hindrance to the Gospel. Scripture shows Paul only received financial support on a supplemental basis when doing missionary work to other areas (See II Corinthians 11:7-9, Philippians 4:15-19.)

I Corinthians 9: 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.

I Corinthians 9: 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.

How we wish that our modern leaders would give more consideration to Paul's position on this point.