Does 1 Corinthians 16 prove Sunday worship?
In my experience discussing the relevance of the Seventh-day Sabbath today, I will inevitably be shown/quoted some bread and butter proof texts from those who support Sunday worship. One of them is 1 Corinthinans 16:1-2. So for the benefit of everyone, I will post the proper exegesis of that text in its entire context to leave no doubt on the meaning of this passage.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 (NKJV) Note: I have expanded the passage of to verses 1-4 to get the entire context.
1 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 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me. NKJV
Notice Paul mentions that there be no collections when he comes, it sounds like a one time thing, not regular weekly collections. The collections would end once he comes, and all the gifts were collected and sent to Jerusalem.
Many have assumed that a religious meeting was held and a collection plate passed. This is not the case. Paul was writing special appeals to the churches in Asia Minor (Galatia included), because many of the Christians in Jerusalem were suffering greatly for lack of food and daily necessities. Paul asked the church at Corinth to gather food, clothing, etc., and store it up at home until he could send men to transport it to Jerusalem, as mentioned in verses 3-4. The expression “lay by him in store” in the original Greek gives the clear connotation of putting aside at home.
The key point to understand is that there was no service held on the first day of the week. The gathering up and storing was to be done on that day. Why did Paul suggest that this work be done on Sunday, and what was involved in getting it done?
First of all, when would this letter be read?
The letter would have been shared with the church on the Sabbath when they were all gathered for worship. The first opportunity to do the work would be the next day – the first day of the week. Keep in mind that there was an apparent food shortage in Jerusalem, and the need was not primarily for money. Such famine conditions were not unusual in areas of the Middle East, as in Acts 11:28-30.
28 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. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (NKJV)
The church in Rome gives a clue as to the special needs of those suffering Christians:
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. 28 Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain. (Romans 15:25-28)
The Roman Christians owed a great debt of gratitude to the mother church in Jerusalem which had sent teachers to evangelize them. Paul urges them to return carnal, or material, gifts in appreciation of the spiritual truths received from them. What kind of gifts did Paul have in mind? It is very interesting that he describes it as sealing to them “this fruit.” The Greek word used here is “karpos,” which is the universal term used for literal fruit. It can also have the connotation of “fruits of one’s labor.”
So the first day of the week is naturally a workday, a day for gathering fruit and food out of the orchards, fields, and gardens, and for storing it up, at home, in their farms, or one central place. The main point is this labor was to be done on the first day as soon as the Sabbath was past.
If it were simple money offering collections, like a lot of Christians try to imply by these texts, and prove there was a church service, Paul would simply be able to carry the donations himself. The fact that he wrote ahead to ask for men who could help carry tells us the donations were of baskets and boxes full of produce and food. Paul would simply have struggled to handle all these goods on his own.
3Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. (NIV)
So clearly, the first day of the week is identified once again as a day for secular activities and work, giving no indication of religious observance.
To sum it up, Paul wrote a letter, to be read on Sabbath, telling the Corinthian church to gather and store up some donations on the following day to help with relief efforts for brethren in Jerusalem.
It’s safe to say, that the early church still met on the Sabbath, not Sunday.