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1 Corinthians 16:2 and Church on the First Day of the Week

“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).

1.) Note that the “collection” here taken was an “order” for the “churches of Galatia” as well as for “ye,” the assembly at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), v. 1.

2.) It was not a command for individuals alone to lay things up in their own houses, but a command to the entire assembly—the command was to “churches,” both in Galatia, and also to the entire assembly at Corinth (“ye” is a 2nd person plural).  This offering was also the practice of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:2).  This epistle to the Corinthians was also written to instruct “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:20, not the church at Corinth alone.

3.) “collection” (v. 1) and “gatherings” (v.2) is logia (cf. also sulloge, 1 Sam 17:40, LXX) a word unique to this passage in the NT, and also not found in the LXX or in the apostolic patristic writers.  It may be used in other Koiné Greek documents for various sorts of collections, but “esp. [for] a collection for sacred purposes” (BDAG).

4.) Note that the collection is an “order” or “command” as diatasso is elsewhere translated.  Having these offerings on the first day of the week was not optional, but a requirement, and not for the church at Corinth alone, but also for churches elsewhere, and not just one time, but during their regular assemblies on the first day.

5.) The weekly offering (titheto, present imperative for repeated or continuing action;  every week they were commanded to “lay by”) was for “every one” of the members of the church.  “Every one of you” (hekastos humon), each member of the church at Corinth (as also each member of the churches in Galatia) was to participate in this offering on the first day.  If this was just somebody setting some goods or money aside in his own house, why was it so essential that every single member of the church do this on that very day of the week?  Could they not put something away in their own houses on any day?  Why would Paul order/command them (and Paul’s commands were “the commandments of the Lord,” 1 Corinthians 14:37), so that they were sinning if they failed to participate in this, to have the offering on the first day?  It makes perfect sense for Paul to command each and every individual at the church in Corinth, and all the church members in Galatia, to attend worship services and participate in the offering while there, but it makes very little sense to command every member of these churches to put something away in their own residences on the first day of the week.  Note that the command also assumes that they are all together on the first day—if they were all out working on the first day because it was not the day of their assembling together, it would not make sense to command them to lay aside for an offering on that day.  With all the different occupations the members of these churches would have, is it likely that every single one of them would be able to be at home on the first day of the week?  Why would merchants, or soldiers, etc. who might go on journeys of a number of days have to be at home on the first day?  For one member of the assembly to not participate in this first-day offering (the qualification “as God hath prospered him” makes it not a sin to give nothing if one was an invalid, was a three-year old with no income, etc.) was a sin.  “Sacrifice and arrange your work schedule so that you can attend church on the first day of the week and give to the offering” makes sense as a command;  “Sacrifice and arrange your work schedule so that you can be at home and put something in a room in your house on the first day of the week” does not make sense.

6.) Every one of them was to “lay by him in store,[1] as God hath prospered him,” on the first day.  There is no reason to conclude that this refers to each member of the church storing things in his own house, rather than each of them bringing his own personal offering, in accordance with the way that God prospered him, to the assembly.  Note that it does not say, “lay by his house,” but “lay by him,” which would suit each person bringing his own offering to the church assembly.[2]

7.) The point of all of this was “that there be no gatherings when I [Paul] come.”  If all the gifts were already gathered in one place, having, on successive Sundays, been brought by each church member, there would not have to be any gatherings or collections upon Paul’s arrival.  If, however, each church member had been storing up things in his own residence, there would have to be a great many gatherings and collections when Paul arrived, which was precisely what he said he did not want to have happen.  This clause is strong evidence in favor of offerings brought to church, rather than each man setting things in his residence.

8.) Note that “as God hath prospered him” is the measure of the offering.  During the rest of the week the members of the church were indeed storing up with themselves whatever they were going to bring on the first day to the assembly.  It would seem that a contrast between what they were doing every day, as God continually prospered them, and what they did on Sunday is in view—but the SDA “they just stored things in their houses” view does not make as clear a demarcation.  They already kept all that God had prospered them with every day in their houses.  Is it not obvious that they were setting the offering aside on that day from their entire week’s “prospering” because they were assembling for church and taking the collection at that time?

9.) The contention by some SDA’s that the offering here was indeed a communal one (as proven above), brought together on the first day of the week by every member of the church at Corinth, but it was not actually a church service here, just some gathering to put stuff in one place, is ludicrous.  Why would it be necessary for each member of the church to come?  Could not neighbors who were church members just give their offering to their friends and save a trip?  Why would they all put the time aside every Sunday to gather at one time, in one place, every week, just to put offerings together?  Is there any SDA religious assembly in the world that follows this pattern, and abstains from taking offerings on Saturday, but has everyone get back together again on the first day, at, say, 10:00 am, just to take an offering?

10.) Compare the words of Justin Martyr, writing about the weekly worship and the Sunday offering of Christians c. A. D. 140:

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given. . . . And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun [Sunday], having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. (Apology, I, 67).

By the way, why were Christians worshipping on Sunday, and having their offerings that day as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:2, this early?  Is not Ellen White correct when, under inspiration, as SDA’s claim, she declared that the Pope changed Sabbath worship to Sunday?  Were there Popes in the early second century, that everybody listened to, some fifty years or less after the death of the apostle John?  How about around the end of the first century itself?  Consider:

The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 15 (c. A.D. 100): “Further, He says to them, “Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure.” Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this,] when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.”

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapters 8-9 (c. A.D. 107): “Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. . . . If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death.”

Quotations like these from writers that far predate Constantine and the union of the Roman state with Christiandom can be greatly multiplied with ease.  The Pope sure must have changed the Sabbath to Sunday very early!  It was amazing that he could do this when there was not even any Papal office yet, and there would not be for centuries, and the church at Rome was not esteemed any higher than any other church!

Conclusion: 1 Corinthians 16:2 demonstrates that New Testament churches took their offerings and assembled on the first day of the week, not on Saturday.

[1]           The Greek “in store” comes from the Greek verb thesauridzo.  Commenting on this portion of the verse, Albert Barnes writes, “The phrase in Greek, ‘treasuring up,’ may mean that each one was to put the part which he had designated into the common treasury. This interpretation seems to be demanded by the latter part of the verse. They were to lay it by, and to put it into the common treasury, that there might be no trouble of collecting when he should come.”  Compare also the words of Adam Clarke:  “He was then to bring it on the first day of the week, as is most likely, to the church or assembly, that it might be put in the common treasury. . . . It appears from the whole that the first day of the week, which is the Christian [day of worship], was the day on which their principal religious meetings were held in Corinth and the Churches of Galatia; and, consequently, in all other places where Christianity had prevailed. . . . 7. We may observe that the apostle follows here the rule of the synagogue; it was a regular custom among the Jews to make their collections for the poor on the Sabbath day, that they might not be without the necessaries of life, and might not be prevented from coming to the synagogue. 8. For the purpose of making this provision, they had a purse, which was called . . . Arneki shel tsedakah, ‘The purse of the alms,’ or what we would term, the poor’s box. This is what the apostle seems to mean when he says, Let him lay by him in store-let him put it in the alms’ purse, or in the poor’s box.”  NT usage of thesauridzo (qhsauri÷zw) implies a specific place where the item(s) in view are “treasured up” (Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:21; Romans 2:5; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 12:14; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:7).  The verb is used (though not exclusively) in the LXX for offerings of “funds” to the “Jerusalem treasuries . . . the property of the temple” (4Maccabees 4:3, eu¡nouß w·n toi√ß touv basile÷wß pra¿gmasin h¢kw mhnu/wn polla»ß i˙diwtikw◊n crhma¿twn muria¿daß e˙n toi√ß Ierosolu/mwn gazofulaki÷oiß teqhsauri÷sqai toi√ß i˚eroi√ß mh\ e˙pikoinwnou/saß kai« prosh/kein tauvta Seleu/kwˆ tw◊ˆ basilei√); also 2 Kings 20:17, of what was “laid up in store/treasured up [in the temple].”  Likewise the noun thesaurus (qhsauro/ß), “treasure/treasury” (cf. Matthew 13:52; Luke 6:45) is often used in the LXX for offerings stored up in the Old Testament place of worship, the temple or tabernacle.  Note Joshua 6:19, “the treasury of the Lord” qhsauro\n kuri÷ou; also Joshua 6:24; 1 Kings 7:51 (v. 37, LXX), “the treasures of the house of the Lord,” tou\ß qhsaurou\ß oi¶kou kuri÷ou, and often elsewhere:  1 Kings 14:26; 15:18; 2 Kings 12:18; 16:8; 18:15; 24:13; 1 Chronicles 9:26; 26:20, 22, 24, 26; 2 Chronicles 5:1; 8:15; 12:9; 25:24; 36:18; Ezra 2:69; 5:14; Nehemiah 7:70-71; 10:39; 12:44; 13:12; 1 Maccabees 1:23.  Note also “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse (LXX thesaurus)” (Malachi 3:10, KJV).  It is very reasonable that the reference in 1 Corinthians 16:2 to members of the church “lay[ing] . . . in store (thesauridzo)” speaks of offerings made to the NT storehouse for tithes and offerings, the NT equivalent for the OT place of worship, the church (1 Corinthians 9:14-15; Malachi 3:10).

[2]              Charles Hodge comments, “The words do not mean to lay by at home, but to lay by himself. . . . [The interpretation that the laying by was at home makes] the whole expression . . . obscure and awkward. ‘Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.’ . . . [Rather, the sense is] let him place by himself, i. e. let him take to himself what he means to give. . . . The word thesauridzo means putting into the treasury, or hoarding up, and is perfectly consistent with the assumption that the place of deposit was some common treasury, and not every man’s own house.

If Paul directed this money to be laid up at home, why was the first day of the week selected?  It is evident that the first day must have offered some special facility for doing what is here enjoined.  The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing to be done on the first day of the week, is, that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet, and what each one had laid aside from his weekly gains could be treasured up, i. . put into the common treasury of the church.

The end which the apostle desired to accomplish could not otherwise have been effected.  He wished that there might be no collections when he came.  But if every man had his money laid by at home, the collection would be still to be made. . . . Paul intended to direct the Corinthians to make a collection every Lord’s day for the poor, when they met for worship. . . . That the first day of the week was, by divine appointment, made the sacred day for Christians, may be inferred.

More Resources on Seventh-day or Saturday Sabbath-keeping and Seventh-Day Adventism

More Resources on Ecclesiology: The Doctrine of the Church