All quotes from the NASB

In canvassing for fiscal support from the church the apostle Paul quotes the Torah to buttress his narrative

1 Corinthians 9:9-10

[9]For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? [10]Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.

1 Corinthians 9

[13]Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?

But Paul is clear in his narratives that the Mosaic economy was fulfilled and no longer binding to the church

Ephesians 2

[15]by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,

Colossians 2

[14]having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Romans 6

[14]For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

So why does he quote the Torah for justification seeing it was fulfilled and no longer binding?

  • See also Luke 13:14-16, 14:2-6. The question is not whether the Torah is binding or not (Matthew 5:17-20), but in what manner: spiritually, as Christ taught us (and notice that Saint Paul's interpretation of the Torah here is indeed spiritual), or literally, as both Pharisees and Judaizers insisted ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 1:38

2 Answers 2


In Ephesians 6:1-3 Paul again appeals to the Law in support of an exhortation to the church :

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

He appeals for three reasons :

  • It is right
  • It promotes well-being
  • It promotes longevity

Some things are just right, they are logical, they are sensible. It is deeper than law, it is a matter of human nature and of human existence. John the Baptist also appealed on this basis to the populace, to share food and clothing, to the publicans, not to overcharge, to soldiers, not to do unnecessary violence beyond their remit and to Herod not to have an inappropriate relationship with his living brother's ex-wife.

It is a matter of nature. It is a matter of what is natural to humanity in the way in which humanity functions. This also forms the basis of God's warning to Adam not to attempt to live, as a human, by way of the knowledge of good and evil.

These things are deeper than law. They are fundamental to human nature.

It seems to me that Paul, in I Corinthians 9: 9-10, is drawing a lesson from what is natural to man - not to muzzle an ox that treads out corn. It is an unreasonable thing to do, It isn't fair. It isn't compassionate.

I think he appeals to our very existence, our natural humanity. Which, of course, is the reason that it is included within law as a legal precept. But I do not think that he is appealing to the legal precept, he is appealing to what is more fundamental.


The Law says not to muzzle an ox while it is threshing. If Paul considered the Law binding, it would mean just what it said: that you're not allowed to muzzle an ox while it's threshing. But Paul quotes the verse in order to draw a lesson from it regarding his rights to earn wages. He isn't considering the Law binding; he's using it to draw a homiletic lesson for his own community.

In effect, he's using the same method he uses elsewhere, when he uses stories from the Law to make a point about his own time. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 (NRSV)

Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake...

to Romans 4:23-24:

Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.

Paul might not have considered the Law binding on himself, but it was still scripture for him. As scripture, it could be used to draw lessons from, whether or not it was literally binding. Another letter of Paul says this clearly (2 Timothy 3:16):

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

  • ,like the part were you say scripture could be used to draw lessons from, whether or not it was literally binding Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 12:19
  • Paul declared that the principle to be supported by the church is not based on human authority, but on the authority of the Law. He then illustrates the greater application of the quoted scripture. Therefore, Paul finds the Law as still binding.
    – O.J.
    Commented Jun 8 at 2:40

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