Collection for the Saints in Jerusalem

by: Bill Bratt


Back in the days of the Apostle Paul, there was a prophet who proclaimed that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world.

"Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. {26} And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. {27} And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. {28} Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. {29} Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. {30} This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:25-30).
From A.D. 52 to 57 a considerable amount of Paulís time was devoted to organizing a collection among his Gentile churches for "the poor among the saints in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26).

Paul Organized the Offering

"Some of the many motives that impelled Paul to organize the offering may be mentioned here. First and foremost among them was brotherly love (Rom 12:13; 13:8; Gal 6:10), making the offering a tangible expression of the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ (1Cor 12:25, 26) that would honor Christ (2Cor 8:19) and help effect equality of provision (2Cor 8:13-15). Moreover, it effectively symbolized the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ (Eph 2:11-22) and may have been designed to win over those Jewish Christians who were still suspicious of Paul's Gentile mission (cf. Acts 11:2, 3). Also, the collection dramatized in material terms the spiritual indebtedness of Gentile believers to the church at Jerusalem (Rom 15:19, 27; cf. 1Cor 9:11). Again, it marked the culmination of Paul's ministry in the eastern Mediterranean as he planned to turn westward after visiting Rome (Rom 15:24, 28). And finally, it was a visible sign of Paul's fulfillment of a promise (2Cor 8:19; Gal 2:10) and perhaps a way of partially compensating for his earlier systematic persecution of the Jerusalem saints (Acts 8:3; 9:1; 26:10, 11; 1Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; 1Tim 1:13)." (1)

The Contributors

"There is general agreement that Acts 20:4 contains a list of the appointed delegates from certain Gentile churches who were Paul's traveling companions on his final visit to Jerusalem when he was delivering the collection. Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus represented the Macedonian Christians (see Acts 19:22; 2Cor 8:1-5; 9:2, 4); Gaius and perhaps Timothy were delegates from Galatia (see Acts 18:23; 1Cor 16:1); Tychicus and Trophimus traveled on behalf of the churches of Asia (see Acts 20:35). It is not known who represented Achaia, though believers in that province contributed to the offering (see Rom 15:26; 1Cor 16:1-4; 2Cor 8-9)."(2)

The Recipients of the Offering

"The offering was destined for the Hebrew Christians at Jerusalem, who may have referred to themselves as "the poor" (hoi ptochoi, Rom 15:26; Gal 2:10; = Heb. haebyonim, cf. Ebionites)--those who were completely dependent on God's provision (cf. Matt 5:3). Several factors account for their continuing poverty: (1) After their conversion to Christianity many Jews in Jerusalem would have been ostracized socially and economically. (2) The "experiment in community sharing" described in Acts 2:44, 45 and 4:32, 34, 35 undoubtedly would have aggravated, though it did not cause, their poverty. (3) Persistent food shortages in Palestine because of overpopulation culminated in the famine of A.D. 46 in the time of Emperor Claudius (Acts 11:27-30). (4) As the mother-church of Christendom, the Jerusalem church was obliged to support a proportionately large number of teachers and probably to provide hospitality for frequent Christian visitors to the holy city. (5) Jews in Palestine were subject to a crippling twofold taxation--Jewish and Roman."(3)

The Apostle Paul and the Corinthian Church

Letís focus in on the Apostle Paul and the Corinthian Church and his instruction for the collection for the saints.

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: {2} 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. {3} And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem" (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Letís notice a couple of points: This passage does NOT say to bring an offering to the church. It says to "lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper."

The problem was NOT getting money to Jerusalem but getting food and grain to them. At this time, Jerusalem was in the midst of a famine. The land was like a desert. It was hot and barren. They were not able to plant and raise a crop of grain. If they didn't have food and grain in Jerusalem, what good would money do them. There wasn't any grain there for them to buy.

It was Paul and Barnabus' job in this relief effort, as per Acts 11:30, to deliver the food and grain to the saints in Jerusalem.

It is very possible that the phrase in verse 2, "On the first day of the week" is referring to a special Sunday, Wave Sheaf Sunday, which was the "morrow after the Sabbath" during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

In Palestine the first ripe barley harvest began during the Days of Unleavened Bread and harvesting continued during this seven week period of fifty (50) days and then finished with the wheat harvest before Pentecost.

Paul wanted the people in Corinth to begin to store grain beginning on the first work day of the spring harvest, which was Wave Sheaf Sunday, and to have it ready so that when he got there, he could leave with it.

Paul's Exhortation to the Corinthians regarding Giving!

The Apostle Paul continues to exhort the Church of Corinth in his second epistle to the Corinthians regarding the collection of the saints. In chapters eight and nine Paul gives a detailed exhortation on giving.

As we go through these two chapters let notice 14 principles that the Apostle Paul covers. (Most of these 14 principles are from the Believerís Study Bible - Study Notes - Computer CD.)

2 Cor. 8:1-4 : "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: {2} that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. {3} For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, {4} imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints."

Principle Number 1: Outward circumstances and difficulties should not inhibit generosity in giving.

The Macedonian churches were not giving out of their abundance, rather, they were giving generously out of their poverty.

George Elliot is credited with the following quotation: "One must be poor to know the luxury of giving."

Let look at the example of the widow who gave two mites. "Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. {42} Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. {43} So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; {44} "for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood"" (Mark 12:41-44).

God notices small things such as the hair on your head (Mat. 10:30), your thoughts (Mat. 9:4) and your offerings. Jesus was aware of the widowís two mites. God is also aware of your attitude toward giving.

Through the years I have noticed that God's people will give generously if there is a need.

So it is with the churches of Macedonia, they gave, not because they had to give, but because they wanted to give. Their giving far exceeded their financial ability. They viewed this special offering as a privilege, not as an obligation. This is a right attitude.

Notice in verse 1 the phrase "grace of God." God's grace developed a spirit of giving and generosity in the churches of Macedonia. We need to exercise that same grace of generosity to help people in need.

The word "grace" is used 6 times in chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians and giving is viewed as a Christian "grace."

Grace is defined in Strong's Concordance: #G5485. charis, ...graciousness ....acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

A synonym for Grace is "graciousness".

Jesus was gracious when he felt compassion on the multitude of 5,000 and he fed them because they were His guests and He did not want to dismiss them when they were hungry (Mat. 14:13-21).

Gracious people want to share their food with other people.

The Church of God is a "Pot Luck Meal" people. We like to fellowship as we share a meal with others.

2 Cor. 8:5 : "And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God."

Principle Number 2: All financial giving should be preceded by self-giving.

The Corinthians gave themselves to the Lord.

We need to draw closer to God in prayer and Bible study. " Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8).

2 Cor. 8:6-7 : "So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. {7} But as you abound in everything; in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us; see that you abound in this grace also."

Principle Number 3: Believers should seek to excel in the grace of giving.

The Prophet Isaiah said: "But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand" (Isa 32:8).

Letís notice the following proverb: "He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor" (Prov 22:9).

Principle Number 4: Worthy stewardship goals should be brought to completion.

Finish what you begin.

In the spiritual things, there is value in completing what you start.

Pick a "sin" and overcome it. We must be overcomers to inherit the Kingdom of God. We must "overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21).

Letís notice the blessings of overcoming that Jesus tells the seven churches in the book of Revelation:
(Rev 2:7) "...To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life", (Rev 2:11) He "shall not be hurt by the second death", (Rev 2:17) "I will give (him) some of the hidden manna to eat.", (Rev 2:26) "I will give (him) power over the nations", (Rev 3:5) he will "be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life", (Rev 3:12) "I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God", (Rev 3:21) "I will grant (him) to sit with Me on My throne", (Rev 21:7) and "He ... shall inherit all things."

There are blessings and rewards if we complete our goals of overcoming.

2 Cor. 8:8-9 : "I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. {9} For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."

Principle Number 5: Generous giving gives evidence of the sincerity of one's love.

Jesus was rich in that He was with God and He was God (John 1:1-3). He had power, glory and majesty as being a member of the God family, but He chose to give it all up, to become poor, so He could come to earth, dwell and tabernacle with us mere mortals (John 1:14) and take away the sin of the world (John 1:29) by dying for us.(Romans 5:8). Jesusí love for us shows that He was the most generous giver by giving His life for us. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).

One's motivation for giving should always be love for God, Jesus and the saints. We are also to love our neighbor and our enemies (Mat. 19:19, 5:44).

Principle Number 6: There is a connecting link between "the grace of God" and "the grace of giving."

The grace of God becomes the supreme motivating factor in true Christian stewardship.

"Jesus said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

Our giving should be rooted in Godís Giving. God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17, Mat. 7:11).

2 Cor. 8:10-12 : "And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; {11} but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. {12} For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have."

Principle Number 7: A willingness to give is more important than the amount given.

It is the thought that counts. Our attitude is important.

Again, letís think about the widow who gave two mites. It was a very small amount that she gave, but she gave it all with a right attitude. She wanted to give or she wouldnít have done it.

2 Cor. 8:13-15 : "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; {14} but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack; that there may be equality. {15} As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."

Principle Number 8: In the economy of God, the sufficiency of some serves or ministers to the deficiency of others.

In economy there is the principle of "supply and demand."

We have needs (demands) and God is the great giver and supplier of those needs (James 1:17). "Our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor 3:5).

When we give our tithe to God, God says that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it (Mal 3:10) .

We also must be willing to give to help others. "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back" (Luke 6:30).

Letís not forget the "golden rule": "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Mat 7:12).

2 Cor. 8:16-24 : "But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. {17} For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. {18} And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, {19} and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, {20} avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us; {21} providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. {22} And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. {23} If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. {24} Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf."
Principle Number 9: Outreach programs should be done:

To honor God. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Mat 5:16).

To do ministry. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).

Notice in verse 20 that Paul is concerned that someone might accuse him of stealing some of this gift for his own benefit. We need to set a right example and avoid any appearance of wrong doing. "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Th 5:22 KJV) .

Administering the Gift

2 Cor. 9:1-4 : "Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; {2} for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. {3} Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; {4} lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting."

Principle Number 10: Generous, spiritual giving will have a positive influence on others' giving.

Notice the words "boast" and "boasting" in this passage. This sounds like good old "fund raising" tactics. They challenged each other and pledged to give an offering and now it is time that they should honor the pledge.

2 Cor. 9:5-7 : "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. {6} But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. {7} So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

Principle Number 11: The attitude in which a gift is given is of utmost importance to God - give cheerfully and willingly, not grudgingly.

Strongís Concordance defines the word Cheerful -#G2431 as: hilaros, hil-ar-os'; .... propitious or merry ("hilarious"), i.e. ... --cheerful.

The word "cheerful" could be translated in this verse as "hilarious". Our attitude in giving should be positive, fantastic, upbeat with an emotional high.

2 Cor. 9:8-11 : "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. {9} As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." {10} Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, {11} while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God."

Principle Number 12: Generosity moves the heart of God to supply more seed and meet all needs.

"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38).

2 Cor. 9:12-14 : "For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, {13} while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, {14} and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you."

Principle Number 13: Generosity will result in praise and thanksgiving to God.

When we see someone in need and we have responded in some generous way, we then can praise God in our prayers for them. They in turn who have received a generous gift then also praise God for the gift and also pray for the giver of the gift. God gets the praise from both parties and both parties have been blessed by this event. James admonished us to pray for each other (James 5:16).

2 Cor. 9:15 : "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

Principle Number 14: Generous giving is the natural response to God's indescribable gift.

Godís indescribable gift has to be His Son Jesus: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).

We should always be thankful to God (Col 3:15) for His goodness, blessings and His loving-kindness. We should always pray with an attitude of giving Him thanks: "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Col 4:2) .

In Conclusion:

"Were Paul's appeals to the Corinthians in these two chapters successful? The apostle paid his third visit to Corinth as planned (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1), spending three months (the winter of A.D. 56-57) in Greece (Acts 20:2, 3), during which he wrote Romans (see Rom 16:23; 1 Cor 1:14). In Romans 15:26, 27 he writes, "For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem; they were pleased to do it ... " (RSV). Evidently in the five or so months between the writing of 2 Corinthians and Romans, the believers at Corinth had responded to Paul's appeals." (4)


Footnotes: (1,2,3,4): Frank E. Gaebelein,, "Expositorís Bible Commentary", 1997, Computer CD.