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This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, October 28, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 48)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

1 Corinthians                                                                            Lesson 48    

Welcome to HBS. 

I have one announcement for the group before we get started with this week’s Bible lesson.  My wife and I are preparing to move this weekend to a new address, which translates to a long list of minute details to tend to and a lot of work for the two of us.  For all you faithful students of God’s Word this means I’m going to be “Off the Air” for at least two weeks.  I apologize for the interruption in service.  Please use this time wisely.  Please study the previous lessons posted to this site or use the time to read ahead.

Introduction to 1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 15 is a highly developed theological section of this letter without a doubt.  Why Paul chose to reveal the “secret” or mystery of the resurrection of the dead to these “infants in Christ’s” no one knows for certain.  However, he shifts from dealing with this reality, to practical Christian living starting at 16:1 without skipping a beat, as if saying, “Should the Lord return today let Him find us minding the church’s business.”

Brief Outline of Chapter 16:

16:1-4 – Collection for the poor Jews in Judea
16:5-9 – Tentative Plans to visit Corinth
16:10-12 – Other Christian Workers
16:13-18 – Final Admonitions
16:19-24 – Closing Greetings

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Let’s Compare Paul’s Fund-Raising to Church Fund-Raising Today (16:1-4)

On November 6, 2007 Senator Charles Grassley sent formal letters to 6 top televangelists requesting that they turn over their financial records to the Senate Finance Committee.  These six well known preachers were under federal investigation for using their tax-exempt status, as churches, to shield their lavish life styles – a serious offense.   All six televangelist targeted in the investigation preach some form of the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with “earthly riches.”  Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that this teaching works.  If it doesn’t work for you, then you’re faith is inadequate or so they say.  After three years, no penalties were handed out by the senate committee to the two preachers who cooperated or to the four who refused to cooperate by releasing their financial documents to the investigators, and no definitive findings of wrongdoing were established with this group.  However, it could be said this investigation helped shine the light of truth on the fact that some people in the church misuse their position and people’s trust in order to fleece the flock.

While it’s undeniably true that men of God have labored long to raise funds for the Lord’s work, it also true more than a few others, greedy and lusting after the things of the flesh, have brought reproach upon the name of Christ by using the Lord’s work for their own material advantage.  While the majority of the people in their congregations live their lives from meager paycheck-to-paycheck and are literally one disaster away from financial ruin, there are many church leaders living a disproportionate lifestyle. 

The six church leaders that were investigated live in multi-million dollar homes, drive or they are chauffeured in luxury vehicles, own private jets (one of the preachers under investigation owns his own airport), and they command 7-figure annual salaries, while preaching some form of the prosperity gospel.  However, the only people prospering are the preachers themselves. 

What Does the Bible say About the Prosperity Gospel?

In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the Believer is told to use God, whereas the Truth of God’s Word is just the opposite.  God uses the Believer.  The prosperity gospel theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the Believer wills.  But the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the Believer to do God’s will on earth.  Paul warned Timothy about men who came preaching false gospels such as this: …and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of (what) the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain…  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men (and women) into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil… (1Timothy 6:5, 9-11; Ephesians 5:5-7; Hebrews 13:5). 

Over the years church-goers have become cynical about religious “fund-raising.”   Admittedly, I’ve joined their ranks and I’ll explain why that is.  A few years back, the church my wife and I were members of owned the building from the foundation to the roof and the surrounding property.  For some reason, not made clear to the 5,000+ church members, the pastor and elders alone determined we needed a “much bigger building.”   Therefore, a “building fund” commenced and each member was asked to “pledge” a fixed amount for three years.  This faith “pledge” was in addition to our normal giving amount.  Our pastor always called this a “tithe;” please don’t get me started on this subject; we’ll save it for later.  My wife and I wrote down our faith “pledge” amount on the post card provided and mailed it back to our church, and for three years we worked it into our budget by working things out of our budget; that’s how things work in the “real-world, right? 

Well, the long and short of this is, some land was purchased, and a huge building went up.  They didn’t cut any corners or expense in the construction or in supplying each individual department’s request.  They even managed to include a Starbucks Coffee CafĂ© in the main lobby of the church, and a parking lot capable of hosting thousands of vehicles.  People driving by this church often mistake it for a shopping mall today.  The price tag for all this was upwards of $16 million dollars, which means this particular church will be in debt for many years to come; oh yeah, the elders asked us to continue with the faith “pledges” because now those funds were needed to pay down this debt. 

Hang on.  We’re only getting started.  I was coordinating the Children’s Ministry at the church during this period of time and working closely with the pastor in charge of this division and the ministry leader.  One year after we opened the doors I remember arriving early to set up our Sunday morning children’s program.  I found the ministry leader there ahead of me and over a cup of coffee I asked her how things were going.  She said there had been a meeting and the pastors had decided they didn’t have enough space, i.e. they did not have enough rooms in the building to accommodate all the Bible study groups, individual programs, etc.  So, they were talking about another “building fund.”  I was stunned because on any given day, including Sunday, the busiest day of the week, I’d seen dozens of empty and locked rooms unused throughout the church building and not just in the children’s wing and I brought this up. 
 
Once again, my wife and I had been faithful members of this church (the denomination will remain a secret) for many years.  We knew nothing about this proposal.  But we did know this was not a wealthy congregation.  The majority of the families sitting in the seats every week were like us, living their lives from paycheck-to-paycheck; praying and hanging on in other words.  The long and short of this means the church leaders were not being “good stewards” of the finances entrusted to them by the faithful.  Their vision for this church didn’t line up with the reality sitting right there in front of them week after week and this truth proved itself out when the Housing Bubble burst in 2008.  Many of the people lost their jobs when the recession hit their homes or they saw their take-home pay reduced after they were “down-sized.” 

I was already wary of church fund-raising because of situations I’d encountered years ago but this was a whole new “ball game,” as they say.  This took the phrase, “Fleecing the Flock,” to another height.  However, having said that, I’ve also seen the positive side of church fund-raising.  At one time I was a member of a Bible believing church that held itself accountable for every nickel that came in.  This church wouldn’t spend money to replace a torn Bible in the pew without talking to their membership about it first and only then after putting it to a vote; demonstrating accountability!

Now, before we go much further I am not casting a shadow of doubt on your church, its leadership, or its accounting principles, nor am I saying every church leader is working “an angle.”  I am also not telling people to stop giving to their church.  The church needs financial support in order to function properly.  I am merely reporting a personal experience and directing your attention to the truth.  Satan is the god of this age, which means his evil influence has corrupted every facet of our existence.   There isn’t a corner of society that has not been tainted by his evil influence.  In the American Political System, for example, the three branches of government defined in the constitution (legislative, executive, and judicial) make up three of the four estates.  The fourth estate is said to be “the people,” “interest groups,” “the press,” “administrative agencies,” or “popular culture.”  Looking at all these, can you name one that has not been infiltrated by Satan?  Corruption (evil) is inherent in every aspect of society and you can add the church to this list.  We know from church history that Satan has had his way with it.  Read up on “The Crusades” and “The Spanish Inquisition,” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

Digging Deeper

I don’t know if Believers are “up to speed” on the facts of Church Embezzlement in this country, but according to ShareFaith Magazine’s article, dated September 30, 2015, Christians stole $39 billion in church related financial fraud in 2014.  They go on to report that church staff (employees and volunteers) steals 30% of the church funds annually.  The average church loss, across the board due to fraud is $120,000, and growing every year!  What’s even more shocking folks is this statistic:  80% of annual church fraud is unreported.  It’s handled quietly behind the scenes; the congregation knows nothing about it.  It’s the churches “dirty little secret.”  To save space and time I didn’t record all the information from this article for you, so it’s much worse than what I’ve shown in print. 

I believe an informed Believer is a wise Believer.  As I’ve said, when church fund-raising is the topic, I’ve learned to open both eyes, I listen, and I ask questions.  I’ve seen the program misused by the very people I put my trust in.  From this point onward, it’s up to you.  As Ronald Reagan said, after signing the INF Treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, “Trust, but verify.  Meaning, you need to do the “leg-work” in your own church to see what’s going on behind the scenes.  The church I attend today provides an annual “cash flow” statement to each person.  Every dollar is accounted for.

Paul’s Fund-Raising Example

As we will soon discover, the fund-raising of today as compared to our Apostle Paul’s fund-raising is as different as “Light” is to “darkness.”  I’ll begin by saying he wasn’t shy when it came to asking the churches to contribute to the poor Jews in Judea or reminding the Corinthian church of their prior commitment (2 Corinthians 8:8-11).  Paul had his own method of fund-raising and it’s far different from what we’ve come to expect.  Before we “dig” into Paul’s instructions concerning “charitable” contributions, let’s consider the kind of man Paul was, especially as this relates to (OPM) Other People’s Money. 

Let’s face facts folks, one of the reasons people have become cynical about church fund-raising is that there are a lot of crooks hiding behind their Bibles, clerical collars, and pulpits.  But if there ever was a man who deserved to be heard when it comes to contributing money, that man is Paul.  His example was a man named Barnabas.  Barnabas was a Jewish saint.  He set the “bar” for the church in Jerusalem when it came to giving funds:  Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles -the twelve – (which translated means Son of Encouragement, and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:36-37).

This is the same man who befriended Paul when he was first saved, when the other apostles wanted nothing to do with him (Acts 9:26-27).  When Agabus and other prophets came down to Antioch from Jerusalem to announce that a great world-wide famine was forthcoming, the newly formed church at Antioch took up a collection for the saints in Judea, and these funds were sent with Barnabas and Paul (Acts 11:27-30) to the saints in need in Jerusalem. 

As an apostle Paul had every right to be supported financially by those to whom he was ministering.  But he chose to waive this right, preaching the gospel that saves at no cost to the Corinthians, so that this same gospel might not be hindered in any way (1 Corinthians 9:1-23).  Thus, when Paul arrived in Corinth, he went to work as a tentmaker along with Aquila, and when he finally ministered full-time to the Corinthians, it was because of the financial support he received from the Macedonians (Acts 18:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11;7-9; Philippians 4:15-18).  This practice was not the exception but the rule.  Paul was not going to be a financial burden to anyone including the churches where he served.  In the midst of warning the Ephesian elders of false teachers, Paul reminded them that his hand was never found in their pockets (Acts 20:30-33).

Paul did not gain financially from the Corinthians.  If anything, the Corinthians were taken advantage of by the false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:20).  Paul, on the other hand, was poor in their midst (1 Corinthians 4:8-13).

Paul never raised funds for himself and he never took advantage of those he ministered too.  He was completely honorable in the use of the funds entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 16:3-4; 2 Corinthians 8:19-23, 9:3-5).

If there were only more men like Paul in the church today; that’s all I’m saying!

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 16:1.

Paul’s Instructions on Giving

1 Corinthians 16

1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

2: On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

3: When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;

4: and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

Paul’s opening remark, Now concerning, in verse 1 introduces answers to questions which this church had asked in its letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1, 25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1). 

The collection for the saints, Logia in the Greek language, (pronounced:  log-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3048, means – a collection of money for the relief of the poor in Judea.  The word collection does not appear anywhere else in the N.T., however, Paul calls it by other names in some of his other letters:  almsgiving or gifts of charity” (Acts 24:17); “indebtedness” (Romans 15:27); “fellowship” (2 Corinthians 8:4); and “service” (2 Corinthians 9:12).  Paul had mentioned this matter before, so it was not “news” to the Corinthians.  All that was needed at this time was the giving of instructions in which the collection should be made. 

There’s continuity between Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of the dead in the preceding chapter and his opening remark concerning the collection for the saints.  It wasn’t that long ago Paul encouraged these Believers with these words “your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58).  Therefore, responding to the poor Jewish Believer’s need in Judea is one of the ways they can lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). 

Furthermore, the contribution to the saints, which Paul has instructed these Believers to prepare for, is that which will be delivered after he arrives at Corinth, so Paul’s discussion of his travel plans logically follow in verses 5-9.

At this juncture I feel the need to point out the following facts about this contribution:

The churches of Macedonia and Achaia participated (Romans 15:26).

The Church of Rome may have participated for Paul writes to them about it (Romans 15:27).

The churches of Galatia participated (1 Corinthians 16:1).

Twice Paul sent Titus to arouse the well-to-do but unresponsive Corinthians to this financial responsibility.  Paul had to urge them to complete it one year later, “But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability” (2 Corinthians 8:6, 8:10-11, 9:2-5).

In his letters to them he did not refrain from advising them of poor churches who were doing better than they or from reminding them of their good intentions of the year previous, urging them to fulfill the undertaking without further delay, lest he and they should both be embarrassed by their failure to do their fair share (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:3).

The churches at Berea, Philippi, Thessalonica, Troas, and others are not mentioned, but we may assume that they participated in this collection.  An important dispensational lesson is taught here, as both the Jews appeal and the Gentile’s response showed that they were beginning to recognize one another as one in Christ Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 16

1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

2: On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

For the saints – this means people of faith, holy, i.e. set apart for God’s service (1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).  It is always plural in the New Testament except on one occasion in Philippians 4:21, but even there, it is used corporately.  Paul’s saying to be saved by God’s grace is to be part of the covenant community of faith – the family of Believers.  Believers are declared holy and called to a lifestyle of holiness (or progressive sanctification). 

As I directed the churches of Galatia so do you also.  Here it’s important to understand, even though the saints in Corinth were “men of flesh,” “infants,” divisive and above all proud; Paul wasn’t treating them any differently.  There was a standard procedure to be followed in this offering (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17, 11:34, 14:33; Titus 1:5).

In these two verses Paul does not explicitly state what percentage of his income the Believer should contribute toward the collection.  In doing so, he does not place the Believer back under the Law, he does, however, teach systematic giving:   On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, and he teaches proportionate giving:  as he may prosper, (or according to your ability).

Paul is saying the Believer is not to give in proportion to what others are giving, but in proportion to his or her ability to give:  as God has prospered them.  These guidelines are to be observed by all.  How do we know this?  Note Paul’s words, each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper (v2). 

There’s more than one reason for this comment to the Corinthians “each one of you is to put aside and save,” and I would think, after all we’ve learned to date, that it would be obvious, especially since he added the phrase, so that no collections be made when I come.  In other words, Paul’s saying let’s put this Judean contribution matter behind us because we have more important items to discuss and things to do when I arrive. 

Finally, we catch a glimpse of Paul’s integrity here, and his insistence on the integrity of any who might have a hand in conveying this vast offering (gifts from many churches) to Jerusalem.  Those chosen were to be from their own number, at least two (2 Corinthians 8:16-24), and accredited in writing (by your own letters), to carry your gift to Jerusalem (v3). 

To further insure that all would be done properly and in order, he reminds them of his apostolic authority:  whomever you may approve, I will send them… (v3).  And if is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me (v4).
 
There were those who were chosen by the churches at large (2 Corinthians 8:16-19), further insuring the veracity of the undertaking, as Paul states:  taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:20-21).

This provides an important lesson for us and especially for those who lead us; irresponsibility in fiscal matters is a sin.  Not only should our leaders have clear consciences in their use of the funds we have entrusted to them, but they should prove their integrity by careful and precise requirements and accurate record keeping. 

Paul has more to say concerning the responsibility of stewardship than any other person in the Bible and we’ll get to that when we study chapters 8-9 of 2 Corinthians.

(To be continued)

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