For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. (1 Corinthians 9:9-10)
Today’s passage is interesting for a few reasons. Unless we first affirm a few principles regarding interpretation of Scripture, the meaning of this passage will be lost. Here they are:
- Scripture interprets Scripture (see Westminster 1.7)
- What God says in the Old Testament isn’t – automatically – done away with because Christ has come.
That first principle should not be controversial for someone who affirms the sufficiency of Scripture. The second may require a little explanation. For that explanation, I need not go any farther than this passage. Here, Paul quotes from an Old Testament law from Deuteronomy 25:4. It is a civil law regarding the care of a beast. Though the Mosaic administration is now fulfilled in Christ and we have a new administration in the New Covenant, Paul tells us that this law wasn’t written for the sake of the oxen. It was written for us. For who? For the church of Corinth. For the New Testament believer. For us.
Thus, we can conclude that the civil laws of Moses reveal moral principles; these principles not being temporary but eternal. Their application is “for us”, given in the law of Moses to point to what Paul would say later. The principle of fair and equitable wages for work is behind the argument. Which points us to a moral principle: people ought to be paid fairly, including pastors and ministers of the gospel.
Therefore, we learn that the civil laws of Moses apply – in some sense – today, as laws revealing the moral principles which they enforce.
What is the significance of this? We learn from this that we must not view of Mosaic administration as strictly temporary and all laws given as being done away with. Those laws which are moral in nature continue to be binding, for God is holy and does not change. Therefore, the civil laws of Moses continue to teach us, guide us, and instruct us in judging the righteousness of God and the government of the church and the civil realm.