Chapter 9 marks an abrupt change of topic and tone. I cannot help but think this is also in response to the letter the brethren had sent him.
Unbelievably, some of the Corinthian brethren were questioning Paul’s authority and liberties as an apostle of the Lord. This would continue to be a problem, as Paul would repeatedly return to this issue in his subsequent letter to the church at Corinth (cf 2 Cor 10-13).
The issue at hand was the matter of financial support for Paul and Barnabas. Paul notes that said support should be sufficient to meet their needs, and the needs of their Christian wives, should they decide to marry while preaching the gospel. As examples, Paul held up the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers (e.g., James), and Peter as those who were supporting themselves and their families through the preaching of the gospel.
Paul then makes an interesting allusion to an Old Testament principle, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (cf Deut 25:4). Paul asks, ‘Is this really about oxen? Or did God have something additional in mind?’ He then answers his own question, ‘He said it all together for our sakes, that those who plow should plow in hope, and those who threshes in hope should be a partaker of the same.’
God has always made this provision for those who dedicate themselves to Divine service. Levi was the tribe of priests, given a place to live but no land inheritance. The Levites were to be supported by the other tribes through tithes and offerings, as their labor was for the benefit and blessing of the people (cf Num 18).
Paul said as much to the Galatians in Galatians 6:6, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” But Paul did not exercise his right of support and compensation, “lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (v 12, cf 2 Cor 11:8) Moreover, he said that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (v 14).
For far too long, my American brethren did not do well in supporting their preachers. I am thankful to live in a time when such in not the norm. But many brethren overseas think Americans should pay not only for their preachers, but for their places of worship, etc. They need to be taught better.