THE first-day-of-the-week Collection
1. The local church has a threefold work: evangelism, edification and limited benevolence. For this work it has a treasury from which to draw funds. In Phil. 4:15,16 we read of one particular church twice sending funds to a gospel preacher. Paul refers to receiving funds from other churches, 2 Cor. 11:8. Those funds had to come from their treasury. As there is one passage of Scripture, Acts 20:7, which shows the day in which the Lords Supper should be taken, and the frequency of partaking it, so there is one passage, 1 Cor. 16:1,2, that tells the day on which the local church takes a collection for its treasury. Although this passage mentions a particular need to be met on a certain occasion, the passage is the only one that gives us the New Testament pattern for the local churchs raising money to carry on its assigned work.
2. We have, then, the pattern:
a. free-will offerings of the saints
b. collection on the first day of the week
c. a treasury out of which funds are taken to do the work of the local church
3. The pattern, then, is violated by:
a. other means of raising money for the work of the church (such as sales, suppers, entertainment, raffles, etc.)
b. other days on which to have collections made
c. ordering others concerning specified amounts to be contributed (such as, the tithe)
(1) The tithe was demanded of the Israelite for the sustenance of the Levites (Num. 18:21). It corresponded to our paying taxes to the government today. The Levites were priests, teachers, judges, magistrates, singers, porters, etc. They served in many religious and civil capacities. The Jews had other free-will offerings and they correspond to our voluntary offerings on the first day of the week. Although the law of Christ does not fix a given percentage of our earnings to be offered, nor state a specific amount to be given, it does legislate the motive behind the giving.
I. THE COMMAND
1 Cor. 16:1,2, Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.
A. Let us notice these facts:
1. Paul was raising funds for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26. These funds were to be taken from the money collected on the first day of the week in the assembly.
a. The church funds were for the saints (eis the saints=unto or for them). As baptism is for the remission of sins (eis the remission of sins=unto or for the remission of sins, Acts 2:38), so the benevolence was unto or for the saints. Baptism for some other purpose, and benevolence for someone besides the saints, is a misappropriation of both!
2. This was an order from the apostle Paul. The matter is not an optional one!
3. The same was to be practiced in all the local churches.; uniformity of practice then, and today. Corinth was to do like Galatia, and we today like they did!
4. Upon the first day of the week was when the churches regularly assembled. This we learn from apostolic example, Acts 20:7, And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.
a. This is the one authorized time for the local church to make the collection, or take the offering.
b. Collections were not to be made at home. The phrase, lay by him in store, cannot mean take some money and set it aside at home. One is at home daily; what point would there be in ones making up a collection at home on Sunday? Doing so would demand a special collection at the time that Paul would arrive, and he said that such was NOT to be done!
c. The divine pattern would eliminate any kind of special collections, at just any time, for the work of the local church.
5. Each one is to participate in this act of worship in the assembly. No Christian is excused from this duty and this privilege (more on the privilege aspect later).
6. A church treasury is implied.
a. The phrase lay by in store, in the Greek text, literally says: let him put, storing up. The participle, storing up, is from the Greek word thesaurizo, from which we get our English word, thesaurus (a collection or treasury, of words, of synonyms). The word means, then, a treasury or storehouse!
b. Each church has its treasury (and by implication, a treasurer or treasurers, as expediency might demand). Each Christian on the first day of the week casts into this treasury.
7. Ones giving into the treasury each Sunday is to be based upon his material prosperity, as he may prosper. There are bases upon which each Christian must decide as to the amount of his giving on the first day of the week. The matter is NOT simply one of reaching blindly into the pocket and casting in the treasury whatever might come out in the hand!
8. No special collections are to be made for the work of the local church. This eliminates all fund-raising projects of different kinds on different occasions. a. Denominational churches employ suppers, entertainment, raffles, yard sales, and the like, as fund-raising projects for the work of the local church. This is all without apostolic authority!
II. WHAT ARE THE PROPER BASES FOR GIVING INTO THE TREASURY OF THE CHURCH?
A. There are good brethren who ask with all sincerity: How much should I give, then? We must answer with Bible texts. Human opinions have no part in the answer.
1. Many sectarians require tithing, and more! But these go beyond the things which are written (1 Cor. 4:6).
2. Tithing is a commandment of the Old Testament; it is no part of the law of Christ. No one has the right to impose tithing on the Christian!
B. As he may prosper (1 Cor. 16:2).
1. Our prosperity is of God!
a. Jas. 1:17, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.
b. Deut. 16:17, every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of Jehovah thy God which he hath given thee.
c. Acts 14:17, And yet He left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.
d. Acts 17:25, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.
e. Eccl. 5:18,19, Behold, that which I have seen to be good and to be comely is for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy good in all his labor, wherein he laboreth under the sun, all the days of his life which God hath given him: for this is his portion. 19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor -- this is the gift of God.
2. Paul doesnt say: As he may have left over, after buying food and clothes and paying all his debts! God is not served with our left-overs.
3. Before we spend our earnings, we determine in our hearts just what part of it we are going to give on the first day of the week, and THEN we start planning on spending the rest!
4. As in the days of the prophet, Malachi (1:8), the people were offering in sacrifices to God the blind and lame animals which were of no great profit to them, so some Christians in their giving want to give left-overs to God!
5. Lk. 12:48, And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. This is a law of God.
C. Out of your ability (2 Cor. 8:11, But now complete the doing also; that as [there was] the readiness to will, so [there may be] the completion also out of your ability).
1. Acts 11:29, And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea.
2. God commends and blesses those who give beyond their ability!
a. 2 Cor. 8:1-5, Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; 2 how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, [they gave] of their own accord, 4 beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: 5 and [this], not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God.
(1) Many, because of their selfishness in giving, rob themselves of great blessings from God!
b. Mark 12:41-44, And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: 44 for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, [even] all her living.
c. Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a perfume that was worth nearly a years earnings! Jn. 12:3, Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Judas said that it was worth 300 shillings (v. 5), and Matt. 20:2 speaks of the shilling as being one days salary.
D. A he hath purposed in his heart (2 Cor. 9:7, [Let] each man [do] according as he hath purposed in his heart).
1. One of the principle reasons why some do not give on the first day of the week according to Gods will, is that they dont purpose ahead of time! They arrive and cast into the treasury whatever might come out of the pocket, or some amount decided upon at the moment.
a. To purpose means to have the intention of doing such and such. If one arrives at the assembly, without first having intended to give such and such an amount, he is not going to give that amount!
b. From the day the salary, or crop, or earnings are realized, or received, from that moment one should purpose to give a certain amount of it.
c. Purposing to give on the first day of the week is exactly like one purposes to pay so much for rent, or so much for the house payment, or so much for the car payment. One doesnt pay the rent, the house, the car, with just any amount that he might choose at the moment! But, I ask, do we give that way?
E. Soweth bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6, But this [I say,] He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully).
1. The sower sows bountifully because he wants a big harvest! But, many brethren have not learned this lesson with respect to the collection. For many the collection is a matter of alms, or a tip, or whatever bill or change happens to be in their pocket at the moment, and that would not be missed after being given!
2. We teach the sectarian that the tithe is no longer binding. We baptize him into Christ and he comes thinking that the collection is not important, that it doesnt cost anything to be a Christian! There is a great need to do preaching on the subject of correct giving!
F. See that ye abound in this grace also (2 Cor. 8:1-7, Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; 2 how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, [they gave] of their own accord, 4 beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: 5 and [this], not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God. 6 Insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace also. 7 But as ye abound in everything, [in] faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and [in] all earnestness, and [in] your love to us, [see] that ye abound in this grace also).
1. Grace is favor or privilege backed by love.
2. God gave the poor brethren of Macedonia the favor or privilege to participate in the relief being collected and sent to the poor among the brethren in Jerusalem. (v.1,4).
3. The Macedonian brethren, though poor, begged Paul to let them also participate in this grace, this favor, this privilege, of giving to others!
4. Do we want so much to give on the first day of the week that we would be willing to beg for the privilege? Giving is a grace in which we are to abound!
5. Giving into the treasury, to help the poor (and also, to do the other works of the local church), is called the grace of God. It is not some mystical or supernatural gift that would create in a Christian the desire and ability to give. It is the unmerited favor of God that gives the Christian the opportunity, privilege and financial ability to help poor saints who are in need.
a. God could choose himself to help every needy saint miraculously, but he has chosen to help them by letting other Christians learn to love and share of their own good blessings, thus benefiting both the giver and the receiver!
b. Because the Corinthian Christians were so generous in giving to help the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, Paul refers to it as the exceeding grace of God in you(2 Cor. 9:14). G. God provides and multiplies. 2 Cor. 9:10,11, And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: 11 ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God.
1. God is not poor! He does not ask for the contribution on Sunday because he is needy. He asks for it because he wants to bless us!
2. We do not fill Gods basket; he fills ours!
a. Ps. 50:10,12, For every beast of the forest is mine, And the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains; And the wild beasts of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.
b. 1 Chron. 29:14, (Davids prayer concerning the temple) But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.
3. The prophet Elisha told the poor widow to borrow empty vessels not a few into which to pour the one pot of oil that she had left (2 Kings 4:1-7). She and her two sons filled the borrowed vessels and then the miraculous outpouring of oil stopped. She herself limited the amount of blessing to be received; she put a limit on Gods provisions!
a. So many of us, also, put limits on the blessings of God. We rob ourselves by not learning what the grace of giving means.
H. Sacrifice with joy. In reference to the Macedonians, Paul speaks of the abundance of their joy in giving on the first day of the week (2 Cor. 8:2).
1. They were cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7, [Let] each man [do] according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver).
2. If we cannot give with joy, our giving will not be accepted (not grudgingly, or of necessity).
3. The people of Israel donated for the temple with joy of heart (1 Chron. 29:9, Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to Jehovah: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy).
a. Neh. 12:43, And they offered great sacrifices that day, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy; and the women also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
4. Parents, in reference to their children, understand the matter of making sacrifices with joy. They do it with joy because they love their children! In the same way God expects us to make sacrifices for his cause, because we love him!
a. The example par excellence of sacrificing with joy is the example of Christs death on the cross for sinful man. Heb. 12:2, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
III. THE PROPER USES OF THE TREASURY
A. The offering cannot be collected according to human wisdom, neither can it be spent according to human wisdom! The Scriptures speak clearly about this matter. As to benevolence, local churches help needy saints. The churchs finances are not for general benevolence; they are not for non-saints. To use them for non-saints is to misappropriate the funds!
1. Rom. 15:25, but now, I [say], I go unto Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints.
2. 1 Cor. 16:1, Now concerning the collection for the saints
3. 2 Cor. 8:4, the fellowship in the ministering to the saints.
4. 2 Cor. 9:1, For as touching the ministering to the saints .
B. The word contribution in 2 Cor. 9:13 (seeing that through the proving [of you] by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of [your] contribution unto them and unto all ) is really the Greek word (Koinonia) meaning fellowship! By means of this money given to the needy saints in Jerusalem, the brethren elsewhere were showing their fellowship with those saints-their having in common with them the sufferings that were upon them at the time. The contribution is fellowship!
1. Question: Do saints have fellowship with non-saints?
a. But, the institutional brother objects, the verse says unto them (the saints) and unto all (the non-saint)! Well, will he say that he is having fellowship with those who are not saints? Of course not! The all of this text, in context, refers to other such cases of benevolence for saints on other occasions. The them and the all were such as longed after the Corinthian Christians and supplicated God on behalf of them! This non-saints do? Of course not!
2. The Lords Supper is fellowship, or communion (1 Cor. 10:16, koinonia); the contribution is fellowship, communion (2 Cor. 9:13, koinonia). How is it that the institutional brother doesnt offer the Lords Supper to the non-saint (since he is not in fellowship with him), but will offer the contribution to him? Is he in fellowship with the non-saint, or not?
C. The churchs finances are also for the work of edification that it does. This includes expenditures for meeting places, songbooks, Bibles, tracts, and other expedients in carry out the work of worship and edification.
D. The churchs finances are also for the work of evangelism.
1. There was a time when Paul received wages from only one church, the church in Philppi. Phil. 4:15,16, And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; 16 for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need.
2. There was a time when Paul received wages from a number of churches. 2 Cor. 11:8, I robbed other churches, taking wages [of them] that I might minister unto you.
3. The churches always sent directly to the preacher, never to a centralized form of operation, known today as the Sponsoring Church.
The contribution, or collection, is an act of worship in the congregation on the first day of the week that is of summary importance. God has spoken much concerning the matter, and we must give great heed to what he has said. Does prayer matter? Does the Lords Supper? Does the singing? Does the preaching and teaching? So does the giving!
By Bill Reeves
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