1 Corinthians 9: Using Christian Liberty to Refuse Christian Rights [2007]

An Exhaustive Examination of "Tithe," "Tithes" and "Tithing"

Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Section 22

First Corinthians, chapter 9, is very important for those seeking to know the truth about New Covenant tithing. Why? Because it focuses on the “right,” “power,” or “authority” (Greek: exousia) of gospel workers to ­ compensation. If tithing were indeed a New Covenant law for support of the gospel worker, then this would be the most appropriate chapter to ­discover the doctrine.

This letter was written near the middle of the first century between 20-30 years after Calvary. As long as the Jewish synagogues allowed Christians to worship with them on their Saturday Sabbaths, the Roman authorities considered them merely as a branch of Judaism. However, those Christians who refused to be connected to Judaism were considered to be an un-licensed (or illegal) religion but were not generally hunted and ­ persecuted until Christianity became an outlaw religion around A.D. 80. Until approximately A.D. 260, for most of the church meeting places would be hiding places in homes, abandoned places, catacombs, or caves—wherever meetings could be held without discovery by the Roman Empire which was constantly searching for those guilty of plotting its overthrow.

This historical data is important because our modern mind-set wants us to picture “churches” as we know and recognize churches today, which is not true. Except for the state-approved synagogues for Jewish worship, early Christians had no signs on the door and no buildings to proclaim as their own.

The subject of full-time support for the gospel minister centers on verse 14. While theologians and full-time gospel workers usually argue for their tithe support from this text, church historians usually disagree concerning tithing. My research revealed that church historians, regardless of denomination, often agree that it is highly unlikely that early Christian leaders received full-time compensation for ministering to churches. First, like Paul, almost all (if not all) of the Christianized rabbis, scribes and lawyers would have refused total sustenance (or any sustenance) for teaching God’s Word because of their traditional Jewish prohibitions against it. These, like Paul, would have insisted on having trades to sustain themselves. Likewise, the Christianized former-priests considered the tithes as belonging only to purely Jewish Temple worship services as discussed in my chapter on Acts 15 an 21.

Second, the Roman government made it their business to know the occupational status of its citizens in order to assess taxes and to identify revolutionaries. They would have become suspicious of someone who had no obvious legal trade and did not appear to be a beggar. One could not tell the Roman census-takers that his sustenance was provided by Christian church members. One must have a legitimate and evident trade in order to keep from being held in suspicion and/or imprisoned!

The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bibles: “It is likely that some form of trade guilds came into being fairly early, especially in the cities, where the different crafts seem to have had their special quarters. The Bible mentions the carpenters’ quarters, the potters’, the goldsmiths’, and the perfumers’ sections.”…“In New Testament times trade guilds were well-known in the Roman Empire. But they had to have a license to make sure they were not simply a cover for undesirable political activities.”[1]

How does this discussion relate to tithing? Much indeed! First, Scripture does not record any post-Calvary tithing to support a full-time clergy. Second, if such full-time support did exist, Roman authorities would arrest them for leading an un-licensed (or illegal) religion. As it was, many were arrested and put to death after A.D. 80 for leading an outlaw religion and for defending the faith. Third, although Cyprian (A.D. 250) loosely used the word, “tithe,” and unsuccessfully advocated tithing, he did so as a strong disciple of Tertullian, the great ascetic. Cyprian had renounced his worldly possessions when he was baptized and was extremely strict about sharing all tithes and offerings with the poor. Fourth, none of the earliest church fathers said that exact tithing was used to support full-time ministry. Fifth, tithing was not enforced as a church law for over 700 years after Calvary. Even Cyprian also said that bishops received according to their dignity and merit.

1 Thess. 2:9 For you recall, brothers, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

2 Thess. 3:8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for ­ nothing, but worked with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.

Acts 20:34 You yourselves know, that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me.

First Corinthians, chapter 9, is a good example of the previous discussion. While working at his trade as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) and receiving occasional help from other churches, Paul arrived at the quarrelsome church in Corinth.

9:1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

9:2 If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Immediately Paul and his company were challenged about their lack of credentials. Having been sent forth from Antioch instead of Jerusalem, he and Barnabas had picked up other helpers such as Timothy and Titus. The question of proper credentials was evidently not resolved because it is again mentioned in Second Corinthians, chapter 3. “Am I not free,” he later clarified, refers to his freedom to accept or reject any compensation for his work of ministry, especially as an Apostle who had seen the Lord.

9:3 My answer to them that examine me is this,

9:4 Have we not power [a right] to eat and to drink?

9:5 Have we not power [a right] to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

9:6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have not power [a right] to stop working?

It appears that Paul was answering false accusations that he wanted enough sustenance to stop working for a living and live predominantly from church support. Evidently some of the apostles from the Jerusalem church had received some amount of sustenance for their mission efforts. In verses 3-6 Paul was merely asserting (not asking for) his equal privilege, or right, to receive sustenance just as the others had their rights (which he would have refused).


9:7 Who goes to war any time at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat of the fruit thereof? Or who feeds a flock, and does not eat of the milk of the flock?

9:8 Am I saying these things as a man, or does not the law say the same also?

9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the grain [Deut. 25:4]. Does God take care for oxen?

9:10 Or does the law say this also for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he that plows should plow in hope; and that he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.

9:11 If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

In verses 7 through 13 Paul argued that vocations compensate their workers from principles which govern that particular vocation.  The soldier gets a small salary and receives spoils of war. The grape grower eats the grapes he grows.  The herdsman drinks milk from the herd. The ox which grinds grain is allowed to eat the grain while it is grinding.

9:12 If others are partakers of this power [right] over you, are not we also? NEVERTHELESS, we have not used this power, but endure all things, unless we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

Having established his right to receive sustenance for gospel ministry, Paul then concludes with his great “nevertheless” statement which is so often ignored by those who insist that gospel workers should expect full-time support through tithes or otherwise. For Paul, at least, the freedom to preach the gospel unhindered superseded his right to expect full-time support.

With this text in mind, in one of my articles I commented that “Paul ­preferred to work for a living rather than accept full-time support.” Somebody commented, “I thought that Paul preferred to preach the gospel full-time.” I stand by my statement. Under the circumstances, Paul did NOT “prefer” to preach full-time! His world simply did not offer that choice! First, he would have to register at the Roman census with some kind of legal occupation. Second, as a former Jewish rabbi, Paul would have considered it a sin to accept money for teaching God’s Word. Paul only accepted money because he was poor and not because he was a gospel minister.  Third (and to the context), Paul did not want to “hinder” the gospel by receiving support from others if such support might be used against him in a slanderous manner. Accepting support from anybody in the Corinthian church would have jeopardized his ministry there.

9:13 Do you not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the alter are partakers with the alter?

In order to understand God’s Word, most of us must first clear our heads of the assumption that all priests and all Levites were full-time ministers and full time servants for God. Actually, during most of the year over 95% of the priests and Levites (23 of 24 courses) were NOT in the Jerusalem Temple but were “in their fields” with their wives, children, and servants (Num. 35:2; 2 Chron. 31:15-19; Neh. 10:37,38; 11:20; 12:44,47; 13:10). Except for the high priest, they did not permanently live in Jerusalem because it was NOT a Levitical city (Joshua 21) where the Law commanded them to live.

According to Edersheim, priests received income from 24 sources and their tenth of the tithe was one of the least.[2] All of the firstfruits, firstborn, vow offerings, ­ animal skins, and portions of sacrifices ONLY went to those priests who were presently “grinding the grain”—ministering at the Temple.

Today, while many gospel workers desire to follow Paul’s examples in soul-winning, few want to follow his example in self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. Indebted to no man, and obligated to no man (except to preach the gospel), Paul had no intention of teaching tithing for himself or others! He simply did not see tithing as part of God’s New Covenant plan of freedom and liberty. Also, we must not forget that, at the time this letter was written, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were still fanatically devoting themselves to the Mosaic Law and, therefore, were still tithing to the Temple per Acts 21:20.


9:14  Even so (in the same manner)

There are several major spokesmen for tithing who use 1st Corinthians 13, 14 as their strongest argument for Christian tithing. They ignore the connection between 9:7 through 9:14 and focus instead only on verses 13 and 14. The key word in their argument is the first Greek word in the verse which means “in the same manner.”

MAJORITY HERMENEUTIC: This first word in verse 14 refers back to all of verses 7 through 13. The principle, or hermeneutic, is “Each group (secular and sacred) has a ‘right’ to share from that activity in which it works.”  All six of the examples demonstrate that one is sustained by the principles of the activity in which he labors. “In the same manner” gospel workers live by gospel principles from which they labor.” Verse 14 is a final conclusion to all of verses 7-13 which change from secular to Law to gospel. In verse 15 “these rights” (NIV) again refers to everything mentioned in verses 7-13 and not merely verse 13. All of the context of 9:7-13 is considered and almost all commentaries agree. Do the research.

MINORITY HERMENEUTIC: Verse 14 is only a conclusion which closely connects verse 13 with it. Verse 13 clearly states that Temple workers were sustained by tithing. New Covenant gospel workers have replaced Old Covenant Temple workers. Therefore New Covenant gospel workers should be supported “in the same many” or “using the same principles” as Old Covenant workers.

In September 2005 Allan Meyer introduced this logic by saying, “We are getting near the punch-line folks” and concluded by saying “Deal with 1 Cor 9 honestly or get out of the kitchen.” He summed up his hermeneutic in February 2006 saying, “By the same principle. That principle, that principle running right through the Old Testament, where God’s workforce were looked after by the tithe is to be applied in the New Testament context as the way in which God’s workers in the New Testament will be supplied.”

REBUTTAL: This argument is self-defeating because it proves too much! This is because Numbers 18 is not an exclusive reference to tithing, but includes ALL forms of Levitical support which tithe-teachers definitely do not want to allow! When they insist that gospel workers are to be paid “in the same way” that Old Covenant priests were paid in Numbers 18, then they have recklessly opened the door wide to the real principles found in Numbers 18. In reality it is very good that they literally follow NONE of those OT principles! See my chapters on Numbers 18 and Principles for Tithe-Teaching Churches.

It is more wrong than correct to say “It was the tithe that supported God’s servants in the Old Testament dispensation” because the priests received most of their support from things other than the tithe –things such as freewill offerings, vow offerings and sacrifices (Numbers 18:1-19). Priests only received one tenth of the whole Levitical tithe (Num 18:25-28; Neh 10:37-38). As previously pointed out, modern “Levite” equivalents in Christian churches are not ministers and are often unpaid. It is also wrong to equate New Covenant preachers as the replacement for the Old Covenant priests.

Adopting Old Testament giving principles “in the same manner” would force the church to also copy every other Levitical and priestly support principle found in the Old Testament. This logic would forbid missionary support and would require churches to abolish the doctrine of the priesthood of believers and put to death those who tried to worship God directly.

The Key Verse

9:14 Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

This text is quoted more than any other text by gospel workers to prove that they deserve “full-time” support for their ministry. Since several people who have read the first edition of this book have wrongly concluded that I oppose supporting full-time gospel workers, I need to carefully state my understanding of Scripture. My complaint is with those who twist Scripture and teach that all ­ ministers should be full-time because the Bible teaches it. My previous chapters on First Chronicles 23-26, Second Chronicles 31, Nehemiah 10-13 and my discussions of the Levitical cities in Joshua 21 have convinced me that neither priests nor Levites ever worked “full-time” as ministers. Biblical, rabbinic, and secular history all confirm the fact that many priests, Levites, and rabbis supported themselves in various trades, crafts, and political positions both inside and outside of the events of God’s Word.

I AM NOT OPPOSED TO FULL-TIME MINISTRY! If a church can support full-time ministers and missionaries without teaching error to do so, then I pray that God will richly bless them. However, I am opposed to anybody who teaches that full-time ministry is a Biblical command (which Paul chose to disobey). I am even more opposed to those who teach that full-time ministers must be supported by so-called “tithing”!

Shock! The Bible does NOT say that priests and Levites were not supposed to work outside of the Temple. The Bible DOES say that the tithes and offerings they received for work they performed in the Temple was instead of land inheritance (Num. 18:20-24)! This is a huge difference. If priests and Levites were only allowed to perform full-time religious work, then King David made a terrible mistake in First Chronicles 23:4. It would also make them little more than free-loaders who only worked one week out of twenty four. Just as those who DID have land inheritance could also work other occupations, even so the priests and Levites who did NOT have land inheritance could also work other occupations. The difference is “land inheritance” and not “full-time ministry.” Who do you think herded the tithed animals? Where do you think they got the skills to maintain and supervise maintenance of the Temple? How did they justifiably act as civil judges and run the Temple marketplace and money-changing tables?

Long before the time of Jesus, the priests and Levites had distanced themselves from the average Jew by politics, wealth, ritual, and pure snobbery. We see this best in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan.

While they controlled the Sanhedrin (the court system), the spiritual vacuum they had left by not teaching the Law had been filled by synagogues under the leadership of mostly non-priestly and non-Levitical rabbis. These rabbis, who set the example for Paul and the earliest church, predominantly considered it sinful to teach the Law for monetary or other profit. My point is this: the very existence of the schools of the prophets in the Old Testament times and the synagogues PROVES that the priests and Levites had not spent their time away from the Temple (23 of 24 courses) teaching the Word of God!

Those who teach that First Corinthians 9:14 commands a full-time ministry completely ignore the greater gospel principle found in verses 12 and 15. Verse 14 prompts questions which need to be properly answered before ultimately deciding upon its proper application.

What is the origin of this quotation? Since verse 14 has no definite parallel in Scripture, any clear application is impossible. The cross-referencing in many Bibles from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge sends the reader to Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7 which end by Jesus saying “for the workman/laborer is worthy of his hire.”[3] Many other reference works also agree that this verse probably alludes to Matthew 10 and Luke 10. For example, this is also the cross-reference in Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Barnes’ Notes, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Robertson’s Word Studies, and the Wycliffe Bible Commentary.

If the quotation from Jesus is indeed from Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7, then what impact does this have on tithing to support gospel ministers? Tithing is nowhere seen or even implied in Matthew 10 or Luke 10! Matthew 10 contains instructions to the twelve as Jesus sent them out and Luke 10:1-17 contains similar instructions to the seventy. Both passages describe temporary evangelistic efforts just as modern evangelistic ­ crusades send out (predominantly unpaid) workers to canvas cities before the crusade begins. Both accounts also describe the life of those gospel workers in terms of food-less, shelter-less, and penny-less workers dependent entirely on the grace of God to daily supply their needs by freewill charity from those who are being served. Also, sustenance for the gospel workers of Matthew 10 and Luke 10 compares to that of the Old Covenant prophets rather than to the Old Covenant priests and law-tithing.

At least while the disciples and seventy were serving with Jesus, their lives were exactly as described in Matthew 10 and Luke 10. Like the ox threshing the grain and the priests and Levites serving for their week in the Temple, they survived from the gifts of others. This was an even lower standard than that by which Paul followed during his years of mission service. Tithing definitely does not enter this picture for full-time gospel support.

What is meant by the phrase, “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel”? When this phrase is taken out of its context, it is applied as a proof-text for mandatory full-time support of gospel workers. However, this phrase is obviously the conclusion of the immediate preceding phrases. Therefore, if the preceding phrases do indeed refer to Matthew 10 and Luke 10, then it cannot possibly be used to support tithing.

The KJV phrase, “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” is translated “get their living from the gospel” (NAS); “receive their living from the gospel” (NIV); “by the gospel” (RSV); and “should receive their livelihood” (Phillip’s). The Greek is literally ho kurios (the Lord) dieetaxen (ordained) tois (those) to (the ones preaching the gospel) ek tou euangelliou (from the gospel) zeen (to live).” Many translations of the Greek word, “zoee,” give the impression that this word exclusively refers to a full-time occupation, which is very far from being its real ­ meaning. This key Greek word is parsed as a present active infinitive verb. “Zoee” (Strong’s 2198) occurs over 140 times in the New Testament and is most often translated as the verbs “live” and “alive,” the noun “life,” and the participle “living.” “Zoee” is most often “life” itself, the opposite of “death.” (Compare 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:45; 2 Cor. 1:8; 3:3; 4:11; 5:15; 6:9, 16; 13:4.) In researching the 140 plus uses of this word in Scripture, there is no justification for insisting that the word must only be interpreted in this text as equivalent to “livelihood,” “occupation,” “profession,” “trade,” “craft,” “labor,” or “work.”[4]

As a matter of biblical fact, zoee is far from the best word to use for “livelihood.” If Paul had intended to unquestionably convey the idea of “livelihood,” or “occupation,” he had many much better words from which to choose. Bios (Strong’s 979) occurs 11 times and means “livelihood” in Luke 15:12. The verb, ergazomai (Strong’s 2038), occurs 37 times and is the kind of work Jesus and the Father perform in John 5:17. Ergasia (Strong’s 2039) occurs 6 times and means “craft” or “occupation” in Acts 19:25. Ergates (Strong’s 2040) occurs 17 times and is translated “laborers” and “workers.” Technee (Strong’s 5078) occurs 3 times and means “trade, skill, or occupation” in Paul’s tentmaker text of Acts 18:3. Meros (Strong’s 3313) means “craft” in Acts 19:27. The point is that several of these Greek words much better convey the idea of a full-time profession, occupation, trade, or craft in which to earn a living. “Living,” at least in First Corinthians 9:14, best refers to gospel principles of grace and faith, rather than to a lifestyle occupation.

First Corinthians 7:20 is an extremely interesting text to look at in this discussion of tithing. “Let every man abide in the same calling (Strong’s 2821) wherein he was called.” In its context, Paul was teaching that, unless our job or life situation is immoral or unjust, we should remain where we are! This makes sense when viewed from the tradition that one’s vocation was a calling from God. The author of this statement, Paul, makes it even more interesting, because Paul remained in his secular ­ “calling” as a tentmaker while pursuing his spiritual calling as a gospel evangelist. Such an attitude would certainly prevent a tithing doctrine.

“Gospel” is the most important word in 9:14, not “live.” Those who preach from “gospel” principles should depend on “gospel” principles to sustain themselves. “From the gospel” means “from faith,” but not from law! This is yet another reason to exclude law-tithing from the formula for supporting gospel workers. They are not “law workers,” but “gospel workers!” The gospel, not the law, is “ek pisteoos eis pistin,” that is, it comes “out of faith” and goes back “into faith” (Rom. 1:17). The gospel contains no part of the law! It is purely of faith from beginning to end. Yet, it is astounding how many “gospel” churches correctly insist on basing every New Covenant gospel doctrine on post-Calvary texts—except tithing. However, God did not say that “everything in the gospel is from faith to faith—except tithing.” The disciples in Matthew 10 and the seventy in Luke 10 did not depend on tithing and principles of law for sustenance while they were ministering for Jesus. Instead they depended entirely on gospel principles and freewill offerings. The better they served God’s people, the better God’s people responded out of love and appreciation to them.

9:15 But I have used none of these things; neither have I written these things, that it should be so done to me, for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

Most commentaries, systematic theologies, and books on biblical principles of interpretation are written by gospel ministers who are receiving full-time sustenance as gospel workers. Therefore, one can logically expect almost every commentator to interpret verse 14 as support for full-time gospel workers. True objectivity is lost. For example, one commentator says, “Has the Lord appointed, commanded, ‘arranged’ that it should be so ‘dietachee.’ The word here means that he has made this a law, or has required it.”[5] A second says, “Just as God gave orders about the priests in the temple, so did the Lord Jesus give orders for those who preach the gospel to live out of the gospel. Evidently Paul was familiar with the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7 either in oral or written form. He has made his argument for the minister’s salary complete for all time.”[6] And a third says, “The same Lord Christ ‘ordains’ the ordinances in the Old and in the New Testaments (Matt. 10:10).”[7]

There are two reasons to question the previous three conclusions. First, if Matthew 10 and Luke 10 constitute an unchanging “commanded” covenant and the “ordained” “law” or “ordinance” for gospel workers, then New Covenant gospel workers are commanded to live day by day, as paupers, in total dependence on the charity of those they serve in obedience to gospel (not law) principles. The 12 and 70 were all Jews. Jewish tradition quoted elsewhere from the Didache and other sources in this book indicates that evangelists were only permitted to depend on charity for two or three days at each place before moving on or taking up a trade.

Second, if verse 14 is a direct command to institute a full-time ministry, then Paul deliberately disobeyed this direct ordained command of Jesus in verse 15. “For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:9). “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing; but worked with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:8). Paul did exactly the opposite of what some say that Jesus supposedly commanded in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 in order to preach unhindered.

Instead, Paul placed his total faith in the gospel principle of “freedom” rather than “privilege.” For Paul, the gospel principle of “freedom” outweighed his gospel “right” to receive sustenance for gospel service. He refused his legitimate right in order to win more souls for Christ. Paul would rather be dead than to have somebody think that he served Christ for worldly gain.

Neither was Paul disobeying a direct command from Christ in refusing his right to support. In reality, Christ “ordained” gospel workers to live every day from “gospel” principles which greatly supersede law principles. Those who make verse 14 say anything beyond gospel principles, like law-tithing, are simply ignoring its context.

9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

9:17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to me.

For Paul, the previous discussion about the “right” to be paid for serving Christ, including verse 14, totally misses the reason for his compulsion and motivation. After arguing and proving that he had a “right” to be paid if he desired to insist on such a “right,” Paul then declined to exercise that right! Paul had a lot of accusers in Corinth. Proving his point was more important that the “content” of the argument.

Paul had no intention of receiving full-time support and only accepted limited partial sustenance (as a poor person) from other churches. For Paul, the former Jewish rabbi, tithing was as foreign as all of the other law principles which he had replaced with gospel principles. He did not serve God because he viewed himself as a soldier, farmer, herdsman, grinding ox, or Levitical priest (vv. 7-13). No! He said “necessity is laid upon me.” The NAS says “I am under compulsion.” His calling to preach was a “dispensation, a sacred trust, a stewardship” which is reflected in Paul’s more familiar term of being a bond-slave to Christ. From Paul’s point-of-view, the more free he was from obligations, the more unhindered he could preach the gospel in all of its power.

9:18 What is my reward [pay, wage] then? Truly that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I do not abuse my power in the gospel.

9:19 For though I am free from all men, yet I have made myself servant [bond-slave] to all, that I might gain the more.

Although Paul does not eliminate the possibility of full-support for gospel workers other than himself, he certainly does not teach it either. Just as they were for Paul, verses 15-19 should be the mountain top shout of many gospel workers today. We need less complaining about “rights” and more action motivated by “liberty” and what can be accomplished when hindrances are removed.

Paul did not preach because he was paid a salary and was obligated as a steward to an earthly master (9:17). Read verse 18 again. “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” His reward, or pay, WAS the ability of preaching FOR FREE, without charge! His reward WAS “not using” his “right” to receive wages! Stop and think about it!

Why did Paul refuse a salary? In addition to the three points given at verse 12—fourth, his culture and tradition as a Jew expected all men to learn a trade and be self-sufficient. Fifth, he wanted to serve and provide for others—not have others serve and provide for him (9:19). Above all else, Paul wanted to be a more effective soul-winner. Being free from asking others for a salary “that I might win the more” was Paul’s motivation (9:19). Whatever sacrifice or effort it might take to win others to Christ, even refusing his right of a salary, Paul was prepared to make that sacrifice or effort (9:20-27).

The Living Bible is worth reading here, “And this [refusal of support] has a real advantage; I am not bound to obey anyone just because he pays my salary; yet I have freely and happily become a servant of any and all so that I can win them to Christ. While we may have far less large churches, we would have many more thousands of smaller churches.

In First Corinthians 9 Paul affirmed that he would not let money become an issue that would hinder his preaching of the gospel. Although his “rights” as an apostle and gospel minister did indeed include receiving some support for service for Christ as a poor person, tithing was not mentioned as one of those “rights”—nor was it wanted. Paul would have certainly refused a tithe just as he refused regular offerings as contrary to his freedom in Christ.

Additional Comments on Matthew 10 and Luke 10

Many gospel workers will quote First Corinthians 9:11-14 and “the laborer is worthy of his wage” from Matthew 10:10, Luke 10:7, or First Timothy 5:18 to prove that they should be totally supported by the church. However, the entire context of Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7 is impossible to work into such a simple conclusion.

Matt. 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out ­ devils; freely you have received, freely give.

Matt. 10:9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,

Matt. 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his food [support: NAS] [Greek: trophees].

Matt. 10:11 And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till you go from there.

Luke 10:4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way.

Luke 10:5 And into whatsoever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house.

Luke 10:6 And if the son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again.

Luke 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of his hire [reward] [Greek: misthos]. Go not from house to house.

Concerning Matthew 10:8-9, the Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, “These ministrations were to be performed freely, without charge, for their authority had been received in this manner. These instructions apply only to this specific mission of limited duration”.[8] If this is true, then how can tithe-teachers say that First Corinthians 9:14 alludes to Matthew 10:8-11 and Luke 10:4-7? Also, according to the early document, Didache, after a “limited duration,” even gospel workers were expected to either leave or take up a craft, as did Paul. Yet how many ­ evangelists or preachers follow more than two of the instructions in Matthew 10 and Luke 10? Is one honest to the context by ignoring the other points? The context neither teaches tithing nor full-time support for the ministry!

Concerning First Corinthians 9:14 the following quotations predominantly from church HISTORIANS from many denominations should not be ignored. Difficult as it may be, theologians must admit that their own historians are correct in asserting that tithing was neither taught nor practiced in the early church. These quotations certainly do not allow room for the doctrine of tithing, as seen in many Christian churches today.

Robert Baker, A Summary of Christian History

This Southern Baptist textbook states, “The leaders [before A.D. 100] usually worked with their hands for their material needs. There was no artificial distinction between clergy and laity.” He later added, “The earliest bishops or presbyters engaged in secular labor to make their living and ­ performed the duties of their church office when not at work”.[9]

The Code of Jewish Law

The Code of Jewish Law says that a poor sage who studies the law is to be established in a business and given superior treatment to assure that he is successful. “Even if an honored sage becomes poor, he should find some occupation, even of a menial kind, rather than depend on men.”[10]

  1. E. Dana,The New Testament World

This Southern Baptist textbook states, “Among the Jews professional life was limited. The one widely extensive profession was that of rabbi, if profession it might be called, for most rabbis followed some trade or secular pursuit for a livelihood, while devoting all the time possible to the study and teaching of the law…. Every Jewish boy was expected to learn some trade. Rabbinic tradition declared that ‘whoever does not teach his son a trade is as if he brought him up to be a robber’” (p. 149).

“Those who worked at a common trade frequently organized themselves into a trade-union, comparable to our modern labor unions. Thus there were guilds of bakers, of smiths, of fullers, and of practically every trade known to the period…. It is probable that there was a tent-makers guild, and it may be reasonably assumed that Paul was a member of it (p. 217).”

“The prevalent use of tents [by travelers] made the tent-making trade a lucrative occupation. One belonging to the same trade-guild, religious cult, or having any other personal relationship to any resident of the locality could nearly always find welcome more or less genuine in a private home…. This was the prevailing manner in which the first Christian missionaries were provided for, though likely the entertainment was tendered them without cost (cf. 2 John 10-11; 3 John 5-8)” (p. 221).[11]

Dana made another curious statement on page 127, “The priests but rarely came into contact with the people.” If this is true, then what did they do when they were among the 23 of 24 courses NOT ministering at the temple for one week at a time?

The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve

Paragraph XI:…“Now, as concerning the apostles and prophets according to the teaching of the gospel, so do; and let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord; and he shall stay but one day, and, if need be, the next day also; but if he stay three days he is a false prophet. When the apostle goes forth, let him take nothing but bread, till he reach his lodging: if he ask money he is a false prophet…. But whosoever shall say in spirit, ‘Give me money, or other things,’ you shall not listen to him; but it he bid you give for others that are in need, let no man judge him.”[12]

Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life

“Thus…to come to the subject of this chapter…we now understand how so many of the disciples and followers of the Lord gained their living by some craft; how in the same spirit the Master Himself condescended to the trade of his adoptive father; and how the greatest of his apostles throughout earned his bread through the labor of his hands, probably following, like the Lord Jesus, the trade of his father. For it was a principle, frequently expressed, if possible ‘not to forsake the trade of the father’” (p. 169). Furthermore, although its origins is unknown, Roman law required that a son should follow in the trade of his father (per the life of Martin, an early monk).

“And this same love of honest labor, the same spirit of manly independence, the same horror of trafficking with the law, and using it either as a ‘crown or as a spade,’ was certainly characteristic of the best Rabbis” (p. 172).

“For, in point of fact, with few exceptions, all the leading Rabbinical authorities were working at some trade, till at last it became quite an affectation to engage in hard bodily labor…” (p. 173).[13]

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

“The stipends of the clergy were at first from offerings at the Lord’s supper. At the love feast preceding it every believer, according to his ability, offered a gift; and when the expense of the table had been defrayed, the bishop laid aside a portion for himself, the presbyters, and deacons; and with the rest relieved widows, orphans, confessors, and the poor, (Tertullian, d. 220, `Apology,’ 1 Cor. 3:9). Again, the stipend was in proportion to the dignity and merits of the bishops, presbyters, and deacons (Cyprian, A.D. 250, c. iv. ep. 6).”[14]

George E. Ladd, Wycliffe Bible Commentary

[Acts 18:1-4] “It was customary for Jewish rabbis not to receive pay for their teaching, and therefore, Paul, who had been raised as a rabbi, had learned the trade of tent-making. The apostle did not at once launch into the evangelization of Corinth, but joined Aquilla and Priscilla in practicing his trade during the week. The Sabbaths he devoted to preaching in the synagogues.”[15]

[Acts 20:34] “Paul reminded the Ephesians of his custom of making tents not only to support himself but to provide for the needs of others with him. He quoted a saying of the Lord which is not recorded in any of the Gospels, about the blessedness of giving…The main objective of giving in the early church was to provide for the needs of the poor brothers rather than to support the preaching of the gospel as is the case today.

Lenski, R.C.H., The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel

“Although all of the apostles were originally Jews, reared in tithing, with not one word did any of them even intimate that in the new covenant the Christians might find tithing a helpful method of making their contributions to the work of the church. This strong negative is immensely re-enforced by the totally different method suggested by Paul when he called on the churches for a great offering, 1 Cor. 16:1, etc; 2 Cor. 8:4, etc.

“Exegetically and thus dogmatically and ethically the New Testament is against tithing as a regulation in the new covenant. Desire for more money, also for more money in the church and for the church must not blind our eyes to the ways employed for getting more money” (pages 907-909).

The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible

“Crafts were held in high regard by the Jews at this time. Craftsmen were exempt from the rule that everyone should rise to his feet when a scholar approached. Most of the scribes probably had a trade. The writings of the rabbis mention a nail maker, a baker, a sandal maker, a master builder, and a tailor.[16]

The New Bible Commentary

[Acts 18:3] “It was regarded as proper for a rabbi to practice a manual occupation, so as not to make monetary profit out of his sacred teaching.”

[1 Thess. 2:9] “His policy [working night and day] not only reflected a desire to be financially independent of those among whom they ministered, but it also marked them off from the ordinary religious traffickers of the day, and showed the converts a good example.”

[2 Cor. 11:8] “Paul is really indicating that he did not receive wages at all for preaching the gospel. If what was given him for his support by other churches was to be regarded as ‘earnings,’ then he had in effect ‘robbed’ them since the service given was not to them but to the Corinthians”.[17]


Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II

“In the apostolic church preaching and teaching were not confined to a ­ particular class, but every convert could proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, and every Christian who had the gift could pray and teach and exhort in the congregation. The New Testament knows no spiritual aristocracy or nobility but calls all believers “saints,” though many fell short of this vocation. Nor does it recognize a special priesthood in distinction from the people, as mediating between God and the laity. It knows only one high-priest, Jesus Christ, and clearly teaches the ­ universal priesthood, as well as universal kingship, of believers. It does this in a far deeper and larger sense than the Old; in a sense, too, which even to this day is not yet fully ­ realized. The entire body of Christ is called ‘clergy,’ a peculiar people, the heritage of God” (p. 124).

“With the exaltation of the clergy [late in the third century] appeared the ­ tendency to separate them from secular business, and even from social relations…They drew their support from the church treasury, which was supplied by voluntary contributions and weekly collections on the Lord’s Day. After the third century they were forbidden to engage in any secular business, or even to accept any trusteeship” (p. 128).

On pages 387-427 Schaff discusses asceticism. In the universal church, the ascetics received the highest regard and sought with enthusiasm a martyr’s death (p. 391). “The ascetic principle, however, was not confined, in its influence, to the proper ascetics and morals. It ruled more or less the entire morality and piety of the ancient and medieval church” (p. 392). “The orthodox or catholic asceticism starts from a literal and over-strained construction of certain passages of Scripture” (p. 393). “Among these works [supererogation] were reckoned martyrdom, voluntary poverty, and voluntary celibacy. All three, or at least the last two of these acts, in connection with the positive Christian virtues, belong to the idea of the higher perfection, as distinguished from the fulfillment of regular duties or ordinary morality (p. 395).

“The ground on which these particular virtues were so strongly urged might be easily understood. Property, which is so closely allied to the selfishness of man and binds him to the earth, and sexual intercourse—these present themselves as the firmest obstacles to that perfection, in which God alone is our possession, and Christ alone is our love and delight”(p. 395). “The [Jewish Christian] Ebionites made poverty the condition of salvation.” (Even the name, “Ebionite,” is Hebrew for “poor.”)

The recommendation of voluntary poverty was based on a literal interpretation of the Lord’s advice to the rich young ruler…. To this were added the actual examples of the poverty of Christ and his apostles, and the community of goods in the first Christian church in Jerusalem. Many Christians, not only of the ascetics, but also of the clergy, like Cyprian, accordingly gave up all their property at their conversion, for the benefit of the poor” (p. 396).[18]

[1] Pat Alexander, ed., Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible, Orig. Eerdman’s Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1978, 3rd ed. (Batavia: Lion Publishing, 1987), 218.

[2] Temple, Edersheim, 102-103.

[3] Jerome Smith, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, CD-ROM (Seattle: Biblesoft, 1999), s.v. “1 Cor. 9:14.”

[4] Strong’s, s.v. “zoee, N.T. 2198.”

[5] Barnes, s.v. “1 Cor. 9:14.”

[6] Robertson’s, s.v. “1 Cor. 9:14.”

[7] Jamieson, s.v. “1 Cor. 9:14.”

[8] Wycliffe Comm., s.v. “Matt. 10:8-9.”

[9] Robert A. Baker, A Summary of Christian History (Nashville: Broadman, 1959), 11, 43.

[10] Code, 1-114.

[11] H. E. Dana, The New Testament World, 3rd. ed., rev. (Nashville: Broadman, 1937), 149, 217, 221.

[12] Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford UP, 1963), “Didache,” or “Teaching of the Twelve,” 64-65.

[13] Edersheim, Sketches, 169, 172, 173.

[14] Jamieson, s.v. “1 Cor. 9:14.”

[15] Wycliffe Comm., s.v. “Acts 20:34” and “Acts 18:1-4.”

[16] Lion, 218.

[17] New Bible Comm., s.v. “Acts 18:1-4,” 2 Thess. 2:9,” and “2 Cor. 11:8.”

[18] Schaff, 118, 128, 391, 392, 393, 395, 396.

NOT IN BOOK: Famous Calvinist Apologist John Owen in Commentary on Hebrews 7.

Owen: [1 Cor 9a:7-14] . On these suppositions it is that the apostle, treating of this matter, makes no use of the right or law of tithing, though directly unto his purpose if it had not been abrogated. For intending to prove that the ministers of the gospel ought to be liberally supported in their work with the earthly things of them unto whom they do administer the things of God argueth from the light of nature, the general equity of other cases, the analogy of legal institutions, the rules of justice, with the especial institution of Christ in the gospel, but makes no mention of the natural or legal right of tithing, 1 Corinthians 9:7-14.