Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 16:1-24, the last chapter of 1 Corinthians. In verses 1 through 9 Paul deals with the collection of the gift. Verses 10 through 24 are the conclusion of this Epistle.
In verse 1 Paul says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you do also.” This is the eleventh matter dealt with by the apostle in this Epistle, a matter concerned with money, mammon, and material possessions. All of fallen mankind are under the domination of mammon and material possessions (Matt. 6:19-21, 24-25, 30; 19:21-22; Luke 12:13-19). At the day of Pentecost, under the power of the Holy Spirit, all the believers overthrew this domination and had all their possessions in common for distribution to the needy ones (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32, 34-37). That practice, due to the weakness of the believers’ fallen nature (see Acts 5:1-11; 6:1), did not last long. It was already over by the Apostle Paul’s time. Then the believers needed grace to overcome the power of mammon and material things and to release them from Satan’s domination for an offering to the Lord to fulfill His purpose. Resurrection life is the supply for the believers to live such a life, a life trusting in God, not in treasures of material possessions, a life not for today but for the future, not for this age but for the coming age (Luke 12:16-21; 1 Tim. 6:17-19), a life that overthrows the usurpation of temporal and uncertain riches. This may be the reason that this dealing follows the one concerning the reality of resurrection life. In any case this dealing is related to God’s administration among the churches.
It is a crucial matter that this dealing follows a chapter concerning the reality of resurrection life. Resurrection is not only the power over sin and death; resurrection is a power over mammon and material possessions. Therefore, immediately following the chapter on resurrection, Paul turns to the matter of material possessions.
From verse 1 we see that Paul gave the same direction to the church in Corinth as he did to the churches of Galatia. This strongly indicates that all the local churches should be the same in their practice (7:17; 11:16; 14:33).
In verse 2 Paul continues, “On the first day of every week let each one of you lay aside by himself, storing up as he may be prospered, that no collections be made when I come.” The seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, was a memorial of God’s creation (Gen. 2:1-3; Exo. 20:8, 11). The first day of the week is a symbol of the Lord’s resurrection; it is the day the Lord resurrected from among the dead (John 20:1). It is called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). The New Testament saints meet and offer their possessions on this day (Acts 20:7), the day of the Lord’s resurrection, signifying that they have been resurrected with the Lord (Eph. 2:6) through His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3), and that they meet to remember Him and worship God with their offerings in resurrection by the resurrection life, not by their natural life.
Our giving must be in resurrection life, not in our natural life. However, much of the giving by Christians today is done according to the natural life. Money is raised by the natural life in a way that is absolutely in the old creation. Furthermore, those who give large amounts are often publicly recognized, whereas those who give small amounts are ignored. Our giving must be completely different from this. Our offerings must be presented in resurrection and by resurrection.
In verse 3 Paul says, “And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem.” The Greek word rendered gift can also be translated grace. This was a kind of fellowship, under the apostle’s direction, of the churches in the Gentile world with the church in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-2; Rom. 15:25-27).
We have pointed out again and again that in the second section of 1 Corinthians, chapters eleven through sixteen, Paul deals with matters in the realm of the divine administration. This section begins with the headship of God and consummates with a seemingly insignificant matter—the gift of material things for the saints. Whether or not we are truly in God’s administration, or for God’s administration, and are carrying out God’s administration, can be tested by how we are related to material things and how we handle our money. If we use our money in a worldly way, then no matter what we may say about resurrection, we are not truly in God’s administration. The extent to which we are in the divine administration and for the divine administration is determined by how we care for money and material possessions.
Throughout the years, we in the Lord’s recovery have been hearing His Word and have been built up in the riches of Christ. We have surely been nourished by the divine Word. Now if we all would be faithful to live for God’s administration in caring for money and material matters, there would be no financial needs in the recovery. For example, certainly we can exercise our spirit and our will to save a small amount of money each week, perhaps just two dollars and fifty cents, and give this to the Lord for His move on earth. One day, instead of having our lunch at a restaurant, we may eat a simple meal prepared at home. Then the money saved could be given to the Lord. Imagine what the situation would be if we all were faithful to do something like this week by week!
In such a spiritual book dealing with spiritual and heavenly matters, Paul eventually turns to the very practical matter of finances. It is quite easy to talk about the headship and say, “Praise the Lord, I am under the headship of Christ! Christ is my Head. Concerning His headship, I do not have any problems.” But can you say that you have no problem with the matter Paul brings up in chapter sixteen? We may talk about the victory of resurrection over sin and death, but what about the victory in resurrection over your use of your money and material possessions? It is easy for our talk to be abstract and impractical concerning the headship, discerning the Body, the gifts, and resurrection. For this reason, Paul, in God’s wisdom, deals with the matter of giving immediately after the matter of resurrection. If we truly live in resurrection, we shall not have a problem with money or material things.
In verse 2 Paul specifically mentions “the first day of every week.” We have seen that this day, the Lord’s Day, is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. We are not those who live and act in the seventh day of the week, for that day is a memorial of the old creation. We should be living in resurrection on the first day of the week. This means that we should not be seventh-day people; we should be first-day people. If we live in resurrection, in the first day of the week, then in the Lord’s recovery there will be no problem regarding financial need.
In 16:4-9 we see the apostle’s willingness. Verse 4 says, “And if it is fitting for me also to go, they shall go with me.” In verse 6 he goes on to say, “And perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me forward wherever I may go.” In verse 8 Paul tells us that he would remain in Ephesus until Pentecost. This Epistle was written in Ephesus, where the apostle stayed for three years on the third journey of his ministry (Acts 19:21-22; 20:1, 31).
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