Published: 29 January 2024

A Clash of Cultures and the Dorean Principle

Clash of Cultures

Jordan pastors Beverly Hills Baptist Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in California. Although his church and nonprofit organization take in millions of dollars/year in donations, most of his sermons are not free to download online. Instead, each of his sermons is listed on the church webstore for 99 cents. When people ask him why he doesn’t make his sermons available for free, he typically answers with several reasons.

We are just covering the costs of the servers and people who maintain the website. There is a cost involved in making my sermons available on the Internet. Also, don’t forget that the sermons I preach are considered ‘works for hire,’ so they legally belong to my church, which is my employer. I don’t own them; the church owns them. So when you pay for them, the money doesn’t go into my pocket; it goes into the church’s ministry account. Why wouldn’t my church want to charge for access to my sermons? We don’t think it strange that pastors charge for the books they write. And just like books, these sermons are expensive to produce. 

Jordan means well, and genuinely thinks he’s doing what’s right in the sight of God, but the culture around him has squeezed him into its mold. He has believed the lie that it is impossible to cover the cost of a website by donations. And he fails to realize that the sincerity of his preaching is compromised by selling it, no matter what the price may be. His God is not big enough to provide money to pay the bills.” –Adapted from

You received without paying; give without pay

We are blogging through the major points of Conley Owens’s book “The Dorean Principle.” Jesus’s words, “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matt. 10:8 ESV), summarize the heart of this principle. Some have argued that these words of Jesus only applied during the limited commission. To determine if this is true, we need to know if anyone other than the disciples who participated in the limited commission observed the principle. So far, we’ve discovered (here and here) that the Old Testament prophets adhered to the principle. What about after the limited commission? As we’ll see, Paul followed the dorean principle, but it was not without incident. Paul’s adherence to the principle resulted in a clash of cultures.

Paul’s ministry fundraising: consistent or contradictory?

As Peter said in regard to Paul’s writings, “parts of his letters are hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:16 BEREAN). Paul’s words concerning ministry fundraising are indeed hard to understand.

“…an initial look at Paul’s ministry may cause us to level charges of inconsistency. He commands people to give to ministers, yet rejects their attempts at payment. Sometimes he even receives money from the same people he earlier refused. Does he arbitrarily create rules…?”1

Let’s examine some of Paul’s comments about ministry fundraising in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians 11. It is tempting to jump right in and see what he said, but we’ll do ourselves a favor if we take the time to understand some background information first. To make sense of Paul’s words, we need to understand three things:

  1. The fundraising expectations of ancient philosophers, teachers, and rhetoricians.
  2. The context of 1 Corinthians 9.
  3. The super-apostles.

How were teachers and philosophers financially supported in the 1st century AD?

“Orators followed certain well–established conventions when they entered a city. They were expected to give flowery speeches in praise of the city and their own personal achievements. They did this in order to establish their reputation and reap financial rewards as political orators and teachers of the rich.”2 

It is well known to students of the New Testament that Paul frequently supported himself financially by making tents (Acts 18:3). Today, we admire his commitment to the gospel, evidenced by his willingness to work a menial job to support his own ministry. Nevertheless, people in the ancient Roman world expected something different. They were more about style than substance.

“Although orators came to cities promising to bestow civic and educational benefits, those who heard them knew that the bottom line was the potential of rich financial pickings for the speaker. The audience was interested only in the speaker’s prowess in demonstrating his silver–tongued oratory, and not the subject of the speech which they themselves often nominated from the floor. In comparison Paul’s overwhelming concern was the content of his message with its good news. He sought therefore to distance himself from any possible identification with secular speakers in order to gain a good hearing for his unique message.”3

Paul’s low-class reputation

As we’ll see, Paul did not accept money in exchange for his preaching. In fact, Paul’s methods didn’t quite fit into any category that a person in the 1st century AD Roman world would recognize. After all, a minister of the gospel was something new back then. 

“There was no established model for “Christian ministers.” Nor were there existing institutions such as universities or church denominations to employ or sanction teachers and preachers. Paul was simply a freelance missionary. The Corinthians would most naturally have compared him to the rhetoricians and philosophers familiar within their world.”4

There were several support options available to rhetoricians and philosophers. One of those was working a trade. This is what Paul chose to do to support himself. The culture of the Roman world considered menial labor to be beneath a teacher; one step above begging.5 People expected a teacher or orator to accept money from his listeners. If an orator declined to accept payment, it would raise suspicions.

Paul’s controversial choices

Paul’s refusal to accept money from those he preached to in Corinth turned out to be a controversial choice! By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians “the criticism of his refusal to accept support from the Corinthians had escalated into a major issue.”6 

Paul’s methods of financial support did not align with the culture’s expectations of compensation for a teacher or philosopher. They were so far out of alignment that the Corinthians were beginning to suspect he might not be a real apostle at all. Understanding this is key to understanding Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians 11.

The context of 1 Corinthians 9

Another key factor in understanding Paul’s choices is the context of 1 Corinthians 9. At first glance 1 Corinthians 9 seems to shift from the themes of chapters 8 and 10, but it really doesn’t. In chapter 8 the call to self-denial is implicit in Paul’s message about refraining from exercising one’s knowledge and freedom if it could lead a weaker believer to stumble. He encouraged believers to set aside personal desires and rights in favor of showing love and consideration for those who may be adversely affected by their actions.

In chapter 9, Paul provides his own example of self-denial by relinquishing his right to financial support for the sake of the gospel. Though entitled to support, he chooses to forego it to avoid hindering the spread of the message.

In chapter 10, the warnings from Israel’s history serve as a call to self-denial by cautioning against complacency, overconfidence, and engaging in practices that could lead to spiritual downfall. Paul reminded his readers to prioritize God’s glory and the welfare of others over their own desires and freedoms.

“Those who try to read chapter 9 as a defense of Paul’s apostleship unrelated to the idol food problem have great difficulty explaining how verses 24–27 fit into the defense. The presence of this material at the end of the chapter shows clearly that the purpose of the unit as a whole is hortatory rather than apologetic. Paul is presenting his own pattern of renouncing rights as exemplary and calling the Corinthian gnosis-boasters to follow suit.”7

Speaking of “gnosis-boasters” (knowledge-boasters), there is one last thing we need to make note of before getting to the heart of the matter.

The super-apostles

In 2 Corinthians 11-12, the term “super-apostles” refers to certain individuals who presented themselves as highly esteemed and superior apostles in the Corinthian Christian community. We don’t know who these men were, but we can infer they were Jews based on 2 Corinthians 11:22. Some speculate they were Hellenistic Jews who taught a form of gnosticism.8

Regardless of their identity, they likely sought to undermine Paul’s authority and question his credentials as an apostle. Paul, in response, wrote about them to defend his own apostleship and to address the challenges posed by these so-called super-apostles.

By addressing the super-apostles, Paul aimed to reaffirm his authority, re-establish his connection with the Corinthian church, and protect the authenticity of his message against competing influences. The overarching theme is a defense of genuine apostolic authority and a call for the Corinthians to discern true servants of Christ from those who merely claimed superiority.

A clash of cultures

The exploration of Paul’s unconventional methods serves as a crucial foundation for understanding his writings in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians 11. The cultural clash, Paul’s commitment to self-denial, and the presence of super-apostles all contribute to a nuanced backdrop. 

In the next article, we’ll begin analyzing Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 9 with an aim to understand how they fit with the dorean principle.


  1. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 28). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bruce Winter, 1 Corinthians, eds. D. A Carson et al., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 1164.
  3. Winter, Bruce, 1 Corinthians. Edited by D. A Carson, R. T France, J. A. Motyer, and Gordon J. Wenham. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994, 1174.
  4. Hays, Richard B.. First Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 147). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
  5. Hays, Richard B.. First Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 147). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
  6. Hays, Richard B.. First Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 148). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
  7. Hays, Richard B.. First Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 149). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
  8. Kee, Doyle. “Who Were the ‘Super-Apostles’ of 2 Corinthians 10-13.” Restoration Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1980): 65–76.