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Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

1 Corinthians 9:12b-14

Paul defends himself against some who have cast doubt on his apostleship. He points to the fact that he has seen Jesus. He argues that the Corinthian church would not exist without his ministry as an apostle, because he brought the gospel to them. It seems that some people were questioning his apostleship because Paul did not take financial support for his ministry. Paul explains that it is very proper and right for ministers of the gospel to be paid for their ministry, just as a soldier expects pay, a vintner eats his own grapes, and a shepherd takes milk from his flock. This is common sense. Even the Old Testament Law affirms this, declaring that no one should muzzle an ox while it works, so that it can eat and replenish its strength. Thus, ministers of the gospel have the right to be paid for their ministry.

But Paul does not take advantage of that right; instead, he works a job to pay for his own ministry. He does not want to hurt his witness by having other men give him money to preach, but would rather offer the gospel without expectation of monetary reward. Paul serves all men, Jews and Greeks, and meets them where they are so that they might believe in the gospel of Jesus. He runs the race of life like an athlete, denying himself comfort so that he can focus on serving Jesus at his very best, like a runner who trains to win the race. To be financially supported by other men would tempt Paul to serve their interests, or to abuse his power as an apostle, so he denies himself this right. He does not want to fail to win the race of life. To win the race of life is to do all God asks of us. In Paul’s case that is to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He urges the Corinthians to likewise run the race to win. His hope is to earn the ultimate prize from Jesus in reward for obedience.


Paul points to the Levitical priesthood which feeds itself with a portion of the sacrifices brought to the temple. It is right for ministers to be paid for their ministry. But, Paul does not participate in this compensation. For his ministry, it would get in the way.

Paul defends the practice of financially supporting those who minister the gospel, along with their families, but does not accept such support himself. So he will now explain his reasoning. He states factually, that although he has the complete right to be financially supported in his work for the gospel, Nevertheless, we did not use this right. As Paul explained earlier in the chapter, he had every right to be supported in the gospel, along with a believing wife. Further, he fully supported the principle of ministers receiving pay, both from a perspective of common sense as well as from the Law of God. But Paul has made a cognitive decision to not use this right. He has the right, but has chosen not to use it. He will explain why.

Paul states that we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Paul will explain later how his getting financial support might create a hindrance to the gospel of Christ, but first he reiterates that ministers being supported is biblical and appropriate. He asks rhetorically: Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? Paul refers here to the Levitical priesthood. The priests who administered the service of God were supported by receiving a portion of the offerings brought to be sacrificed to the Lord.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-26, Paul listed some of the things he has had to endure to advance the gospel of Christ. This list shows that it is reasonable for Paul to claim that he has had to endure all things.

Paul then ends his extensive defense that ministers of the gospel have a right to be supported financially by stating: So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. Perhaps this is an application of the biblical principles just stated. Paul quoted from and referred to the Bible, which is the word of the Lord. Now that Paul has made it clear that he fully supports ministers being paid; he will not return the apparent jealousy of the missionaries who are funded by the Corinthians, but has made a deliberate choice not to use this right. He next goes on to explain why.

Biblical Text

Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.