The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 10: The Operation of a Valid Christian Ministry

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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 10: The Operation of a Valid Christian Ministry.

Towards the end of our previous presentation we broke into 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Since the beginning of chapter 7, Paul had been writing “concerning the things you have written”, where it is evident that Paul had received a letter from Corinth and ever since chapter 7 he has been addressing the inquiries made in that letter. Therefore in chapter 7 he wrote of the feasibility of marriage in an era of Christian persecution. That also afforded us an opportunity to learn many of Paul's perspectives regarding what constituted both marriage and divorce. Then, in chapter 8, he wrote of the eating of things sacrificed to idols, touching on proper Christian conduct in the pagan world. Paul will discuss these things further later on in the epistle. But here in chapter 9 Paul has turned to defending himself, where it is evident that he must have been answering questions which had been posed directly to him by the assembly, while at the same time he is using both himself and others of the apostles in his examples of what license he had as an apostle.

Doing that, Paul opened this chapter with a series of rhetorical questions where he asserts that the proof of his apostleship lies in its fruit, and he asks: “1 Am I not free? Am I not an ambassador? Have I not seen Yahshua our Prince? Are you not my work in the Prince? 2 If to others I am not an ambassador, yet at any rate to you I am; indeed the assurance of my message is you in the Prince.” Then Paul answers questions posed to him by certain of the Christians at Corinth, and we see evidence that the conduct of Paul's ministry has been questioned in some degree. In answering, Paul asks a further series of rhetorical questions which should provide his answers: “3 My answer to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have license to eat and to drink?” Here it seems evident that Paul partook of common foods during the course of his ministry, as that is the context of the previous chapter. However Paul may also be referring to the simple necessity of obtaining food and drink, which is the context going forward in this chapter: that working for the Gospel, one must also have the ability to cover one's expenses so that one's carnal needs are provided for. Doing so, one may also have to ensure provisions for one's family, and Paul adds: “5 Do we not have license to always have with us a kinswoman: a wife, as also the other ambassadors, and the brethren of the Prince, and Kephas?” As we have previously illustrated, Paul asserts here that a proper wife is a woman of one's own tribe, a kinswoman. Paul may have had such a wife if he so chose, as James, Jude and Peter all evidently had wives. Since Paul was taking up collections for “the poor of the saints which are at Jerusalem”, as he attests in Romans chapter 15, ostensibly that included James, possibly also Jude, and their wives as well as others. Then Paul asks “6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have license to work?” Indeed, the apostles may have worked for their own living, and they had license to do so whenever they chose or had necessity. Paul set that example when he could, such as when he was in Corinth (Acts 18:3). But evidently they likewise were expected not to work, and Paul is protesting that the other apostles must have taken license to work when they could, so he and Barnabas should also be expected to be able to do so. Having to work at a menial vocation for their livings, out of necessity the apostles would have to set aside the cause of the Gospel. Therefore Paul asks further: “7 Who at any time serves as a soldier with his own provisions? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock, and does not eat of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I speak these things according to man, or does the law not also say these things? 9 Indeed in the law of Moses it is written, 'You will not muzzle a treading ox.'” And here is where we left off last week, in the middle of verse 9.

First there is a translator's note. The word for muzzle in verse 9 is φιμόω in the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and the Majority Text. However in the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D) it is κημόω, which is a synonym. This is one example of differences in the manuscripts which were made due to preferences in vocabulary from one dialect of Koine Greek to another. For even Koine Greek had developed differing dialects.

Does Yahweh care for the ox? 10 Or does He speak on account of us all? For on account of us it was written, that “he who is plowing is obliged to plow in expectation, and he who is threshing, in expectation to partake of it.”

The Codex Claromontanus and the Majority Text end verse 10 with the words “and he who is threshing, in expectation to partake of his expectation”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C). The word for expectation is translated as hope in the King James Version, and either rendering is acceptable.

In Luke chapter 10 the Gospel of Christ says that: “2 The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” So Paul compares the work of the Gospel to oxen treading the fields. The law says in Deuteronomy chapter 25, which Paul quotes here, that “4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” Then Paul correctly asserts that the Wisdom of God is for the benefit of man, and not merely for the benefit of the oxen. The law of the oxen is therefore an example for men, and Paul illustrates that they who care for the spiritual well-being of the body of Christ should in turn be succored by those of the body who can provide for the things of the flesh:

11 If we have sown things of the spirit in you, is it too great if we should reap your fleshly things?

The work of the Gospel is enough of a vocation by itself, and here Paul compared it to the work of a soldier or of a shepherd or a husbandman. Tending to the flock of God, one may expect to be provided for by the flock itself, as a shepherd or a farmer eats of his flocks or of the fruits of his fields.

12 If others of authority are partaking of you, still more not we?

Men pay taxes to governments, and those whom the government employs do little in return. Men should be even more willing to sustain those who are working for the government of God. However for much of his ministry Paul even refused this, and here he explains why:

Rather we have not used this authority, but we cover all ourselves, in order that we should not give any hindrance to the good message of the Anointed.

The Greek word for authority in this verse is the same Greek word ἐξουσία (Strong's # 1849) which we had encountered in chapter 8 of this epistle, where we rendered it as license in an appropriate context. The word ἐξουσία describes the power or authority to do something or to have license in a thing which gives one the authority to do it. As Paul shall explain in the subsequent verses, ministers of the gospel have license, or authority from God, to be sustained by the flocks which they shepherd. Of course, it is obvious that in the world of today as well as throughout Christian history, many have also turned that license into licentiousness, by abusing their authority. For instance, we have heard of churches which require their members to abandon their families and support the church. They abuse certain passages of the gospel to justify such a thing. This entire paradigm is a false one, since in reality the people themselves are the church. Paul said in 1 Timothy chapter 5 “8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Therefore one's family comes first in priority before the community.

The Greek word for cover in verse 12 is the verb στέγω (Strong's # 4722), which is primarily “to cover closely...to keep water out...to cover, shelter, protect” or even “to cover, conceal, keep hidden” (Liddell & Scott). But it is used here by Paul much like our modern English idiom, in the sense of covering one’s debts or expenses. The King James Version has bear here, which surely may have been proper in the idiom of the language in 1611.

For whatever particular reason he had, Paul refused to be supported by the assembly at Corinth. Instead, as Acts chapter 18 informs us, he worked at his vocation of tent-maker while he was in Corinth, which was for a period of over a year-and-a-half. Paul was, however, supported by other assemblies at diverse times, and Paul was also supported by those other assemblies while he was preaching in Corinth. He even considered that in itself as a deprivation of those other assemblies.

Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, where he said “7 Can it be that I have made an error, humbling myself in order that you may be elevated, because I have announced the good message of Yahweh to you freely? 8 I have deprived other assemblies, taking provisions for your service. 9 And being present with you and wanting, I had burdened no one, (indeed my need had been filled by the brethren who came from Makedonia,) and in everything I have kept and will keep myself unburdensome to you.”

With this we see that Paul refused to seek support from the Corinthians because he thought doing so would hinder the message of the Gospel. So he humbled himself by bringing them the Gospel freely. One aspect of this statement, and the reason by which Paul said that he humbled himself for that reason, is totally lost in the translation. The Greek word usually translated as gospel is εὐαγγέλιον (Strong's # 2098), from which we have the borrowed word evangel, and literally it means good message. (The prefix eu is good and an aggelos is an angel or messenger.) In English the equivalent is gospel, which is actually a contraction of the Saxon phrase gode spell, and has an equivalent meaning. But in Classical Greek the word εὐαγγέλιον originally referred not to the message itself but to the reward which the deliverer of a good message could customarily expect to receive. As Liddell & Scott explain in their Greek-English Lexicon, from the time of Homer and onward, the εὐαγγέλιον was the reward that the εὐαγγελιστής, or evangelist, expected in return for his delivery of a good message. For that reason, because he did so without the anticipation of any reward, Paul is telling the Corinthians that he humbled himself by bringing them the Gospel freely. This original meaning of the word is also reflected later on in the chapter, in verse 18 where Paul asks, “What then is my reward?”.

In addition to this, among the Greeks were a large variety of schools of Philosophy. The Greeks customarily spent much of their leisure time at these schools. In fact, the Greek word σχολή is literally leisure, but has come into English in words such as school and scholar. This is because in ancient Greece, leisure time was customarily spent in learning the philosophies and sciences. [The ancient Greeks were typically much smarter than modern Americans, who spend their leisure time watching monkeys at play and jews making a mockery of Creation.] When Paul went to Ephesus, he must have converted one of these schools, one of these places for learning, to the Christian cause, where in Acts chapter 19 we see that at first Paul was proclaiming Christ in the assembly halls of the Judaeans, as he did customarily, and then “9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” But these schools of philosophy did not exist freely. Rather, people paid to enter them and engage in whatever facilities they offered. Usually these schools were owned by the philosophers who lectured in them, or by the patrons of those philosophers, and that is how they made their livings.

That leads us to discuss another facet of Paul's world which we hardly understand today, one which persisted in pagan Greek, in Roman and in Medieval Christian society. In the ancient world men spent their leisure time learning one philosophy or another, and they supported those who they learned from. If they did not support them, the teachers would simply disappear into whatever vocations there were in which they could find gainful employment so that they could support themselves. If all the teachers disappeared, there would be no philosophy or sciences. For better or worse, if Plato, Aristotle or Socrates or any one of a thousand of the greater Greek philosophers did not have the support of their students or of wealthy patrons who appreciated their work, then we would never have heard of them.

In the ancient Greek world, philosophies were religions, belief systems by which one regulated one's life, and the religion of Judaea was treated as just another of those philosophies. There were Judaean assembly halls throughout the oikoumenê, and as we often see attested in the Book of Acts, they were attended by Greeks as well as by Judaeans. Christianity supplanted the pagan philosophies as well as the Judaean, as it was meant to do by the Word of God, and Christian teachers earned the support of communities who were turning away from the former errors. Wealthy men who were formerly patrons of the pagan philosophers became patrons of Christian scholars, and men who became students of Christian teachers supported those teachers rather than their former pagan teachers. Without the support of those who have faith in a message, the teachers of a message are naturally compelled go on to do something else.

Announcing the gospel freely to the Corinthians meant taking a year and a half in Corinth and devoting himself to teaching the Corinthians daily. During that time, Paul worked when he could, but was also supported by the Christians of Makedonia, as he had explained later. Ostensibly, not expecting anything in return from the Corinthians meant that Paul could be all the more bolder to teach them the truth of the gospel. Not taking anything from the Corinthians, Paul was able to assert that he taught them the truth without hindrance. Yet receiving sustenance from the Macedonians, Paul felt as if he was depriving them by using that sustenance to support himself while teaching the Corinthians. Paul should have been sustained by the Corinthians while he was in Corinth, yet for some reason he felt that would poison the message which he delivered to them.

This is the challenge which nearly all so-called Christian churches and ministries have failed to meet throughout history: they all have masters other than Christ. From the days of Constantine most of the Christian bishops had willingly played second-fiddle to the emperor, and then after Justinian they became subservient to the bishop of Rome and to the emperor. Today and throughout history they all rely on corporate funding, on government approval and government funding, on government entitlements and tax breaks, as well as on wealthy individuals and working families alike for their sustenance. But rather than teach the truth, since they have become solely dependent upon governments and corporations as well as communities for their survival, they tailor their message in order to suit the objectives of those who sustain them. The challenge of the apostles, and of every minister of the Gospel ever since the apostles, is not to do such a thing. The true minister of the gospel has license to work when the flock will neither support nor bear the truth. Yet Paul, when he was in Corinth, went above and beyond that license and taught the Corinthians anyway, not taking his sustenance from them. Therefore he asks the following:

13 Do you not know that those who in sacred things are laboring, from of the temple they eat? Those who are attending at the altar take a share with the altar?

Paul is referring to the Old Testament priesthood, which in part had received its sustenance from the things sacrificed at the altar. For example, from Leviticus chapter 10 we read: “12 And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meat offering that remaineth of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy: 13 And ye shall eat it in the holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons' due, of the sacrifices of the LORD made by fire: for so I am commanded. 14 And the wave breast and heave shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they be thy due, and thy sons' due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel. 15 The heave shoulder and the wave breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be thine, and thy sons' with thee, by a statute for ever; as the LORD hath commanded.”

As it was with the Old Testament, there is therefore an example for the New Testament, as Paul then asserts in verse 14:

14 Also in that manner has the Prince appointed those announcing the good message, from of the good message to live.

Paul refers to the words of Christ in the Gospel such as where He said in Luke chapter 10: “5 And into whatever house you should enter, first you say ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 And if in it there should be a son of peace, your peace shall rest upon it, but if not then upon you it shall rebound. 7 Then in that house you stay eating and drinking the things from them. For the workman is worthy of his wage. Do not pass from house to house. 8 And into whatever city you go into and they receive you, you eat the things they offer to you, 9 and you cure those in it who are sick and you say to them ‘The Kingdom of Yahweh comes nigh upon you!’”

And here I have some comments which are my own opinion but which are derived from Paul's words and experience. In the Old Testament, we see that in addition to the priests who lived off of the things dedicated at the temple, there were the non-priestly Levites who took tithes of the people. With those tithes, they supported themselves and in turn they were charged with many duties in administering the Kingdom of Yahweh. We may see this in part in Numbers chapter 18: “21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

Now today there are no tithes. No one is commanded or impelled by Scripture to give anyone ten percent of anything. The Levites provided many of the services to Israel which governments perform today, which were worthy of a tithe. Imagine a pastor today receiving a tithe from everyone in his congregation. If his church had a hundred members and he received ten percent of the wealth of each, he would be ten times wealthier than any of his church's members! That would be stealing. That is licentiousness. Some churches use the ruse of giving money to the poor, or to widows. While there were New Testament examples where Christian assemblies should maintain certain widows, it was an exception rather than a rule which was based upon an absolute need. The widows in turn were expected to serve the communities which supported them. But there are no commands or outlines for the poor. Giving to the poor is an individual responsibility and while Paul made a singular example in the collection he made for the persecuted Christians in Jerusalem, all other examples are of individual efforts. One does not need a church organization which feeds itself by claiming to feed the poor.

So while there is no tithe the Christian certainly has an obligation. We should be compelled on our own to assist any of our Christian brethren who require assistance, or even those who do not necessarily require it but who would be better off because of it. But we should also be compelled on our own to support what we believe in, because the work of the Gospel is not without expense. Here Paul, in a very kindly way, is nevertheless admonishing the Corinthians because, as he told them more explicitly in his second epistle to them, he deprived the Macedonians for their benefit, teaching in Corinth while he was provided for by the brethren in Macedonia. If you do not support your Christian teachers, yet you are benefiting from their labors, then you, like these Corinthians are freeloading on the Gospel of God. However here Paul also tells us that this is a two-way street. If the Christian minister is not adequately supported by his pupils, he has license to work in order to support himself, as Paul also did. It is to Paul's credit that while he worked he nevertheless continued in the Gospel.

Therefore if one believes in a message and trusts that he is learning in truth, one should indeed support the messenger. But men are not forced or compelled by the law to support those who simply call themselves ministers or create organizations of men in abuse of the Name of Christ. Their demands for support based upon such claims or upon a demand for tithes are not license, but licentiousness. And giving to widows or to the poor, one should do so directly in order to assure that the gift is going to a good purpose. While He recognized the customary gifts for the temple, Christ did not tell the wealthy to give to the temple for the benefit of the poor, Christ told the wealthy to give to the poor directly.

15 But I have indulged in not one of those things. Now I have not written these things that in this way it would be with me; indeed for me to be slain is still more admirable, than for any one to make void my reason to boast.

The Codex Alexandrinus (A) has here “than for any one to renew my reason to boast”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D), while the Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) and the Majority Text have yet another version which translates similar to the text.

Paul claims a reason to boast because he cares more that the Corinthians are established in the Gospel of Christ than he does that the Corinthians support him. If anyone in Corinth can claim that they gave Paul support then he loses that reason to boast, and Paul insists that he would rather be slain.

16 Therefore if I announce the good message, it is not a subject of boasting to me [א and D have “it is not a favor to me”; the text follows P46, A, B, C, and the MT]; in necessity it is laid upon me, since woe to me it is if I would not announce the good message!

Paul did not say that his announcing the gospel was a reason to boast, but rather that he had a reason to boast to the Corinthians because to them he announced the gospel freely. Here he asserts that bearing the gospel is not a reason to boast at all, but that he did it out of necessity. Ostensibly, this is because Paul believed that it was his life's mission and therefore he had better do it, lest he suffer worse if he refused. In Galatians chapter 1 Paul said that “it pleased Yahweh, Who selected me from my mother’s womb and called me through His favor to reveal His Son by me that I announce Him among the Nations”.

This is an example for all ministers of the Gospel: that they should continue their work whether or not it is supported. If they do not do so, then they themselves testify to the legitimacy of their ministry. This is a high standard. If you believe in your own message, then you teach it and promote it whether or not it is supported. So the truth of the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God should be supported, but it should never be expounded for the sake of support. Paul was supported by the Macedonians, which helped him in Corinth. But Paul never required support from either the Macedonians or the Corinthians, and he would have taught them the Gospel just as readily if he never had any assistance. Beyond that, he professes a desire for a greater reward in the Kingdom of God:

17 For if I do this readily, I have a reward; but if involuntarily I had been entrusted with the management of a family, 18 what then is my reward?

The Greek word οἰκονομία (Strong's # 3622) is primarily “the management of a household or family”, according to Liddell & Scott, and that most literal meaning is here the most sensible in light of the context throughout this and throughout all of Paul's epistles. The King James Version has “dispensation”, and then adds words which Paul did not write to try to have it make sense. Yet there are several other words Paul may have chosen to clearly convey such a meaning, if it were his intention to do so.

In his second epistle to the Corinthians, in chapter 5, Paul wrote “17 Therefore if one is among the number of Christ a new creation, the old things pass away. 'Behold! New things have come!' 18 But all things from Yahweh, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and is giving the service of reconciliation to us. 19 How that Yahweh was within Christ reconciling the Society to Himself, not accounting their offenses to them, and placing in us the word of that reconciliation. 20 Therefore on behalf of Christ we serve as ambassadors, as Yahweh is exhorting through us. We ask on behalf of Christ: you be reconciled to Yahweh.”

The ministry of reconciliation is first mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel concerning the Messiah: “24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” The children of Israel are the family of God who were put off in sin, and Daniel prophecies of their reconciliation as the express purpose of the Messiah. As Amos declared the Word of Yahweh to Israel: “2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Paul was charged with bringing the message of reconciliation to God to the lost sheep of the house, or family, of Israel, to those who had been cast off in punishment. The good message of the gospel was the reconciliation made by Christ for the iniquity of the children of Israel, who in their captivity became many nations according to the promise to Abraham.

Liddell & Scott list husbandry and thrift as alternate meanings of the word οἰκονομία, and among others Thayer adds stewardship, all of which are valid in certain contexts because they are all functions of the οἰκονόμος, who is the person charged with the office of the οἰκονομία. However those words are all useless unless the context is provided, and therefore none of them fit the scope of Paul's statement here. Paul's ministry is the management of the family of God, as he confirms in Galatians 6:10 and Ephesians 2:19 where on each occasion he mentions the οἰκεῖος, which describes something which belongs to a household or family.

Paul said in Galatians chapter 6: “10 So then while we have occasion we should work at good towards all, but especially towards those of the family (οἰκεῖος) of the faith.” That family of the faith was described by Paul in Romans chapter 4 as those nations which had come from Abraham's seed. Paul said in that chapter that “16 Therefore from of the faith, that in accordance with favor, then the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring, not to that of the law only, but also to that of the faith of Abraham, who is father of us all; 17 (just as it is written, "That a father of many nations I have made you,") before Yahweh whom he trusted, who raises the dead to life, and calls things not existing as existing; 18 who contrary to expectation, in expectation believed, for which he would become a father of many nations according to the declaration, 'Thus your offspring will be'”. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the casting off of Israel in punishment, as we have seen mentioned in Amos chapter 3. In Jeremiah chapter 30 it says likewise: “11 For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”

Paul tells the Ephesians in his epistle to them, in chapter 2: “19 So therefore you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household (οἰκεῖος) of Yahweh, 20 being built upon the foundation of the ambassadors and the prophets, Yahshua Christ being the cornerstone Himself.” The Ephesians were strangers and sojourners because, as Paul said to them earlier in that same chapter, they were Israelites cast off from the presence of Yahweh in punishment, where in verse 12 he says: “because you had at that time been apart from Christ, having been alienated from the civic life of Israel, and strangers of the covenants of the promise, not having hope and in the Society without Yahweh”

Paul also confirms the scope of his ministry in Romans chapter 9 and in Hebrews chapter 8, where he tells us who the new covenant had been made with, as he professes in Ephesians, according to the “foundation of the ambassadors and the prophets”. In Romans chapter 9 Paul wrote: “3 for I have prayed that I myself would be accursed from the Anointed for the brethren, my kinsmen in regards to the flesh; 4 those who are Israelites, whose is the position of sons, and the honor, and the covenants, and the legislation, and the service, and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers; and of whom are the Anointed in regards to the flesh, being over all blessed of Yahweh for the ages.” Therefore we see that the covenants, plural, and the promises, plural, are for Israelites, and that Israelites are reckoned “according to the flesh”. Paul never says that those covenants and promises are for non-Israelites. Likewise, in Hebrews chapter 8 Paul quoted Jeremiah chapter 31 and wrote: “8 Censuring them [meaning Israelites] He says: 'Behold, days are coming, says Yahweh, and I will consummate for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah a new covenant. 9 Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day of my taking hold of their hand to lead them out from the land of Egypt; because they did not abide by My covenant, I then disregarded them, say Yahweh. 10 For this is the covenant which I will devise with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: giving My laws into their minds, I will also inscribe them upon their hearts, and I will be for a God to them, and they shall be for a people to Me.'” The word for house in Hebrews chapter 8 is οἶκος (oikos, Strong's # 3624), and it literally means house, but was also used to describe a family as members of that house, and the descendants of any particular family, as the phrase house of Israel appears throughout Scripture to describe the descendants of the Israelites.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 we shall see Paul's attestation that not only the Corinthians, but also the people of the surrounding nations were indeed Israelites, not according to some imagined spiritual concept, but “according to the flesh”, which is the Israel of God to whom the promises were made. As Paul attested in Acts chapter 26, several years after this first epistle to the Corinthians was written, the promises to Israel were to the twelve tribes of Israel, and Israel was still reckoned by tribes, where he said before Herod Agrippa “7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” In that manner we also see that the Jews and the Twelve Tribes are two different groups. A year after that, as a prisoner in Rome, Paul exclaimed that “for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” On every possible occasion, the Christogenea New Testament was translated in a manner which elucidates the scriptural and literal fulfillments of the promises of Yahweh God while also adhering to the plain meanings of the Greek words. Where Paul spoke in Galatians of the family (οἰκεῖος) of the faith, he was referring to the house (οἶκος) of Israel. Here he calls his ministry an οἰκονομία because he is managing that family in the gospel of their reconciliation to God.

To repeat Paul's words from this verse:

17 For if I do this readily, I have a reward; but if involuntarily I had been entrusted with the management of a family, 18 what then is my reward? Announcing the good message [the MT interpolates the words “of Christ” here], that I would set forth the good message without expense, with respect not to abuse my authority in the good message.

On many occasions in his epistles Paul considered himself a servant of Jesus Christ, where the Greek word for servant is δοῦλος (Strong's # 1401), which is properly an involuntary servant or slave. A δοῦλος was originally one who was born as a bondman or slave (according to Liddell & Scott), and in Galatians chapter 1 we see Paul attest that he was chosen from his mother's womb for the task of the Gospel of Christ. If Paul had volunteered to be an apostle of Christ, his reward would be found in the temporal compensation which he could expect for executing the office. Rather, Paul was compelled to be an apostle, and he himself had no choice in the matter, which is evident in the words of Christ on the Road to Damascus, and which Paul understood that ultimately he had no choice but to accept. Therefore, since he had no choice, he explains that his reward is found only if he expects no compensation for executing the task. Paul admits that his needs were fulfilled by those of Macedonia while he was in Corinth, but he never exacted anything of the Macedonians. Rather, they volunteered to assist his cause. Likewise, Paul never exacted anything of the Corinthians. If Paul had sought to exact anything in exchange for his message, he considered that an abuse of the message. Doing this, Paul sets a model which all ministers of the Gospel should follow: to work for the Gospel out of necessity and a sense of duty, accepting what assistance may come but nevertheless working without expectation. Therefore, he considered himself a bondman, which corroborates our assessment of his words, where he then asserts:

19 Therefore being free from all, to all I myself have become a bondman, in order that I would gain of the greater profit.

And here Paul shows an understanding of the words of Christ as they are recorded in Matthew chapter 23 where He said: “11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant”, and in Mark chapter 10: “44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” Paul did not seek worldly gain, but treasure in heaven in exchange for his service in the Gospel. He taught the Gospel without charge or fee, but whatever gifts did come to him, he employed in the service of the gospel by living off of those gifts while teaching. So he received sustenance from the Macedonians while he taught in Corinth, not laying any charge to the Corinthians. As he attests here in this chapter, Paul had license to work for his sustenance if he needed to do so. But ostensibly, it was better for all if he could remain in the teaching of the Gospel rather than having to work. The pagan Greek philosophers of the time would have readily abandoned Corinth to go to Macedonia to teach, if the Macedonians were willing to support them and the Corinthians were not, rather than remaining in Corinth as Paul did, persisting in the teaching Paul did, and working at some menial vocation to earn a living when he had to do so.

In all of this we hope to be able to define the operation of a valid Christian ministry. Of course, in order to be valid according to Christ it must be an Identity ministry in the spirit of Malachi chapter 4, but here we are attempting to define the operation of a valid ministry. A valid Christian ministry does not charge for sermons or for memberships. A valid Christian ministry does not make regular solicitations in order to beg for support. A valid Christian ministry does not impose even upon those who benefit from it. Rather, a valid Christian ministry gratefully accepts what it receives, and continues in the work of the gospel regardless of what it receives. A valid Christian minister, when his ministry does not support him in his work, quietly and happily goes to work to support himself. As Paul asserts here, he and Barnabas did indeed have license to work. If a minister of the gospel abandons the gospel, then his ministry was not valid. If he continues in the gospel even though he is compelled to work, he does so with the persuasion that he is called to do so. His reward is forthcoming, but it is not of this world. On the other hand, the valid Christian ministry should be supported by those who benefit from it, as Paul also professes here. This is the example which Paul is setting here in his own interaction with the Corinthians. Furthermore, and this example is found not here but elsewhere in Scripture, when a Christian ministry has abundance, it should seek to do with its excess what any Christian should do with his excess, and that is to return it to the Christian community with a meaningful purpose, thereby edifying the Body of Christ.

Paul continues to defend his ministry to the Corinthians who questioned him, illustrating a purpose for which he was uniquely qualified:

20 And I became to the Judaeans as a Judaean, that I would gain Judaeans; to those subject to law as subject to law, (not being subject to law myself,) that I would gain those subject to law;

Those subject to law are the same as the Judaeans, and Paul only qualifies his statement in the use of the Hebrew parallelism. The Majority Text and some later mss. are wanting the parenthetical statement which reads “not being subject to law myself”, and therefore it is wanting in the King James Version. The text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Claromontanus (D).

21 to those without law as without law, (not being without the law of Yahweh, but keeping within the law of Christ,) [the MT has to God and to Christ; the text follows P46, א, A, B, C, and D] that I would gain those without law.

We have seen that Paul believed he was chosen from the womb of his mother for the task of bringing the gospel to the dispersions of the nations of Israel. We have also seen that he believed that he was compelled by Christ Himself to do so, and that he had no choice of his own in the matter. Paul was a brilliant man, and he also realized that the circumstances of his life had prepared him for the task to which he was assigned. Paul was educated in both Judaism, which he also realized was a corrupted form of the Hebrew religion of his fathers, and in Classical Greek learning. He professes having been raised, or trained, at “the feet of Gamaliel”, the famous teacher of the law. But in Acts chapter 21 he also attests to being of “Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city”. Strabo, the Greek geographer, writing no longer than 50 years before Paul wrote this epistle, said of Tarsus that “The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers.” (Strabo, Geography, 14.5.13).

Now Paul does not talk explicitly about having an education in the Classics, but he certainly did have one, as his writings consistently betray. However one must become familiar with the Classics in order to understand how well Paul had read them himself. As we asserted in our presentation of Acts chapter 17 here late last year, “Paul quoted writers such as Aratus and Epimenides, and possibly also Euripides and Heraclitus, and he drew analogies from Homer and from Xenophon. However this education in the Classical literature did not merely assist his rhetorical skill or his writing ability. More importantly, Paul understood the origins of the nations of Europe in a way that only those who have deeply studied both Scripture and the Classical literature can understand.” While the other apostles were certainly not unintelligent, they were unlearned, as the scripture itself suggests in Acts chapter 4. Being unschooled, they were not suited for the task which Paul was given.

Paul was in a unique position to fulfill the task which Yahweh required in order to reconcile Israel: to bring the gospel to the “lost” Israelites of Europe. Only a man who could speak both to Judaeans from a Judaean perspective, and to Greeks from a Greek perspective, had the capability to perform such a task. Paul used the Judaean assembly halls, which were commonly attended by both Judaeans and Greeks and which existed in nearly every large Greek city, as stepping-stones in each community where he brought the Gospel. With this, he reached both non-pagan Judaean Israelites, and the formerly pagan Israelites of the ancient dispersions. With this, as Christ attested in John chapter 4, we see that “salvation is from among the Judaeans”, who are not to be confused for Jews. Those subject to law were the Judaeans of the remnant of Israel who had spread themselves throughout the empire. Those without law were the tribes of Israel cast off from Yahweh, among whom Paul counted Galatians, Dorian Greeks, Scythians and Romans. An examination of Classical history in conjunction with archaeology and Old Testament Scripture proves Paul to have been correct in his accounting.

Christ had told His apostles “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. With those words, as well as in many other places, we see that Christianity is not without law, even though Christian Israelites are not going to be judged by the law. In order to understand the difference between the law of Yahweh and the law of Christ, although the law of Christ is within the law of Yahweh and Paul claims to be abiding by that, we must examine the words of the prophets concerning the Messiah to see what we are told in relation to this. If there is a change in law, it must be within the law and the prophets, or we cannot trust that there is any change at all.

However in Daniel chapter 9 we read this concerning the Messiah: “24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks... 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself... 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease...”

In Jeremiah chapter 31 it says of the New Covenant “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

In Romans chapter 2, Paul explained that those outside of the law were cleansed by Christ, referring to Israelites of the dispersions. Paul then cited this very passage of Jeremiah in reference to the Romans themselves, who although they were indeed Israelites who had been alienated from God, exhibited the proof of Jeremiah by founding a society based upon a sense of justice in the rule of law. In Romans chapter 3 Paul explained that this was because the righteousness of God was apart from the law. Paul then asked in Romans 3 the rhetorical question as to whether Christians should disregard the laws of God because of faith, and he answered it himself where he wrote “31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” In Romans chapter 7 Paul explained why Israel would not be judged by the law, because God the Husband by His mercy chose to die to release Israel the Wife from that judgment.

Reading another prophecy of a Messiah, in Isaiah chapter 9, Christians should realize that Yahweh God and Christ are one and the same being, where it says “6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.”

Realizing that Yahweh and Yahshua are one, where Christ says “My commandments” it is realized that He refers to the commandments of God found in the Old Testament. The natural laws of man are written upon the hearts of man, and the only aspects of the law done away with in Christ are those which the Scripture says are done away with: the ritual sacrifices and other things relating specifically to the Levitical priesthood which has been supplanted by Christ, the new high priest of the Melchizedek priesthood which preceded the Levitical priesthood. For that reason Paul says in Hebrews chapter 7: “12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Since the law of Yahweh says these things would be done away with in the Messiah, then Paul was within the Law of Yahweh by teaching as much, and therefore considered himself to be within the law of Christ.

22 I became weak [C, D, and the MT have “as if weak”; the text follows P46, א, A, and B] to the weak, that I would gain the weak. To all I have become all things, in order that of all I will preserve some. 23 Moreover, I do all these things [the MT has “I do this”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, C, and D] on account of the good message, in order that I shall come to have a share of it.

Paul is attesting that he spoke to people on their own level, rather than speaking down to people from his level, as the Pharisees and other worldly authorities are wont to do. Understanding the differing Judaic and pagan perspectives, Paul was able to talk to pagan Israel from the perspective of the pagan literature, and to remnant Israel from the perspective of the Biblical literature. While the Romans to whom Paul had written were already Christians, a comparison of the perspectives of the epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews, which were evidently written only a short time apart from one another, reveals the differing perspectives by which Paul had addressed each group.

24 Do you not know that with those running in a race, while all run, but one takes the prize? In that manner you run, in order that you shall obtain. 25 But all who are contending, in all things have self-control; so then those people in order that they would receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.

It is not that only one Israelite may be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven, but that every Israelite should live his or her life in the service of Christ as if that were so. The admonition to self-control is the understanding of Christian license, while not letting ones license become licentiousness. Paul understood that all Israel would indeed be saved, as he stated explicitly in Romans chapter 11 and as he also inferred in other places in his epistles. But even in that knowledge, Paul nevertheless understood that he should live his life striving to do better than mere salvation, seeking to store up that treasure in heaven which Christ had spoken of in the gospel.

From Mark chapter 10: “18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” The young man would be saved, but in spite of himself and without treasure in heaven, not properly dispensing with the gifts of this life.

Paul did not have the riches of this life. All Christians do not have the same gifts. But he had something far more valuable: the knowledge of Scripture and the identity of the lost sheep of Israel. So as he was commanded to do, he brought the Gospel of reconciliation to them, disciplining his body in order that he may fulfill the task at hand, and thereby keeping himself from the evils of the world which cause distractions:

26 Accordingly, in that manner I run not as if secretly, in that manner I spar not as if thrashing air. 27 Rather I beat my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perchance I, having proclaimed to others, myself should be found not standing the test.

Paul practiced what he preached, and maintained himself apart from worldly lusts. It is not that Paul was without lust, as he explains in Romans chapter 7, but that he did not surrender himself to lust so that he was able to fulfill his mission. It is not that Paul would have gone to hell if he did not fulfill his assignment. Rather, he would not have had an expectation of that treasure in heaven if he himself failed in the Gospel which he had taught to others.

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