What is the bible teachings about the composition of a worship gathering? Apostle Paul clarifies this in Corinth
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV) – 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
Let us dissect the verse one by one
whenever we come together – church assembly
each of you has psalm – Rom. 16:10-11, singing of hymns of praises
has teaching – 1 Cor. 14:21 proclaiming God’s message
has a tongue – 1 Cor. 14:18-19, speaking in the language understood by individuals
has a revelation – making something known
has an interpretation – 1 Cor.14:11, there is a language translator for those who don’t understand
let all things be done for edification – for our own understanding of God’s words and spiritual inspirations
What else do we understand from 1 Cor. 14:26? There was no mentioned of fix time not even how many times. but says “whenever you come together”.
How else are first Christian gathered? We know they are gathered from their respective houses (Rom. 16:10-11).
What else did you notice about gathering together? THERE IS NO OFFERINGS.
So when is Church offerings started?
In the time of Jews, the Israelite of the First Testament, up to the time of Jesus and Apostles (who are Jews and practiced all what a devout Jew does), they practiced tithing. At least three types of tithe I know but there could be something else:
THE LEVITE’S TITHE – Numbers 18:21 (NKJV) “Behold, I have given the CHILDREN OF LEVI ALL THE TITHES IN ISRAEL as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.
THE FESTIVAL TITHE – Deuteronomy 14:22-35 (NKJV) “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 “And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
POOR TITHE – Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (NKJV) “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 “And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
So far we know the people of God in time of the First Testament they are commanded to tithe.
In the New Testament, again Christ, the Apostles and other Jews in the bible practiced tithe for being a Jews. The coming of Christ created a transition between Judaism and Christianity and so there was a time they both practiced Jewish traditions and also started practicing the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Himself says in Matthew 5:17-18 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”. Christ was saying the completion of the practices and prophesies of the First Testament will come and that will happen when heaven and earth pass away. The fact that Christians no longer practice Jewish laws, the passing of heaven and earth must have been done – or Christians are wrong and the present Jews in our time are correct in their practice of religion. If you believe Christ, we are therefore to follow the new teachings from the New Testament as instructed by Lord Jesus and the Apostles.
[Side topic: Please read topic on “Till Heaven And Earth Pass Away” to understand Matthew 5:17-18 in details]
Let us start again with Apostle Paul’s letter in Corinth
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (NKJV) – 16 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 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
First we know there was collection from this verse but it is not teaching about the collection during worship gathering. Secondly, Apostle Paul suggested “as I have given orders” (it was his order not from Christ) to set aside on the first day of the week so that there will be NO COLLECTION when he come. Again there was no mention the collections are collected during the gathering.
Also in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NKJV) – “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The next question is what are the collections used for in the verses qouted? The collections are from Gentile Christians in Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Galatia, and others and they are to be sent to Jerusalem not because there is Central Office there [Note the Jerusalem Temple is not the place of worship for Christians] but because there is a great famines and the Jewish Christians there need help (Acts 11:28-30). The collections are not to build church buildings. You see when you learn the whole context it gives the real meaning of the verse why they say what they say or why they did what they did.
The collection described in 1 Cor. 16:1-2 is not endless. It will end when Apostle Paul come. Think of it, if there is no end, Apostle Paul will keep traveling from Greece, Rome and other places to Jerusalem. The point is the collection was intended for helping the needy Christians in Jerusalem but the Church use 1 Cor 16:1-2 to prepare your offerings weekly, your annual thanks giving weekly, your special offerings weekly and so on and so forth.
Collections are for Great Famines in Jerusalem and Judea
Famines was foretold by Agabus in:
Acts 11:28 (NKJV) – 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.
Judea was especially hard hit by famine and the disciples sent aid to them.
Acts 11:29 (NKJV) – Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
First century historian, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius, mentioned famines and is said to have been severe in Jerusalem. Josephus says that many people perished for want of food. Here is a quote from http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/acts11_famine.htm
“Other early historians also mention this famine which extended beyond Israel. Josephus wrote in Antiquities 20 chapter 1.3-2.5: “Herod, the brother of Agrippa who had perished, was allowed to govern over Chalcis. He asked Claudius Caesar for control over the temple along with the sacred treasury, and the ability to choose the high priests, and he was given all that he had asked for.”
“Around this time lived queen Helena of Adiabene, along with her son Izates. They both began to follow the Jewish way, turning away from their past lifestyle . . . Her arrival was of great help to the masses in Jerusalem; for there was a famine in the land that overtook them, and many people died of starvation.”
Collections From The Christians Gentiles
Apostle Paul talked about the gift for ministering the saints. In the previous article “Apostle Paul and The Church Ministers”, I explained Apostle Paul reverted to no-gift preaching and instead he worked not to burden the saints.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (NKJV) – 8 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. 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. 6 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.
Titus collected gifts to deliver to the poor in Jerusalem and Judea.
[Side topic: About TITUS – During Paul’s first missionary journey, a young man named Titus heard Paul preach about Jesus. Titus was Greek—he had not grown up worshiping the God of the Bible. As he listened to Paul, Titus’ heart responded to the message, and he believed in Jesus. Paul brought him to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-4) to show the apostles and other Jewish believers how a Greek non-Jew could love God just as much as they did. Titus represented all the other non-Jewish people who became Christians and were completely accepted by God through their faith in Jesus Christ.]
2 Corinthians 8:8-9 (NKJV) – 8 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 sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
Collections was temporary to supply the needs of the people suffering from famines. Apostle Paul described it not to ease life of the receivers and burden the life of the givers.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 (NKJV) – 13 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.”
Apostle Paul goes back to Jerusalem
Apostle Paul is going back to Jerusalem not because it is a central office for offerings for storing for future worship building but for distribution to the poor.
Romans 15:25-27 (NKJV)- 25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.
Apostle Paul brought the offerings in Jerusalem
Acts 24:17 (NKJV) – 17 Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation,
Acts 24:17 (NASB) – 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings;
What About The Poor?
Inside the Church of Christ, rich or poor are required to make all the many different types of offerings. This doctrine may be supported using 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 and Mark 12:41-44.
Mark 12:41-44 (NKJV) – 41 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.”
2 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NKJV) – 8 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,
Apostle Paul recognized the poor Christians of Corinth “abounded in the riches of their liberality“. There is of course a lesson to learn here that even poor can give but this verse is not instructing poor to regularly give, they have done it during the time of great famines in Jerusalem and Judea to help the dying believers, not to help the Church. By “Church” I mean the organized Church, not the biblical “church” which is translated to “assembly”.
What is wrong with Church Buildings?
The collections mentioned in the verses above are not to build church buildings. While it is necessary to have a building for assembly, God no longer need it because it became a place for corruption during the time of the Jews. This is possibly the reason why God changed it to spiritual temple.
[Side topic: Remember in Matthew 24:2, Christ says to the apostles “…. Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” referring to the Jerusalem Temple. When the Apostles asked when Christ gave several signs. Matthew 24:7 “…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places”. This “famines and pestilences” that is happening in their time (first century) is what Christ referring to, not famines in our time to describe the First World War and the beginning of the end of the world.]
Acts 17:24-25 (NKJV) – 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NKJV) – 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
The Corinthians, had gathered in a house not a temp
1 Corinthians 16:19 (NKJV) – 19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
Let us focus again what is wrong with church buildings? There is nothing wrong in having a building for use in worship assembly. Where it is wrong is how the Church become so materialistic in the constructions of new Church buildings, the materials used, how they are bought and who benefited to it, top of the line sound systems and furniture using the offerings which are taught to be used for helping the needy. There are no biblical instructions to entering commercial business for schools, hospitals, stadiums, arena and others – because all are subject for corruptions by human who look after them – this is the same pattern how God allowed the Jewish Temple to be destroyed.
This is an excerpt from another article: “In Jesus’ day the office of the high priest went to the priority bidder. Whichever priestly family could pay Pontius Pilate the most money became the high priest. Most of the priestly families that controlled the temple in Jesus’ day were Sadducees rather than Pharisees. They owned all the shops on the south side of the temple where the buying and selling occurred. The priests got kickback commissions on all the buying and selling.”.
While the bible contains the words of God, it contains real life situation for the people that are included in the book. The experience of the first century Christians served as an inspirations for us because they are profitable for our own spiritual well being. While the Lord Jesus Christ and Apostle Paul taught the first Christians the importance of giving, there was no instructions of giving twice a week as an offering, giving once a week as a locale or district offering, giving once a week for yearly thanks giving, giving for mid-year offering and collections from the officers for miscellaneous Church expenses. Of course the Church doctrines used several bible verses but we have covered some of them in this article, they do not refer to worship service offerings, they are collections for helping the needy.