The Paid Professional – Part 4

In our now extended excursus on the paid professional pastor/minister, which is part of our ongoing series examining the evangelical response to COVID-19 in light of the book of Acts, we come to our final post. You can get caught up here. As a reminder, in our first post from this excursus we saw how Paul established a principle of self-supporting ministry which he set forth as an example and pattern to be followed. We looked at this from Acts 20, 1 Cor., 1 Thess., and 2 Thess. Then we looked at a popular proof text from 1 Corinthians 9, which we followed up on with a look at another popular proof text from 1 Timothy 5. Now, in our last post we will look at Galatians 6:6 and then turn our focus to the instance(s) where Paul did accept support from others.

In the last chapter of Galatians, Paul begins his section of instructions to believers dealing primarily with their relationship to each other, or what we will summarize for our purposes as discipleship, that is practical examples of walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This flows out of chapter 5’s emphasis on the spirit and flesh before concluding with, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:26 The opening of chapter 6 (the divisions of course are not original) begins with instructions on how to deal with those in sin, summarily discipleship in deeds. While often Matthew 18:15-20 gets all the attention for enacting church discipline, these verses in Galatians ought to be kept in the forefront as well, noting that those believers who are spiritual are to restore those caught in sin with a spirit of gentleness, building once again upon the spirit/flesh discussion that preceded it. Furthermore, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, which fulfills the law of Christ because it is a chief expression of love for the brethren. This was the basis for understanding the law in the previous 4 chapters and serves as a point of transition into our chapter, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14

As we move through this section, verse 6 highlights a transition, though still building from earlier off both the foundation of the spirit/flesh discussion and the expression of love for the brethren.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Galatians 6:6 ESV
Here, it is not so much deeds that is the focus, rather we may summarize it as discipleship in doctrine. The one who is taught and the one who teaches are variations (conjugations) of the word katecheo, or instruction, from which we get our English word “to catechize,” which we know refers to the action of repetitive teaching. This is followed up and supported with agrarian language on sowing and reaping. The point in these verses is to highlight the emphasis on sowing to the Spirit in order to reap from the spiritual, namely eternal life, in contrast with sowing to earthly or fleshy things which would reap corruption. Sowing and reaping leads to verse 9 where we find an encouragement to continue doing good, which falls into the category of sowing to the Spirit, to everyone, especially, “those who are of the household of faith.” The question, however, might be how do verses 7-10 relate to verse 6?

In all of the discussions on this passage that I’ve heard or read as support for paying pastors (which would require paid pastors to actually be in context not simply one who catechizes another), I had never heard the KJV translation of this passage.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Galatians 6:6 KJV
The difference in translations is profound. Not only is koinoneo translated as communicate rather than share, as in the ESV, but the word order is different as well. In the KJV the ‘good things’, agathos, is related to that which is taught. In the ESV translation it is related to that which is shared. In Koine Greek, word order is not as important as it is in English. As with interpretations, context is king. The difficulty surrounds the meaning of the aforementioned koinoneo.

If we turn to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TWNT) for help, we find koinoneo meaning “to share with someone (to be koinonos [that is to be a fellow or participant]) in something which he has, to take part. 2. more rarely, to have a share with someone (to be fellow) in something which he did not have, to give part, to impart.” If we take the ESV translation view, is it then possible that Paul intends to convey “sharing, fellowshipping, or particpating”, which is followed by good things, to mean providing a salary to a professional pastor? The difficulties here are numerous, but at least include that a professional pastor is not clearly in view, nor is salary clearly seen. As a point of fact, it would be extremely irregular to say that one “shares” a salary with another. Could someone share from their abundance? Of course, this is how koinoneo is used in Philippians 4:15, but the burden of proof would still be on proving a professional pastor is in view and that a salary is intended.

On the other hand, if we took the KJV translation, the meaning would be that those who are taught should be in fellowship with those who are teaching – in all good things. Depending on where one places in all good things it could imply the taught being in fellowship in all good things with the teacher. Or, it could imply the taught should be in fellowship with the one who teaches in all good things, meaning those good things which are taught.

Regardless of the translation one is convinced of, based on the context there simply does not seem to be enough evidence to conclude that Paul is instructing the Galatians to provide a salary for a professional pastor. In fact, if we were to lean into the passage from 1 Corinthians 9 where the argument is built upon the right to receive support (though as a reminder Paul is functioning as an apostle, similar to our modern missionary) and Paul’s rejection of that right, it would be difficult to conclude that here at the end of Galatians he is commanding support to be given. It simply wouldn’t allow latitude for refusing the support. Again, we must remember that 1 Corinthians 9 does not have a professional pastor’s salary in view.

This conclusion of our review on the passages which are commonly used as proof texts for defending the salary of professional pastors, leads us into the case where Paul did receive ministerial support. There are two questions that must be asked and answered before looking at these passages, both of which we have already answered. First, was Paul in any way equivalent to a modern professional pastor/preacher? As we’ve seen, Paul was an apostle – a sent one, who traveled from town to town preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ plowing the hearts of the unsaved. Sometimes his ministry was short-term, other times it was longer-term, but in each case his heart was determined to deepen the faith of those who he had led to Christ through discipleship. Often, he was able to return and follow-up on his original evangelism and other times he was prevented through various circumstances. Second, did Paul receive a salary for his efforts? By salary of course, we mean a regular consistent payment for his labors, in this case preaching and teaching the Gospel. As we have seen, Paul worked with his hands and left that as an example for others to follow. In the cases where he discussed his “right” to receive support, i.e. 1 Corinthians 9, he was not making an argument for the right to receive a salary, rather he was making an argument for his right to be supported – materially in some fashion, for his travels, food, and lodging, in other words the basic necessities of life.

The longest and most extensive discussion on both receiving and refusing support occurs in 2 Corinthians 11:5 – 13:10. Here, Paul repeats multiple times the fact that he refused support from Corinth and that this left him with grounds to boast. Further, he contrasts his practice of refusing support among those whom he ministered with those who he calls super-apostles (2 Corinthians 12:11). Earlier in this section we see this contrast more clearly
12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:12-16
While Paul did not receive support from the Corinthians while he ministered there, he did receive support from others, most notably those in Macedonia.
And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 2 Corinthians 11:9-11
When we try to assemble other pieces of this Macedonian support that occurs throughout the New Testament, it’s possible that we see “the brothers” arriving in Corinth with support from Macedonia in Acts 18:5, “When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.” Then, we find correlation with one of the churches in Macedonia, the Philippian church where Paul commends them for entering into partnership (koinoneo) with him as he moved throughout Macedonia including Thessalonica.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:14-20
This limited look at the case where Paul did receive support helps bring us to summarize his ministerial approach.

First, Paul was an apostle, meaning sent one, as we’ve seen. In this way, he functioned more like our modern understanding of a missionary than a “resident” professional pastor. Paul’s ministry was itinerant, meaning he traveled regularly. These trips obviously required funding, as did his food and lodging. As we’ve seen God provided for these needs, sometimes through the support from other churches, but regularly through Paul’s own hard work.

Second, Paul provided an example and pattern through this hard work with his own hands. Based on the passages we looked at early on, it is clear that Paul meant this to be an example. (See Acts 20:33-35; 1 Corinthians 4:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12)

Third, Paul describes the right of apostles to receive ministerial support – the basic necessities of travel, food, and lodging, but then explains his right to refuse this right. (See 1 Corinthians 9:1-14)

Fourth, Paul’s refusal of ministerial support was grounded in
  1. The example set forth by Christ Himself as well as His commissioning of the Twelve.
  2. His desire that the Gospel would not be hindered.
  3. His love for those among whom he ministered.
  4. His desire not to be a burden to the people that he was ministering to.
  5. His distinction created between his practice of not receiving support and those so called super apostles who did.
Based on the entirety of our study in the past four posts can we make any reasonable defense from Scripture for the salaried professional pastor? The answer is no.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the expositions on this subject, a lingering question remains: If so many are going to use Paul, despite him being an apostle, as the justification for paying and/or receiving a salary for a professional pastor, then why do so few actually model his example of refusing support for the reasons he outlined and that we have rehearsed in our posts? Where is the desire not to hinder the gospel? Or not to be a burden to the people? Or to refuse support out of love for those being ministered to?

As a follow up, could a church choose to pay or salary a professional to preach and pastor them? The question then is could they pay, not should they pay. This may fall into a case of Christian liberty and would likely need to be looked at on a case by case basis, but it would have to occur in a manner that did not hinder the edification of believers or the exercise of their individual gifts among the body. With this, we will turn to our last section of this study in Acts to ask, What happens when believers gather together? ***Full disclosure, from December 2010 until April 2012 I served as a youth pastor, with the intention of taking the position full time. Before officially agreeing to an interim position, I was asked how much salary I would require. I said none. The reply from the elder board was, how about $100/week. I declined, stating again that I wouldn’t take any money for preaching God’s Word. At the completion of the interim position, I was called by the head of the elder board and notified that due to clerical accounting errors, I would need to be back paid for my time in the position and that a check in full was already made out and could not be cancelled, otherwise it would create tax problems for the church. Knowing that I still did not want the money, they placed the check in the front cover of theological dictionary and gave it to me as a parting gift. Stuck with the check and wrestling over my conviction to preach freely, I labored with what to do with the money, considering to give it all away. A couple of months later, in the process of listing our house for sale, a young newlywed couple placed an offer on it which was much less than we were asking. After hearing they were at their maximum offer, we agreed to the price. At closing, we were actually required to pay for the selling of our own house, nearly the entire amount of the check we had been given. Soli Deo Gloria.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

Click in the box below to subscribe and get new content delivered straight to your inbox. Or leave a comment to join the discussion.

%d bloggers like this: