Some claim the Apostle Paul collected tithes and offerings on Sunday, the first day of the week. Is that true? Does it fit in with the rest of Scripture? Is there a better explanation?
We’ve already seen in Chapter 5 that references to the “first day of the week” almost never indicate anything like worship services. When they are examined, we see they weren’t worship services at all. For example, we saw one case where the disciples were gathered together hiding from the Jews, as they were afraid. After all, their leader was just executed, and for all they know they would be next.
We examined the time that the women returned from the tomb and met Jesus along the way. They stopped to worship Him, but that was an unplanned event driven by joy. They did not gather there in order to have organized worship. They had not yet even realized He had risen until they got there!
Unless someone wants to totally rule out the many cases of spontaneous joy, pray and worship in both testaments (which obviously did not change the formal day of worship), there can be no justification for using this single occurrence to claim that the disciples used it to change the Sabbath to Sunday. To cap this instance off, the apostles didn’t even believe the women until Christ Himself appeared to them!
We then looked at Paul preaching, again one single incident, on the first day of the week. However, when we properly adjust the days according to Jewish reckoning (because a biblical day starts at sundown rather than either sunrise or midnight), we see that he was just continuing his instruction from the previous day, the weekly Sabbath. In addition, he was still preaching and teaching because he had to leave later that day. There were no hymns or other acts we might associate with the formal weekly worship, so it should be obvious that it is the same as a Bible study. I know of no Scripture that limits when Bible study can appear.
We even earlier saw in Chapter 4 that the breaking of bread that Paul and the other disciples took part in was the sharing of a meal. Again, do we only eat once a week? Don’t Bible studies and other meetings outside of formal worship services involve food much of the time? Even the world offers donuts or bagels for morning business meetings, and that sharing of food, “breaking of bread”, does not involve worship, does it?
Passing Around the Collection Plate?
There is one more case of a Scripture containing “first day of the week” where people point to, however, to “prove” that the day of worship was now Sunday. That is found in 1 Corinthians.
16 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.
4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.
While this is generally understandable, it might still help to compare translations.
16 Now about the collection for the saints: You should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. 2 On the first day of the week,[a] each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, I will send with letters those you recommend to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it is suitable for me to go as well, they can travel with me.
- 1 Corinthians 16:2 Or Each Sunday
I left the footnote on, just so no critics can accuse me of “hiding” something. I readily acknowledge that the “first day of the week” more or less falls during the time period commonly referred to as “Sunday”. That is not in dispute. As long as we realize that the “first day of the week” actually begins Saturday evening at sunset and goes through Sunday evening at sundown, according to Hebrew reckoning, then there should be no confusion on this matter.
However, were they passing around a collection plate at services? If you look at it honestly, can you really come away with such an interpretation? Of course not! However, Scripture twisting is rarely, if ever, honest.
We need to notice that it is a “gift to Jerusalem” and a “collection for the saints”. If it truly were a tithe or offering, it would be for God, would it not? When were sacrifices and offerings in any of the OT references ever for the nation of Israel? According to Wikipedia article “Sacrifice”, the very definition of a sacrifice is (bolding mine):
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose or to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship. While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering (Latin oblatio) can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts.
When we tithe or give offerings, we are giving to God, not some church or manmade organization. Like the OT priesthood, individuals are appointed to do the work of accepting offerings to God and following His plan and outline for them, but the offerings themselves belong to God.
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Greek Does Not Justify Offerings
Given the import of this, there is no justification that Paul would have ever asked for a “collection for the saints” if it truly were for doing God’s work. Furthermore, the term itself in the Greek does not justify this! It comes from logeia, Strong’s G3048, and notice how it is defined (bolding of text mine):
1) a collection
a) of money gathered for the relief of the poor
The word is only used in this passage, both times as “collection(s)”.
In contrast, an “offering” is G4376, “gift” is G1435, and “sacrifice” is G2378. All of these can be used to talk about offerings and sacrifices. Logeia is more similar to the word translated “alms”, eleemosyne G1654, although that term is always used for the poor rather than simply those affected by famine.
Dearth Throughout All the World
Speaking of famine, there is a passage I want to draw your attention to in the Book of Acts.
27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Here we see the danger in not allowing the Bible to interpret the Bible! The above should make it quite clear what Paul was doing and why.
According to Wikipedia, Claudius Caesar was emperor from 41 to 54 AD. Wikipedia also points out that Paul probably wrote 1 Corinthians around 53 – 57 AD, which places it right at the end of Claudius’ reign.
The ultimate test of a prophetic prediction is whether it happens. As Luke tells the story, he confirms that the prophecy Agabus made was fulfilled. He simply states that a famine did occur during the reign of Claudius. Concerning this famine, history shows, as one scholar points out, that this emperor’s reign (A.D. 41-54) was indeed marked by a succession of bad harvests and serious famines in various parts of the empire.
~ Bible study on “Acts 11:27-30 – The Famine Prophecy”, Global Christian Center
Why Sunday? The Principle of the Fire
So, why did Paul pick the “first day of the week” to collect for the saints in Jerusalem? Why not just collect them on Saturday when everyone is there?
The question itself betrays a lack of understanding about the Sabbath. As I point out in “Keeping the Sabbath, 3: No Fire on the Sabbath, So No Cooking on the Sabbath, Right?”, the instruction to not kindle a fire is right before giving the instructions to build the Tabernacle. It turns out that “kindling” a fire means a lot more than just putting a match to some wood! It includes gathering together materials in order to build a fire.
Point blank: The lesson was that even for the work of the Tabernacle, they were not to be gathering together materials on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees came up with nit-picky rules and regulations on how to keep the Sabbath, but what is really needed is a firm idea of the principles involved in keeping the Sabbath. Throughout Scripture, we see the principle of a day of preparation, normally the day before the Sabbath. God was laying down a principle through this command and the pattern of the manna to prepare as much as possible beforehand so that rest can take place on the Sabbath, even if it were “God’s work”.
As a special note, it is well documented that Ambassador Auditorium was being built by contractors on the campus of Ambassador College in the 1970s on the Sabbath. This blog isn’t here to bash Herbert W Armstrong (HWA), but neither should we shirk away from the truth. The Bible presents its heroes with warts and all, and we need to learn to do the same with the same objectivity. HWA was flat out wrong for allowing such work. Not only was it a bad example, but contractors get paid to do what is in the contract. A clause could have easily been put into the contract that work on the auditorium would be Monday through Friday. Anyone who believes such a contract would be impossible is pretty naïve, as contractors will generally bend over backwards for lucrative contracts, as this one would have been.
The principle should have been that not even a fire would be stoked up on the Sabbath day. This is a principle that Paul upheld with no collection of goods being gathered on the Sabbath, but rather the day after. It was for a good cause. It was for God’s people. However, it wasn’t a situation where one day would have made any tangible difference, and therefore, Paul arranged it so he himself as well as the congregations could rest on the Sabbath, and then he would gather together whatever goods were collected and go to Jerusalem on the first day of the week.
Fake Examples, but No Command
What we have seen is that there are a lot of twisted scriptures but nothing that says the Sabbath command was altered. There simply is no command in the New Testament saying to do away with the Sabbath.
In comparison, what has been altered? We have clear commands that these have changed:
- Passover symbols are now the bread and the wine rather than a lamb. Jesus Himself instructed His disciples the night He was arrested to partake of the bread, representing His body, and the wine, representing His blood. He was the Passover Lamb. The Jews ate the Passover lamb, which looked forward to the coming crucified Christ, but now we keep the bread and the wine in order to look back on that event. He did not do away with the Passover, however. He changed the symbols that would be used on that night.
- Circumcision is not necessary for Gentile converts. Under the Old Covenant, a foreigner had to be circumcised in order to partake of the Passover. They became physical Israelites. Some in the NT naturally thought that Gentiles would have to become physical Jews first before becoming spiritual Jews, i.e., Christians. However, God revealed to Peter that the Holy Spirit can be given without regard to circumcision, and he instructed those present to baptize the Gentiles. Notice that baptism was still carried out. The converts were already keeping all of the OT laws to the best of their ability! They were only separated via the physical sign of circumcision.
- Animal sacrifices and the accompanying physical rituals involved with the Temple looked forward to Christ as well. The Book of Hebrews points this out, and it explains why Christ’s body and blood were offered “once for all” (Heb 10:10) because “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats” to take away sin (v 4). This book was written shortly before the destruction of the Temple, and without the Temple, it is impossible to sacrifice correctly in any event. When the Temple is re-established in the Millennium, then sacrifices will be brought back, but as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
That’s it! In each case, we have clear Scripture telling us what has changed and why.
Perhaps you have heard, “The fourth commandment is the only commandment not repeated in the New Testament.” My response is that it is repeated in example if not in word. Jesus kept it. Paul kept it. Hebrews, the same book that talks of why sacrifices are no longer necessary, says there still is a Sabbath rest!
9 Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. 10 For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.11 Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.
What was that “pattern of disobedience”?
27 Yet on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they did not find any. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you[a] refuse to keep My commands and instructions? 29 Understand that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day He will give you two days’ worth of bread. Each of you stay where you are; no one is to leave his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
- Exodus 16:28 The Hb word for you is pl, referring to the whole nation.
Over and over again, ancient Israel broke the Sabbath as well as other sins. One of the reasons that the Pharisees were so nit-picky about the Sabbath came from good intentions. They did not want to repeat the sins of their fathers, and so by “putting a fence around” the Sabbath law, they felt it would protect against any accidental violations. However, their traditions over time made it a burden instead of a true rest.
Shouldn’t This Be Clear Enough?
One would think that this would settle it, no? However, people have had nearly 2,000 years to justify their own actions and twist Scripture to bolster their preconceived ideas. There are more rather, ahem, interesting arguments that people put forward to try to change or nullify the clear Sabbath command.