Paul did not teach a prosperity Gospel
At the same time, Paul shows us here the heart of God in using his people to supply the
needed resources to spread the Word of God around the world. He could have just put the gospel in the hearts of all people himself. Conversely he could have not told any of us and just sent everyone to hell. But no, he decided to include his church in this age to spread His Word so they could receive reward for joining him in his work. No help is too small that won’t go unnoticed with the right attitude. Without God’s people contributing to the work, some people will never hear of God’s love. “How shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach if they are not sent.”(And I might add, how can people send without giving the needed resources?) Just as it cost God the life of his Son to bring salvation to you and me, so too it can cost us our all to take the good news of that salvation all around the globe (we are “living sacrifices”). People are not to give for financial gain or eternal reward, but to share God’s heart with the world. Without God’s people participating, how can missionaries go? Paul supports this concept with five illustrations: precedent set by other apostles, soldiers in the military, farmers living off the product of the land, the Law of Moses, and temple servants. The church should never just be about money, but money reveals where our hearts are at compared to what God’s heart beats for. When God is our God, then we will use money on what pleases Him – reaching people. But when we are our own gods, then we will use money toward what pleases us. Who is your God?
The Rights of an Apostle
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. 16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who chooses to use people to do my work in this world, so that I may include them in my reward one day in heaven. I could have done it all myself. I did provide salvation for man on my own as men are not able to satisfy my Divine righteousness. I did that for them in Christ. But now I desire that men take my message to other men around the globe. This will cost them all that they own to do so. They need people to help them. This is why I command my people to give to the church; so that they can send people to the most remote places on earth to reach every last person.
I AM the God who desires everyone to know me and my salvation. But I have chosen to limit myself to the working of the church. Just as by my sacrifice, the “seed of woman” who is “the first born among many brethren” was the church planted and by his blood was it watered and sprung to life; so too, by the sacrifices of my saints are the seeds of the local churches planted around the globe, and by their blood are they also watered.
Be a pipe and not a bucket
In the Old Testament, God’s blessings were primarily focused on the Nation, culture and people of Israel. They were “a bucket” to catch all of God’s blessings so that the world was to come to Israel and their God to receive some of that blessing. But that changed when they rejected their king and Messiah – Jesus. From then on, in the New Testament and the church age, God’s blessings are spiritual and not dependent upon Israel. We Christians have “Spiritual blessings” for the reason of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth today. We only set ourselves up for disappointment to expect or claim Israel’s promises of physical blessings for ourselves as they did. Treating God like a cosmic “deal maker” degrades God to a “Genie in a bottle” or “spare tire”, rather than your Creator, LORD, King and future Judge.
Seek The Giver not the gift
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus speaks toward the fact that God knows our daily needs and will provide for them as we focus our attention on him. Contextually speaking, this promise of “physical blessing” came right on the tail of his rebuke of the Gentiles “seeking after those things.” Chasing after physical blessings is something that the heathen do, and not something that the righteous do. God knows what we need and what we do not need. We confuse our wants with needs and get bent out of shape when God does not giving us those things.
Pipes channel God’s blessings to others
The other passage which talks of physical blessings in the New Testament is 2 Cor 8-9. It refers to our possessions not as a “bucket” (Old Testament mentality) but rather a “pipe” (New Testament mentality). It talks of the purpose for physical blessings in the New Testament for providing for the needs of fellow believers. God does bless his children today, but not for the purpose of the rich wanting more riches (as James says consuming it upon our lusts). Rather Christ warns of the dangers of living for physical blessings and riches in his parables. Our riches will be a testimony against us in the last day if we do not use them as God desires. In this day and age of Grace, God gives to us so that we can provide for the Gospel going around the earth. Thus the blessings he gave us are Spiritual Eph 1:3 (see my post on that passage) which can easily be taken around the world. God gives to us so that we can help those who are in need so that as 2 Cor 9:11-13 says “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”
More to come,