God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 9:13-14 Taking Scripture as Scripture
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 1, 2023
13 Do you not know that those who work in the temple eat food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in offerings sacrificed there? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Not everything sacrificed in the temple went up in smoke. Quite a bit of the meat that was slaughtered for offerings was cooked but not burned, and this food from the altar went directly to the priest who had officiated and his family (along with the family of the one who made the offering in the first place).
The book of Leviticus is where we read about the priest’s share of a sacrifice most clearly: “The right thigh belongs to whichever of Aaron’s sons offers the blood of the fellowship offering and its fat. It will be his portion” (Leviticus 7:33). And again, “The priest shall burn all this on the altar. It is an offering of fire to the LORD. This is the guilt offering. Any male in a priest’s family may eat of it. It must be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy” Leviticus 7:5). These are expanded on later: “No one outside a priest’s family may eat of the holy offerings. No foreigner living with the priests and no hired servant may eat of the holy offerings. However, if a priest buys a slave with his own money, that slave may eat some of his food, and also those who are born in his house may eat some of the holy food. If a priest’s daughter is married to someone who is not a priest, she may no longer eat any of the sacred offerings. But if a priest’s daughter is a widow, or divorced, and has no children, and if she has returned to her father’s house as in her youth, she may eat some of her father’s food. But no outsider may eat any of it.” (Leviticus 22:10-13). These and other passages tell us that a priest and those people who had their feet under his table, those who were dependent on him for food, shelter, protection, and so on, were all eligible to eat the sacred sacrificial food, apart from hired workers and foreigners. But the priest’s wife, slaves (if any), children, and unmarried daughters could share in the sacrifices. Leviticus 22:15 even accounted for the repayment if someone accidentally shared in the meal who wasn’t supposed to. Paul shows that the law of Moses was clear: Working in God’s service also meant being paid for that service.
These two verses wrap up Paul’s argument that the called worker deserves his wages and has earned them, and that this is God’s command. Next we will see his application: how he has refused this right.
Paul has taken the Word of God according to its literal meaning. This is the practice of all of the holy writers, and especially the practice of Jesus himself. We are to accept the Scriptures in context as they were written, and apply them to our lives. Every doctrine is to be treated in this way, not only the doctrine of how priests and pastors were to be paid. We must use this same practice to identify Christ as the Son of God. We do this in three ways. Jesus is proved to be divine in the Bible (1) by his divine names (John 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 9:5; Luke 1;76), (2) by his divine attributes (he is eternal, Psalm 2:7; he is immutable or unchanging, Psalm 102:27; he is infinite, John 3:13; he is omnipotent, 1 Corinthians 1:24; omniscient, John 2:25, and so on), and (3) by his divine works (with the Father, John 5:17; creation, John 1:3 ; preservation, John 5:19; miracles, Matthew 8:2; John 5:21, and so on). Why is this doctrine so important to establish in this way? Simply because everything else that proceeds within the Christian Church must begin and end with the divinity of Jesus Christ the Son of God. The matter of the payment of pastors and ministers is a minor thing, but with everything else, it proceeds from Jesus our Lord. Everything depends on this, most especially the key truths which we use to conclude the Creed and which bring us the greatest comfort in our hearts:
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
If we did not have the confidence or comfort of knowing that it was the Sovereign Son of God who has explained, promised, offered, and given these things to us, we would have no hope at all. But because Jesus is our Lord, the Son of the Father, and the Resurrection and the Life himself (John 11:25), we have confidence, comfort, certainty, and joy for this life and forevermore.
Pastor Timothy Smith