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Some writers have taken certain verses in 1 Corinthians 9 out of their context and claimed them to mean that people should give money to preachers. This article takes a closer look at 1 Corinthians 9:14–18, in order to see what the apostle Paul was actually talking about. The context shows that he made a special point of the fact that he had not lived at the cost of others, and that he was not about to do that either. Even other, related scriptures will be considered here.
First, let us consider verse 14. After all, it may be the most quoted one in that chapter.
As we in verse 14 read the phrase “even so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel” (EngRV), we must ask the question, what do those words actually mean and refer to?
It is generally taken that that passage refers to the occasion when Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy, to prepare the way for him in the towns of Israel, before he himself visited those towns. In other words, 1 Corinthians 9:14 is seen as referring to what is recorded in Matthew 10 and Luke 9–10. Here is a synopsis of the instructions Jesus gave the twelve and the seventy when he sent them out on the mission which those passages talk about.
That was all. Point: Those men did not get money for their proclaiming. It was only that if someone provided them a bed for the night, or a meal, they did not have to pay for those things.
Let us also note that the apostle Paul made it clear that he had not made use of that, and that he would not do that in the continuation either. We read:
1 Corinthians 9:14 Even so also did the Lord ordain, that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel: 15 But I have used none of these things. Neither wrote I these things that it should be so done unto me. It were better for me to die than [that] any man should take this rejoicing from me. (TRC)
In addition to what is stated in the above-quoted verse 15, we have Acts 18:1–3 which records that when Paul was in that town (Corinth), he worked, as a tentmaker. That was his occupation. Even other New Testament passages show how Paul and his companions acted. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8 record that in Thessalonica, they supported themselves. Acts 20 records how Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that they knew that he had always supported himself through manual work, and that he told those elders to copy his example in that regard.
Summarising this part: 1 Corinthians 9:14 does not refer to monetary payment. And also: Paul and his companions supported themselves and did not live at the cost of others.
Something to consider: Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy, and then even Paul and some others. But, what connection is there between them, and various preachers in our day?
In that passage, many bible-versions have obscure and confusing wordings which do not make the reader much wiser, in regard to what the apostle Paul really said and meant. Here are some examples of how different translators have rendered the last part of verse 17.
The last of those translations is correct. The Greek text has oikonomia. In the old Greek culture, an oikonomos was a steward who took care of the management of a household. An oikonomos of that kind was often a slave. So, it could be that Paul’s point was that he was the Lord’s slave. Slaves are not paid. Anyway, one thing is clear: Several New Testament passages show that Paul and his companions were not paid. They supported themselves through manual work. [b]
b Many bible-translators have “adjusted” a number of New Testament passages so that a casual reader might come to think that Paul was sometimes paid or “took wages”. But, it was not so. For more on this, look under the heading “Money” on the page rkw431.htm.
Again, there are many kinds of translations of 1 Corinthians 9:16–17. A large part of them are obscure or illogical. But, consider this one:
1 Corinthians 9:16 I have no right to boast just because I preach the gospel. After all, I am under orders to do so. And how terrible it would be for me if I did not preach the gospel! 17 If I did my work as a matter of free choice, then I could expect to be paid; but I do it as a matter of duty, because God has entrusted me with this task. (GNT)
Without going into linguistic technicalities in the Greek text: It appears that Paul was simply saying that had the proclaiming of the Good Tidings been an employment, then he would have expected to be paid. But, it was not so.
Many bible-translators have put into 1 Corinthians 9:18 misleading wordings, such as “need not claim what is my rightful due as a preacher” or “so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel”, or something similar. Various preachers have then used translations of that kind in connection with their claims that they have a “right to be paid”.
A number of early English bible-versions rendered that verse in a different way. The 1525 Tyndale version had this wording:
1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my rewarde then? Verely that whe I preache the gospell I make the gospell of Christ fre yt I misvse not myne auctorite in ye gospel (TYN)
The TRC version echoes that, in slightly more modern language:
1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that when I preach the gospel, I make the gospel of Christ free, that I misuse not mine authority in the gospel. (TRC)
Regarding the word “misuse” in that verse – the Greek text has the verb katachraomai. Strong defined it as “misuse”, “abuse”. ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott shows that that word had many different meanings, such as “apply”, “use up” (“consume”), “misuse”, “abuse”, “destroy”, “pretend”. Bible-translators have rendered it in different ways. Some have in verse 18 “that I abuse not my authority in the gospel”, but some have totally different wordings, such as “I can refrain from using my rights as a preacher”.
The question is, how should we understand the last part of verse 18? It appears that Paul was simply saying that had he received payment for his proclaiming, he would have been misusing his authority in the Gospel. Also, let us keep in mind that the context shows that Paul made it clear that he had not lived at the cost of others, and that he did not intend to do that, either.
Another question regarding verse 18: What kind of “authority” was Paul talking about? – The Greek text has exousia. Some might claim that Paul used that word in the meaning “power” or “right”, such as “a right to be paid”. But, it appears that in the case of 1 Corinthians 9:18, Paul used that many-faceted word in the meaning “authority”, just as the above-quoted Tyndale and TRC versions have it. (Also the 1560 Geneva Bible and the 1568 Bishops’ bible translated it that way, in that verse.) Clarification: Paul was an apostle, an envoy (representative, messenger) of Jesus the Son of God. Jesus had commissioned him, and sent him to proclaim the Good Tidings (Gospel). Through this, Paul certainly had “authority in the Gospel”.
Again, it is generally taken that 1 Corinthians 9:14 refers to what is recorded in Matthew 10 and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke. Let us take a closer look at Matthew 10, especially the words “freely give” in verse 8.
Verses 5–10 record instructions Jesus gave to his twelve apostles when he sent them on a special mission. This was in the first century.
Matthew 10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 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 nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. (ESV01)
Verse 8, “you received without paying; give without pay” (some translations have “freely you have received, freely give”) – please note that those words were spoken to the apostles, see verse verses 2–5. It was they who were to freely give to others what they had freely received from Jesus. And what had he given to them? Such things as these: The Good Tidings, and the ability to heal and even raise dead to life again, and the power to free people from wicked spirits.
In short: The last part of Matthew 10:8 does not refer to giving money to preachers. It refers to the things mentioned in the first part of that verse. The apostles were to do all those things gratis, in that way giving to others for free, what Jesus had given to them for free.
A note: It might be that Jesus had told them that on that mission they could accept a free bed and a free meal in people’s homes, without paying for that. This is not stated in Matthew 10 but is indicated by the record regarding the mission of the seventy.
The Old Covenant had a mortal priesthood [c] which received a part of its sustenance from the sacrifices (the Levites’ part of them), and also through a tithe-system. Here, it can be good to know that the tithe was only on the Promise Land’s agricultural produce. Also: It was the farmers who set aside the tithe, not the consumers. Craftsmen and wage-workers did not tithe. The concept of exacting a tithe on wages was introduced by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. For more on the matter of “tithes and offerings”, see the article rma012.htm.
Regarding Haggai 2:8–9 which some preachers have quoted when they have asked for money – the words “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine” – those who check up things in more depth, will find that Haggai 2 does not refer to money or to silver and gold in general. That passage refers to the temple-items of silver and gold which Nebuchadnezzar’s army had taken to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:11–13, but which were then given back to the Jews, Ezra 1:1–11, so that they could take them to the new temple which they were to build in Jerusalem. In short: Haggai 2:8–9 has nothing to do with money.
Acts 20:35 and 2 Corinthians 9:7? The article rma023.htm has some notes on what the apostle Paul meant and referred to when he reminded the elders from Ephesus that Jesus had said that it is “more blessed to give than to receive”, Acts 20. The context shows that Paul reminded those elders of the fact that they knew that he (Paul) had always supported himself and been on the giving side, and that he told them to copy his example in that regard. That article considers even 2 Corinthians 9:7 and notes that the words “God loves a cheerful giver” in that verse are connected to a collection of relief aid to poor saints in Jerusalem.
c Regarding the matter of priesthood: The Old Covenant had a mortal priesthood, but what about the New Covenant? Many churches have “priests” or something similar, but that is not based on what the New Testament teaches or what the saints practised. (Saints: Those who received the Holy Spirit in the first century.) The saints had only one priest: The resurrected Jesus. – Many talk about “clergy”. That word comes via the Old English cleric, clerc, from the old Greek word klêros which meant “lot”, “inheritance”. This has to do with a wording in Deuteronomy 18:1–2 in the Greek text of the Septuagint version (LXX). The article rsa072.htm explains this matter in more detail, but here is a short synopsis: Some preachers, “clergymen”, have claimed or let it be understood that they belong to a “new priesthood” which has somehow “inherited” the lot which the tribe of Levi had under the Old Covenant in the land of Israel. But, what those preachers have claimed and then caused people to believe, is not true or biblical. The article rma012.htm which is about the “tithe question”, has some notes on the “clergy claim”.
Several New Testament passages make it clear that Paul and his companions did not live at the cost of others. As for the other apostles – the NT does not spell it out how they acted, but there is no mention or indication that they would have received monetary payment or “tithes” or “offerings”.
For more on these things, look under the heading “Money” on the page rkw431.htm.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please send or mention the address to this site to others. Please also link to this site. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm
On the King James version. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → rsa032.htm
What powers were given to the apostles? Also: Did Simon Peter receive some kind of special authority, such as “primacy”? → raa091.htm
2 Corinthians 11:8, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them” – is that a correct translation? Was the apostle Paul paid for his proclaiming work? → rma092.htm
What is the truth about tithing, the concept of giving “tithes” to a church? Also, what about “offerings”? → rma012.htm
On Acts 20:35 and its meaning. The apostle Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and he told them to follow his own example in that regard. → rma023.htm
On the words and concepts “clergy” and “laity”. → rsa072.htm
On the example the apostle Paul set, for others to imitate. → rma032.htm
Regarding monetary things in connection with religion, look under the heading “Money” on the page rkw431.htm.
Matthew 10:5–6, “do not go into the way of the gentiles and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Who and where were those “sheep”? Where did the apostles go? → rya082.htm
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