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The Collection for the Saints


Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. 2On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.

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1. But concerning the collection Luke relates (Acts 11:28) that the prediction of Agabus, foretelling that there would be a famine under Claudius Caesar, gave occasion for alms being collected by the saints, with the view of affording help to the brethren in Jerusalem. For though the Prophet had foretold, that this calamity would be generally prevalent almost throughout the world, yet as they were more heavily oppressed with penury at Jerusalem, and as all the Gentile Churches were bound, if they would not be held guilty of very great ingratitude, to afford aid to that place from which they had received the gospel, every one, consequently, forgetful of self, resolved to afford relief to Jerusalem. That the pressure of want was felt heavily at Jerusalem, appears from the Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 2:10,) where Paul relates, that he had been charged by the Apostles to stir up the Gentiles to afford help. 149149     “D’inciter les Gentiles a subuenir a la pourete qui y estoit;” — “To stir up the Gentiles to relieve the poverty that existed there.” Now the Apostles would never have given such a charge, had they not been constrained by necessity. Farther, this passage is an evidence of the truth of what Paul states there also — that he had been careful to exhort the Gentiles to afford help in such a case of necessity. Now, however, he prescribes the method of relief; and that the Corinthians may accede to it the more readily, he mentions that he had already prescribed it to the Churches of Galatia; for they would necessarily be the more influenced by example, as we are wont to feel a natural backwardness to anything that is not ordinarily practiced. Now follows the method — by which he designed to cut off all hinderances and impediments.

2. On one of the Sabbaths. The end is this — that they may have their alms ready in time. He therefore exhorts them not to wait till he came, as anything that is done suddenly, and in a bustle, is not done well, but to contribute on the Sabbath what might seem good, and according as every one’s ability might enable — that is, on the day on which they held their sacred assemblies. The clause rendered on one of the Sabbaths, (κατὰ μίαν σαββάτων,) Chrysostom explains to mean — the first Sabbath. In this I do not agree with him; for Paul means rather that they should contribute, one on one Sabbath and another on another; or even each of them every Sabbath, if they chose. For he has an eye, first of all, to convenience, and farther, that the sacred assembly, in which the communion of saints is celebrated, might be an additional spur to them. Nor am I more inclined to admit the view taken by Chrysostom — that the term Sabbath is employed here to mean the Lord’s day, (Revelation 1:10,) for the probability is, that the Apostles, at the beginning, retained the day that was already in use, but that afterwards, constrained by the superstition of the Jews, they set aside that day, and substituted another. Now the Lord’s day was made choice of, chiefly because our Lord’s resurrection put an end to the shadows of the law. Hence the day itself puts us in mind of our Christian liberty. We may, however, very readily infer from this passage, that believers have always had a certain day of rest from labor — not as if the worship of God consisted in idleness, but because it is of importance for the common harmony, that a certain day should be appointed for holding sacred assemblies, as they cannot be held every day. For as to Paul’s forbidding elsewhere (Galatians 4:10) that any distinction should be made between one day and another, that must be understood to be with a view to religion, 150150     See Calvin’s Institutes, volume 1. and not with a view to polity or external order. 151151     “Quand on le fait pour deuotion, comme cela estant vn seruice de Dieu, et non pas pour la police externe;” — “When it is done for the sake of devotion, as though it were a service done to God, and not with a view to external polity’.”

Treasuring up I have preferred to retain the Greek participle, as it appeared to me to be more emphatic. 152152     “On a par ci deuant traduit, amassant; mais i’ay mieux aired retenir la propriete du mot Grec;” — “The word before us has been rendered laying up; but I have preferred to retain the peculiar force of the Greek word.” For although θησανρίζειν means to lay up, yet in my opinion, he designed to admonish the Corinthians, that whatever they might contribute for the saints would be their best and safest treasure. For if a heathen poet could say — “What riches you give away, those alone you shall always have, 153153     “Quas dederis, solas semper habebis opes.” (Martial. Epage 5:42.) A similar sentiment occurs in the writings of the poet Rabirius. “Hoc habeo, luodeunque dedi;I have whatever I have given away.” (See Seneca, ib. 6, de Beneft) Alexander the Great, (as stated by ­Plutarch,) when asked where he had laid up his treasures, answered, Apud amicos; — “Among my friends.” — Ed. how much more ought that consideration to have influence among us, who are not dependent on the gratitude of men, but have God to look to, who makes himself a debtor in the room of the poor man, to restore to us one day, with large interest, whatever we give away? (Proverbs 19:17.) Hence this statement of Paul corresponds with that saying of Christ —

Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where it will not be exposed either to thieves, or to moths. (Matthew 6:20.)

According as he has prospered. Instead of this the old translation has rendered it, What may seem good to him, misled, no doubt, by the resemblance between the word made use of, and another. 154154     S’abusant a l’affinite des deux mots Grecs;Misled by the resemblance between two Greek words.” Calvin’s meaning seems to be that the verb εὐοδόομαι, (to be prospered,) made use of here by Paul, had been confounded with εὐδοκέω (to seem good.) Wiclif (1380) in accordance with the Vulgate, renders as followsKepynge that that plesith to hym. — Ed. Erasmus renders it, What will be convenient. 155155     “C’est a dire, selon sa commodite;” — “That is to say, according to his convenience.” Neither the one nor the other pleased me, for this reason — that the proper signification of the word brings out a meaning that is much more suitable; for it means — to go on prosperously. Hence he calls every one to consider his ability — “Let every one, according as God hath blessed him, lay out upon the poor from his increase.”