"THE COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS"

First Corinthians 16.1-4

INTRODUCTION:

1. If you have a map section in the back of your Bible, please turn there. I want you to look at the map of the Holy Land, the region of Palestine.

2. If youíve turned to the map I have in mind, you will notice two rather large lakes at each end of the Jordan River., one at the north end and the other at the south end. Allow me to describe those two lakes to you.

3. One of the lakes is relatively poor in resources. There are very few minerals. Very few of the kind of resources that we would value in an industrial society, yet the lake is teeming with life. All manner of fish thrive in that lake thatís at the north end of the Jordan River. I speak, of course, of the Sea of Galilee.

4. At the south end of the Jordan River is another lake. Quite different than the Sea of Galilee, this lake is the most concentrated deposition of mineral wealth in the entire world. So valuable are the minerals in this southern lake that notable Bible scholars suggest that the next major war in the middle east might conceivably be a struggle for possession of the mineral resources in this little lake.

5. But this lake, for all its wealth of mineral resources, is dead. It, quite literally, is almost totally without life of any kind. It is appropriately named the Dead Sea.

6. Whatís the difference between these two bodies of water? They both lie on the Jordan River. They both have exactly the same water running into them.

7. Folks, the only difference between a body of water with abundant life and a body of water that has no life is this: The Sea of Galilee gives what it receives while the Dead Sea only takes and gives nothing.

8. In your Christian life, are you a receiver and a giver? Or are you just a taker? Do you take the Word of God in on Sunday and keep it? Or do you go out Monday through Saturday and give it back out again?

9. And what about money? Are you a somewhat less wealthy (but alive) Galilee, or are you a grasping and taking (but dead and dying) Dead Sea?

10. In my text for this evening you will learn the particulars of becoming a Sea of Galilee Christian. Turn in your Bible to First Corinthians chapter 16.

11. Some background information: There was at the time of Paulís writing a great drought and famine back in Palestine, and many believers there were experiencing great hardship and deprivation. Remember, also that the believers back in Jerusalem were Jewish Christians. They were folks who had a definite history of racial bias against the Gentile believers that Paul ministered to in Corinth and other Gentile cities.

12. Seizing upon the opportunity that the famine presented to help the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem, we find Paul in the midst of organizing a relief project to send money back to Palestine so that the brothers and sisters in Christ back there could buy food. That is, Paul is organizing members of Gentile Churches, many of whom were themselves extremely poor, to help feed Jewish believers.

13. And what was Paulís goal through all of this? There are actually several he might have had in mind. First, he knew that this effort would help to overcome the serious racial prejudices of those Jewish Christians. Second, he knew that the legitimate physical needs of brothers and sisters in Christ would be tended to. Third, involvement in this project will place the Gentile Christians Paul ministers to in a position where God will greatly bless them, because God blesses cheerful givers. And finally, this project gave Christians an opportunity to demonstrate to the whole civilized world of Paulís day what genuine love really was.

14. And remember, those people were giving to people they had never and probably never would meet . . . until they got to heaven, that is. Not giving their tithe, mind you, since the tithe stays in the Church. This is giving above and beyond the tithe. This is an example of giving offerings.

15. Folks, there are many of us who try to do good and try to help people the way Paul did, but we must be careful. Whether the need is within our Church or without, God has very definite procedures that He wants followed in any organized effort at giving.

16. Why would God want the giving of His people to be organized along certain defined limits? For several reasons that I can think of: First, God wants giving to be done corporately to give Him the greatest glory, instead of an individual getting it. Itís more likely that a Church being thanked for gifts to a missionary will result in God being glorified than if an individual gives that same amount to a missionary.

17. Second, God wants giving to be done corporately to insure the greatest benefit to all concerned, because Church support of a ministry is more likely done under the leadership of the pastor. While individuals oftentimes give for sentimental or genuinely unwise reasons, or insist on giving to ministries and projects that are not fit to receive missions giving, pastors are in a better position to discern the strategic benefits of a Churchís missions giving.

18. Finally, God wants giving to be corporate because it is so much easier to make sure that Godís people are not taken advantage of when their giving is directed someplace a pastor can hold accountable and can verify the use of the missions money thatís given.

19. In todayís text the organized effort is to meet a legitimate need outside the congregation. Letís stand and read of Godís recipe for giving, recognizing that there are principles and guidelines we should take steps not to violate in our own lives. First Corinthians 16.1-4:

1 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.

20. Two ingredients that go into Godís plan for giving to meet a need outside the Church, to show that God has definite procedures that He wants His people to follow.

1A. FOR GODíS GLORY AND FOR YOUR PROTECTION, A PROPER PLAN FOR GIVING TO MEET A NEED OUTSIDE THE CHURCH MUST HAVE THE INGREDIENT OF THE APPROVED METHOD

I want you to notice two points Paul makes about Godís approved method for giving.

1B. First, Itís A Common Method

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

1C. To be sure, every Christian is an individual and God does not want us to run around like little robots, each behaving in exactly the same way all the time. Let there be no mistake about that.

2C. And we do not, for one instant, want to deny that at times the Holy Spirit of God deals with individuals about what they, individually, can or should do to meet a special need they become aware of.

3C. But realize, Christians, that for a congregation to function effectively in accomplishing certain things, as Church body, there has to be some level of uniformity in our actions.

4C. One of the places where uniformity is desired by God is in evangelism. We need to turn out en mass on Saturday nights in our efforts to reach the lost.

5C. Another place where uniformity is desired by God is when we gather for preaching. Itís no more Godís plan for folks to stay at home Sunday morning than it is for them to skip out on the evangelism time.

6C. A third place where uniformity is critical is with regard to our method of giving. Not so much in the amount that a person is to give as in the method of giving.

7C. All of the Churches of Galatia were to do it, Paul informs his readers. The Church in Corinth was to do it. And, by application, we are to do it. This method of giving, whereby the members of a Church respond in unison to meet a specific need outside the Church, is for all Christians in all Churches.

8C. There can be no doubt, then, that this method was the common New Testament method for giving to meet a legitimate need outside the Church. It should also be our method. Amen?

2B. Next, We See That Itís A Continual Method

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.

I want you to recognize four things in this verse:

1C. First, recognize the timing involved. This extra giving is to take place on the first day of the week. Thatís Sunday. Different than the ordered worship of the nation of Israel in observance of the Law of Moses, these Gentile Christians gathered for worship and giving on the first day of the week, not the seventh. And as they gave their tithes on the first day, they were to give their offerings, as well.

2C. Next, recognize the place. The phrase reads, ". . . lay by him in store."

1D. Folks, the word "store" refers to a place of storage. Now, in a letter to a Church, if Paul told them to put money in a place of storage, where do you think he expected their money to go? Their Church. Not a television ministry. Not a radio ministry. Not a Christian publication. Not even their own freelance Christianity pet private missions project. Their Church.

2D. Beloved, we need to understand that although this Church is not intended to be the only avenue through which you give, it is the only avenue through which you should regularly give, it is the only avenue through which you routinely give, as designated by the Word of God.

3D. That means, when you are involved with other Christians in mobilizing resources to meet a specific need outside this Church, those other Christians should be your fellow Church members, and your giving and theirs should be channeled through this Church to accomplish that goal.

3C. Now that youíve recognized the timing and the place of your giving, recognize the amount. ". . . as God hath prospered him."

1D. When your Church tackles a problem outside the membership requiring our financial help, when we as a congregation mobilize our resources to accomplish a specific task, the amount of money that you are to give to accomplish that task is related to the amount that you are able to give. And no two people are able to give the same amount of money.

2D. Know what that means? It means that it is both impossible and improper to judge or evaluate people by their giving. All we do know, all you ought to know for yourself, is that you ought to give something above and beyond your tithe, and that as God prospers you more you ought to give more.

3D. Second Corinthians 9.6 reads, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.." Should you want increase your free will offerings you can expect to reap more bountifully.

4C. The final thing we ought to recognize is the reason. Why should you give above and beyond your tithes on a weekly basis through your Church as God enables you? "That there be no gatherings when I come."

1D. Obviously, the long term reason Paul wanted the Corinthians and the Galatians to give was to raise money for needy believers and pull them out of a jam.

2D. But the short term reason, the reason why the weekly giving must occur, and the reason why everyone must have a part, is so that, little by little, piece by piece, the Church will be able to do the job when the job finally needs to be done.

3D. Paul did not want these people to be unprepared to do their part in this massive undertaking he had planned the next time he arrived to take up the collection.

4D. Folks, do you see how the procedure fits together? The timing now is the same as then. The place now is the same as in Paulís day. The amount now is determined in the same way as back those many years ago. But instead of giving to feed menís bellies we give to save menís souls.

5D. Paulís immediate goal was to get an offering of love to people who were already saved. Our immediate goal is to benefit the advance of the Gospel to see people saved and to see Churches strengthened and new Churches established.

2A. FOR GODíS GLORY AND FOR YOUR PROTECTION, IN ADDITION TO HAVING THE INGREDIENT OF APPROVED METHOD, THERE MUST ALSO BE THE INGREDIENT OF APPROVED MEN

Notice why the approved men are needed:

1B. First, They Are Needed To Accept The Offering

3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

1C. Who approves the men who receive the offering? We do. This Church approves the men by whom the offering is conveyed to its ultimate destination.

2C. Okay then, who are the men approved? For you see, the word "approved" refers to testing and evaluating something, like a gold nugget is tested in an assayerís office to determine whether it is real gold or foolís gold.

3C. Folks, right away we see the danger of not giving through your Church when you give, or of your Church not actually approving the men to whom the offering is given to use in accomplishing the urgent task.

4C. Unless you can actually see, unless you can actually hear, and unless you can actually talk to a missionary or an evangelist, you cannot test and evaluate them to your own satisfaction to determine their genuineness and fitness. And what if they used to be fit, used to be clean, used to be orthodox, but are not anymore?

5C. Jack, would you trust your wife to evaluate the fitness of a used car you were thinking about purchasing? Ron, how about you? Did Eva evaluate that big green monster you drive, or was it you? And what if itís a pretty vehicle thatís a piece of junk under the hood? Does that make a difference to you guys who know automobiles? Of course it does.

6C. This is why no Christian should just send money to some guy he likes. And this is why giving to some cooperative program, whereby someone other than the local Church evaluates and approves of the missionaries they support, like the Southern Baptist Convention does, is not Scriptural.

7C. Iím sure there are vehicles that used to be in good shape that arenít in good shape anymore. And so with missionaries and missions projects. And just as you who are good with automobiles know the folly of allowing a novice to determine what car you buy, so it is with missions giving. Itís pure folly to direct missions money to individual projects and to pursue private and individual goals.

8C. Example: Early on in my Christian life I was made aware of a Korean orphanage that received millions of dollars every year from the United States for the longest time. Every summer their boys choir would travel across America to raise money. But once entering the ministry I found out from a missionary to Korea that that boys choir was not composed of orphans, but the children of high ranking Korean government officials. Further, I learned that the organization had one, very small, orphanage, not the dozens of homes they said they had. It was all a scam. But most missionaries operate one man scams, rather than million dollar scams, and are harder for even Church members to detect.

9C. Another example: Would you give money to a famous television preacher if you knew that he showed first run Hollywood movies to his college student body every Friday night...uncut and unedited? Would you give money to another who lived in a multi-million dollar home in Palm Springs that very few people knew anything about?

10C. Folks, the point is this: For your sake and for the sake of Godís work, give in an approved method and give only to approved men. We as a Church must approve the men. God has already approved of the method.

2B. Approved Men Are Needed, Not Just To Accept The Offering, But Also To Accompany The Offering

4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

1C. Turn to Second Corinthians 8.21 and read: "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men."

2C. Folks, Paul was willing to go to any reasonable length to insure that his actions and motives were construed to be proper and above board. "You want to send someone along to make sure the money gets there? Send anyone with me you want." That was Paulís suggestion.

3C. Our Church is the same way. Why do you think we want two people to count the offerings? Why do you think I never count the money? Why do you think our Church books are open to our Church members to examine anytime you want? Why do we use a safe? Why did we always use a two signature checking system before we employed a business manager?

4C. And beyond that, what is one of the reasons I have traveled to the foreign mission fields of Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines and the Middle East? I learned things about missionaries on those trips of long ago that is still affecting the way we and other Churches support missionaries. Such trips are extremely important to make. I am still working on a couple of missionary problems that came to light on trips I made more than 10 years ago.

5C. Folks, these kinds of things are done to comply with the Biblical imperative that we make sure that what we intend to accomplish with our giving we actually accomplish with our giving. And to be honest with you, I donít think most pastors exhibit much competence in these areas, and Church members are even less competent, as a rule.

6C. So, do yourself a favor and donít try to function as a private mission board. You are without the expertise and you are without the Scriptural authority. Give through this Church.

CONCLUSION:

1. Folks, the common and continual method which God has set before us to accomplish a mission project beyond the reaches of this Church is this: You give weekly. You give on Sundays. You give above and beyond your tithe to the cause of Christ through this Church.

2. The amount that you give to accomplish this specific task is a matter to settle between you and God, but Scripture indicates that it should be a reflection of your material prosperity. And what is the specific task that we have undertaken?

3. Heretofore our Churchís effort has been to support Church planting missionaries through our Churchís missions fund. And most Churches expend great effort in this direction without a great deal of thought and intelligent prayer. But I think itís time we took stock of some things and reevaluated our objectives. Back to this in a moment.

4. As well, there are the approved men. We give to men that we approve of. We examine. We scrutinize. Whether it be me, missionaries that we support, or the various evangelists that we have from time to time. If we cannot approve of them personally, we need to be very cautious in our support of them.

5. Do you remember my opening illustration of the two lakes? One lake is a giving lake and is, therefore, full of life. The other lake is a taking lake and is, therefore, almost completely lifeless.

6. Realize that this illustration from nature is repeated in a Christianís life every day. Itís found in the lives of believers who are quite willing to take from God eternal life, physical health, a fabulous lifestyle by world standards, and the privilege of owning and studying a Bible of your very own.

7. But instead of being a Sea of Galilee, so many who claim to be converted want to stay at home and study their Bible on their own. Instead of being givers, they are content to sit in the pew and only receive. Though someone made it possible for them to receive the gift of eternal life, they will avoid the commitment of Church and giving through the Church so that others might hear. And you most certainly will not see them evangelizing on Saturday nights.

8. I would not ask what kind of lake you are. Rather, I would ask what kind of lake you purpose to be henceforth? Will you make the same kind of commitment the Corinthians made? Had they not decided to be givers, instead of remaining the kind of carnal takers they had been, where would we be today? We would be lost.

9. Purpose to be a tither and also to give beyond the tithe. You see, the tithe isnít your money, itís Godís money. So, when you cut a check for the tithe you are not really giving to God. You are simply conveying to this Church what God gives us through you. But when you give above your tithe, thatís when a Christian begins to give for the first time. So, be a giver in addition to being a tither.

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