THE SUPPORT OF THE MINISTRY
It is obvious that Paul in his many endeavors of preaching the Gospel, needed support (money) to do so. He received such support by two chief means. Support from churches who were willing to help him, and by working himself. Early in his missionary efforts, Paul would work at his trade of tentmaker, to support himself and those with him. In one of his earlier letters, he writes to the Thessalonians,
2:9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable (burdensome) unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God.
And later in his second letter to them, he reminds them of how he conducted himself among them.
3:7 For you yourselves know how ye ought to follow us; for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
3:8. Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought: but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.
3:9. Not because we have not power (authority), but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.
3:10. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
Paul worked his trade to support himself and those with him, so that he would not be a burden to the Thessalonians. Above, when he says not because we had not authority, he states that he indeed had the right to expect support from those among whom he was laboring. But he chose not to use this right, so he could set an example for them. Paul would likely work during the day at his trade, then teach in the evenings. This is what he meant when he says that he labored and travailed day and night.
This practice of Paul, and likely other apostles, set a standard in the Church for its missionary efforts, and for those who travelled teaching the Word of God. This is evidenced in the instructions of the early Church document, known as Didache Apostoloi (Teaching of the Apostles). In the Didache, the term apostle is used to signify either a missionary, or a traveling teacher.
Didache 11:4 Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord;
Didache 11:5 but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abide three days, he is a false prophet.
Didache 11:6 And when he departeth let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he findeth shelter; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.
The apostle was not to overstay without conducting his work. If one should come through and ask for money, he is a false prophet. It further states in Didache 11:12,
And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, ye shall not listen to him; but if he tell you to give on behalf of others that are in want, let no man judge him.”
If one should come and say, “God wants you to give me money. . .”, the instruction is to ignore him; do not to listen him. If he says that the money is for those in need, it would be an individual decision, and for him not to be judged. God will judge him if he is being deceptive. This is likely due to the offering that Paul was involved in for the need of the Judean saints. Some allowance was given for such an activity.
And concerning giving, the Didache sets forth a principle to be followed.
Didache 1:6 Yea, as touching this also it is said; Let thine alms sweat into thine hands, until thou have learnt to whom to give.
The instruction is to ‘let thine alms sweat into thine hands’, meaning to hang-on to your offering until you have learned from the Lord whom to give it to. This teaches you do not give to every prophet who says, “Give me”, but only until you have learned (been taught by the Spirit?) who to give it to. The ancient prophet Micah warns by the Word of the Lord against those who demand that you give to them.
Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. [Micah 3:5]
For some of these ‘prophets’, if you do not put into their mouth to feed them, they will prepare holy war against you, declaring you are in disobedience to the Spirit of the Lord. However, you may be in disobedience to the Lord by feeding these ravenous wolves, who devour the sheep. You may be financing the devouring wolf. Let your offering sweat in the hands, till you have learned whom to give unto.
Looking back to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, and their apparent lack of help for him during his work among them, he says,
11:8 I robbed (literally, stripped of material goods) other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
11:9 And when I was present with you and wanted (lacked or came up short), I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me, the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied; and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you and so will I keep myself.
The Corinthians seemed to have been influenced adversely against Paul and his apostolic claim over them. For this reason he argues that he needs, however unnecessary, to defend his apostleship to them. In First Corinthians, he argues,
9:1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?
9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
He says ‘if I am an apostle to anyone, it is you.’ Paul felt that the Corinthians were the seal (proof) of his apostleship in the Lord. He then begins a series of arguments, illustrating that it is only proper, that he should receive assistance from them. He asks,
A. Does a soldier go to war at his own expense? NO.
B. Should a man plant a vineyard and not eat of it? NO.
C. Does a shepherd tend the flock and not drink the milk? NO.
Then Paul asks, Are these just the opinion of men or does not the Law say the same thing?
For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
Paul says that this law is there for our benefit, to teach us a simple principle of God. “That he that plows should plow in hope; and he that threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.” Paul then lays out another principle, which we have already seen in Romans.
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather (the more)? Nevertheless, we have not used this power, but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that they which minister about holy things, live (feed ) from the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things; neither have I written these things, that it should be done unto me. . . [1 Cor. 9:11-15]
Paul argues that not only man’s wisdom, but the Law provides for those who work to see fruit in their labors, should partake of such fruit. God has provided that those who minister in the Temple, live from the offerings of the Temple. The provision of God is that those who preach the Gospel should be provided for from those who receive the Gospel.
But then Paul says, “I have used none of these things...” Even though Paul has the right to demand to be provided for from those to whom he preaches and ministers, he has not used this God-given right. Why? “Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” Paul did not want to present himself or the Gospel, as just another philosophy men used to make money. Paul says whether he receives benefit or not, “woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel of Christ.”
The shepherd’s main concern is for the welfare of the sheep, that the sheep are provided for and protected, because they are GOD’S FLOCK, not his. It is right and proper that the minister of the Gospel should receive support from those to whom he ministers. But if his main concern is his own welfare, he is no longer a shepherd, but has degenerated into a HIRELING. A hireling is simply one who performs a task, because he is paid to do so, not because he really cares for the sheep. To him it is simply a job. The hireling will not fight the wolf or the lion to protect the sheep, he will run away, saying, “I am not paid enough to do that.” With the hireling, its all about the money, with the shepherd, it all about the sheep.
Peter admonishes those who have the oversight of GOD’S FLOCK, to do so, willing, and not for filthy lucre (greedy gain of this world’s material goods), but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
The shepherd is not to lord it over God’s flock, because he is not the Lord of the flock. The Chief Shepherd has entrusted His flock to these under-shepherds, to watch over and care for God's Flock, as He would do himself. The shepherd is not the ruler over God’s flock. I realize this is a shock to many, especially those shepherds who rule over the little lambs of Jesus, with a rough and heavy hand.
The shepherd is not a ruler, but a leader. The shepherd is to lead the flock by example.
It is for this reason that Paul worked at his trade among several of the churches. He taught the Thessalonians that if “a man doesn’t work, then he doesn’t eat.” Paul held himself to this same standard, to lead by example. There is not a rule for the shepherd and a different rule for the sheep.
The elder/bishop/pastor-teacher (these are different names for the same function) is not the lord over the sheep, but is simply a functionary in the body. He performs the function of oversight of God’s flock. He is to be honored, just as every member of the body is to be honored.
Authority is not demanded, it is earned. True authority comes from the Spirit of God, grounded in the Word of God. Just as the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land, so the Word of God is the ultimate and final authority in the Body of Christ. Nothing can usurp its authority.