The First Day of the Week (Part 2 of 3)

The First Day of the Week (Part 2 of 3)

by: Ronald L. Dart

Collection for the Saints

One of them is found in first Corinthians 16. Let’s begin in verse 1: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. {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 you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.”

Now there are a couple things about this that you should realize, I have seen this little singular second verse quoted on the back of offering envelopes in church after church after church and the whole idea is that every Sunday morning when you come to church, you should bring an offering with you. This is NOT what this is about; this is about the collection for the saints. In a moment I will explain what the collection for the saints was. The point is that on ‘the first day of the week’ “every one of you” is to “lay by him in store” (verse 2), not bring to the church, and put it in a collection basket, not to give it to somebody else, but to lay by yourself in store. What is this talking about? What Paul is saying is, we are coming down to the time of year when this wave sheaf would normally be offered in Jerusalem on the ‘first day of the weeks’ when the grain harvest is ready, we want each of you to go out on the first day and lay aside a collection of grain for the poor saints in Jerusalem. That’s what this is about. It has nothing whatsoever to do with church offerings and it is emphatically ‘the first day of the week’, because this is the first day they could work! You don’t harvest on a Sabbath Day, this ‘first day of the week’ was the first working day, and oddly enough it confirms the fact that the church was still observing, not merely the feast of weeks, nor the wave sheaf but the Sabbath Day, because it was on the first working day that they were to be out there collecting grain which they were to store up, each of them was to lay by himself in store, so that when Paul got there, they could bring it straight into a gathering point and go away with it. No need to bring it in early, where they would have a storage problem. Do you follow me? So, you “lay it by yourself in store” so there won’t have to be any going out into the fields and getting the grain, harvesting it and preparing it, when Paul came. Paul wanted it all done, all prepared and all stored before he got there.

What is this Collection?

What is this Collection? The roots of it go back to the eleventh chapter of the book of Acts. If you take a look at it, it is rather interesting. The events that are described here took place a long time before the events of 1 Corinthians 16.

Let’s look at Acts 11:25-26: “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: {26} And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church and taught many people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

We basically know the theme of the story; this is the first time Paul moves back into the ministry after his exile to Tarsus.

Continuing in verse 27: “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. {28} And there stood up one of them named Agabus and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. {29} Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: {30} Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

Now here is what is interesting about this. The way that this reads you would think that there was a famine immediately on the heels of this and indeed there might have been. This may have been the first occasion when a collection was made and sent down to Jerusalem for the saints, but what is fascinating about this is that it was triggered by a prophet in the church who said that this was coming, and we need to make some kind of preparation for it. They believed the man.

Now the Corinthian letters are salted with references to an offering just like this. I think that there are some scholars that think that there is a little confusion of the time involved with it, that Agabus’ prophecy (Acts 11:28) is the prophecy that was fulfilled later when Paul and the others prepared their offering and took it down to Jerusalem. It only sounds like it was an immediate thing in the book of Acts, but that is not extremely important at this time.

Let’s turn back to 2 Corinthians 8. There are numerous references and allusions to this particular offering. I think it is important to establish the fact that we are not talking about taking up a collection in church. That is not what this is about. This is talking about taking up and collecting and preparing grain which is going to be shipped to Jerusalem under supervision for famine relief in a difficult time.

2 Corinthians 8:1: “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: {2} that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.”

In other words, their gift abounded in the riches of their liberality.

Verses 3: “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, {4} imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

What is Paul talking about? He is talking about the fact that the churches in Macedonia, Corinth is in Achaia, which is in Greece, Macedonia is to the north where churches like Philippi were located. These people up there were not well-to-do, they were really poor people, but when the prophecy came around, saying that there was going to be a terrible famine in Jerusalem, all of these people, I mean, they just pulled out all the stops and did everything they possibly could to put together a really good package of aid, while they didn’t have any money, they were able to put together grain that could be shipped off to Jerusalem with safety.

Paul continues in verse 4: “Imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. {5} And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. {6} So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.”

In other words, we assigned Titus to get himself down to you people and to make preparation for precisely the same offering that was done up in Philippi.

Verse 7: “Therefore, as you abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that you abound in this grace also. {8} I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. {9} For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich. {10} And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.”

In other words, you people started last harvest on this. This is interesting all by itself. Isn’t it? The harvest was a year ago, that’s why it was a year ago, that’s when the grain was coming out of the ground, so a year ago on the prophecy, you people started getting ready for this and began to store up grain for this shipment, now we are coming down to the time where we are going to put it together and get it on a boat and send it off to Jerusalem with Titus.

Verse 11: “Now therefore perform the doing of it.” Just do it! “That as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which you have. {12} For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. {13} For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened: {14} But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:”

In other words, we are going to help them now, the time may come when they will be helping us, or they have already helped us and so it is that we are able by the movement of grains and supplies back and forth to keep through these very hard and difficult times.

Verse 15: “As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. {16} But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.”

Paul is saying: “I am so thankful that I have a man who has that same kind of care for you, he will come down there and he will take care of this for you and you can depend on him to actually get this from Corinth to Jerusalem.”

Verse 17: “For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.”

He didn’t have to be told, he went by himself. Verses 18: “And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; {19} And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace”.

In other words, this guy was selected by the churches up here, to travel with us with this “grace” as he calls it, by that he means the total collection of grain from all that area that they were shipping back to Jerusalem at that time.

He was doing it “to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: {20} Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:” We don’t want any accusations of graft in this, so we have reputable people, people who you know, people approved by the church who are going to carry this grain down to Jerusalem and they are not going to be selling it off on the black market at the docks when they get there, do you understand that, that is what Paul is saying.

Verse 21: “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” Paul is saying: God knows that we are not going to cheat with this thing, but we’ve got to be seen to be doing it, not to be cheating in the eyes of men as well. Paul says that that is important and you all know that.

Verse 22: “And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. {23} Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you; or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. {24}

Wherefore show you to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.”

Paul is saying: “Titus is my man in Corinth. We have told all these people up here, we have told them what kind of people you are, now don’t let us down.”

Good Old-Fashioned Fund Raising

Now you can hear the echoes down through all these generations of just good old-fashioned fund raising, whenever you are trying together, you say, this church over there, they came up with $100,000, now surely, we are a bigger church that they are, you are not going to come up with a mere $50,000. We don’t want to be embarrassed in the sight of our brothers over there, do we?

You hear these same overtones of Paul saying, look I have told these people what kind of people you are, you don’t want to embarrass me with this do you? It is exactly the same old benevolent competition that people often engage in now-a-days in fund raising.

Now, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:1: “For as touching the ministering to the saints”, which is what this whole thing is all about, all the way back to 1 Corinthians 16 when he wanted them to get busy and get out there on the first day of the harvest and get the grain put away. That’s what he means when he says, ‘the first day of the weeks’. A better translation would be: ‘the first day of the harvest’ and I will show you why that would be better before I am through.

As the touching and “ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you”, well he did too, because if he hadn’t needed to, he wouldn’t have written to them. Paul continues “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago”. I told them, well look, the people down in Achaia was ready a year ago, so I have used you to pump these people up here and I don’t want you to let me down. Your zeal hath provoked a lot of people.

So, I have “sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, you may be ready:” Paul is saying, we don’t want any embarrassments, do we?

“Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me.” When they get down there and you are not ready and there is a lot of chasing around, that you get everything ready when I get there, I am embarrassed, and you are embarrassed, and these guys say I wonder what Paul is talking about?

So “I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty” (Vs. 5.) What he wanted to do was to show up in town, have it ready, and get the guys in the boat and get on the way to Jerusalem, he didn’t want any fooling around, and he wanted to be efficient, just like that.

“Whereof you had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness”. In other words, your generosity, not because we are coming down here coveting or trying to get something out of you….”

This is part two of a three-part series. Stay tuned for the last part.

The above is a transcript of a sermon given by the late Ronald L. Dart.  It was taken from the website of the Ronald L. Dart Evangelistic Association.  You can find more articles and sermons by Ron at RLDEA.com.

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