Support to Ministers
As an apostle, in common with all other gospel workers who offer their lives to the ministry of the Word of God, Paul had the right to receive support from the churches to which he ministered. But he refused support from some churches because he felt that the gospel worker should protect against the danger of doing anything that might be a reason of offense to those for whom he is ministering. And this necessitates a willingness to give up one’s rights for the benefit of the church. And in response to the accusation of the false teachers who used his selfless actions against him, he wrote:
Paul’s Message in 1 Corinthians
“Do we have no right to eat and drink? …Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?…
For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?…
Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void…What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:4–18).
Paul’s Message in 2 Corinthians
“Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?” “But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:7,12,13).
Impeached by False Teachers
In the above passages, Paul showed his full right to ministerial support such as the other apostles received as taught by Christ (Matthew 10:7–10; Luke 10:7, 8). But he had voluntarily relinquished his right, so that he will not be accused of greed (Acts 20:33; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 9).
Yet, in spite of all of Paul’s selfless actions, his enemies still impeached his pure motives. They interpreted his giving up his rights of financial support as acknowledgement that he did not deserve it because he was not a true apostle. They perhaps thought he was wrong in accepting support from believers in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:10).
Paul’s Actions Vindicated
The truth is that Paul’s actions spoke for themselves. For during his ministry, he had usually worked at tent making in order to pay his expenses as an ambassador for Christ (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:33–35; 1 Thessalonians 2:9). He believed that the gospel ministry is dishonored if it is made the means for personal profit (1 Timothy 3:3).
In His service,