Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 1 Corinthians 9:13
From verse 4 until verse 12, Paul meticulously demonstrated that those who labor should receive compensation for their labors. Then in verse 12, he switched his comments to note that “we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.” He has moved from general labor to the specific labor, meaning work for Christ. Now in verse 13, he shows that those who labored for the Lord in the Old Testament received compensation for their efforts.
This move is to further bolster his previous comments about the rights of an apostle and how they should be entitled to support from the ministry. And so he again reaches back to the mandates of the Old Testament law. One of the twelve tribes, Levi, was set apart for ministering to the people. Within this tribe one group, the sons of Aaron, were called to the priesthood. In return for these mandated services, they were supported through the sacrifices and offerings of the people of Israel.
The first portion of his question deals with the Levites – “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple?” Whether they knew this or not before Paul asked them, they knew it to be true now. The question is a rhetorical one and indicates that they do in fact eat those things. Likewise he asks if they also knew that “those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar.” This portion concerns the priests of Israel who, in fact, partook of those things.
There are numerous verses in the Old Testament law which so provided for the Levites and priests. Every third year, the Levites received the tithes of the people as a portion of their wages. From this a tithe went to the priests. When animal or grain sacrifices and offerings were brought to the temple, depending on the type presented, a portion may have been taken and given to them for their sustenance. When an animal was so sacrificed, the law even provided that the skins of the animal were to be given to the priests as payment. These could be sold for clothing, tents, parchments, etc. (This is found in Leviticus 7:8).
In all, the answer to Paul’s question is that those who so minister and those who so serve do in fact benefit directly from their work. Using this line of reasoning from the Mosaic Law, he will next show that the Lord Himself directed something similar for those who share in the gospel.
Life application: Paul’s words, though seeming to flip back and forth, actually form a well though out progression. In following how he presents an argument and then defends it, we can learn also how to defend the tenets of the faith. There is nothing wrong with using Old Testament concepts for such a defense if those concepts carry through logically to the New Testament. However, we must be careful to not arbitrarily apply or claim verses from the Old Testament which actually have no relevance to a New Testament concept. Care then needs to be taken in how one approaches concepts and prescriptions found in the Old Testament.
As the years pass by we grow in knowledge
We change from children into young adults
We move through school years and may head off to college
And we learn in life from mistakes and from faults
Eventually though we to a certain point age
Where we start to lose some of the things we once knew
Our memories fade, whether a professor or a sage
And sooner or later our time here on earth is through
But You, O God, are from everlasting to everlasting
In You is a sure hope to have life anew
And so to You our eyes and our hopes we are a’casting
For the wondrous resurrection and eternal days with You
Yes Lord God, our days on earth are few and full of trials and difficulties, but You have given an eternal hope to those who have called on Jesus. Help us to remember this in the times when things seem hopeless, toilsome, or painful and remind us that these afflictions are just temporary and passing away. Thank You for our sure and grounded hope in Jesus our Lord! Amen.