Throughout our study of 1 Corinthians, we’ve thought a lot about what it means to be the church. Mainly, we’ve focused on being a church, a local church – but today’s passage reminds us that we’re also a part of the church, all the Christians around the world. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. And our church is part of something much bigger than just our church.
In 1 Corinthians 12:26, Paul wrote that “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” This is not only true for individual Christian relationships, but it’s also true for churches and their relationships with one another.
Now, in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, we see some real practical instructions. What we’ll find are three principles for churches helping other churches financially.
Principle #1: It’s Directed By Someone with a Broader View
Apparently Paul and the church in Corinth have been in an ongoing discussion about collecting some funds to help the church in Jerusalem. He writes, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do” (v. 1).
Corinth and Jerusalem were not at all geographically close to each other. Other churches would not have been privy to the day-to-day realities of the Jerusalem Christians if it weren’t for someone like Paul – someone who could see the whole playing board. For these churches to help each other, they needed someone with a broader view who could prompt, direct and coordinate.
Principle #2: It’s Done Systematically
The second principle we see is that churches helping other churches is done systematically. Paul suggested a simple system in verse 2: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
This was not a program. Depending on how the Corinthians prospered, they were to set some funds aside to go to Jerusalem. It wasn’t an emotional appeal or a one-time blowout gift. This was a strategy to figure out how they could help their brothers and sisters in a faithful, ongoing way.
Principle #3: It’s Done Carefully
And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.– vv. 3-4
There were some troubled individuals in the Corinthian church – not the kind of people you would trust with a large financial collection. So Paul says that he wants them to find some who are tried and true and put them in charge. More than that, he instructs them to validate the people in writing (“accredit by letter”).
Some Applications for Us
So, we see three principles for how churches helped other churches financially back then. How can this apply to us? There are some applications for us based on those principles:
1) If we want to be helpful to the greater body of Christ, we’ll need to be directed by someone with a broader view.
There are too many churches in the world for us to feel financial responsibility for all of them. We need to be organized in order to claim responsibility – this is one reason why denominations are good. For us, ACGC has a broader view of all the Advent Christian churches. From there, we are divided into regions (FYI: we’re in the Appalachian Region), then into conferences. Our conference is the Piedmont Conference, and within that we’re in the Southern District.
We’re part of something bigger just within the Advent Christian denomination, and we have a role to play. Maybe for us we should do a prayerful reevaluation of what that role is. (Go to the ACGC website to see how you can get involved.)
2) Let’s help systematically.
Penny Crusade and United Ministries are two ways that we give systematically to support other Advent Christian churches. Is this the best way? Is it the most effective way for us to help financially? Maybe it’s time to prayerfully reevaluate.
3) Let’s do it all carefully.
Those in charge of the finances in our church do an excellent job of making sure everything is handled carefully. So let’s continue to do it carefully.
Now you might be thinking, “Why should we help other churches when we have our own problems?” If you look at previous sermons from 1 Corinthians, you’ll see that this church was a mess. Yet Paul was expecting them to be helpful to other churches. Ministering to others is part of being the church and growing as Christians.
We’re part of something much bigger than ourselves or our church. We’re on the same team as other churches, working to make disciples of all nations and bring about the faith we cherish in Jesus Christ.
- What stood out to you in reading 1 Corinthians 16:1-4?
- Why is it important to realize that you and your church are part of other Christians and other churches?
- Why is it good to have someone with a broader view in charge of church-to-church financial help?
- Should churches always be looking for ways to help other churches? Explain.