I Corinthians 16:1-2
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“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.” (I Corinthians 16:1-2, KJV emphasis mine throughout)
“1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come.” (NIV, emphasis mine)
Common Argument: Some have used these verses from Paul to say that he was moving the Sabbath to the first day of the week, which we call Sunday today.
Think it Through: How can Paul in one letter establish a practice for all Christians without mentioning it in all his letters? No rest is mentioned; no church gatherings are mentioned. There must be something else going on.
Short Answer: Paul asked people to gather an offering at home instead of gathering together. He asked them to work on the first day of the week.
First of all, notice that the verses never refer to a gathering of people on the first day of the week. His instruction was simply for each individual to set aside an offering – “let every one of you…” It does not say that they should come together. Every individual person was supposed to do this on their own.
Secondly, Paul began this chapter by stating his instruction is an order (verse 1). In other words, it is a specific instruction for a specific situation. It is not a commandment from God or a statement of absolute application. An offering was necessary at the time he wrote, and he was asking these churches to participate.
Third, We need to break down some of the language used here and the ancient culture. The English phrase “Lay by him” is tithetō. It means to “lay up.” The phrase “in store” is thēsaurizōn and it means “1) to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up 1a) to accumulate riches 1b) to keep in store, store up, reserve” (Thayer’s concordance). It refers to accumulated goods in a storehouse. It involves work.
We must understand that ancient peoples did not do everything solely by money. Some people grew crops and others raised animals. Those that did have an income of money in silver or bronze did not carry large sums of money around with them (remember they didn’t have checks back then).
So why does Paul say to make this collection on the first day of the week?
He instructed each individual person to set aside something; some people would have had crops, foodstuffs, and other items they had to gather up or sell before they could give them. Those that have money would have to spend time setting aside for it. This would have required work and significant common time, which would have contradicted their Sabbath observance!
Paul told them to bring them on the first day of the week, which is the first common day after the Sabbath. He doesn’t want this done when he comes because he wants to spend time with them. He will come to preach on the Sabbath – he doesn’t want them working on the Sabbath! Paul was collecting this on his way to Jerusalem; he didn’t have time to delay. This was also done in Acts 11:25-30, and they continued to meet on the Sabbath for the rest of the book of Acts.
What did Paul really practice and teach when he was in Galatia and Corinth? Galatia was a region in Turkey. One of the cities in this area was Pisidian Antioch. Let’s take a look at his practice:
Acts 13:14-15, 42-44, 48
14 But they, passing on from Perga, came to Antioch of Pisidia. They went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down. 15 After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, speak.” … 42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the synagogue broke up, many of the Jews and of the devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas; who, speaking to them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath, almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God… 48 As the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God. As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
We can see that while they were in the region of Galatia, they kept the Sabbath even with Gentiles. The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. This was a great opportunity to tell them the Sabbath had been changed. Instead, they continued to observe it. What about the city of Corinth? Did Paul keep the Sabbath in that city?
1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. 2He found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he practiced the same trade, he lived with them and worked, for by trade they were tent makers. 4 He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded Jews and Greeks.
We can see by Paul’s example that he kept the Sabbath with Jews and non-Jews in both Galatia and the city of Corinth. Paul’s directive in I Corinthians 16 was to take up a one-time offering for those in need. It required work, which is why he asked them to do it on the first day of the week.
This just shows us that context is key to understanding Bible verses!
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org