Is 1 Corinthians 16 encouraging God’s people to take up an offering and worship on the first day of the week? What was Paul really talking about?
[Steve Myers] We’re taking a look at whether or not 1 Corinthians 16 is encouraging God’s people to take up an offering and worship on the first day of the week. Now, we referred back to Acts 11:27 Acts 11:27And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch.
American King James Version×, referring to a famine that was going on, and that the disciples were to take up a collection for famine relief. There’s also another reference to this over in 2 Corinthians. Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 16, but also in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, right at the very beginning of the chapter. Here’s another reference to that same famine and that same relief effort. He writes, “Concerning ministering to the saints, it’s superfluous for me to write to you.” He says, “I know your willingness about which I boast of you.” Then he goes on and he says, “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time and prepare your generous gift beforehand” (2 Corinthians 9:1-5 2 Corinthians 9:1-5  For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:  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; and your zeal has provoked very many.  Yet have I sent the brothers, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, you may be ready:  Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, you) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.  Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brothers, that they would go before to you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof you had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
American King James Version×).
And of course, in the whole context, if you read through and study this, that generous gift is that famine relief that Paul was talking about.
Now, with that, let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 16 once again and deal with the other part of this passage. Was he saying take up a collection on a Sunday morning and pass the plate? No, that’s the wrong type of collection that he’s talking about. He was talking about famine relief to Jerusalem.
Now, what about the Sunday worship?
If you go to 1 Corinthians 16, he says, verse 2, “On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 1 Corinthians 16:2On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
American King James Version×). All right, what is he talking – is he talking about Sunday worship?
Well, depending on the kind of Bible you have, you may get just a little glimpse of what Paul’s talking about here. If you have a Bible that shows you what words are actually in the Greek – that’s the original language – or which ones are not, well, we get a little hint in this Nelson version of the New King James. My word for “day” in the Bible here is italicized, which is telling me that in the original language, that word is not there. That word’s not there. So more appropriately, what it would say is, “On the first of the week.” On the first of the week. In fact, when you look at the original language, look at the Greek, not only is “day” not there, literally the Greek words are the “first of the weeks”. The first of the weeks. It’s actually a plural word, “first of the weeks”.
Now, in the Bible, that’s referring to a very specific day, because the “weeks” and counting of weeks – first week, second week, all the way down to the seventh week – that points to the counting to Pentecost. And this is exactly what Paul is referring to. Because if you look up the first of the weeks, and what the tradition in ancient Israel was – they could not begin the harvest until the first of the weeks, when they would offer that wave sheaf offering. You can look it up in Leviticus chapter 23. They would offer that offering to God, and then the harvest would begin.
How perfect. How perfect in his instructions to the church in Corinth, that when you’re going to take up a collection – food, items for Judea – begin when the harvest begins. What a perfect time to begin taking up a collection for those who are suffering from a famine. And so what we find in 1 Corinthians 16 is not Sunday worship, is not passing the basket at a Sunday morning service. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. He’s talking about taking up a collection of foodstuffs for those suffering in famine in Jerusalem. And you do it during the Days of Unleavened Bread, after that Sabbath, that Sunday morning when the wave sheaf was offered. That’s when you begin. When the harvest begins, that’s when you make that collection. And so no wonder Paul deals with that, because he says, “When I come, I will bear your gift to Jerusalem.”
Hopefully, that makes it very clear that Paul was certainly not advocating Sunday worship. In fact, it reinforces the fact, don’t do it on the Sabbath. This is the time that you do it. So hopefully that makes it so much clearer when we put all these things together. That passage hopefully becomes that much more clear.
We’ll see you next time on BT Daily.