SOMETIMES GOSPEL MINISTRY INVOLVES YIELDING ONE’S RIGHT TO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
FOUR CONSIDERATIONS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL REGARDING PREACHING THE GOSPEL WITHOUT DEMANDING HIS RIGHT TO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
The immediate context has already established the right of those who preach the gospel (including the Apostle Paul) to receive appropriate material support for their labors. This point is no longer open for debate. Paul moves beyond that foundational truth to speak to his own personal strategy of offering the gospel without charge to those to whom he ministered. You do not find Paul making pleas for financial support. You do not see him making the deputation rounds to line up sufficient guaranteed support before stepping out into the ministry. You do not find Paul spending enormous amounts of money on fund-raising efforts – knowing that if he just turns the crank, a substantial amount of money will flow to his ministry. (This does not mean that he refused all gifts that were offered. Although often those funds went to the needs of others as well.) Instead, you see the ultimate type of self sacrifice as Paul labors with his own hands in his tent making occupation to support himself and even others in the gospel ministry. Was it because Paul had some type of inner drive to fulfill his calling to be an excellent tent maker? Was it because he took some great satisfaction in spending tireless hours at that craft? Not at all – it was because Paul deemed self support essential to his personal strategy of both earning him a better reward and establishing the integrity of his ministry and ensuring that the gospel would go forth without any unnecessary criticism. Paul knew that there was special reward for going the extra mile. (Illustration: at work we have a program that rewards employees for “Going the extra mile.”) What a remarkable example! Yet where do you hear this message preached? Where do you see this example emulated? You will search long and far to find anything comparable. This section which seems so foreign to our Christian ministry model deserves our extra study and meditation. Paul gives two reasons for preaching without pay: the first is covered in this paragraph. The second will be covered in vv. 19-23 – he wanted nothing to hinder the progress of the gospel through his ministry.
I. (:15) PAUL’S COMMITMENT TO PREACH THE GOSPEL WITHOUT DEMANDING HIS RIGHT TO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
A. Testimony Regarding Paul’s Historical Practice
“But I have used none of these things.”
Note use of pronoun “I” in this section – Paul speaking of his own personal practice – not speaking for all of the apostles here.
Perfect Tense – Continues to be true for the Apostle Paul
Hodge: the right of a recompense for labour, v.7; the right to an equivalent for benefits conferred, v.11; the right to be treated as other ministers were, v.12; the right to be dealt with according to the law of God in the Old Testament, and of Christ in the New.
B. Resolve to Maintain that Same Example of Self Support
1. Not Lobbying for Financial Support
“And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case”
How very different from most of the ministry letters we receive.
2. Extreme Importance Placed on Maintaining the Current Practice
“for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.”
Paul is going to explain exactly what that boast of his was. Apparently this approach to finances in his ministry is not some minor issue, but a matter of highest priority.
II. (:16) PAUL’S OBLIGATION TO PREACH THE GOSPEL – IRREGARDLESS OF ANY FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. Preaching By Itself (Fulfilling one’s calling) Carries No Special Reward
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of”
B. Preaching (for one so gifted and called) Constitutes an Obligation
“for I am under compulsion”
C. Failure to Fulfill One’s Calling Brings Judgment
“for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”
Lenski: Calamity, dire punishment from God would overtake Paul if he ceased to preach. This is surely astounding, and Paul intends that it shall be so.
III. (:17) PAUL’S STEWARDSHIP TO PREACH THE GOSPEL — IRREGARDLESS OF ANY FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. Paul’s Preaching Ministry Was Not Initiated by His Choice
“For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward”
B. Paul’s Preaching Ministry Was Divinely Entrusted to Him as a Stewardship
“but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”
Hodge: The difference expressed between willing and unwilling is not the difference between cheerfully and reluctantly, but between optional and obligatory.
MacArthur: This does not indicate that Paul was unwilling to obey but that his will had no part in the call itself. Since it was God’s sovereign choice and call, he received not a “reward,” but a “stewardship” (a valuable responsibility or duty to be carefully managed).
Lenski: In order to understand Paul’s statement we should remember that the oikonomoi (4:1,2) were slaves, whose masters simply gave certain goods or property into their hands to be administered in trust. The entire matter rested on the decision of the master to whom the slave in question belonged. The master did not ask: “Will you take this stewardship?” He only gave the order: “Take it!” The slave took it – woe to him if he was obstinate and refused! But when a slave, who had nothing to say in the matter, was put in charge of such a trust he had no claim to wages for administering this trust.
IV. (:18) PAUL’S STRATEGY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL WITHOUT DEMANDING HIS RIGHT TO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Why then did Paul choose to minister in this mode of self support? What was his motive? How did he feel that this approach would benefit his ministry?
A. The Motivation is for Special Reward, Special Boasting
“What then is my reward?”
B. The Method Involves Not Demanding Financial Support
“That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge”
Lenski: free of expense to the congregations concerned
C. The Mindset Involves Voluntarily Giving Up Certain Rights
“so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”
Lenski: not to use at all – the negation of “not to use fully or completely” ??
– nothing said in this passage denies the legitimacy of these rights to financial support