The Collection for the Saints
In this chapter the apostle moves on to a topic that does not seem to be a problem for the Corinthians – The collection for the saints. This was a collection of monies taken up by the, so-called, “gentile” churches for the needy Christians in Judea. It times of drought and famine the people suffered greatly and this collection seems to be an attempt by those who were receiving the blessing from God, to assist those in need. For more see the following passages:
• Rom 15:22-27
• 2 Cor 8:1-2, 13-15)
• 2 Cor 9:1-2, 6-12
• Acts 24:17
A special note needs to be made that this collect was made for “needy saints”. This was not a collection for the poor in general. The church does not have authority to use its funds to assist all the needy poor in the world, rather the needy saints. The church is not a benevolent organization; the churches function is to bring salvation to the lost.
There has been historically some confusion over the use of the word “saints”. This is not a special class of Christians like some would have us believe. All Christians who have had their sins washed away through the blood of Christ are saints. The Greek word used here is “hagios” meaning, “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his” (J.H. Thayer). The letter to the Corinthians was written to the “saints” see 1 Cor 1:2. Saints have been set apart, sanctified, in Jesus Christ. This collection was taken up for the needy Christians in Judea.
There are only two uses that the church is authorised to use the collection for. The first of these if for needy saints as we have seen. The second is the spread of the gospel. The church uses the funds collected to assist in the spread of the gospel, see 1 Cor 9:14 for example.
Paul answers four questions about the collection: When? Who? How and Why?
When are Christians to give? Paul explains that the collection was to be done on the first day of every week. When the Christians gather together to break bread, see Acts 20:7, the collection is to be taken up. This of course is a very significant day. It was the day the Lord was resurrected. The Day of Pentecost, the day the church, was on the first day of the week – this was the day the Christians gathered for worship.
Who is to give? Paul answers this, he says, each one of you is to put aside and save” 1 Cor 16:2. Each Christians has a responsibility to give back to the Lord, no matter how rich and poor they are. If God has prospered them in any way they need to give back to Him. He has given us all things - we are all prospered.
How is the collection done? Again Paul says, each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper”. Each one has to determine an amount and put it aside for the collection. This is done by each individual and is not to be seen as a tax and it is not a “tithing” (that is a command under the Old Testament for the Jews). It is to be determined by the individual, “as he may prosper”.
Why are we to give? This is so that the individual Christian can participate; participate in the assistance of needy Christians and the spread if the gospel, see Phil 1:5.
Paul gives good advice to how the money is to be administered. He did not want to take the money himself; rather he wanted an official from the church to take the money. We can see that this is what happened when we read Acts 20:1-4. It is always a good idea in financial matters that they be handled by more than one brother to avoid even the slightest suspicion of improper dealing.