Partners in Proclamation
The time of giving on Sunday morning has traditionally been referred to as “the contribution” or “the offering.” These funds were used in the early churches to support Christians who were in need, or in some sort of distress (Romans 12:13; 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8:4). However, there is another aspect to our giving which we will briefly examine in this article. That funds were also given to support the preaching of the gospel. Let’s look at four portions of Scripture which show this to be the case.
1 Corinthians 9:6-18. In these verses, Paul is establishing how he is above all accusations. He argues that the preacher certainly can “reap material things” for teaching (1 Corinthians 9:11), but he has not done so. Nonetheless, the implication would seem to be that in the ideal situation, “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). A correlation is drawn from the Old Testament. “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?” (1 Corinthians 9:13)
2 Corinthians 11:7-9. In the next letter to the Corinthians, the notion of presenting the gospel “free of charge” to these people is mentioned (2 Corinthians 11:7), and here Paul notes that he has received support from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8-9).
Galatians 6:6. This verse is worth quoting in its entirety and seems rather straightforward. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” The phrase “all good things” is rather broad, but in light of the other letters it could certainly include some sort of financial assistance. (In days gone by, there have been congregations where the preacher was paid with a chicken, or a new pair of shoes.)
Philippians 1:3-5; 4:14-19. One of the themes found throughout the letter to the Philippians is that of Paul’s appreciation for their “partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5). “ 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” (Philippians 4:18). The idea is expressed in this letter that the Philippians will be blessed because they are partners with Paul in proclaiming good news.
The language found in the New Testament is not that of employer-employee, nor is it that of simply paying the preacher. Instead, the language of the New Testament is that of partners and co-laborers. The bigger idea of giving to “needy saints” is that we enter into the suffering of another and become one with them. Similarly, supporting the preaching of good news allows us, literally, to “make a contribution” to the preaching of the gospel, and to become partners in proclamation.