Friday, May 16, 2014

The Collection and the Lord’s Supper

The First day of the week was a very special day for the early Christians. It was on the first day of the week that Jesus arose from the dead (Mark 16:1-6) and that the risen Lord appeared to His disciples (Mark 16:9; Luke 24:13-35; John 20:19-29). It was on the first day of the week that the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16, Acts 2:1). The first sermon was preached and three thousand converts were added to the Church (Acts 2:14, 41), and disciples came together to break bread and hear a message from Paul on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Note: the reference is until midnight which is not the Jewish method of measuring days, but the Roman system. Later in Revelation 1:10 the Lord Jesus gave the apostle John the vision of Revelation on the first day of the week.

We also learn from 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 that Paul instructed the churches, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” So when they came together on the first day of the week to remember the Lord in the Lord’s Supper and to hear from God’s Word, they were also to take a collection to meet specific needs that there might be among the Lord’s people. 

Notice Paul’s instructions were both specifically to those at Corinth, "Let every one of you" and more general to every church because Paul addresses his letter “ (1 Corinthians 1:2). Every saint is instructed to give and should consider it a blessing to participate in the collection for the saints. 

Paul further instructs us to “lay something aside.” This suggests a common treasury into which members of the local assembly pool their resources. In the Old Testament, God commanded tithing (Leviticus 27:30-34; Malachi 3:8). But here we see the Lord's people are instructed to give as God has prospered them. Our giving is to be in proportion with our prospering. The more we prosper, the more we give. This was to meet the needs among the Lord’s people; there were poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul planned to travel to Corinth and wanted things to be ready when he arrived so that those approved could bring what had been collected from the saints at Corinthians to the saints in Jerusalem. This shows that the early church regularly gave of their means upon the first day of the week. 

We learn from Romans 15:26 that relief of the church was specifically to "poor saints.” No doubt, there were hungry non-saints, but we clearly see that Christians were taking care of the needs of fellow brothers and sisters. This wasn’t anything new, from its earliest days the assembly met the needs of those among them, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37). It is instructive to notice that the Breaking of Bread (the Lord’s Supper) and prayers were accompanied by a distribution “as anyone had need” (Acts 2:42-47). 

In Acts 6 we read of some who felt their widows were being neglected and needs not being met. But the Lord would have the needs met and instructions were given for men who were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to administrate over things there. What we learn from this is that such love and grace is to be shown to all of the Lord’s people. In Galatians 2:10 Paul was instructed by the assembly in Jerusalem “to remember the poor” and later writes, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). The apostle Paul spends two chapters in 2 Corinthians 8-9 teaching on giving setting before us Christ as the perfect pattern.

Lessons can be learned from the way the children of Israel offered to the Lord in preparation for the building of the temple. We read, “Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:9). The Lord looks for hearts that are full of worship and praise toward Him. Such hearts cannot be selfish toward Him. Hearts that are loyal to Him are hearts that are willing to give to Him. Listen to David’s words, “I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You” (1 Chronicles 29:17-18).

If we connect this attitude to the collection and the Lord’s Supper, what we have seen is that the collection should be just as much as part of our worship. Our giving ought to be “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” as was those at Philippi (Philippians 4:18). The collection is a practical expression of our love for the Lord and His people. We see in Hebrews 13:15-16 that our giving and our praise are both seen as sacrifices that please the Lord, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” We should not think of the collection as something we tack on the end of the Breaking of Bread indicating that the meeting is over. It is a part of our function as Holy Priest who, “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The collection is something for the Lord’s people; it really isn’t for the unsaved to give. We never read of Paul or anyone else taking a collection before they preached the gospel or taught God’s Word. 

As we come together on the first day of the week to remember our Lord in His death, let us not forget that our giving is part of that worship, and with such sacrifices God is well pleased!

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