How To Establish Scriptural Authority (4): Application

Concerning the Collection for the Saints

A brother wrote asking what 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 teaches. “We are critical of the __(name of sect) who gives on Wednesday or Thursday. We say that 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 is just like God telling Noah to build an ark. Many would interpret it as: (1) Giving is on Sunday ONLY; (2) Giving must be in public worship on Sunday ONLY; (3) This is a CHARGE TO THE CORINTHIAN AND GALATIAN CHURCHES SO THAT WE MUST DO ALSO.”

The brother furnished me quotations from the different Bible translations and versions. “Tell me if the above conclusions can be taken from the verses.”

We will now examine the text, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, for what it teaches.

Now concerning the collection for the saints. “The collection,” “the contribution,” Greek tes logeias, is the word appearing in the papyri manuscripts, used in the sense of a religious contribution for the pagan temple and the pagan god (Rogers & Rogers, A Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 389). It may refer to “taxes as well as voluntary contributions collected at worship for charity,” which in a way was “similar to the poll tax paid annually to the temple by the faithful Jews who lived inside as well as outside of Palestine” (Colin Brown, gen. ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3:854).

Here it is used by Paul in the sense of church contribution. Greek has no indefinite article, but it has a definite article which also corresponds to “the,” the definite article of English. What is the job of the definite article? It defines, limits or specifies the noun that comes next to it. The presence of definite article tes in this text signifies that this is a special collection, not just any other. It does not say, “Now concerning a collection for the saints.”

Should Christians tithe? The Old Testament taught tithing, and Judaism, which existed contemporaneously with Christianity, was supported by tithes, but “it is surprising to discover that never once is tithing mentioned in any of the instructions given to the church” (Colin Brown, 3:854).

For the saints. Greek tes eis tous hagious. This collection is for God’s people, the Christians in Jerusalem, who “evidently had grave difficulties in the society…(Acts 6:1)” (Rogers & Rogers, 389). tous hagious, “the saints,” is the fiscal term applied to the church, they who have been sanctified, “made saints,” “made holy,” by the blood of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 16 is one of those passages where Paul teaches that the Lord’s people should share their wealth to care for the needs of the poor (the others being 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:6; Ephesians 4:28; Romans 15:26), “but never once does he demand, as a command from God, that any specific amount be given” (Brown, 3:854).

As I charged the churches of Galatia. Greek hoster dietaxa tais ekklesiais tes galatias. The verb dietaxa, is the aorist active indicative form of diatasso, meaning “to arrange, to order, to command, to give express commands” (Rogers & Rogers, 389). Vine is of the opinion that the verb diatasso is simply the strengthened form of tasso, because of the presence of dia, “through,” which intensifies it (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:68). dia with tasso thus takes the meaning of “to place in order,” “to arrange,” “to appoint” through. “Churches of Galatia” may refer to the Roman province by that name and the churches established there by Paul on his first missionary journey (Rogers & Rogers, 389). The directions to the churches of Galatia concerning the collection have not been preserved. That must be one of those letters that Paul had written which did not come down to us.

So also you do. Greek houtos kai poiesate. This was what Paul ordered, commanded, appointed for the Galatian churches to do, and now he was telling the Corinthian church to do the same. The verb poiesate is aorist active imperative. The aorist imperative, says Spiros Zodhiates, “means a command for doing something in the future which is a simple action” (Grammatical Notations, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, 433).

Another grammarian, James Allen Hewett, says, “Greek has two tenses in the imperative, the present and the aorist… These refer not to time of action but to kind of action…The present expresses linear, on-going, or repeated type of activity. The aorist denotes the simple unitary act itself with nothing implied or asserted regarding the duration or the completion of the event. It does not refer to past time” (Hewett, New Testament Greek: A Beginning and Intermediate Grammar, 188; see also Machen, 420).

Rogers and Rogers say “the aorist imperative calls for a specific action” (Rogers & Rogers, 389), that of giving to the collection for the use of the poor saints in Jerusalem.

Upon the first of the week. Greek kata mian sabbatou, “upon the first day of every week” (Alfred Marshall, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament). The preposition kata with accusative signifies the distributive sense in which that preposition is to be understood (Rogers & Rogers, 389; see also Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, & Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 406), hence the translation “on the first day of every week.” Every week has a first day. mian sabbatou is “a Hebraic expression for… Sunday” (Rogers & Rogers, 389). This passage provides a “clear proof that the first day of the week was observed by the church at Corinth as holy time. If it was not, there can have been no propriety in selecting that day in preference to any other in which to make the collection. It was the day which was set apart to the duties of religion, and therefore an appropriate, day for the exercise of charity and the bestowment of alms. There can have been no reason why this day should have been designated except that it was a day set apart to religion, and therefore deemed a proper day for the exercise of benevolence towards others” (Barnes Notes on the New Testament).

Let everyone of you lay by him in store. Greek hekastos humon par’ heauto titheto thesauridzon, “each of you by himself let him put storing up.” titheto is present imperative active 3rd person singular of tithemi, meaning “to set aside, to lay,” and when paired with the prepositional phrase par heauto, it means “to set aside… in his own home” (Rogers & Rogers, 389). The present imperative sense of titheto calls for a repeated or habitual action. thesauridzon, “lay in store,” “to save up,” or “store up,” is present active participle. It is a participle of means or manner and explains how each of the Christians of Corinth is to lay up or lay aside (Rogers & Rogers, 389). The word is akin to thesaurus, “a treasury, a storehouse, a treasure” (Vine, 2:320). The injunction is for “everyone of you.” In the next phrase Paul enjoins each one to give as he has been blessed.

As God has prospered him. Greek ho ti ean euodotai, literally, “whatever he is prospered.” The infinitive eudoo means “to help on one’s way,” and is formed from the combination of two words eu, meaning “well,” and hodos, “way or journey” (Vine, 3:225). It is used in the passive signifying “to have a prosperous journey” (Romans 1:10); metaphorically, it means “to prosper,” “to be prospered,” [as] “he may prosper,” “as God hath prospered him,” or “in whatever he may be prospered” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The continuous tense suggests “the successive circumstances of varying prosperity as week follows week” (Vine, 3:225). Christians are to give as God has blessed or prospered them. One scholar suggests that this is an example of the divine passive, in which the subject is not mentioned but is understood to be God, hence the translation “As God has prospered him” (KJV).

That there be no gatherings when I come. Greek hina me hotan eltho tote logeiai ginontai, literally, “lest when I come then collections there are” (Alfred Marshall). hina me, “lest,” introduces the negative clause of purpose (Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, 476). hotan is temporal particle of an action that is conditional, possible, and in many instances repeated; it is translated as “when,” “whenever” (BAGD, 587). eltho is aorist active subjunctive 1st person singular, of erchomai, “to come.” tote is a correlative adverb of time, translated “then” (BAGD, 823). logeiai, the word for collections, is here translated “gatherings.” ginontai is present middle subjunctive 3rd person plural deponent of ginomai, “to become,” here translated as “there are.”

The injunction then means that they are to set aside a portion of what God has prospered them and put that in the common treasury, and that they are to do that every Sunday, until everything is ready to be handed over to him, that there be no gatherings when he comes. Paul lays down a principle for giving which is systematic and orderly, benevolent in its purpose and divine in its authority.

And when I come. “When I arrive,” says Paul. The Greek paragenomai, “I arrive,” is aorist subjunctive middle. “In the subjunctive mood there is absolutely no distinction of time between the tenses; the aorist tense does not refer to past time and the present subjunctive does not necessarily refer to the present time. The distinction between the present and the aorist concerns merely the manner in which the action is regarded. The aorist subjunctive refers to the action without saying anything about its continuance or repetition” (Machen, 283).

Whosoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send. What is the proper construction of this verse? “Macknight supposes that the ‘letters’ here referred to were not letters either to or from the apostle, but letters signed and sent by the church at Corinth, designating their appointment and their authority” (Barnes’ Notes).

But there is a different interpretation that has been proposed. If we insert a comma after the word “approve,” the passage shall read differently: “Whom you approve, or designate, them I will send with letters to convey your charity to Jerusalem.” This is the reading followed by Griesbach, Locke, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, Beza, Eammond, Grotius, Whitby, etc. Barnes says “this accords better with the design of the passage” (Barnes’ Notes).

To bring your liberality to Jerusalem. Paul calls the Corinthians’donation “your liberality.” The Greek word charis usually “signifies grace, or favour,” but” here it means an act of grace or favour; kindness; a favour conferred; benefaction” (Barnes’ Notes). The object of this liberal giving is the saints in Jerusalem.

And if it be met that I go also, they shall go with me. If it be judged desirable and best. If my presence can further the object; or will satisfy you better; or will be deemed necessary to guide and aid those who may be sent, I will be willing to go also. For some appropriate and valuable remarks in regard to the apostle Paul’s management of pecuniary matters, so as not to excite suspicion, and to preserve a blameless reputation” (Barnes’ Notes). Now to the questions:

Is the collection for the saints only? The teaching that only the saints shall be the beneficiaries of church benevolence is based not on commands from the Scripture. The only commands we could find in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 are: (a) “Even so do ye” (the verb poiesate, aorist active indicative 2nd person plural); (b) “Lay by him in store” (the verb titheto, present active imperative 3rd person singular).

It is not even based on example, but on the wrong reading of 1 Corinthians 16:1, “Now concerning the collection for the saints.” The argument seems to be that the term “saints” means “saints only.” Where is the authority for saying that “saints” means “saints only”? There is none. I agree that the collection in 1 Corinthians 16 is for the saints; I disagree with the assumption that it is for the “saints only.” To the reasoning that this parallels Noah’s gopher wood, I would answer: Let Noah settle the gopher wood problem. Where does it say that “saints” means “saints only”? Jumping from one passage to another is their method of answering the question which in reality does not really answer the question!

If these people be consistent on their advocacy of benevolence to saints only based on their reading of 1 Corinthians 16, they must understand too what the passage does teach and does not teach: (a) It teaches that the collection be sent to the saints in Jerusalem (verse 3); (b) It does not teach the budget system, and many of those “benevolence-to-saints-only” churches use the budget system; (c) It does not teach that the local preacher or the missionaries can be supported through this treasury; and most if not all these “benevolence–to-saints-only” churches support their preachers and missionaries through the church treasury; (d) It does not teach that the money through this fund can be used to finance the building of church infrastructures and other projects; and yet many of them finance the building of infrastructures, support radio and TV programs, pay for health insurance of church workers, buy cars for their preachers, buy Bibles and print tracts, all through the church treasury; (e) The present banking system, with its mode of depositing, transferring and withdrawing, with ATM, passbooks, VISA cards, etc., is not within the purview of, is not even contemplated in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

I know of another Pauline passage that speaks contrary to the “saints only” teaching. It is in Galatians 6:10, which says, “Then therefore as time we have, let us do the good to all men, and most of all to the members of the family of the faith” (Alfred Marshall). This injunction is given to the churches of Galatia (Galatia 1:2). The object of Christian charity is all men, but especially the poor and needy saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:6; Ephesians 4:28; Romans 15:26), and this is to be done “as we have the opportunity.”

Is it commanded to give during public worship every Sunday? As we have said above, there are two commands found in the passage that should merit our attention: (a) “Even so do ye”; (b) “Lay by him in store.” Their giving was done on Sundays, for how long we have no idea. (Sure, I know they have stopped giving now, because the Corinthian and Galatian churches are no more!) Should that example be for us too? To insist on this, that we should give only on Sundays and not on other days, I think, is the height of legalism, for it would condemn the receiving of a check from abroad for the church treasury on any day except Sunday, it would condemn the transfer of private funds to the church treasury during banking days of Monday to Friday, except Sunday. It must be understood that in that 1 Corinthians 16 passage Paul was laying down a system for an orderly giving and gathering of church funds.

That the giving was done during public worship is assumed in the absence of an example. There is basically nothing wrong about it. But to insist that giving be done this way is the height of extremism.

Religious extremism is fraught with dangers. Extending the spirit of the command to the example is not the intent of our Creator. A command is different from the example; the example is the handmaid of the command, but never has the example become the command. Giving on a Sunday is authorized, and by the word “authorized” I mean “allowed,” “permitted,” by the Word, but the authority still remains in the commands.

Argument from Roy Cogdill. The assumptions of the “conservatives” and the “faithful brethren” seem to have developed from the concept of Roy Cogdill. He says: “When we can find the church practicing a particular thing or method in the New Testament record with evident apostolic approval, no one with any faith would question the correctness of the same practice today under the same or similar circumstances” (Roy Cogdill, Walking by Faith, 22).

We agree that any practice that is in conformity with apostolic precedents or precepts would be correct. But is it necessary? The church in Troas met in the third floor of a building with the evident approval of apostle Paul, and this example belongs to the same category as the “saints” of 1 Corinthians 16. Why impose the “saints only” doctrine but not the third-floor example? The third-floor worship hall is a matter of expediency to them, but no one I’ve heard would maintain that it is a binding example. Other examples, or actions, have been recorded in the New Testament as acceptable actions by Christians and by churches, yet no one could say that these were commanded by Jesus: (a) praying at the ninth hour (or 3 pm); (b) preaching in synagogues of the Jews; (c) assembling the church and worshipping daily; (d) burying of the dead by young men of the church; (e) sailing in a ship; (f) kneeling while praying; (g) singing while hands and feet are bound; (h) worshipping by the river or by the seashore; (i) praying in the house of a tanner; (j) preaching while on board a running vehicle.

Inherent authority of the examples? An example may be authorized; but it is not the same thing as saying that that example has authority. This is the basic fallacy of those who insist on the bindingness of examples. Can you determine by examining the examples themselves if the action was the action required? I would say no. But can you determine by examining the commands if these are the commands required? Based on the context where that command is found, I would say yes.

Examples exemplify how the early Christians did a thing; but it is the command that governed the early church that also binds the church of the 21st century.

Questions and comments from brother Paul Lachica:

“Dear Brother Ed, I had been reading so many times 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. I would like to ask you, is the charge of Paul done in public worship on Sunday?”

My opinion is that the church of Corinth was “charged” to do this “on the first day of every week” (1 Corinthians 16:2), and that each is to “lay by him in store.” There is no proof by way of example that it was done during worship, or after worship, or before worship. I choose to err on the side of faith by saying that they did what was commanded by the apostle Paul: they gave when they assembled on the first day of the week.

“In my view, there is only act done on Sunday alone, that is partaking of the Lord’s Supper or some say Communion.”

Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is an act of worship, for during the Supper we remember Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and coming again, and give honor to Him for such a great love that He has for us, dying for worthless sinners like us, a death that gave worth to our worthlessness. If you think the giving of our means is also a form of worship, then it is to be done during the public worship.

“Giving which started in Acts 2 is not done on Sunday only!”

I affirm that they gave of their means (Acts 2:45) but the Bible does not say what day. Therefore to impose the idea that Sunday is the only day of giving is to me the height of legalism.

“It [meaning “giving to the church collection”] is not even for everybody. Those in Jerusalem gave for the benefit of the visitors who had not gone home after the Pentecost. I am not ready to admit that aside from partaking of the Lord’s Supper, giving is another act to be done only on Sunday.”

Giving is not for everyone since everyone probably has not been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2). Since only they who had means to give gave to support the needs of their poor brethren, then giving was not for everyone.

“I submit that I Corinthains 16:1-4 talks about Sunday Public Worship. There are other translations which says that “setting aside a portion of the income” is done at home so that christians are ready to give to Paul when he or his messenger decided to get the said “collection”. I want to be enlighten more!”

It may be true that the Corinthians set aside a portion of their income at home and brought it with them when they “came to church” (when they gathered). But I think our present method of giving, done during worship, is the most practical of all. Again, this is just an opinion.

If some brethren however do their giving by transferring money from their bank account to the church’s account during the week and not on Sunday, I won’t consider them sinning.

Some brethren may disagree with me on the manner of giving, and it would be wrong for me to insist on the correctness of my belief. What is most important to me is that the commands “even so do ye” (1 Corinthians 16:1) and “let everyone lay by him in store” (verse 2) have been fulfilled. Jesus says if we love Him we should keep His commandments (John 14:15). Thanks for the comments, Paul!

More to follow…

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