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Paul’s View of “Rights”


Bill of Rights of Man

Paul had a strong view of his “rights” – especially of his right to be supported by those to whom he proclaimed the gospel.

Is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
1 Corinthians 9:6-11 ESV
It was not Paul alone who insisted on this. Jesus also spoke of the fact that the worker is worthy of his hire:
And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house” (Luke 10:7 ESV).
Paul later quoted this as Scripture:
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18 ESV)
Yet, Paul did not make use of this right.
If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. (1 Corinthians 9:12-15 ESV)
What was his boasting and reward?
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. (1 Corinthians 9:16-19 ESV)
Paul’s aim was to make himself a servant to all – that he might win more of those to whom he preached.
Paul also preached what he practiced:
When Paul wrote to these same Corinthians about their going to court against Christian brothers, he concluded his remarks on that subject by saying:
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:7, ESV)
How many church problems come because people are insisting on their “rights.” Most of the “worship wars” problems come by people wanting their “rights” more than they want to be servants of one another.
Jesus did not insist on His rights; he went to the cross for us to give us a right to salvation in Him.
Paul did not insist on his rights; he became a servant of others so that he might win them.
Now what “right” are you insisting on so much that you are willing to split the body of Christ asunder?
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