The Collection For the Saints
In our previous lesson, we talked extensively about 1 Cor 16:1-2. We saw how these verses dealt specifically with the collection of money to send to the needy saints in the Jerusalem congregation. The key phrase being.. “..concerning the collection which is FOR the saints..” And we noted that those verses do authorize two things. First, it authorizes us to have a collection upon the first day of every week, and second, it authorizes us to give to other Christians.
Today I’d like us to look at some other verses of scripture that many people use to teach that the money collected and put into the treasury of the congregation, can ONLY be used to help Christians, and not to help non-Christians.
Congregations Helping Congregations
First we’ll look at verses that deal with one congregation giving to another congregation. The first example that we already looked at was 1 Cor 16:1-2, where the congregation in Corinth was instructed to set money aside to give to the congregation is Jerusalem. And within that text, the congregations in Galatia had been directed to do the same.
Another example is from Acts 11:27-30, where the church at Antioch was first told about the great famine that was going to take place. V’s 29-30 say, “And in proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul, to the elders.”
You’ll notice that these verses don’t say anything about a weekly collection on the first day of the week. Listen again.. “And in the proportion that ANY of the disciples had means, each of THEM, determined to send a contribution.” That would be exactly like me making an announcement about a some very poor Christians in another city. And then any of us who had the means, and wanted to contribute, would pool our money together, and send it to the leaders of the congregation in that city, and those leaders would distribute the money as was needed.
So here we really have a different authorization, than we have in 1 Cor 16. There we have the authorization to have a weekly contribution, and to allow that money to be “stored up” for a particular need. And here we have the authorization to announce a need, and then to have what I guess you’d call, a special contribution, among whoever wanted to participate.
Now both of these examples were for the same need. They were both for the poor saints in Judea. But the two examples really show two different ways of gathering the money. The example in Acts 11, is the first time in the bible that we hear about the famine, and the need of the Christians in Jerusalem. And it could be that this collection wasn’t just a one time collection either. We’re told in V-26, that Paul and Barnabas had been in Antioch for about a year. There might have been a few collections made, before Paul and Barnabas left Antioch, to take the money to Jerusalem. And maybe those contributions took place every first day of the week. We’re simply not told. But this scripture still authorizes a collection to be taken for a specific need.
Here’s another example from the churches in Macedonia. 2 Cor 8:3-4, “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of ther own accord, begging us with much entreaty, for the favor of the participation in the support of the saints.”
Did the churches of Macedonia take up one collection? Or did they store up the money each first day of the week, and then entreat Paul to take it with him to give to the needy saints? We’re not told. But this is just another example of one group of Christians, giving to another group of Christians.
Here’s one more scripture.. Romans 15:25-26, “But now I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”
Same type of example here; One group of Christians helping another group of Christians.
Benevolence Within a Congregation
Now here are some examples of congregations helping individuals, from within their own congregation.
There’s two scriptures that I’ll kind of lump together, because they both talk about the very beginnings of the church.
First, Acts 2:44-45, “And all those who had believed were together, and had all things common. And they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone had need.”
Second, Acts 4:34-35, “For there was not a needy person among them. For all who were owners of land or houses, would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the feet of the apostles feet, and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.”
Clearly, these two scriptures authorize a congregation to assist in the needs of it’s own members, using the money contributed by members. And these verses also authorize and give approval to the principle of giving in accordance with your ability. Actually, all of the verses we’ve looked at give approval to that principle. Giving according to your means.
1 Cor 16:2 uses the phrase, “..as you may prosper..” Acts 11:29 says, “..in proportion that any of the disciples had means..” 2 Cor 8:3 says, “..according to their ability, and beyond their ability..”
Here’s another verse.. Acts 6:1 says, “Now at this time, while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews, against the Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving.”
V-3 says, “But select from among you brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”
So here we have authorization to give even DAILY support to widows of a congregation, who evidently have no other means of support. They had a “daily serving” in the Jerusalem church.
This is the first example in the bible, of a congregation taking care of widows. And it’s actually a lot like the first mention on the needy saints in Jerusalem, that we read about in Acts 11, when the prophet Agabus stood up and told about the famine that had caused the saints in Jerusalem to be in such need.
The First Weeks of the Church
Think back to the first days and weeks of the church. We just read in Acts chapter 2, and in chapter 4, how the members were selling possessions and giving the money to the apostles, so that the money could be distributed among everyone, so that there were no needy people at all. There was no mention of a weekly contribution. And even in Acts chapter 11, with the church in Antioch, we have no mention of a weekly contribution, although there might well have been one, since we have no idea how many weeks went by as that congregation gathered money to send to Jerusalem.
Here’s the point though. The church had just begun, and the apostles were leading the way, led by the Holy Spirit. And so there was an immediate need shortly after the day of Pentecost, because thousands were added to the church so quickly. So everyone who had the means, were just giving freely. And then the Christians were dispersed because of persecution, and most Christians left Jerusalem. But some members remained. And then when a famine hit, another need arose, and so the Christians at Antioch, determined to give again. And other congregations followed suit. And the need continued, and so Christians kept giving. And the need will always continue.
Even Jesus Himself said in Mark 14:7, “For you will always have the poor among you, and whenever you wish, you may do good to them, but you do not always have Me.”
And so, by the time Paul wrote to the Corinthians, inspired by God I might add, he had established a systematic pattern, for the various congregations to follow in their giving.
That’s why he wrote to them, in 1 Cor 16:1-2, “Concerning the collection which is for the saints, as I have directed the churches of Galatia, so also are you to do. Every first day of the week, let each one of you put by himself, treasuring up, as he may be prospered, so that there be no collections when I come.” That’s the “pattern” that God has established, so that all things could be done “decently and in order”. 1 Cor 14:40
And this is a lot like the example of the needy widows within the church at Jerusalem. The need arose, and the apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, immediately did something about it. But the apostles wouldn’t always be there, and so a “pattern” had to be established here too. And this brings us to 1 Timothy 5:9-15, where Paul gives the specific requirements, for a widow to be “put on the list”, as it says in V-9, and to be supported by the congregation.
So then the congregation has the authority from God, to fully support qualifying Christian widows, out of the church treasury. But there is a definite list of requirements, for a widow to qualify for support from the congregation. V’s 9-10 tell us that She must be not less than 60 years old. She must have been married to one man. She must have raised children. She must have been a faithful Christian with a good reputation. And she must not have other family members who could support her. So not just anyone should be fully supported by the congregation.
This is a point of argument that’s used to support the belief, that only Christians can be helped with the congregation’s money. Here’s the reasoning. If even a CHRISTIAN widow has to meet all these qualifications, then certainly, non-Christians should never receive any money at all.
But here’s why that reasoning isn’t valid. Those qualifications have to do with a widow being put on a list, so to speak, so as to receive full support by the church. These verses aren’t talking about just giving some sort of assistance to a Christian widow. They’re talking about full support! And I would have to agree; Based upon these verses, a congregation should NOT put a non-Christian widow on the full support of the church.
But the question we’re considering, isn’t whether or not a non-Christian can receive full support. The question is; Are we authorized to HELP non-Christians with the congregation’s money. Not support them, but to simply help them. So then these verses in 1 Timothy, really have no bearing at all, on the question.
Are These Examples Restrictive?
So then, aside from those last verses about the widows, we still have seven scriptures, all giving examples of the congregation’s money being used to help other Christians.
1 Cor 16:1-2, 2 Cor 8:9, Rom 15:25-28, and Acts 11:27-30, all being examples of one congregation giving to another congregation. And Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:34-37, and Acts 6:1, all being examples of a church helping individual Christians, within their own congregation.
And so people say, that a “pattern” is seen here, where all these examples, show how the congregation’s money was used exclusively to help other Christians. Therefore the conclusion is reached, that since there is NO example in the scriptures, of any congregation giving to non-Christians, that this type of giving is NOT authorized, and therefore we cannot give to non-Christians out of the church treasury.
Now this might sound very cut and dry; No example, No authorization. But in reality, it’s not that cut and dry. Ask yourself this.. Is the concept of “No example, thus No authorization”, even a valid principle to use, in determining God’s will on a subject? If it IS a valid principle, then we better stop using our congregation’s money, to help preach the gospel to Non-Christians, because we have no example of it in the bible. And we better sell any building that was paid for with money from any congregation, because we have no example of that either.
Here’s something you may not realize. There are NO specific examples in the new testament, of anyone repenting of their sins. I tried to think of an example in the bible, but I couldn’t come up with even one. Maybe I’m missing one. But I’ve tried to think of where a narration is given, leaving us an actual example of someone repenting, but I can’t think of one.
So then, are we authorized to repent of our sins? You’d probably say yes. But how can we be, with no examples? Obviously, a command not only authorizes an action, but it demands that action, even if the bible doesn’t give us an example of someone complying with that command.
But here’s just one, of many scriptures that authorize repentance..
Acts 17:30, “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring, that all men, everywhere, should repent.”
God is declaring it! In other words, God is commanding, that we repent. Repentance is not only authorized, but it’s commanded!
Are direct commands, not the first and foremost method that God uses in the bible, to authorize our actions? Once again, God’s commandments, not only AUTHORIZE certain things be done, but they DEMAND certain things be done. It’s kind of like God’s ten commandments. Those commandments demanded, t certain things, and they also demanded that they NOT do other things. And there’s not an example in the old testament, that can override even one of those commandments.
And it’s the same thing with the new testament law. God gives us commandments that MUST be followed. And while examples may well authorize the doing of other things as well, not one example can override, or nullify, something that God has commanded us to do.
The question then is this; Has God commanded us, to use the congregation’s money, to help non-Christians? That’s a good question, isn’t it? And that’s what we’ll answer next week, by looking at several commands, that God has given to Christians, demanding that they give help to non-Christians. And we’ll see if those commands are ONLY for individual Christians to obey, or if they apply equally as well, to the collective body of Christians, known as the congregation, or “the church”.
Thanks for being here, and may God bless you in the sincere study of His word.
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