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An Ongoing Pattern of Giving

By Jason Trapp
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul says, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, that there will be no collecting when I come”. The natural question to ask in response is, does this command apply to us? If not, why do we still practice some version of this? I believe that Paul was giving a mandate to the Corinthian church as well as to the other churches in Galatia (1 Cor 16:1), but this collection was isolated to their context specifically for the need in Jerusalem in the middle of the 1st Century. Therefore, his command is culturally bound.
So if this mandate for a collection was given to address a specific need in Jerusalem, why do we still collect an offering during our Sunday worship services? I think the answer lies in the underlying principle in Paul’s context-specific command to Corinth. Here is the argument for why we practice Paul’s principle.
Paul’s Principle of Systematic Giving
First, when Paul thought about the need of the church in Jerusalem, he taught that the gospel-empowered, grace-motivated response to the crisis was to organize and systematize giving in a consistent way during Sunday gatherings.
Second, Paul did not want there to be a spontaneous collection when he arrived in person. He expected the gift to be premeditated and continuous.
Third, it is reasonable to assume that when other needs arose within the global church, Paul expected that the funds would be collected in the same way.
Fourth, eventually the famine in Jerusalem ended and the crisis was resolved, yet the need for benevolence, missions, and the care of those doing the work of the Lord still remain. And for two thousand years, there has been consistent need in the global church.
Fifth, the church is capable of local and global impact. We are faced with a never-ending stream of needs and opportunities to meet those needs. In an effort to follow the pattern established by Paul, we each regularly and systematically set aside funds (as we may prosper) and offer them to the Lord for the ministry of the church.
Sixth, Paul expects the Corinthians to be prepared to provide for his needs (1 Cor 16:6) as well as the needs of Timothy (1 Cor 16:10) to help them in the work of the Lord. So it is easy to see how a weekly offering worked itself into the regular liturgy of the church almost immediately.[1]
This is why the church has been practicing Paul’s principle for two thousand years. As we give on Sunday mornings, I believe it is good to be thoughtful about what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are participating in one of God’s grace-driven means of providing for the needs of His children all over the world.
[1] Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 185–186.
“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,1 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,2 and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given,3 and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. 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, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.”

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