Some of the matters discussed in 1 Corinthians 9 pertain specifically to the apostles of Jesus. Other teaching in the 27 verses that comprise this chapter contains principles that would apply to all preachers of the gospel in every generation. Let us look at a few aspects of the life and work of an evangelist that are set forth in this section of Scripture, realizing that some of the lessons also would hold true for each member of the church and not just preachers.
A gospel preacher’s right to receive wages for his labors – In our text, what points does Paul set forth that lead to the conclusion that those who labor in the word have the right to receive financial compensation for their efforts?
1) The right to refrain from working (in a secular job) – “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles . . . Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” (1 Corinthians 9:5,6).
2) Illustrations from life – “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?” (9:7).
3) A principle from the old law – “. . . Or does not the law say the same also? 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?” (9:8,9).
4) Provide spiritual service, reap material benefit – “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (9:11).
5) An illustration from old covenant priests – “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?” (9:13).
6) Jesus endorsed it – “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (9:14; cf. Luke 10:7).
So, Paul by the Holy Spirit used at least six lines of reasoning to demonstrate that, yes, it is proper for God’s church to provide financial support to evangelists. Paul declared that he received “wages” from churches for his work in preaching the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:8), so there should be no debate about whether or not such a practice is Scriptural.
A gospel preacher’s message – Just what is it that the Lord wants a preacher to proclaim? In this passage, that wonderful message is described simply as “the gospel” or good news (9:16,18,23). Paul was committed to preaching that great news, knowing, “. . . woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The message of God’s preacher is further identified as “the gospel of Christ” (9:12), which is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Third, in our text we read of the “law” of the Christ (9:21). “Law,” which simply means rule(s) of conduct or action, appropriately describes the truth of God’s word, as that truth sets forth the will of God for man’s conduct on earth.
The church needs gospel preachers that do that very thing – preach the gospel! “Preach the word” is the divine charge for every evangelist (2 Timothy 4:2,5). Far too often those that stand before an assembly to preach make little reference to God’s word, instead spending large portions of their time focusing on matters that do nothing to nourish God’s sheep or instruct the lost about how to be saved. We need men of the Book who will set forth boldly and clearly what the Scriptures say. Preacher, be committed to the message of the gospel. It is God’s message to man; it must be your message, too. Take great care to learn it, love it, live it, and defend it.
A gospel preacher’s heart – In his effort to reach lost people with God’s gospel, what was Paul ready to do? What was his mentality toward his task? “. . . I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more” (9:19). Like Paul, modern-day preachers of the gospel must have the heart of a servant. Like Paul, we need evangelists who have a heart that wants to win or gain people to the Christ. Note his words: “win the more” (9:19), “win Jews . . . win those who are under the law” (9:20), “win those who are without law” (9:21), and “win the weak” (9:22). The winning of which he spoke was saving souls: “that I might by all means save some” (9:22).
We need gospel preachers that do more than get a sermon ready. We need preachers that have God’s word burning in their hearts (Jeremiah 20:9) and cannot wait for an opportunity to proclaim to people in public or private the way of truth that saves the soul! In that regard, there should be no place in the heart of God’s preacher for any type of prejudice or partiality. Paul was prepared mentally to teach any person of any race, color, or background (9:19-22). We need to have that same mindset.
From 1 Corinthians 9 we have seen a gospel preacher’s right to financial support, his message, and his heart, that is, the heart that he should have. God’s Son was the only perfect preacher in history. Evangelists of our generation have weaknesses just like all other people do. Let us encourage them as they take a leading role in preaching the word.
— Roger D. Campbell