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In the Gates

Paul is Like the Ox

Interpreting the Law of God (40)

Paul likened himself to the muzzled ox.


Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? 1 Corinthians 9.8-10

In what must have struck the Corinthians as an exercise in catachresis, Paul said, in effect, he was like that ox. He had worked diligently among the Corinthians, by day laboring with his hands to support his needs, and by night preaching, teaching, and making disciples in order to bring the church in Corinth to birth and stability.

He said that he had “sown spiritual things” among the Corinthians, and, indeed, he had (1 Cor. 9.11). He had plowed the hard ground of their souls, sown the potent seed of the Word, nurtured and cultivated every budding sprout, and guarded the Gospel garden against thieves and thorns and threats of various sorts.

And soon enough, fruit began to appear, people confessing faith in Christ, organizing into house churches and a larger community church, and beginning the work of seeking the Kingdom as Paul taught and led them.

And all the while, Paul, like a muzzled ox, “fed” by the work of his own hands and the generosity of the Philippians, while the Corinthians grew spiritual fat at his expense, seemingly not in the least concerned to contribute to his material needs.


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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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