Summary: Giving is a gift. A troubled church at Corinth heard a word on it at the end of their first letter. Giving brings healing, because it brings us closer to God.
Can you believe it? We come now to the end of this letter to the Corinthians. You know, we’ve been reading someone else’s mail here… There are a lot of personal problems in this church that this letter talks about. I’m not sure, if I were a member of the Corinthian church, how I would feel about all those things being read and studied by someone else outside our congregation. It’s pretty embarrassing. Listen to the topics: Division over teachers, quarrels, immaturity and foolishness among them, immoral practices of a kind that even pagans would shun, taking one another to court, some are going in to prostitutes, there’s confusion about marriage, some are eating meat offered to idols and destroying the faith of other weaker members, their assemblies for worship do more harm than good as the Lord’s Supper is turned into a fiasco where one is hungry and another is drunk! There are issues about the proper role of women, abuse of spiritual gifts, and even some who are denying the resurrection of the dead! What do you do when a church has these kinds of problems? I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to imagine taking my family to a church like that at all, much less being a member. But history tells us that this church survived for many years and the words of instruction from God were heeded by them, as Paul continued to do the difficult work of building within them the spiritual life of Christ. It is encouraging to think of what God can do if we will submit ourselves to him. But in a sense this is someone else’s mail.
By God’s grace, we’ve been able to read their mail because the Holy Spirit inspired the letter that was written to them that addresses these matters. And God has preserved it for us in our New Testaments. And what key instructions has God given this church through the pen of Paul? What was it that made the difference?
First and foremost, they are called to Christ. They are reminded of the message that saves them. It is all about Jesus Christ and him crucified… for you and because of your sins. They are called to remember that the church is the temple of God and those who destroy it, God will destroy. As for correcting their immorality, they are called to remember that each of their individual bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and that the parts of their bodies are members of Christ himself. Most of the rest of the letter is about their relationships with one another and they are taught the word of Christ about marriage, idolatry, propriety in worship, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, unity in the body, the fact of the resurrection, and now today about giving.
In the course of this letter’s instruction, there have been two climactic sections: Chapter 13 where we encounter the most excellent way, which is love, and chapter 15 where we encounter the top priority message, the gospel – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised from the dead according to the scriptures, and he appeared alive again to hundreds of witnesses.
Commentators I have checked say that the real meat of 1 Corinthians concludes after chapter 15 and what is left in 16 are bits and pieces of matters that need final attention.
Well, I’ve come to see that nothing in God’s word is wasted ink. Sometimes it is these bits and pieces and matters of final attention that we discover just the instruction we need.
Here at the end of this letter, tucked away in the beginning of this chapter 16 is a small bit of instruction on giving that is of great help for us today.
Actually, Paul introduces something in this letter that he will spend two entire chapters on in a later letter that we call 2 Corinthians. Look at it again with me:
16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.
2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.
3 And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;
4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.
He starts off with a formula he uses several times in this letter: “Now concerning…”
(1 Cor 7:1) Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
(1 Cor 7:25) Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.