Who goeth a warfare - at his own charges? - These questions, which are all supposed from the necessity and propriety of the cases to be answered in the affirmative, tend more forcibly to point out that the common sense of man joins with the providence of God in showing the propriety of every man living by the fruits of his labor. The first question applies particularly to the case of the apostle, τις στρατευεται ιδιοις οψωνιοις· Does a soldier provide his own victuals? Οψωνιον is used to express the military pay or wages, by the Greek writers; for the Roman soldiers were paid not only in money but in victuals; and hence corn was usually distributed among them. See on Luke 3:14; (note).
Who goeth a warfare - Paul now proceeds to illustrate the right which he knew ministers had to a support 1 Corinthians 9:7-14, and then to show the reason why he had not availed himself of that right; 1 Corinthians 9:15-23. The right he illustrates from the nature of the case 1 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Corinthians 9:11; from the authority of Scripture 1 Corinthians 9:8-10; from the example of the priests under the Jewish law 1 Corinthians 9:18; and from the authority of Jesus Christ; 1 Corinthians 9:14. In this verse (7th) the right is enforced by the nature of the case, and by three illustrations. The first is, the right of a soldier or warrior to his wages. The Christian ministry is compared to a warfare, and the Christian minister to a soldier; compare 1 Timothy 1:18. The soldier had a right to receive pay from him who employed him. He did not go at his own expense. This was a matter of common equity; and on this principle all acted who enlisted as soldiers.
So Paul says it is but equitable also that the soldier of the Lord Jesus should be sustained, and should not be required to support himself. And why, we may ask, should he be, any more than the man who devotes his strength, and time, and talents to the defense of his country? The work of the ministry is as arduous, and as self-denying, and perhaps as dangerous, as the work of a soldier; and common justice, therefore, demands that he who devotes his youth, and health and life to it, for the benefit of others should have a competent support. Why should not he receive a competent support who seeks to save people, as well as he who lives to destroy them? Why not he who endeavors to recover them to God, and make them pure and happy, as well as he who lives to destroy life, and pour out human blood, and to fill the air with the shrieks of new made widows and orphans? Or why not he who seeks, though in another mode, to defend the great interests of his country, and to maintain the interests of justice, truth, and mercy, for the benefit of mankind, as well as he who is willing in the tented field to spend his time, or exhaust his health and life in protecting the rights of the nation?
At his own charges - His own expense. On the meaning of the word “charges” ( ὀψωνίοις opsōniois) see the note at Luke 3:14; compare Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 11:8. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
Who planteth a vineyard - This is the second illustration from the nature of the case, to show that ministers of the gospel have a right to support. The argument is this: ‹It is reasonable that those who labor should have a fair compensation. A man who plants a vineyard does not expect to labor for nothing; he expects support from that labor, and looks for it from the vineyard. The vineyard owes its beauty, growth, and productiveness to him. It is reasonable, therefore, that from that vineyard he should receive a support, as a compensation for his toil. So we labor for your welfare. You derive advantage from our toil. We spend our time, and strength, and talent for your benefit; and it is reasonable that we should be supported while we thus labor for your good.” The church of God is often compared to “a vineyard;” and this adds to the beauty of this illustration; see Isaiah 5:1-4; see the notes at Luke 20:9-16.
Who feedeth a flock - This is the third illustration drawn from the nature of the case, to show that ministers have a right to support. The word “feedeth” ( ποιμαίνει poimainei) denotes not only to “feed,” but to guard, protect, defend, as a shepherd does his flock; see the notes at John 21:15-17. “The wages of the shepherds in the East do not consist of ready money, but in a part of the milk of the flocks which they tend. Thus, Spon says of the shepherds in modern Greece, “These shepherds are poor Albanians, who feed the cattle, and live in huts built of rushes; they have a tenth part of the milk and of the lambs which is their whole wages; the cattle belong to the Turks.” The shepherds in Ethiopia, also, according to Alvarez, have no pay except the milk and butter which they obtain from the cows, and on which they and their families subsist” - Rosenmuller. The church is often compared to a flock; see the note at John 10:1 ff.
The argument here is this: “A shepherd spends his days and nights in guarding his folds. He leads his flock to green pastures, he conducts them to still waters (compare Psalm 23:2); he defends them from enemies; he guards the young, the sick, the feeble, etc. He spends his time in protecting it and providing for it. He expects support, when in the wilderness or in the pastures, mainly from the milk which the flock should furnish. He labors for their comfort; and it is proper that he should derive a maintenance from them, and he has a right to it. So the minister of the gospel watches for the good of souls. He devotes his time, strength, learning, talents, to their welfare. He instructs, guides, directs, defends; he endeavors to guard them against their spiritual enemies, and to lead them in the path of comfort and peace. He lives to instruct the ignorant; to warn and secure those who are in danger; to guide the perplexed; to reclaim the wandering; to comfort; the afflicted; to bind up the broken in heart; to attend on the sick; to be an example and an instructor to the young; and to be a counsellor and a pattern to all. As he labors for their good, it is no more than equal and right that they should minister to his temporal needs, and compensate him for his efforts to promote their happiness and salvation. And can anyone say that this is not right and just?
God's chosen messengers, who are engaged in aggressive labor, should never be compelled to go a warfare at their own charges, unaided by the sympathetic and hearty support of their brethren. It is the part of church members to deal liberally with those who lay aside their secular employment that they may give themselves to the ministry. When God's ministers are encouraged, His cause is greatly advanced. But when, through the selfishness of men, their rightful support is withheld, their hands are weakened, and often their usefulness is seriously crippled. AA 340.1
The displeasure of God is kindled against those who claim to be His followers, yet allow consecrated workers to suffer for the necessities of life while engaged in active ministry. These selfish ones will be called to render an account, not only for the misuse of their Lord's money, but for the depression and heartache which their course has brought upon His faithful servants. Those who are called to the work of the ministry, and at the call of duty give up all to engage in God's service, should receive for their self-sacrificing efforts wages sufficient to support themselves and their families. AA 340.2
In the various departments of secular labor, mental and physical, faithful workmen can earn good wages. Is not the work of disseminating truth, and leading souls to Christ, of more importance than any ordinary business? And are not those who faithfully engage in this work justly entitled to ample remuneration? By our estimate of the relative value of labor for moral and for physical good, we show our appreciation of the heavenly in contrast with the earthly. AA 341.1Read in context »