Summary: What did you put in the offering plate this morning? Do you think God is pleased? And what about ministry? Did you do any ministry this past week that God would have been pleased with? Our passage will help us think these questions through.
What did you put in the offering plate this morning? Do you think God is pleased? And what about ministry? Did you do any ministry this past week that God would have been pleased with? Our passage will help us think these questions through.
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.
Paul is responding to an inquiry from the church. A famine, prophesied by the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:28), had struck the Judean territory, leaving many in the Jerusalem church impoverished. As a consequence, Paul encouraged his churches to contribute towards their relief. Evidently, he had already approached the Corinth church about it and they had practical questions regarding collecting and sending the money.
First, about collection: On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
The saints are to make regular contributions: on the first day of every week. They are not to wait until Paul arrives to take up a collection. Instead, they are to take up weekly offerings, which they then store up until Paul comes. By avoiding until the last moment to give, time and effort is saved, and undoubtedly more money is collected. (By the way, the reference to collecting on the first day of the week indicates that the church was already gathering on Sunday for worship.
Second, each person is to give “as he may prosper.” It may be that one person receives a lot of money one week. He then should give accordingly. It may be that he receives little. If so, then he is not expected to give as much. Unlike the world which measures the worth of contributions according to total dollars, the kingdom of our Lord measures contributions according to one’s means. Thus, as Jesus noted, a poor woman’s mite is counted as more valuable than the high dollar amounts of the rich who give out of their excess.
Now, what about sending the money? 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
Here is the plan. The Corinthians are to select representatives whom they deem trustworthy to take the money to Jerusalem. They will not go alone. They will join Paul if he determines to go as well, which was his plan. He later tells the church in Rome, after collecting the money, that he would deliver it to Jerusalem. But there will also be other travelers, representatives chosen by the other churches. Luke names some of them in Acts 20:4.
Why these representatives? Security for one reason: they will be carrying a sizable amount of coins. Another reason is accountability. Corruption existed in money matters in the ancient church as it does today. There were preachers and evangelists dipping in the coin bags, as there are today. And then, probably the main reason, these representatives served as personal ambassadors for their churches to encourage their sister churches in Jerusalem.
That covers what Paul has to say about money. In the next verses he discusses ministry, his own and others. First, about himself:
5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Paul’s ministry is an itinerant one. He is a traveling minister, whose main objective is to plant churches in areas that have never received the gospel. His journey, however, in Macedonia (northern Greece) will be to visit churches he had already planted, such as in Philippi and Thessalonika. He hopes, then, to return south to Corinth for the winter.
Verse 8 lets us know that Paul is writing his letter from Ephesus. He mentions a “wide door for effective work.” Acts 19 tells us about that work. He spoke daily in a lecture hall, so that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (19:10). Not only did he preach but performed miracles of healing and driving out demons. But more to the point, his ministry was making a noticeable impact in the way of life of the territory. Listen to this report in verses 18-20: “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”