Published: 19 February 2024

New Testament Examples of The Dorean Principle in Action

Dorean Principle in Action

“Tom follows in the footsteps of many seminary leaders who have gone before him since the seminary was founded in 1892. He has inherited a system and structure that is typical of nearly all seminaries around the world: students must pay tuition if they want to receive spiritual guidance and biblical teaching. Sometimes at night he thinks about how nice it would be if professors could simply be like missionaries and raise support, freeing themselves to teach without charging students money. Or why couldn’t there be more bi-vocational professors who support themselves with another job like Paul did and offer their services to the seminary for free? But then he shakes his head and laughs at how impossible his idealistic musings are. The seminary has been operating the same way for too long. Tradition can’t be broken.

Tom, like most, is well-meaning and wants to do the right thing. But he’s also still largely ignorant of the biblical teaching on money and ministry. He has believed the lie that obeying God is an ideal fantasy, especially when it involves breaking with tradition. While Tom is impressed by the size, age, and influence of his seminary, God is not impressed. Nor is God impressed by its lack of fundamental obedience to the command to freely give what they have freely received. Tom is also a coward, fearing man more than his Creator. And if he’s willing to admit it, he doesn’t have faith that God would provide enough support for the seminary professors. He doesn’t even believe that the professors themselves would have enough faith to even attempt to raise support. In the end, Tom’s God is too small to overcome these obstacles to true obedience.” — Adapted from


Let’s briefly summarize what we’ve discovered as we’ve been blogging through the major points of the book, The Dorean Principle, by Conley Owens. Initially, we questioned if Jesus intended His directive to give freely without payment to be a norm for all His followers throughout history. We sought to determine if this command was exclusive to those engaged in the limited commission.

In addressing this query, our initial exploration delved into Old Testament instances (here and here). This examination revealed that the dorean principle was not a novel concept introduced by Jesus. Centuries before His time, men of God steadfastly declined payment for their ministry.

The scrutiny doesn’t end there. A notable observation among serious Bible students concerns the seemingly confusing and contradictory nature of some of Paul’s practices related to ministry support. By examining Paul’s actions through the lens of the dorean principle (here and here), it becomes clear that he observed the principles outlined in Matthew 10:8.

If we listen to what the Scripture is telling us, it says that Jesus’s desire for us to minister without reciprocity was meant to apply to all His followers for all time. Let’s sample a few more New Testament examples to see if the pattern holds up.

Positive examples of the dorean principle in action


In the short letter to Philemon, it is quite easy to see the concept of co-labor explicitly stated. 

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker, (Philem. 1:1 BEREAN)

So if you consider me a partner, receive him as you would receive me. (Philem. 1:17 BEREAN)

Notice that Paul considered Philemon a fellow worker and he knew that Philemon considered Paul a partner also. In what effort did they work and partner together? They were both servants of the same Master. God was their “employer,” so to speak. They were coworkers, co-laborers, serving God. There is no sense of direct obligation (reciprocity) between them. In the letter, Paul urges and encourages the outcome he desired, but he refrained from making demands. Owens observes:

“Additionally, Paul emphasizes the voluntary nature of Philemon’s participation (Philem. 8–9, 14), indicating that there is no direct obligation that may be enforced. 

Providing Philemon another opportunity to colabor, Paul requests a guest room.

At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. (Philem. 22)”1

We cannot miss the emphasis upon co-labor in the letter to Philemon. 


John addressed his third letter to a brother named Gaius. As you read vv. 5-8 below, see if you can detect any references to co-labor or reciprocity.

5 Beloved, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, and especially since they are strangers to you. 6 They have testified to the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out on behalf of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:5-8 BEREAN)


Regarding these brothers that John writes about, did you notice that He encouraged Gaius to “send them on their way?” That is the word propempo which, we have previously noted, means “to assist someone in making a journey, send on one’s way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc.”2 John is encouraging Gaius to co-labor with these brothers by materially supporting their travels as they labor in the gospel.

John also notes that these brothers carry out their ministry by “accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” That is, they diligently follow Jesus’s directive to share the gospel with the Gentiles, steadfastly refusing any form of compensation or financial support from those to whom they minister. While open to partnering with fellow Christians in their labor, they steadfastly reject reciprocity from those to whom they proclaim the gospel.

Lastly, John emphasizes that those who provide support to these individuals become “fellow workers” with them. When two individuals serving the same Master combine their resources and collaborate to accomplish the Master’s objectives, they become co-laborers with each other.

Other New Testament examples of the dorean principle

I’ve only mentioned a few examples above. In his book, Conley Owens cites several other New Testament examples of co-labor in the New Testament. He explores how Jesus’s entourage, Lydia, and several people from Corinth and Malta all engaged in mutual support of one another to further God’s kingdom. 

Negative Example

In Acts 8, a new convert named Simon (the Sorcerer) drew the ire of Peter when he attempted to purchase the ability to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit. Peter expressed his strong displeasure and delivered stern words to Simon.

20 But Peter replied, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in our ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of your wickedness, and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for the intent of your heart. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and captive to iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23 BEREAN)

Owens comments:

“Explicitly, Peter rebukes Simon because he thought the gift of God could be obtained by money. Implicitly, the apostle rebukes the magician because he thought the gift of God ought to be given for money. Simon treats Peter as a minister for profit and sets himself up to potentially become one as well, doling out this power to others who have the coin to spare.”3  (emphasis added)

Peter’s rebuke implies that reciprocity poses a risk to one’s eternal destiny

Peter’s forceful rebuke stemmed from his profound repulsion at Simon’s suggestion that one could acquire spiritual gifts through barter. As one of the Lord’s twelve disciples and someone who spent extensive time with Jesus, Peter was intimately familiar with Jesus’s teachings against such transactions. Judging from the sternness of Peter’s rebuke, it is evident that he regarded this matter with utmost seriousness.

“It is not merely impossible to facilitate the distribution of the gift of the Holy Spirit by means of financial exchange; it is dishonorable to make any such attempt. Broadly speaking, any ministry—miraculous or non-miraculous—constitutes an attempt to impart the blessing of the Holy Spirit. In this light, the passage condemns all ministerial reciprocity. In the words of D. A. Carson, ‘Those who charge for spiritual ministry are dabbling in simony.’4   (emphasis added)


The New Testament firmly establishes the pattern of accepting co-labor and rejecting reciprocity. Reviewing the practices of God’s servants in both the Old and New Testaments leaves no doubt that Jesus’s instructions in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 extend beyond that specific occasion. This timeless principle illustrates that the message is not ours to sell but God’s to give. God has freely given us His message, and as stewards, sharing it without charge is our responsibility.

The Lord’s workers are meant to receive payment and support, not through selling a product, but through acts of co-labor. Their support comes from fellow servants who become fellow laborers by providing financial assistance to those fully dedicated to God’s work.

In the next blog post, I will offer some additional thoughts to wrap up this series on the dorean principle.


  1. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 88). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bauer, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, eds. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d, Accordance electronic ed., version 2.8. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. BDAG, s.v. “προπέμπω,” 873
  3. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 71). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.
  4. Owens, Conley. The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (p. 71). FirstLove Publications. Kindle Edition.