23: Principles of Finance

Studies in First Corinthians

Lesson 23: “Principles of Finance”

I Corinthians 9:1-14


One of the biggest complaints of unbelievers about the 20th century church is the handling of finances – both positively and negatively. Yet there is no excuse for this, because the scripture has as much to say about this subject as about any other aspect of the church. And evidently that was true in Corinth as well. Because in this section of the book where Paul is answering questions, that is the subject of a whole chapter. From the details of his answers we can surmise that the questions were about such things as “are we obligated to support Christian workers? And if so, which ones?”  But it is interesting to notice that in answering the question Paul “kills two birds with one stone.” He not only answers their questions, but he uses it to reinforce the principle of chapter 8 – the sacrifice of our rights. In answering their questions, Paul touches on two subjects: the recognition of rights in verses 1 through 14, and, the relinquishing of rights in verses 15 through 27.


In the first part of the chapter he is going to talk about his right as a full time Christian worker to be supported by the church (and preachers love to teach this passage.) But in the second half he is going to say that he is willing to give up that right for the glory of God (and churches love to hear that part of the chapter taught.) So let’s begin looking at the recognition of rights that Paul outlines in verses 1 through 14. And the first thing to notice in that regard is the basis of his rights as stated in verses 1 and 2 (All of these were among the qualifications of apostleship set out in Acts chapter 2)


Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am so to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.


First there was his right of Christian freedom. The order of the first two questions in this verse is reversed in the Greek text (and translated so in the New American Standard Version). And actually this is the more chronological order, so we are following that order. And this is the first right that every Christian has: freedom in Christ – forgiveness of sins. But then there is also the matter of his rights as an apostle. Evidently some in Corinth were questioning that position. So here he lists at least two of his qualifications in that regard: He had seen the Lord (on the road to Damascus.)And he could demonstrate fruit from his ministry – the Corinthian believers themselves. “Are not you my work in the Lord?” he says in verses 1 and 2.


So those are the bases of Paul’s rights. But in verses 3 through 14 we find the broadness of his rights. Verses 3 through 6 give some examples of the substance of those rights


My defense to those who examine me is this: (4) Do we have no right to eat and drink? (5) Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?(Peter)


You see, the bottom line, the “substance of his rights” was the right to be supported by the Corinthians. Commentator Leon Morris says because of the practices of the early church in the first century, the phrase “at the expense of the church” could be inserted at the end of each of these questions.


Now in the next verses he appeals to other areas of truth. First there is the appeal from custom (of living off of the work one has produced) in verse 7.


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? (And the work of the farmer makes the same point)


Then in verses 8 through 10 there is an appeal from the Old Testament law:


Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? (9) 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? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.


The basic principle here is that the Old Testament priests were to be allowed to eat the meat of the sacrifices. Now we have seen the appeal from custom and the appeal from the Old Testament, but there is a third appeal: the appeal from basic justice in verse 11.


If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?


And finally, there is the appeal from Christ Himself in verse 14


Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.


This is a quotation of Matthew 10:10, where Christ was commissioning the apostles to go and offer the kingdom to Israel. And there Jesus very specifically said, “the workman is worthy of his food.”


But in order to get the most out of this passage, I want us to look in closing at the basic principles that are wrapped up in Paul’s rights – some observations derived from and based on the above principles. The basic principle here is that Christian workers have the right to be supported. But how do you know who falls into that category? Two things are suggested along that line back in verses 1 and 2: (1) he had had a specific ministry to those who supported him – verse 1 are you not my work in the Lord? And he had obviously had results in his ministry – verse 2 You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” Someone who doesn’t meet these two requirements doesn’t have the right to be supported. But there is something else suggested here: with so many worthy Christian causes asking for your money, how can you know who to support? Well, in this passage there are some basic priorities suggested by Paul’s rights: First would be those who minister to you in the local church – verse 11


If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?


What are the ministries that most directly affect you ? They should have first priority. Next would be ministries that are an outgrowth of the local church – missionaries, tape ministries, etc. Then those who minister to churches – seminaries, Bible colleges, etc., then those who minister to you in a legitimate way outside the local church – radio and TV ministries, and then those who may not specifically touch you, but which you appreciate  – “parachurch” ministries. Of course this assumes that they are doctrinally sound. And that those who are directly supported by them are supporting them also.


You see, the Bible does have a great deal to say about money and the ministry. In fact, as we see from this passage, it is a part of the Lordship of Christ in your life and in the church. And the main reason there is so much criticism of ministries and churches in that regard is because so many are not careful to follow those instructions.


The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at



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