1Co 9:16-18 “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
To be able to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing! There is a joy in sharing the truth of the love and commandments of God that words cannot describe. It is both encouraging and humbling to be thought of as “a good preacher” among His saints, and there is a sweet fellowship between those that declare the gospel and those that hear the gospel.
Being a true preacher of the gospel is not something we have any reason to boast about. It is not a career choice or a profession even though the world may see it as such. Paul said he could not boast because he was constrained to preach the gospel. This does not mean that he did it unwillingly, but simply that it was not something he decided in himself to do.
Anyone who truly preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ does so because he is called by God. It is a necessary part of his life, like eating and drinking. Paul said this necessity is laid (or imposed) upon us. Once called to preach, there is great grief (woe) in our heart when we fail to do so. We are compelled by God, through the Holy Ghost, to declare the power and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Paul talks about doing “this thing willingly,” he is not addressing the idea of willing obedience. Rather, he is stating that if he just decided to preach (of his own will) instead of feeling the necessity of it (called by God’s will), then he has reward as being a hireling. There is a distinct difference between being a laborer and a hireling.
The Old Testament word for hireling means “a man at wages by the day or year: – hired (man, servant), hireling,” and the New Testament word means “a wage worker (good or bad): – hired servant, hireling.” The word labourer, which only appears in the New Testament (Luk 10:7, 1Ti 5:18), means “a toiler; figuratively a teacher: – labourer, worker (-men).” It appears that a hireling refers to someone who is only there for the wages while a labourer is there for the work’s sake.
The hireling is not always trustworthy (Joh 10:12-13) and has set limits on the time of his service (Job 7:1, Isa 16:14). The labourer, on the other hand, is steadfast (Luk 10:7) to toil or teach. Further, the scripture says the labourer is worthy of his hire (Luk 10:7, 1Ti 5:18). This Paul says if he is a preacher of the gospel according to his own will (as a hireling), then he has his reward. However, if he does it, not according to his own will but by the will of God, then he is entrusted with the stewardship of the gospel.
Like Paul, we should not attempt to take upon ourselves the preaching of the gospel. However, when God sees fit to entrust us with such a stewardship then we should receive it with joy, humility, fear and trembling, and boldness in Him. Whether we receive support from a congregation or not should never be the determining factor in our service. Truly, we are to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without charge.
As men called of God, we should always go where the Spirit directs us. Our willingness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a congregation should never be used as a bargaining chip. If we go where the Lord sends, and we must take a secular job to do so, then let us do so with rejoicing. If we find ourselves among a group of people that have a desire to provide us natural things that we might better give our attention to spiritual things, then let us rejoice and be prepared to live within the means provided. The key is not how much men may or may not aid us, but rather how much we trust Him to provide for us in the way that He deems best.
May the Holy Ghost always be the only influence we have in going and freely preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ!