Much discussion has been given regarding the instructions to Corinth and the churches of Galatia to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem by means of taking up a collection for it “every first day of the week” so that it would be ready when Paul came back by. (Note: Vincents shows that the Greek phrase means every first day of the week, and the evidence shows that this was something they were collecting every first day of the week for over a year). The text is 1 Cor.16:1-3. Some argue that other churches could have been raising their collective funds for various collective obligations of benevolence and fellowship with preachers in the work of the gospel by gifts taken up any time (wide open as to when and how often to request and take up funds for the common work). They argue that other churches were authorized to ask for collective funds any and every day if they wanted to. So, I have asked those brethren of that persuasion if Corinth could have ignored Paul’s demand that they take up this collection “every first day of the week” until he arrived? After all, as long as they got the funds together at any point BEFORE he arrived, what difference would it make that they limited their giving to “the first day of the week”? Paul thought it was important to do it on that day, and that set those brethren to a pattern of giving every first day of the week until Paul arrived. But, now, what should they have done after that point? Should they stop that pattern of giving and think of no other needs?
I cannot believe that pattern they got into of regular giving each first day of the week and the joy they experienced should have done nothing less than set them in motion to keep thinking of needs to meet and keep the pattern going. If they should think and feel obligation as far away as Jerusalem, and make regular offerings for Jerusalem, should they stop and think no further about OTHER needs? I cannot believe it made them shortsighted. I believe it would make them see more and open their hearts to more. Would Paul always have to have a personal hand in everything else they should endeavor to do? No! Paul may have done them a great favor by opening their hearts to something so far away, but Paul would not need to keep telling Corinth about things for which they should be supporting and helping.
There has yet to be a good answer from those brethren arguing that the church can use ANY convenient day to ask for collections from the members. So, this means then that the Corinthians could have ignored Paul’s instructions on WHEN to collect the funds for Jerusalem saints in need. That just does not seem right to me. If there was no good reason to instruct the church to do this on the first day of the week, then the demand should have been open-ended: “Collect funds for Jerusalem as regularly as you can so it will be together when I come”. That would have allowed the Corinthians and Galatians much more flexibility, and it would have accomplished the same goal. In this way they could have collected every time they came together including weekdays when they might have had daily meetings. They would be together on the first day of every week, so that would be a convenient time, but what if they met more times during the week? The giving for this fund was to be taken only “every first day of the week”. That limits the amount of times people could have collected for this fund.
Now, let me be clear that as individuals we are not limited to giving to an individual in need on the first day of the week. As individuals we are to be ready to give as we have opportunity (Gal.6:10). That may come at any day of the week. What I am discussing is the common obligations of the collective body or local church, what the collective church should support, and how often the local church should collect from the members, and if there is a precedent for us to collectively follow?
I’ve tried to get my brethren who say that 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 is not a significant pattern for our own giving to please explain if Corinth and the churches of Galatia could have ignored the Sunday giving instructions as long as they had it (the gift) together when Paul arrived? Now, it does not seem likely that those churches could ignore the instructions for giving on the “first day of the week”. Now, since it was important that the giving be done every first day of the week, and it is not related to the timing of Paul’s coming; neither they nor he knew when that arrival would take place, and it is not provable that they limited all their assemblies to only the first day of the week, then it seems more than incidental that Paul made this particular demand regarding the contribution to Jerusalem from the brethren at Corinth. It suggests a reasonable expectation that sets a regular giving precedent to a need way beyond Corinth. And, it sets a precedent for how often and when to collect for the common work and purpose a local church has to consider.
Now, some argue that we cannot make a general LAW that our giving has to be ONLY on the first day of the week. While that may very well be true because we are not allowed to make or invent ANY law, we can and must teach brethren the joy and responsibility of regular giving. How often should we encourage giving to the common work of the church? Well, how about using “the first day of the week” as a standard? After all, it was a fair and good standard for the Corinthians and Galatians (as far as we know it could have been standard to all churches since what Paul taught he taught in all churches -1 Cor.4:17), and we see so much abuse where some churches are always hounding the people about giving on every occasion they are together. We can know this is “acceptable to the Lord”(Eph.5:11; Rom.12;2; 1 Thess. 5:21), and it does not abuse the principle that brethren ought to give regularly to the various needs and responsibilities of the church. But, can you make it a LAW? We cannot make anything a LAW. When to meet and where to meet are not LAWS we can make, but we can choose expedient ways of abiding within principles and precedents.
Can we make it a LAW to meet Sunday morning at 9:00AM? No! But, can we choose that time and EXPECT the church to abide within the principles and precedents of regular assembly and fellowship to the best of our ability at such a time? Yes! So it is with the amount we give and when to give. We cannot make a LAW of how much each person is to give, but we can use the principles and precedents to encourage self-examination and generosity and regular commitment. The principle is to give cheerfully and willingly and regularly. The precedent is on the first day of the week.
Now, those principles and precedents can be proven to be “acceptable to the Lord”. But, can one prove that it is acceptable to the Lord to ask the church to give every day or on another day of the week as a regular routine? I don’t think we can show a principle or precedent for such a demand on the church. We can lead the church by principles and precedents that we can prove are acceptable to the Lord, but we cannot impose the doctrines and commandments of men. A commandment of men would be something that is not based upon either principle or precedent found in God’s word.
How about ignoring a precedent such as we find in 1 Cor.16, and choosing to ask the church to give on Tuesday instead? Well, why would anyone ignore the precedent that we KNOW is acceptable? What about meeting on Tuesday instead of Sunday? Well, that does not seem right either. There is acceptable precedent shown for meeting regularly on Sunday, and there does not seem to be any authority of principle or precedent to ignore meeting on Sunday. Sunday should be INCLUDED in our meetings together and never excluded. But, how about Tuesday? Well, there is precedent for both meeting every day and not meeting every day. So, it becomes optional to the local church as to whether they will meet on Tuesday or any other day, but Sunday was not optional. Sunday was expected, and giving on that day was expected on that day. Is that the same as “observing days”(Romans 14). Romans 14 is about observing special days that there was no longer an obligation of law to observe. Well, what about Sunday? Well, there is principle and precedent for thinking of the great things God has provided on this day, and there is principle and precedent for making sure we come together on this day and take the Lord’s Supper and give to the common work on this day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1-2).
It seems significant that God had to command Old Testament Israel to keep the Sabbath day (which was Saturday, the 7th day), but now under the grace and truth of Jesus does not have to command, but by gracious provisions simply invites us to His feast by raising His Son on the first day, appearing to witnesses on the first day, and sending the Holy Spirit and salvation on the first day, and from then on His people celebrate His provisions on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1-2). God's true Israel distinguishes themselves by what they WANT to do together on the first day of the week. They know and appreciate the blessings God gave through Jesus’ resurrection and the sending of the confirmation of the Holy Spirit on Sunday and that by divine purpose and plan. Does Romans 14 mean that Sunday is just like any other day? No! It means that people who have not learned enough to free their consciences from giving over the old sacred days of Judaism to full abolished status should not be undermined as long as they are not trying to bind those days upon others. Give them room to learn the extent of their freedom in Christ, but appreciate the fact that they are personally trying to honor God. But, Romans 14 is not meant to suggest that Christians ought not esteem the Lord’s Resurrection day and esteem it enough to assemble with the saints regularly on this day. There is principle and precedent here as well.
Now, what about the fact that Corinth was taking this collection for the one purpose of helping the brethren at Jerusalem? Doesn’t that limit WHY we should give? No! Should Corinth stop all giving to other needs at the point that Paul took their gift to Jerusalem? No! Absolutely not! That occasion should have only opened their eyes more to the joy and responsibility of giving to other needs. They had not been supporting preachers and they should have (1 Cor.9; 2 Cor.11:8). What about widows indeed (1 Tim.5:16), and elders who labored in the word (1 Tim.5:17). Well, in order to meet such common responsibilities, should they close the book on giving “every first day of the week”, or should that become a precedent for regular giving to all other responsibilities they shared together? I cannot help but think that this giving on the first day of the week only opened their hearts and eyes to other considerations. After all, if we should think about brethren as far away as Jerusalem and give every first day of the week to meet that need, then how can we do LESS with regard to so many other needs that are ongoing? So, would this be a precedent for all other giving? I cannot help but believe that this only set a precedent for the Corinthians as well as all other brethren.
Therefore, I know it is acceptable to the Lord for us to expect regular giving to many different needs here and all over the world, and that it is right and cannot be wrong to expect that regular giving should be encouraged and never discouraged on the first day of every week. Can there be extenuating circumstances where the treasury is completely depleted and there is a pressing responsibility to take up an emergency collection on Wednesday? That may happen, though not regularly if we give as we should on the first day of the week and the treasury is handled wisely, but the rule of principle and precedent should be that we give regularly and generously on the first day of every week, and that we do not over charge ourselves so that it becomes a regular habit of having nothing left in our treasury or money bag to meet some emergency that comes up on Wednesday. The principle of wise stewardship of funds dictates that we see the regular needs and figure in holding enough to meet emergency needs. It would seem reckless to take up regular offerings on Sundays and spend it all before the next Sunday. We should be careful with our own funds so that we do not overspend our weekly income and we have enough to meet emergency needs too. That same principle of careful stewardship would extend to the use of the Lord’s treasury. So, I cannot envision a church not having anything left from Sunday to Wednesday and therefore needing to take up another collection on Wednesday. If that takes place at all, it seems to me that it should be a rare exception rather than a regular rule of practice.
In conclusion let me say that the whole church bears a lot of responsibility to do what God ordained by way of supporting preachers (1 Cor.9), helping needy saints (2 Cor.8-9) all over the world, and in meeting the local obligations of meeting arrangements and facility of meeting, and helping those regularly who may be widows indeed (1 Tim.5:16) or elders who labor in the word ( 1Tim.5:17). Thus, there is an obligation of regular giving so that all of these things can be regularly supported and sustained. There is principle and precedent for all of this, and there is precedent and principle of meeting every first day of the week and giving every first day of the week. To think that Corinth was obligated to give to Jerusalem only and then stop and refuse to look for other such needs at home and elsewhere is to be short-sighted even to blindness. That practice of taking up collection each first day of the week was a precedent for them to begin looking around for themselves, at themselves, and within themselves. What OTHER needs might we give toward? To think that this was only for one thing and then it all stops and no more giving to anything else on the first day of the week is a tragic way of looking at this matter. I cannot believe that first day of the week giving would begin for them in this case and end for them after Paul assists their messenger to Jerusalem with this gift. Perhaps it was just a door-opener for their hearts and minds to consider other things they should have supported all along, but didn’t due to their carnal thinking and spiritual immaturity and blindness. Perhaps, this helped them and us to see it as a precedent to keep on meeting needs by means of a regular treasury to which we keep giving each and every first day of the week. Brethren, let us not divide over following such a noble precedent. It IS a good precedent to follow, and if it is GOOD and we can prove it is good and acceptable to the Lord, then let us encourage it all the more to the glory of God, the spreading of His gospel, and the good-will to needy brethren wherever we can help.
Terry W. Benton