Summary: Paul is talking about the way some people questioned the way himself and other men of God were being paid by the Church. Questioning about administration is something natural.
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?
2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.
4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink?
5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
7 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?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same?
9 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?
First the introduction: Paul dedicates this chapter to teach about Church leadership and the way we should bless those that work for the Lord
Paul is talking about the way some people questioned the way himself and other men of God were being paid by the Church. Questioning about administration is something natural. Human organizations have a tendency to becoming corrupt, however in a Church there is a spiritual principle in operation were the devil always tries to choke the payment of the ones that work for the Lord because he knows that this will bring hinderances to the progress of God’s Kingdom. In this text Paul gives several examples of other apostles (Cephas and Barnabas) and talks about the farmer, the soldier and the shepherd. On verse 9 mentions Scripture. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain’, and applies it to the right and proper financial support that all those called by God to devote all their time to ministry should receive from God’s people. This was in harmony with the Old Testament practice that those whose work was in sacred things should gain their livelihood from it.
Is it the oxen God is concerned about? The principle of Deuteronomy 25:4 is much more important than providing for the needs of oxen. God is establishing the principle that a minister has the right to be supported by the people he is ministering to. As Wiersbe says, “Since oxen cannot read, this verse was not written for them.”
In a Church people that do ministry are the picture or type of the ox that is treading the grain. They have the right to live and getting paid by the Church.
In modern day Churches people that question apostolic authority will be upset if the Church pays mileage to the pastor, decides to pay his phone bill or gives him a financial bonus at the end of the year. They accept and value these things if a Corporation does it for an employee, they will admire and value corporation generosity when a company distributes shares to their employees but will try to deny any kind of privileges to those that will be accountable before God for their own souls. This makes no sense.
A pastor in a Church studies as a much as a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher or a psychologist. He has to be a judge, a CEO and a psychiatrist. However some want to pay (and honor) him as a temporary worker in a low paid job. Then people at the Church question why do pastors leave them after 2 or 3 years. When honor is denied by the people God will always intervene and remove His servants. Have you ever been in a Church with 10,000 members or more? See the way they treat their ministers and you will understand why things keep growing and God’s power is manifested.
Paul had very strong teachings about this and latter in life he gave instructions to his disciple Timothy.
1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
18 For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain, and, The laborer is worthy of his reward.
The word honor has been translated carefully but if you ask an expert in Greek the answer is obvious. If an elder governs well he is entitled to a good salary. The meaning is not that he should have the salary doubled but honor must be applied. If a Church pays the pastors a salary below the average of a normal worker the rule of Scripture is denied.