1 Corinthians 16:1-9 – “Mission Mobilization: How to Give”

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 24 Jan 2010


1. Now, concerning the collection for the saints, y’all should do just as I ordered the churches of Galatia:

2. On the first day of the week, each one of y’all should continue to deposit next to himself,

saving up some of whatever – if [any] he is being prospered,

in order that whenever I come, a collection will not happen then.

            3. And whenever I do arrive, whomever you shall approve, I will send them, along with letters,

                        to carry up your gift into Jerusalem.

            4. And if it happens to be hefty enough for me also to go, they will go with me!


We have finally arrived at the last chapter of 1 Corinthians! If we look back over the book, it is clear that Paul is responding not only to a report he heard from Chloe about disunity in the church at Corinth but also answering questions that the church in Corinth had written to ask him:

·         Chapter 7 opens with, “Now concerning the things you wrote about…” and answers questions related to marriage, divorce, and singleness.

·         Chapter 8 opened with, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols…”

·         Chapter 12 was, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…”

·         Finally we have in chapter 16 v.1, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” starting a new subject. I don’t know, however, whether the Corinthians had brought this up as a question or if Paul was bringing it up out of his own concern.

WHAT is this collection for the saints?

The context starts back when Paul returned to Jerusalem as a new Christian and met with the apostles there. During that meeting, he laid out his calling to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and asked for feedback. James, Peter, and John supported him fully and had only one exhortation for him in his ministry, and that was to “Remember the poor” (Gal 2:10). Interesting that that was the one thing that the disciples wanted to impress on Paul’s mind, “Remember the poor.” So Paul, made collections for the poor an integral part of his gospel ministry.

·         He was one of the couriers who brought financial aid to Jerusalem collected from the church in Antioch (Acts 11:30).

·         And, if we piece together the bits of information from the book of Acts, Roman, and 1 & 2 Cor., Paul apparently raised the idea to the churches he planted of sending their money to the poor in Jerusalem. It appears that Corinth was a relatively wealthy church and that they had responded enthusiastically with a pledge of a lot of money for Paul’s fund drive when he was in Corinth the first time planting the church (2 Cor 8:10).

·         Paul then related this news to the churches north of Corinth in Macedonia – Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica, and they decided to give a big gift to match the Corinthian church, even though they were not as well-off financially as the Corinthians. This is mentioned in 2 Cor. 8:1-2 where Paul wrote, “We want to make known to you the grace of God… in the churches of Macedonia, that in … their great poverty they abounded in the wealth of their generosity,” and then he explains how he had motivated them in 2 Cor 9:2 “I boasted about you to the Macedonians… and your zeal stirred up a whole lot of them.”

·         Enthusiasm had cooled off a bit, however, in Corinth, so Paul is bringing the subject back up in 1Cor. 16.

·         It’s funny how Paul actually plays these Gentile churches off each other in a competition:

o        Hey, you Macedonians, the Corinthians are going to give a huge gift, how about you show them up!

o        Hey Corinthians, how about you do it like the Galatians are doing it here in Asia Minor?

o        And hey, by the way the Macedonians have given a huge gift, and I told them you were going to give a big gift too, so don’t embarrass me! He actually wrote like that when he was getting close to visiting Corinth to pick up the gift. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 9:3-4: “be prepared: [because] lest anybody from Macedonia comes with me and we find you unprepared [to give as generously as you had pledged], and we (not to mention you) might be embarrassed...”

·         Anyway, Paul eventually arrived in Corinth, and during his three months there, picked up the collection and also wrote the book of Romans, in which he wrote: “I’m going up to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem.” (Rom 15:25-26)

WHO was it for:?

·         1 Cor 16: v. 1 uses this same word “saints” to describe those for whom the collection would be made, and v. 3 mentions Jerusalem. These saints were not some special class of Christians, for Paul used the same word “saints” to address to the church in Corinth in 1:2.

·         What was the need in Jerusalem? Scripture is not explicit, but we can draw some inferences:

  1. PERSECUTION: The early chapters of Acts describe the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. Christians had lost their lands, their fortunes, and their jobs due to persecution and discrimination, so they were impoverished. What a “beautiful fruit of grace” that Paul, who had been a ringleader in persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem was now advocating for their relief! (JFB)
  2. FAMINE: There was also at least one famine around this time in history in Judea. (Ratliffe mentions one in AD 46.) Food may have been very expensive at these times and hard to get. Outside relief would have been a welcome refreshment to the Christians in Jerusalem.
  3. COMMUNISM: I found it interesting that three commentators I respect (Hodge, JFB, Clark) attributed the financial problems of the Christians in Judea to their initial practice of communism (Acts 2:44-45), noting that sharing everything tends to make people less motivated to work for their own income and has bankrupted national economies throughout history.
  4. MOTHER CHURCH: On top of all that, Paul encouraged the Gentile churches to show gratitude to and solidarity with the Jews who had passed the faith on to them.

·         APPLICATION: Giving to the poor has always been part of God’s call to His people:

§         In the O.T., Solomon wrote, “He who has pity upon the poor lends unto Jehovah, and He will repay his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17)

§         Jesus also said in Matt. 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Where is your heart?

So, HOW were they to organize this benevolence?

·         In v. 1, Paul says, “do it like I directed/ordered the Galatians to do”

o       (the NIV “told” is a little too weak; this word “directed/ordered” is used throughout Acts to describe the orders issued by Army officers to the men under them, and the root meaning is that of arranging or bringing order.)

o       IDENTIFY GALATIA ON MAP Galatia was Paul’s last ministry stop before he set up in Ephesus, and he wrote 1 Cor from Ephesus.

·         So how did the Galatians do it? v.2 tells us:

o       The were to “make regular deposits” into a “treasury” that was “with them” - “lay by him in store,” “lay/put something aside, storing up;” “set aside a sum, saving.”

§         The present tense of these verbs indicates habitual or repeated action.

§         Each contributor was to literally “lay” this money “next to him.” This led Chrysostom to exhort his congregation in ancient times to “make your house a treasury.”

§         APPLICATION: Do you have a treasury system for God’s money in your house?
In your household budget, is there a line for giving money to the Lord?
Or if you use a cash system, do you put your offering money in a separate container and bring it to church? When our boys were younger, we bought them each a change holder and told them to put a tenth of their income into it whenever they were paid, and then we made sure those change holders made it to church and got emptied.

§         Most commentators I read believed that the word “treasuring/storing up/saving” indicates – not stuffing it under your mattress at home but rather – depositing what you have saved up during the week into a church treasury. This treasury would be very like the treasure box we have at the back of our church meeting place here.

·         If it were just to be saved at home, then Paul would have exhorted them to make these deposits on payday rather than on the day of worship,

·         and if people were saving the money up at home, Paul would have had to make a collection from everybody’s homes when he arrived, which is precisely what he says he doesn’t want happening at the end of v.2. So probably this treasury was associated with the church (Clark).

This brings us to the timing of when to give these gifts: “on the first of the week”

§         The word here for “week” is the word “Sabbath,” which, by itself, is sometimes used to mean “week,” and at other times is used to indicate the seventh day of the week.

§         However, throughout the New Testament a new phrase emerges, “the first of the week,” to indicate a new Sabbath for Christians on the first day of the week (Sunday)  rather than the seventh day of the week (Saturday).

§         The first day of the week had significance,

·         First as the day that God created the heavens and the earth as well as light. (Gen 1:1)

·         Then as a day of fulfillment in the O.T. holidays:

1.      As I have mentioned before, there was the firstfruits ceremony which happened on the first day of the week “answering to the Lord’s resurrection;

2.      then there was Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, typical of the fruits of the resurrection in the Christian church (Lev. 23:11-36);

3.      and then the Feast of Tabernacles at harvest, typical of the ingathering of the full number of the elect from one end of heaven to the other.” (JFB)

·         Then Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, making that a day of a new creation (JFB), and that day came to be called “The Lord’s Day” by the ancient saints (Mark 16:9, Rev. 1:10).

·         The first day thus became the day that the early church met together for worship: Acts 20:7 “upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them.”

§         The fact that they were to make their deposits on the first day of the week indicates that it was the business of the church – part of the worship of God. Giving tithes and offerings to God is and should be part of what we do on Sundays. If you do not do this, there is something wrong.

Notice also WHO was to give:

§         Not just the wealthy or just those with a special gift of generosity, but each one!

§         Giving is for you, no matter who you are.

How much was to be given?

§         It was to be given in accordance with eu + hodos = “good road” i.e. profitable business trip, (only here, Rom 1:10, and 3 Jn 1:2).

§         This hints at the concept of a tithe. Chrysostom commented on this passage some two hundred years after Paul that we should give no less than 10% of honest income. I found it interesting that he went on to say that usury and spoils of war were not honest income and should therefore not be offered to God.

§         It is true that there is no specific percentage of giving mandated to us in the New Testament, but generally if God’s people were given specific instructions in the Old Testament, and if it is not done away with in the New Testament, it remains binding on us.

§         In Matthew 23:23, Jesus, commended the Pharisees for tithing, saying, “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, and this you should have done,” but He went on to say that God wants much more than just meeting the letter of the law like that; He wants us to be merciful, just, and loving, over and above giving ten percent of our profit.

§         Another thing we can learn from this passage is that our income is not just something we earn but rather something God provides for us.

·         The Greek verb here is in the passive voice – it is not “according to what he profited,” but “according to what he was profited.”

·         There’s a subtle difference there, but it is important to recognize that our money is God’s provision for us.

·         That is the way the KJV puts it, although it adds the word “God” (“as God has prospered him”).

·         This is why we give: to recognize King Jesus as our provider and give Him our tribute, recognizing that all we have is His!

§         Note also that there is some recognition in v.2 that some people might not have prospered. Would God demand us to give if we had no money to give? No. If there is no profit, there is nothing to tithe on, although we could still give if we want to.

·         2 Cor. 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he doesn’t have…” and

·         2 Cor. 9:7 “give as he has purposed in his heart”

§         We should not measure ourselves by what other people do. Paul tells us that we should measure ourselves instead by what Jesus did. Commenting on this same gift to the poor in 2 Cor 8:9 he wrote, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that through His poverty you might become rich.”

§         We could summarize this verse by saying that our giving should be systematic (both in the sense of being organized and orderly as well as in the sense of being given regularly at consistent intervals of time), giving should be proportionate to our profits, and it should be voluntary (Earle).


So we’ve looked at when, who, and how much to give. V.3 tells us about the administration:

Who should Administrate?

·         V.3 highlights the need for integrity and wise administration regarding church finances:

·         The KJV follows the order of the words in the Greek text, which puts the phrase “by letters” immediately after the word “approved/accredited” indicating that Paul was asking the Corinthian church to write letters approving these men.

·         However, most commentators seem to prefer the approach that the NAS and NIV took, saying that these were letters of introduction Paul would write to explain the gift and what it was for, along with Paul’s greetings, assuming that the letters would be used in the same way that Paul later mentions using letters of recommendation in 2 Cor 3:1.

·         Whichever way you take it, it was the people in the church who were to approve who would handle their gift money. Men handling church funds were to be elected – tried and approved.

·         Acts 20:4 gives us the names of some of the men appointed by the churches to carry this gift: Sopater from the church in Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from the church in Thessalonica; Gaius from the church in Derbe, and Tychicus & Trophimus from the church in Ephesus.

·         2 Cor 8:16ff also mentions three people appointed by the church in Corinth, although only one of them, Titus, is named.

·         Paul then goes on to explain in 2 Cor. 8:20-21 why he had all these church representatives involved in the gift: He said he was “avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this gift which is ministered by us: for we are thinking of what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”

·         APPLICATION: We don’t let just anybody handle our church funds.

o       We have a qualified accountant, Mark Linville, who handles them,

o       and he has a system of accountability where he always pulls in a witness when he opens the treasure box for the church, so if he asks you to help be a witness, take that task seriously!

o       Mark also provides regular reports on the church finances to the steering committee, so if you want to hear his next report, you can come to this week’s steering committee meeting Friday morning at Chip’s office.

o       When we have enough members and elders, I expect we will also have a congregational review of the finances as well.

o       At some point this month, you should also be receiving a 2009 giving report which you can use with your tax reports, which also provides accountability to handle your giving accurately.


This passage concerning the collection for the poor in Jerusalem ends with verse 4, where Paul discusses the possibility of him also going along with the others to deliver the money.

·         Most English translations translate the condition in v.4 “if it is fitting/advisable for me to go,” but most commentators think this implies that Paul would accompany the gift only if it were sufficiently large enough to warrant him going. The word literally means “weighty” - i.e. if it’s heavy enough.

·         Perhaps it was assumed that the couriers would use part of the funds to pay for their own travelling expenses, so only if there were plenty to spare to cover Paul’s travelling expenses would it make sense for him to join the party that took it to Jerusalem.

·         Note then, that Paul was not just raising money; he was also recruiting people! Giving is more than sending money; it includes sending people as well.

Application today

Now is a good time to review with you the opportunities we have for giving right now in our church:

1.      Supporting the administrative functions as well as the teaching and pastoring ministries of our local congregation. (1 Timothy 5:17  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching.)

2.      Regular support of local mercy ministries (Life Choice Ministries & Shepherd’s crossing) supported by general fund of our church – so do use the treasure chest on the literature table!

3.      Missionaries – supported by our general church fund; also sending care packages next month coordinated by Donia Schmiege.

4.      Response to mercy requests – spending time building friendship with a needy person, administering church diaconal funds to their legitimate needs, and calling them into a relationship with Jesus and His church. Another guy just called me this week, “Pastor, I just got out of jail and I need help paying my first month’s rent. I’ve got a job, but I need help getting on my feet.” Is that the kind of request you’d like to help with?

5.      Spontaneous giving, such as delivering meals to the Mathews when they were hospitalized with Claire. Many of these spontaneous things are never going to be announced from the pulpit or noticed by everybody, but Jesus said that even giving a cup of water to someone is significant (Mt. 10:42). Be on the lookout for little things like that you can do!

6.      MNA disaster ministry – Last year, our church contributed to flood relief in IA. Now the news is full of reports about the earthquake in Haiti. As I mentioned earlier, money should be handled wisely, and just because a group is tax deductible doesn’t mean that it will handle your money wisely. Remember the huge amounts of money raised by rock stars for Ethiopia two decades ago ended up primarily in the pockets of the corrupt warlords in the area. Careful research, however, should reveal who is worth giving to.

7.      Sending people to needy parts of the world to do relief work and to teach the Bible

a.       Rachel Schmiege going to Ireland, Chip Zachary going to Kenya, Betty and Caitlin Porter going to Columbia, and Megan Von Bergen going to Eastern Europe

b.      Looking beyond this year, how many of you are willing to send your children out long-term as missionaries? How many are willing to go?

c.       Giving your best to the Master includes “giving your sons to bear the message glorious, giving your wealth to speed them on their way; [and giving your time] - pour out your soul for them in prayer victorious.” (“O Zion Haste” by Mary Thomson)


If we realized how great a blessing it is to give, we would be eager to give!


Do you realize how rich the rewards are that God gives to those who give? Let us take every opportunity God gives us to “set aside” money for His work “as you are prospered,” and administrate it wisely through those the church “approves,” that our giving may be used to spread God’s kingdom, help the poor, and glorify God!