Jerry F. Bassett
"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." (1 Corinthians 16: 1-2).
Sometimes a very serious problem arises when brethren try to make a proper application of this text. The problem has to do with the scope of the verse. Is it to be applied to raising funds for all the Work of the church, or does it apply only to a special contribution for poor saints, and is, therefore, to be applied only to the work of the church in benevolence?
Perhaps it will help answer this question if at the beginning it is pointed out that the
expression "collection for the saints" in verse1 does not refer to contributions made by
individuals on the first day of the week into the local church treasury. The word "collection" in verse I is the same word in the Greek which is translated "gatherings" in
verse 2 of the King James Version, and in both places it refers to the collecting by Paul, from church to church, of those funds provided by them to be carried by their own
messengers to the saints in Jerusalem. The part of this text which refers to the first day
contribution by saints into the treasury of a given local church is found in the words,
"Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store "That this
laying by in store constituted contributions to a common fund, or treasury, is seen in the fact that it removed the need for any gathering from individuals when Paul came.
But this still leaves the question as to whether this contribution by individuals was to provide a fund from which all of the work of the church was to be financed, or did it only to the collection for the saints in and is, therefore, to be applied specifically to the work of the church in benevolence? While some brethren hold that the latter is the case, it is here denied that such a conclusion is either warranted or safe. In fact, it is portentous of difficulties and complications in which no faithful brother wants to become entangled.
If it is true that the contribution on the first of the week was a special one taken for no other purpose than to relieve the needs of then this example applies poor saints, specifically to the work of the church benevolence. Further, it is an exclusive example regarding the means by which funds are to be raised to carry on this work because there is no other scripture that would allow it to be financed in any other way. Consequently, when a congregation undertakes a work of benevolence it must be financed by the contributions of its members given into the collection on the first day of the week.
Benevolence, however, is not the only work the church is to do. For example, a congregation is also authorized to use funds in support of the Preaching of the gospel (I Corinthians 9:6-14, 2 Corinthians 11:8, Philippians 4:15-16). How, then, shall the funds to finance this work be raised by the 7 church? Someone says, "The money can be raised by a first day contribution as found in I Corinthians 16:1-2." perhaps so, but if this text applies specifically to a special contribution for benevolence, who is to say that funds for preaching MUST be raised in this manner? Where is the text that issues a command, or that provides either an example or necessary inference which requires the preaching of the gospel to be financed by contributions given on the first day of the week? Brethren, if I Corinthians 16:1-2 is not that text, then there is none!
Further, if this is the case, the church would be authorized to expend funds for gospel
Preaching, but would have no specific authority for raising them. Brethren generally understand that where authority to do a work is given, but the specific means of carrying it out is not given, they are authorized to, and must, make a choice among the various means of doing that task. For example, we are commanded to go and preach the gospel, but the means of going is not specified. Consequently, brethren must choose some means of transportation. Likewise, if the church is authorized to raise funds for the preaching of the gospel, but the means of doing so is not specified, then they can, and must, choose a way of doing it. One may choose to do it by a contribution on the first day of the week.
Fine, but what if other brethren choose to do it by a raffle, a rummage sale, a begging campaign from the community, or by going into some secular business? If I Corinthians
16:1-2 applies only to a special contribution for benevolence, then who is to say that those brethren would be wrong in choosing to raise funds for preaching by some other means? And on what scriptural proof would he base such a charge?
Some brethren seem to assume that the first day contribution of I Corinthians 16:1-2 is the first time such was ever taken because the practice is not mentioned previously, and the text in which it is commanded was not written for more than twenty years after the church was established. This is as sensible as assuming that because the events of Acts
20: 7 did not take place for more than twenty years after the church was established that this was the first time the disciples ever assembled on the first day of the week to break bread.
The fact of the matter is that by the time the events of Acts 20:7 took place, many local churches had been established and the practice of breaking bread had been engaged in from the beginning (Acts 2:42), but not until Acts 20:7 does the inspired historian tell us what day they assembled for this purpose. Likewise, these same churches had been engaged in various God-ordained works from the very beginning, including benevolence and preaching (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-35, 6:1-7, 11:22, 27-30). In fact, Acts 6:4 gives clear implication that the apostles were being supported in order to give their full time to spiritual matters, which also suggests some source for the funds to provide this support. But, as with the time for observing the Lord's supper, the full particulars as to how funds were supplied for the work of the church are not revealed until some years later when tile events of I Corinthians 16: 1-2 show that it was done by the collection provided by saints on tile first day of the week.
This entire problem would be resolved if brethren would stop thinking of relief for saints as that which can be financed by the first day contribution because it is a work of benevolence, and realize instead that such benevolence can be so financed because it is all authorized work of the church. When this is understood it will then be realized also that everything else God has authorized the church to do is to be financed in the same way, and for the same reason, that is, because it is a work authorized by God to be done by tile church.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 26, pp. 10-12
May 7, 1970