1 Corinthians 16:1-3: Sunday Church Collection?

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Have you ever been asked the following question:

“Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 prove that the early church had a church offering at a Sunday service?”

We have. Let’s take a very close look at the verses in question and see if that is what these verses are really teaching:

1 Corinthians 16:1-3
(1) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
(2) 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.
(3) And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

A quick reading of these passages leaves you with the impression that Paul is teaching the church in Corinth how to have a tithe or offering collection during there church services on Sunday. But let’s dissect each verse one by one. We begin at verse one:

1 Corinthians 16:1
(1) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

The greek word “logia” translated “collection” holds the primary meaning of “contribution.” Paul begins by speaking about a contribution; but to what? Or for who? In a normal church service, when a collection plate is passed, the money that returns is used not only for the saints, but also for the church, schools, mission trips, activities, etc. However, here the “contribution” is rather used for one specific thing… the saints. Now notice that the verse says, “collection for the saints” not “of” the saints. This is important because it sets the stage in context. The greek word translated “for” is “eis.” It is not “ek” which is the word that holds the meaning of the word “of.” Because Paul used the word “eis” he is speaking of a contribution literally “for” others, that is, for the saints. But which saints? Let’s continue reading:

1 Corinthians 16:2
(2) 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.

The beginning of this verse literally reads, “Upon one of-sabbaths…” The word “sabbaton” translated “week” is used elsewhere to refer to the seventh day Sabbath. However, it can also hold the meaning of the time span between two sabbaths, according to Strong’s #4521. In this case it is rightly translated “week.” The word “the” is a definite article. It is not here in the greek. Therefore, Paul is not speaking of “the” first day of the week, but of “a” day in the week. He is not making this action to be done every week upon a certian day, but simply to “a day” in the week.

Now he continues by telling the people at Corinth to, one day through the week, lay “by him” in store. The words “lay by him” shows that this was something that was to be done on their own, personally, not at a gathering such as a church. The word “by” in the greek means “near.” Lay by him, literally means, “beside self” according to the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer which is a literal translation of the bible. The word “him” is the greek word “heautou” which is translated “himself” 114 times in the New Testament. Each person was to do this by themselves. This is further proven by Paul’s use of the word “store.” In the Spanish translation of this word, it reads “en su casa” meaning “at your house.” In the greek it can mean any place where you can reserve something, or treasure up things. Given the context and meaning of the previous words, Paul is speaking here about a contribution of things collected by each individual person, personally at their own homes. Paul continues by saying the following…

“… as God hath prospered him…” –verse 2

Some say Paul is here speaking about the collection plate of tithes and offerings, however we get a different idea when dissecting the verse. Paul uses the word “as.” In the greek, there are two words here, “hostis” and “an.” We take special interest with the word “an.” It means, literally, “denoting a supposition, wish, possibility or uncertainty” –Strong’s Greek definitions. In other words, give what you can, if possible. Yet the tithe is not a matter of giving what you can, but rather of giving a certain percentage: 10 percent. Here Paul is not giving them a strict commandment as to give a certain amount, but rather he is giving them the freedom to give only as they possibly can give. The literal reading of this portion is “which any (hostis) if ever (an).” Further evidence that this is not restricted to a “tithe” is where it says “as God has prospered him.” The word “God” is in italic, meaning it’s not in the original greek. The word “prospered” in the greek means “succeed in reaching.” In other words, give as much as you can according to what you have or have achieved. Even if one does not believe that tithing is still binding upon believers today, the context and use of certain words within these verses give the impression that this is a contribution to a group of people in need, which should be made privately, on a certain day in the week, privately in ones own home. Let’s move on to the next verse:

1 Corinthians 16:3
(3) And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

By letters, the people of the church of Corinth have to “approve” of certain people to send their “liberality” to Jerusalem. If this was a church offering or tithe collection, should at least some of that which is collected stay with the Corinthian church? Paul is telling them that all whom they approve will bring their “liberality” to Jerusalem. There is no hint that any of what they are contributing is to stay with them. The word “liberality” is important here. It literally means “graciousness.” They were to graciously give of what they can, from the heart, to those in need at Jerusalem. Apparently there was a crisis in the regions of Jerusalem and Judea, a great famine (see Acts 11:26-30). Notice what Paul says as he continues to write:

1 Corinthians 16:5
(5) Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.

Paul is specific in telling the people at Corinth where he is going. It appears that at every stop he tells the churches to contribute to the need of those in Jerusalem (verses 1, 5, 7). Compare this with the following verse:

Romans 15:25-26
(25) But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
(26) For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

Paul wanted everything ready when he came onto them, so that he can have their undivided attention, but more importantly, because their fellow brethren at Jerusalem were suffering, and needed urgent help.

There is no such thing as a church gathering or church collection plate offering in all of 1 Corinthians 16.


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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