Welcome back to my study/review of 1 Corinthians. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
16 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
We have reached the final chapter of the epistle. Here, Paul gives a brief explanation for what to do about the collection. We’ll jump right in with The Pulpit Commentaries:
Now concerning the collection for the saints. “The saints” are here the poor Christians at Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). The subject weighed much on St. Paul’s mind. First, there was real need for their charity, for at Jerusalem there was as sharp a contrast between the lots of the rich and poor as there is in London, and the “poor saints,” being the poorest of the poor (James 2:5), must have often been in deep distress. Not many years before this time, in the famine of Claudius, (Acts 11:27-30), Queen Helena of Adiabene had kept the paupers of Jerusalem alive by importing cargoes of dried grapes and figs. Besides the periodical famines, the political troubles of Judaea had recently increased the general distress. Secondly, the tender heart of St. Paul was keenly alive to this distress. Thirdly, it was the only way in which the Gentile Churches could show their gratitude to the mother Church. Lastly, the Apostle St. Paul had solemnly promised the apostles at Jerusalem that he would remember the poor (Galatians 2:10). Hence he frequently alludes to this collection (2 Corinthians 8:1-24, 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 Romans 15:26; Acts 24:17, etc.). The enthusiastic communism of the earliest Christian society in Jerusalem had soon ceased, being, as all experience proves, an impossible experiment under the conditions which regulate all human life, and it may have aggravated the chronic distress. As I have given order; rather, as I arranged. To the Churches of Galatia. Not in his extant letter to the Galatians, but either in a visit three years before this time (Acts 18:28), or by letter. It appears from 2 Corinthians 8:10 that St. Paul had already asked for the contributions of the Corinthians. “To the Corinthians he proposes the example of the Galatians; to the Macedonians the example of the Corinthians; to the Romans that of the Macedonians and Corinthians. Great is the power of example” (Bengel). Even so do ye. The aorist implies that they should do it at once.
The note here gives some history for Paul’s efforts. Believers in Jerusalem were in particular financial hardship. Paul – not just in this letter but in many of his letters – rallies the Church abroad to come to the aid of their fellow believers. It’s worth remembering in this that Christianity in the first century was heavily peopled with those on the bottom of the Roman world’s social hierarchy. Continuing on into verse 2, with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(2) Upon the first day of the week.—The Greek phrase (as given in the best MSS.) is literally, on one of the Sabbaths—that being, after a Hebrew idiom, equivalent to “the day next after the Sabbath.” Already the day of the week on which Christ had risen had become noted as a suitable day for distinctively Christian work and Christian worship. It does not yet seem to have been designated by the phrase by which it became subsequently universally known in Christendom—“the Lord’s Day;” that name occurs first in Revelation 1:10. This would be a convenient as well as a suitable day for each one to set aside, as he had proposed, something, storing it up until the Apostle’s arrival; for this was already the usual day for Christians assembling themselves together (Acts 20:7). I cannot think with Stanley and others that the Apostle means that each was to lay by “in his own house,” and not in some general treasury. The object of this direction is expressly stated to be that the money should all be ready in bulk-sum when the Apostle came, so that his time and that of the Christian community during his visit might not be occupied with this, but with more profitable matters, which result would not have been accomplished if the offering had then to be gathered from each Christian home.
As God hath prospered him.—Better, whatsoever he may be prospered in. These words do not imply that only in cases of exceptional prosperity was a man to contribute, but every man was to give out of whatever fruits he had from his labour.
The note here gives some history with the establishment of Sunday as a particularly significant day for Christians. Christ rose on a Sunday. Paul here instructs believers to collect finances on a Sunday (the day after the Sabbath.) Sunday became known as “The Lord’s Day” and over time, people within the Church began to think of Sunday as being the Sabbath, rather than Saturday. The following video does a great job explaining the historic Christian perspective on this topic:
Continuing in Ellicott, in verse 3:
(3) Whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters.—Better, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send by letters to bring your gifts to Jerusalem. The Apostle had not made up his mind finally whether he would take the gift himself or send it by messengers, whom he would accredit with letters, to the Church at Jerusalem. He would probably be influenced by the amount collected, and by the urgency, or otherwise, of the needs of those at Jerusalem at the time. The Apostle was, in one sense, the humblest of men; but he valued highly the dignity of his apostolic office, and if but a very small sum were ready for the Church at Jerusalem, he would have felt it to be beneath the dignity of his office, though not of himself, to be the bearer of such an offering. The course finally adopted was that the Apostle went himself, and the selected brethren with him (Acts 21:15).
This note is fascinating and it brings up a difficult balance to conceive and then act upon. On the one hand, Paul is personally humble. On another, he views his office as one with dignity. A Church leader must be careful not to elevate himself, personally, on the basis of an office. On the other hand, one who does have an office must treat it with dignity – and doing so is not necessarily a lack of humility.
Paul’s admonition to be guided in the Spiritual gifts, by love, may likely also apply to how one should be guided by holding an official Church office.
Finishing this section, once again in The Pulpit Commentaries:
If it be meet that I go also. Unless the collection were a substantial proof of the generosity of the Gentile Churches, it would be hardly worth while (ἆξιον) for St. Paul to go too. With me. St. Paul would not take this money himself. His “religious” enemies were many, bitter, and unscrupulous, and he would give them no possibility of a handle against him. He makes such arrangements as should place him above suspicion (2 Corinthians 8:20). It turned out that the subscription was an adequate one, and St. Paul accompanied the Corinthian delegates (Romans 15:25; Acts 20:4). The thought that they might visit Jerusalem and see some of the twelve would act as an incentive to the Corinthians.
The note here explains more fully why “the dignity of his office” might be a concern, in the event that the amount raised was not large. Paul had to consider what is best for the Church as a whole, and how he and his office might come under attack. Leadership is difficult and fraught with complication and the need for wisdom.
In the next section, having now addressed the Corinthians – both their questions to him and their behaviors that needed rebuke – Paul lays out his travel plans in the next section.