Monday, July 1, 2013

The Corinthian Contribution by Abraham J. Malherbe

Abraham J. Malherbe, a recognized scholar from churches of Christ, writes:

“In the first mention of the Corinthian contribution in his letters, Paul sets forth the plan that was to be followed in its collection (1 Cor. 16:1-4)."

"Although the Corinthians apparently already knew about the contribution, he mentions four things relative to its preparation.”

“(1) The contribution was to be stored up on every first day of the week. From his tone it seems that he is referring to a regular practice of meeting on the first day of the week. It had apparently not been the practice to store up collections at regular times” [This is 20 years after Acts 2:42, sp]."

"Paul is here instituting the practice for the sake of order. He anticipated at least a whole year during which the collection was to be taken up and expected the regularity of the weekly contribution to preclude any last-minute confusion.”

“(2) Everyone was to take part in the weekly storing up. Every individual was to do it by himself, par* heauto(i). There is no evidence that churches had treasuries as early as this [c. AD 50, sp] or that money was collected during the worship service.” 

“(3) Representatives of the Corinthians would be sent by Paul to Jerusalem when he came.”

“(4) If, however, the amount contributed was sufficiently large, Paul himself would go, and they would accompany him.”

Malherbe cites Roberston and Plummer for his comment, “There is no evidence that churches had treasuries as early as this or that money was collected during the worship service.”

Robertson and Plummer's comments on 1 Cor. 16:2 may be found here.

Robertson and Plummer, concerning the phrase “par heauto titheto thesauridzon” or “lay by in store” 1 Cor. 16:2), write:

“This cannot mean, ‘Let him assign a certain sum as he is disposed, and put it into the Church treasury.’ It is improbable that at that time there was any Church treasury, and not until much later was money collected during public worship. Each is to lay by something weekly ‘in his own house, forming a little hoard, which will become a heavenly treasure.’"

“Chrysostrom says that the accumulation was to be made in private because the additions might be so small that the donor would be ashamed to make them in the congregation. The Apostle virtually says, ‘Become a guardian of holy possessions, a self-elected steward of the poor.”

Malherbe concludes:

"It is true that the contribution was ostensibly for the poor in Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 2:10; Rom. 15:17; Acts 24:17). But this was not in itself the great significance that it had for Paul. If he were primarily concerned with the material needs of the saints in Jerusalem, he would certainly not have been as leisurely in his collection of the contribution as he was. He had higher goals that he wanted to attain, and the contribution was mainly a method through which he could attain them."

"For Paul it is quite reasonable that beneficiaries of spiritual blessings should reciprocate with material blessings. The Gentiles are actually in debt to the Jews, because they share in their spiritual blessings, and they can be expected to respond with material gifts (Rom. 15:26f.). The contribution, which shows this sense of reciprocity, can be used in a case of tension to create some solidarity (Gal. 2:1-10)."

"From the recipients' point of view, the contribution should have a conciliating effect (2 Cor. 8:19), although Paul was not sure it would be successful in this (Rom. 15:31). It would prove that Paul and his converts were not iconoclastic, but that they respected the Jerusalem church."

"From the contributors' point of view, the contribution was to be an expression of their spirituality, and was to be classed with faith, utterance, knowledge, and earnestness (2 Cor. 8:7) and was a proof of their love (2 Cor. 8:24). Paul thus sees in the contribution an opportunity for the expression of the noblest Christian sentiments, upon which the solidarity was to be built (cf. Gal. 5:13-15; Phil. 1:1-11)."

If you claim that a church treasury-style collection for the saints is a mandatory act of worship, then what is your treasury used for? Is it for the same reasons as the Apostle Paul's? Are you collecting it as he instructed? Why or Why not?

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