An article from Pastor Paul Boutan
In my email this week, someone asked,“Pastor Paul, in last Sunday’s message you mentioned that 1 Corinthians chapter 9 talked about tithing. Can you help me understand that, because I don’t see the word tithe mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9?”
I’m glad this question was asked, because many have probably wondered if the principle of tithing is taught in the New Testament, or if that was just an Old Testament practice? So, let’s look at both 1 Corinthians chapters 9 and 16 to help answer this.
First of all, when I was teaching from 1 Corinthians 16 this week and I made reference to 1 Corinthians 9, I was working from the assumption, that most in attendance, were there when I when previously taught chapter 9 verses 1 through 14 in a message I titled “Free To Give”(here’s a link to that teaching on our podcast 1COR 9a).
On the surface it is true that the word“tithe”is not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9. However, I believe the concept, or the principle of tithing is what is being referred to in this chapter. Before I delve into the subject of tithing in chapter 9, I want to first compare chapter 9 to chapter 16 in order to demonstrate that these two chapters are talking about two different types of giving.
In 1Corinthians 16:1 we saw that Paul said, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” I mentioned on Sunday that the word collection is the Greek word logeia, which means “extra collection, it conveys the sense that this was a collection to receive gifts above and beyond their regular giving.”(David Guzik; Commentary on 1COR 16, William Barclay; Letters to The Corinthians). Clearly this collection being taken in chapter 16 was specifically taken to be given to the poor and persecuted Christians in Jerusalem.
However, that is not what the Apostle Paul was dealing with back in chapter 9. In this chapter he is talking about his right to receive a paycheck in the ministry, a right that he gave up out of love but is nevertheless still defending it in chapter 9. It would seem that in order to pay those who serve in ministry, the Corinthian church would have to tithe. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude these two chapters are dealing with two entirely different types of giving. One, was a tithe that would be used to support those who were in the ministry. The other was an additional offering that was collected to be given to the poor in Jerusalem.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, we see the principle of tithing, even though the word “tithe” is not being used. The reason I believe Paul is talking about the concept of tithing as he defends his right to receive a paycheck in the ministry, is that he refers to the Law of Moses regarding the tithe. For example Paul said,
“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel”(1COR 9:14).
He starts by saying, “In the same way” prompting us as the reader to ask, “In the same way as what?” Well, the phrase “the same way” is referring to what he just said in the previous verse. Where Paul said;
“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?”(1COR 9:13).
Virtually all commentaries agree that verse 13 is a reference to Numbers 18. Likewise, many study Bibles either in the center column or in the lower margin have a notation indicating that this is a reference to Numbers 18, a chapter that in its entirety is talking about the tithe and how the Priests and the Levites who had no portion of land to call their own, were to be supported by the tithe that the people brought to the Tabernacle and later the Temple.
So, when Paul says, “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple…” he’s referring to this Old Testament passage about tithing and supporting ministers of the Temple from the tithe, and then he makes a New Testament parallelism saying, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel”(1COR 9:14). He is saying that the Biblical basis for providing for those who proclaim the gospel is Numbers 18.
Now this phrase, “In the same way,” is assuming two things to be true. Number one, that those who ministered had the biblical right to be supported from the tithe. Number two, that the Corinthians must have been tithing. The only way to pay ministers of the gospel from the tithe, is to assume that New Testament Christians were tithing. This is why I would say that while we do not see the word “tithe” in 1 Corinthians 9, we do see the principle of tithing and supporting those who proclaim the gospel from the tithe. Likewise, we see the principle of giving “extra collections” to go above and beyond and help those in need in 1 Corinthians chapter 16.
As I mentioned in my sermon on 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 titled “Free to Give,” there are some who feel that tithing is no longer for today. It’s my opinion that in the Old Testament tithing was a matter of keeping the law. Whereas in the New Testament tithing was done freely as an act of worship. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, but God loves a cheerful giver.” Tithing was practiced in the Old Testament as an act of obedience to the Law, then continued into the New Testament as an expression of love.