I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, a Study
It is not rare that in the consideration of a verse, text, or topic, an important component is omitted, thus a faulty conclusion is reached. A case in point, I believe, is I Corinthians 16: 1, 2. Not a few contend that Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 is peculiar and, is, therefore, limited to what is called a specific, one time collection by the church at Corinth. Hence, I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 has no general binding design on local churches today relative to the gathering of financial means. Others just ignore the teaching of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, as though it did not exist and contrive all manner of ways of church financing. Thus, a complete exegesis of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 is needed. Consider the passage:
"1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2: Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (I Cor. 16).
Anterior to an exegesis of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, allow me to inject some simple reason or logic. God has assigned work to the local church (cp. I Tim. 5: 16). This work consists of the support of the preaching of the gospel to the lost; the edification of the saved; and the relief of needy saints, when such a condition exists and each layer of responsibility has been met (I Cor. 9: 14; Eph. 4: 16, 2 Tim. 4: 1-5; I Cor. 16: 1, 2). By "each layer of responsibility" in the case of benevolence, I am referring to the order of responsibility and the resident priority, that is, children and grandchildren’s responsibility to requite their parents and/or grandchildren before any church involvement (I Tim. 5: 16). To make a simple and direct point, since preachers are to be financially supported, herein lies a financial responsibility enjoined on the local church (treasury); hence, the need of a means of the church financing the work. However, I know of no single verse that directly and specifically addresses this responsibility. There remains, though, an implied method for such financing. In the case of church benevolence, we do have specific and detailed teaching as to the method to gain financing, I Corinthians 16: 1, 2. The question, however, is it incorrect to use the detailed teaching for fund raising, if you will, for benevolence for the support of preachers? Is there any intimation in I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 of more than just a one time collection for the specific need of benevolence? We shall attempt to satisfy these questions and concerns as we now engage in a serious study of the passage.
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye…." It is very probable that one of the questions the Corinthians had was relative to this particular matter of giving to the needy saints in Jerusalem (cp. I Cor. 7: 1). The Greek peri de (now about) not only suggests a change in immediate subject matter, but also a likely reply to their questions and concerns (cp. 8: 1, 12: 1). The presence of the definite article in the expression tes logeias ("the collection") also suggests the Corinthians’ familiarity with the subject of the collection (cp. 2 Cor. 8: 10, see addendum 1). Notice that this collection (logeias, the composite of the various contributions) was intended for the "the saints." They are elsewhere described as, "…the poor saints which are at Jerusalem" (Rom. 15: 26). The "poor saints" thus in need of help were in need of the necessities of life, matters such as food, clothing, and shelter (cp. I John 3: 17, "world’s good" is from the Greek bion tou kosmou and means, "life of this world). I mention this to show that the early church was not responsible for members who simply had a relatively lower standard of living. Also, while there were many other needy besides Christians, the church (treasury) is only designed for "needy saints."
Paul had "…given order to the churches of Galatia" and this same "order" pertained to the Corinthians as well. Some attempt to isolate and minimize the teaching of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 by insisting that "order" does not indicate a "command," simply teaching that provides system and organization. Again, we must be careful lest one flawed component in a model results in abuse. The word "order" is the Greek dietaza or diatasso and is found sixteen times in the Greek New Testament. Diataza has the resultant action of something that has been put into place or that is established. Diataza is translated "command" seven times (KJV). Paul’s teaching about giving is a delicate matter. The giving is not to be viewed, on one hand, as forced. Yet, this giving is a responsibility or a command (cp. 2 Cor. 8: 7, 8, see addendum 2).
"Upon the first day of the
week…." The expression kata mian sabbatou ("the first day of the
week") literally and rigidly means, "Every first of the Sabbath(s)." This
expression is, I submit, idiomatic (a Hebraism). A similar expression occurs in
Acts 20: 7 and shows the importance the early church attributed to the "first
day." Albert Barnes observes the following regarding, "Upon the first day of the
week" in I Corinthians 16: 2:
"…let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come…." None are exempt from the teaching of Paul. "…lay by him in store" has been understood to mean that this "giving" was to be done by oneself, at home and private. However, such an understanding defeats the purpose of the teaching: "…that there be no gatherings when I come." It is true that par heauto (by himself", Marshall) does suggest the action outside of the assembly. However, in order to harmonize the reason ("that there be no collections when I come") I submit "by himself" refers to the actual selecting and putting aside of the amount prior to coming to the assembly, which brings us to the next expression of our study. "In store" is from the Greek thesaurizon, the word from which we have derived our English word treasury. Hence, each when they had set aside the amount, the amount they had been "prospered," was to contribute it into the treasury of the local church. This was to be done "…every first day of the week…." Again, one reason for this instruction to give into the treasury of the local church was to avoid Paul having to gather the collection when he came to Corinth (I Cor. 16: 2).
After the serious Bible student has engaged in a microscopic study, it is then good to back off and telescopically consider the matter. Does the text of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 have a specific feature and did it originally apply, at least in part, to a specific event? The honest answer is, "yes." Having thus admitted this, I hurriedly add that I Corinthians 16: 1, 2 also contain features that point to regularity and constancy as opposed to a "one time event." Such as "…every first day of the week."
I furthermore submit that in the absence of detailed specific teaching relative to how the local church is to be funded to execute its work that requires financing, the expression used by the Holy Spirit, "…every first day of the week" is meant by the Spirit to be used for the work of the church in general. If not, why not? I think all would agree that the giving for the needy saints in Jerusalem was a "one time matter," hence, it is axiomatic that the teaching of the text was intended to go beyond and not be limited to the contextual and specific. When the Bible student considers what the church, the collectivity) is to do on the Lord’s day, the first day of the week, one sees two out of the five acts that are limited to the Lord’s day, the Lord’s Supper and giving (Acts 20: 7; I Cor. 16: 1, 2, see addendum 3).
In view of being limited by Bible authority, either what is expressly taught, necessarily implied, or appropriately exemplified (cp. Heb. 7: 14), it behooves God’s church to obtain its financing in harmony with the directives set forth in I Corinthians 16: 1, 2. All else is excluded, such as collections on Monday, general "begging" of the community, pie sales, or accepting monies from other churches in matters other than benevolence, etc. (For related reading click on: "The Act of Giving" and "What the Bible Teaches about Worship".)
Addendum 1: Not only was this collection of singular importance in the matter of relief, but it would also show how there was no prejudice on the part of the Gentile believers toward the Jewish believers (2 Cor. 9: 13, see all of chapter; 2 Cor. 8, Rom. 15: 26 ff.).
Addendum 2: From a study of all the pertinent texts concerning church benevolence, it is evident that each local church first took care of their own needy. Only when the need was greater than one local church could meet were other local churches involved (Acts 2, 4, 11: 27, 2 Cor. 8, 9). When other churches became involved, they sent the collection to the elders, apparently to the elders of each local church where there was a need (Acts 11: 30).
Addendum 3: Pertaining to assembly acts, there are five in all, two just mentioned that are peculiar to the first day of the week. The early Christians came together for public prayer; teaching and preaching; and singing songs of praise and edification to God and the brethren, respectively (I Cor. 14: 14 ff.; Acts 20: 7, 2 Tim. 4: 1-5; Eph. 5: 19). These five acts constitute the worship of the saints when they come together.