1Co 9:12-15 “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. 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? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.”
As Paul continues to make his defense concerning the support of the ministry, it would seem that some may have called into question his purpose in coming to Corinth to begin with. Since there was an obvious division among the brethren over who was to get the credit for them having received the gospel (some said they were of Paul, some of Apollos, some of Cephas, and some of Christ – 1Co 1:12), it is not hard to see where some might be attempting to discredit any one of these ministers of the gospel. Apparently, some of these (perhaps Apollos or Cephas) did participate (partake) in the privilege (power) of having their physical needs met while among them.
Paul and Barnabas certainly had reason to claim that power, since the gospel first came to the Corinthians through them by the power of the Holy Ghost. Paul was sent to them by God and remained with them for eighteen months. Here he assures them that if others had availed themselves of this power, he and Barnabas had even more reason to do so. However, they chose to not use this power.
Paul and Barnabas suffered (endured quietly) the persecution and distress that came to them so that the gospel might be established at Corinth without distraction. However, lest the brethren at Corinth should take the attitude that other ministers of the gospel had taken advantage of them, Paul reaffirms his position of what is right concerning the support of the ministers. The pattern of the law was for the ministers of the temple (priests) to have their needs met from that service. Additionally, when the Lord Jesus sent them out the first time, He counseled that the “workman is worthy of his meat (Mat 10:5-10).”
It is evident that Paul did not intend for his decision to forego this power was not to reflect on others as though they behaved unjustly in exercising that power. He boldly declared that the Lord had ordained (instituted) that “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Paul’s intent was to make sure that none among the Corinthian brethren could ever rightly accuse him of taking advantage of them. He professed that he would rather die than give any man the power to make his boasting in the Lord seem an empty thing.
Should a congregation so request, there is nothing ungodly about a minister not holding a secular job. According to Paul’s instruction here, that would appear to be the preferable alternative if indeed the Lord has instituted such an arrangement. It is equally clear that if such an arrangement is going to give rise among the congregation to the notion that we are being self-serving, then we should do nothing that is going to dishonor our Lord or hinder His gospel.
May God give us the grace to keep our focus on His calling and where He has sent us and in what manner we may best honor Him in that time and place!