Commentary on Titus and Jude

 July 21, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #10: Concluding Exhortations, Personal Matters, and Benediction, 1 Corinthians 16.1-16.24

 


Lesson 10.1: Collection for the Saints
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16.1-4

 


1 Cor 16:1-4 (KJV)


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.
3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.


Introduction

This passage contains the instructions concerning the offering Paul was taking up from the churches to help the needy believers in Judea—“But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints…For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem…It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Rom. 15:25–27; KJV). The distresses and poverty of Christians in Judea, at this time, were extraordinary because of the general calamities of that nation and the particular sufferings to which they were exposed. The principles involved may be applied to Christian giving in general: our giving should be voluntary, in proportion to God’s blessing, systematic, and handled honestly.

 

Commentary

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

Now concerning the collection for the saints,
The believers at Corinth were aware that the apostle was gathering funds for the Jerusalem church, that is, for believers in Jerusalem* and Judea,** and apparently they had written to inquire to what extent they could participate in this collection.

* For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26; KJV)
** Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea. (Acts 11.29; KJV)


It was not a unique or unusual service that Paul requests from them, since he had given similar orders to the churches of Galatia. He only wanted them to comply with the same rules which he had given to other churches on a similar occasion. He wanted them to participate in the undertaking for the reason he stated in 2 Corinthians 8.13: “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened.”


He says "SAINTS" rather than "the poor," to remind the Corinthians that their charity would benefit the Lord's people, their own brethren in the faith. Towards the end of the Jews existence as a nation, Judea and Jerusalem were under duress from various troubles, which in part affected the Jewish Christians. THE COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS gave temporary relief but tended ultimately to impoverish the community by paralyzing individual effort—“And all that believed were together, and had all things common” (Ac 2:44; KJV), and therefore was soon discontinued. It was a beautiful instance of Christian grace, that Paul who had been the principal persecutor of Christians—“Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Acts 26.10; KJV), would become the foremost contributor of effort for their relief.
 

Some “so called” pious people say, “You shouldn’t talk about a collection—that is a material matter. You should talk only of spiritual things.” Generally those people don’t want it talked about because the subject is a little bit embarrassing for them. Paul is going to lay out a method for Christian giving.


as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
The collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem is referred to several times in Acts. It was first called for when “a great dearth (famine; probably caused by a drought)” came upon the land—“Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:28-30; NKJV). The church at Jerusalem had been impoverished by the great liberality it demonstrated during in its first years, and by the persecutions which followed. Poverty existed in Jerusalem among the believers more than in any other place where there was a Christian church. Almost all the prompting in Paul's letters to provide for the poor refers primarily to the poor in Jerusalem. He had instructed the churches of Galatia to take up an offering for their relief; and then he made the same request of those who lived in Macedonia, and now he addresses the Corinthians on the subject. It is a very common opinion among Bible scholars that the poverty of Christians in Jerusalem arose from the common ownership of goods introduced among them at the beginning—a mistake which arose from an excess of love, and a lack of common sense. Perfection in one thing often requires perfection in everything. Perfect equality in goods requires perfect freedom from selfishness and laziness. The collection made by the Syrian churches which is recorded in Acts 11:29 (see above), was in consequence of the “dearth” the Christian prophet Agabus warned his brothers was to fall upon the entire world. Whatever the cause may have been, one fact is certain, that the saints in Jerusalem were in urgent need of special help from their richer brothers.

 

The churches of Galatia and Phrygia were the last ones Paul visited before writing this Epistle. He was now at Ephesus, and had gone there immediately after visiting them—“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus…” (Acts 19:1; KJV). It is clear from the hint he let fall in his Epistle to that church that while he was in Galatia he had spoken to them about contributions for the poor—“ They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do” (Gal 2:10; NKJV). He may have used the Galatians as an example to the Corinthians, the Corinthians as an example to the Macedonians—“For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” (Romans 15:26, 27; NKJV), and the Corinthians and Macedonians as an example to the Romans—“for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority” (2 Cor 9:2; NKJV). Examples can serve to create competition, incite emulation, and stir them up to be more liberal in their giving. The church of Corinth should not be outdone in this service of love by the churches of Galatia, which do not appear to have been enriched with equal spiritual gifts or outward ability.


He exhorts the Corinthians to adopt the same arrangements that he had established in the church of Galatia. Similar directions which Paul probably gave to the CHURCHES OF GALATIA on this subject have not been preserved. But reports such as this and the reference to a lost letter to the church of Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 5:9) show that all that Paul wrote has not been handed down to us.


I HAVE GIVEN ORDER suggests that this was not an optional matter for the Corinthian believers any more than it was for the CHURCHES OF GALATIA. This collection is also mentioned in Romans 15:26; 2 Cor 8:1, 2; 2 Cor 9:1, 2.


GALATIA [guh LAY shih uh] — a region in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey) bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the west by Asia, on the south by Pamphylia and Cilicia, and on the north by Bithynia and Pontus. The northern part of the region was settled in the third century B.C. by Celtic tribes that had been driven out of Gaul (France). From these tribes, the region derived its name, Galatia.
In 64 B.C. the Roman general Pompey defeated the king of Pontus, Mithradates VI, and established a foothold for Rome in the region. When the last Galatian king, Amyntas, died in 25 B.C., the Romans inherited the kingdom. Caesar Augustus then created the Roman province of Galatia, making Ancyra the capital and annexing a number of districts to the south and west, including Pisidia, Isauria, Phrygia, and Lycaonia. The term Galatia, consequently, is somewhat ambiguous. It may refer to the older ethnic region in north-central Asia Minor (north Galatia), or to the later and larger Roman province (including south Galatia).
On his first missionary journey (about A.D. 46–48), the apostle Paul and Barnabas evangelized the Galatian cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13–14). Paul revisited the area on his second and third missionary journeys.

 

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.

Upon the first day of the week
Here is the time when the collection was to take place: THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, the Lord’s Day, the Christian holiday, when public worship was celebrated; it is a day of holy rest; a time when the mind takes a vacation from worldly cares and daily work. It is a time when men are more liable to show mercy: and the other activities of the day should motivate us to perform acts of charity and to express good-will to others, especially to the brethren. Love for God will lead to kind and friendly thoughts toward men—“This commandment have we from him that he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:21; KJV). Works of mercy are the genuine fruits of true love for God, and therefore it is good to express these sentiments on His own day. God’s day is the best time for charitable giving, because it is a way of paying tribute for the blessings of the past week, and to procure his blessing on us for the coming week.


This instruction shows that the first day of the week was set apart and regarded as the day of worship by the church—“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7; NKJV). This was the day on which the church came together to remember the Lord Jesus in His death and His resurrection. He rose on the first day of the week, which is Sunday, not the Sabbath day. The Jewish Sabbath was on the seventh day (Ps 118:22-24 John 20:19, 26 Ac 20:7 Rev. 1:10), and it has remained that way ever since.


let every one of you lay by him in store,
Paul had solicited various churches for contributions for the needy Christians in Jerusalem. In New Testament times, Jerusalem was a poor city. The area had experienced a severe famine some years earlier, and many residents remained financially strapped (see Acts 11:28). Paul instructed the Corinthians to set aside some money each week according to how much they had prospered (income). This amount was not to be a certain percentage of their income. Instead, it was to be based upon the believer’s personal examination of his own heart. The Corinthian contributions not only brought relief to the poor but also brought unity between Gentile and Jewish Christians. Paul thought that since the Gentiles had shared in the Jew’s spiritual blessings, they ought to reciprocate by giving some of their material blessings to the Jews—“…For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15:27; NKJV). Note the manner in which the collection was to be made: EVERY ONE WAS TO LAY BY IN STORE; they are to have a personal treasury, fund or bank account, for this purpose. The meaning is that he should save an amount he could spare from time to time, and by this means build up a sum for this charitable purpose. “LET EVERY ONE OF YOU LAY BY HIM IN STORE, AS GOD HATH PROSPERED HIM.” This obligation extended to everyone, even those in humble circumstances. Their giving was to be systematic and planned. Note that nothing is said about tithes and offerings.


Those who are rich in this world should be rich in good works—“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim 6:17-18; NKJV). The best way to be rich in good works is to set aside some of their income for this purpose, savings for the poor as well as for themselves. By this means they will be ready to give when the opportunity arises. All our charity and benevolence should be free and cheerful, and for that reason it should be made as easy on us as we can make it. And what better way to make it easy than to save a little each week? We will be cheerful givers when we know that we can spare it.


as God hath prospered him,
The amount of each gift was to be “AS GOD HATH PROSPERED THEM;” as he has been prospered, namely, by divine Providence, as God has been pleased to bless his labors and business. All our business and labour amounts to whatever God is pleased to make of them. Hard work, by itself, will not make one rich, without the divine blessing—“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich… The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it” (Prov 10:4, 22; NKJV).Our prosperity and success are from God and not from ourselves; and He is to be honored in all we do and with all we receive. It is his bounty and blessing to which we owe all we have; and whatever we have is to be used, and employed, and enhanced, for him. He has a right to us and all that is ours, and we ought to be yielded to him. And what better way is there to motivate us to give charitably to the people and children of God than to consider all we have as His gift to us? The good we receive from Him should inspire us to do good to others, to be like Him in our charitable giving; and therefore the more good we receive from God the more good we should do for others. They were to set aside an amount proportionate to how much God had blessed them. The more they had, through God’s blessing, gained either by their business or labor, the more they were to set aside. “Where there is a willing mind he accepts according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not” (2 Co. 8:12); but when He prospers and blesses us, and gives us the capacity to do good, He expects us to do so. But, where the ability to give is less, the hands cannot be as open, however willing the mind and however large the heart; however, God does not expect us to do as much. The usual view is that everyone was directed to set aside something on the Lord's Day and keep it until Paul came. This view is sanctioned by the translations and most of the commentators.
 

that there be no gatherings when I come.
Paul didn’t want his meeting with them to be spoiled by high pressure methods of taking up an offering, so he tells them, THAT THERE BE NO GATHERINGS WHEN I COME. The apostle was eager for the collection to be taken before he came. This was for three reasons. First, through systematic and planned giving he knew that the amount would be more. Second, he did not want to apply pressure when he came. Third, he did not want to take their time as well as his taking up the collection, since that would take time away from spiritual things. But, when he came, he would leave the disposal of it up to them. The charity was theirs, and it was only right that they should dispose of it as they saw fit, in that way it answered its purpose, and was applied to the right use. Paul would no more lord it over the purses of his hearers than he would over their faith; he would not meddle with their contributions without their consent.


3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

And when I come,
When Paul wrote this letter the date for his visit was yet to be determined, but Paul is stressing here that they should be prepared for him coming by having the collection ready, because he could come at any time.


whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters,
He tells them to appoint messengers, elected from among the congregation of believers, to carry their offering to Jerusalem, and that they should give letters to them attesting to their credibility. Sending their gift by members of their own assembly, who were trustworthy and sympathetic to their situation would demonstrate their respect and brotherly love to their distressed brethren. Sending some of their own body on such a long and hazardous journey or voyage would show that they were devoted to conveying their LIBERALITY to them. It would also place the apostle above suspicion, and show that he is not interested in handling their money; but only in making sure that it got safely to those in need.


It is a good idea for more than one man to be responsible for the offering. It is too much of a temptation and too dangerous to turn the offering over to a single individual. Can there be any doubt about a man’s honesty if he is a Christian? Well, there may be. Even if a man is honest, there is a certain temptation involved. Paul gives us the best way to handle an offering. He uses very businesslike methods.

The question may arise as to why Paul would require letters endorsing certain persons, when he would be accompanying them, and could have personally testified to their good characters. It may be that he refers here to letters of recommendation which they had sent to him while he was away; and he now promises that when he comes to Corinth, he would appoint those persons, whom they had recommended, to carry the gift to Jerusalem. If this part of this verse is modified so that it reads “whomsoever ye shall have approved by your letters,” it would support the opinion I just mentioned. There is yet another opinion that says the verse should be read thus: When I come, those whom ye shall approve I will send with letters to bring your liberality to Jerusalem. In this respect, the letters would be written by Paul to several persons at Jerusalem, and would be their credentials. There could be no need of letters from them before Paul's coming, if the persons recommended were not to be sent off before he arrived. This seems to be the most natural interpretation.

them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
The interesting word here is “LIBERALITY,” which is literally grace giving or free gift. How has God blessed you? Could your giving to the Lord be considered liberality? In the Old Testament Book of Leviticus instructions are given to God’s people about tithing. In the beginning the nation of Israel was a theocracy, and the tithes that the Israelites were to give supported both the government and the temple. They added up to about 30 percent of their total income. This gives us an indication of what the Israelite gave in the Old Testament when they lived under the Law. What do you think would be liberality under grace? “They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem” (2 Cor 8:4; NLT). The desire to give liberally was certainly present with the Corinthians.


It is interesting to consider the words used for Christian giving. In our passage here he calls it a logia or “a collection.” Then he speaks of their charis or “liberality”—that is the word for “grace.” In Romans 15:26 a “contribution” is called a koinonia, a fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 9:5 it is called a eulogia, which means “a bounty” or “a blessing.” Second Corinthians 9:12 calls it a diakonia, which is “an administration” or “ministry.” Acts 24:17 speaks of alms–eleemosune, which is “a kind act.” All of these words refer to giving to the Lord, and each of these words can be used.

 


4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.


At the time Paul did not know whether he would go or not. In the end, however, he did go, as we see from Acts 19.21: “Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem…”


He offers to go with their messengers, if they think it is proper and worthwhile for him to do so. If the contribution was large enough, he would go with them to guard against all possible suspicion of evil—“And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind…Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us” (2 Cor 8:19-20; KJV). Paul knew how dangerous it was for ministers to have much to do with money matters, and he was deeply aware of the necessity of keeping his own character free from suspicion on this subject, he knew how easy it might be for his enemies to raise the charge that he had embezzled the funds, and appropriated them to his own use. He therefore insisted on having some men with him who had the entire confidence of the churches, and who would be appointed by them and in this way he was certain of being free from blame in the matter: an important example for all ministers in regard to church finances.


His role, as an apostle, was not to serve tables, but to give himself to the preaching of the word and prayer; but he was always interested in having a part in a charitable enterprise, as long as it didn’t interfere with what the Lord called him to do. He would go to Jerusalem along with the delegation that was to carry the contributions of the church at Corinth and to their suffering brethren, and he would insure that the charity of the Corinthians had the desired effect. It would not be a hindrance to his preaching; quite the opposite, it would work to make it more successful, by revealing his caring and loving spirit toward the brethren.

 

 

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