New Testament giving – supporting missionaries

We already touched this area. As we saw previously, 1 Corinthians 9:14 tells us:


“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”


As we said in the last chapter, this passage does not refer to elders but to preachers of the gospel, to people like Paul, Timothy and Barnabas, to apostolic teams that were going from town to town preaching the gospel, to further the kingdom of God. These were iterant workers, people that today we would probably call missionaries. These people were entitled and are entitled to live from the gospel, though Paul and his team did not use this right. Nevertheless, Paul did receive voluntary gifts from people, though he never requested such gifts in his letters. The letter to Philippians shows us a case where a church sent him support. Let’s see the related record starting from Philippians 4:10-13 :


“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


Paul’s ministry was not based on a salary from a church. His trust was not a salary. He didn’t have one. He was completely dependant on the Lord. He had learned to be content in whatever state he was. How? Through Christ who strengthened him. Christ was his foundation, the source of his contentment. Notice that he learned this. He was not born with this. He had to learn it. May we learn this too. Notice also that he says: “Not that I speak in regard of need”. He did not have a list of needs that he was circulating around. After speaking to the people, he would not pass a cup around to collect an offering. He would instead go to the market place and exercise his trade. By this way, he was setting an example for everybody to follow. But when a church sent him support, it was received with thankfulness:


Philippians 4:14-18
“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”


The Philippians supported Paul. Supporting apostolic workers, missionaries that spread the gospel is one more area of viable giving. However these workers should not base their trust on such gifts or on the regularity of them but on the Lord. They and every Christian should, as Paul, be content in whatever state we are. Notice also what Paul is saying: “no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only”. Paul was not getting support from any church, at least “in the beginning of the gospel”, which again shows that his personal support was not a matter that he spoke about to the churches. Furthermore, he also said: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” There was a fruit associated to the gift. The gift would produce a fruit and this fruit would be credited to the Philippians’ account. As Paul’s work continues bearing fruit, I guess the Philippians’ harvest in heaven is very big by now and is getting bigger.


Tassos Kioulachoglou






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