Did Paul change the Sabbath in I Corinthians 16:1-2?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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.” (I Corinthians 16:1-2, KJV emphasis mine throughout)
Some have used these verses from Paul to say that he was moving the Sabbath to the first day of the week, which we call Sunday today.
First of all, notice that the verses never refer to a gathering of people on the first day of the week. The verses also never refer to rest on the first day of the week. His instruction was simply for each individual to set aside an offering – “let every one of you…” It does not say that they should come together. Every individual person was supposed to do this on their own.
Secondly, Paul began this chapter by stating his instruction is an order (verse 1). In other words, it is a specific instruction for a specific situation. It is not a commandment from God or a statement of absolute application. An offering was necessary at the time he wrote the letter; he asked these churches to participate.
Third, We need to break down some of the language used here and the ancient culture. The phrase “Lay by him” is the Greek word tithēmi. It means to “lay in store”. The phrase “in store” is thēsaurizō and it means 1) to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up 1a) to accumulate riches 1b) to keep in store, store up, reserve. It refers to accumulated goods in a storehouse.
We must understand that ancient peoples did not do everything solely by money. Some people grew crops and others raised animals. Those that did have an income of money in silver or bronze did not carry large sums of money around with them (remember they didn’t have paper checks back then).
So why does Paul say to make this collection on the first day of the week?
He instructed each individual person to set aside something; some people would have had crops, foodstuffs, and other items they had to gather up or sell before they could give them. Those that have money would have to spend time setting aside for it. This would have required work and significant common time, which would have contradicted their Sabbath observance!
Paul told them to bring them on the first day of the week, which is the first common day after the Sabbath. He doesn’t want this done when he comes because he wants to spend time with them. He will come to preach on the Sabbath – he doesn’t want them working on the Sabbath!
What did Paul really practice and teach when he was in Galatia and Corinth? Galatia was a region in Turkey. One of the cities in this area was Pisidian Antioch. Let’s take a look at his practice:
Acts 13:14-15, 42-44, 48
14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” …42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (emphasis mine throughout)
We can see that while they were in the region of Galatia, they kept the Sabbath even with Gentiles. The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. This was a great opportunity to tell them the Sabbath had been changed. Instead, they continued to observe it. What about the city of Corinth? Did Paul keep the Sabbath in that city?
18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
We can see by Paul’s example that he kept the Sabbath with Jews and non-Jews in both Galatia and the city of Corinth. Paul’s directive in I Corinthians 16 was to take up a one-time offering for those in need. It required work, which is why he asked them to do it on the first day of the week.
This just shows us that context is key to understanding verses!
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President www.biblesabbath.org
Note: A Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Concordance were used to explain the Greek language used here.