“For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 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. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain” (Romans 15:26-28).
Several years were spent preparing for the Great Collection. Paul’s words about it in 1st Corinthians 16:1-4 provide several significant details about its scope and magnitude: 1) Congregations in both Asia (i.e., Galatia) and Europe (i.e., Achaia and Macedonia) participated in it (v. 1); 2) Ongoing accumulation of funds lasted several years (v. 2); 3) Careful and prudent transportation of the funds was practiced (v. 3); everything was done decently and in order with respect for what was honorable in the sight of all men.
At least eight Christian men—Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus, and Luke (Acts 20:4-5)—traveled with Paul to deliver it in Jerusalem. Given the generous amount and the heightened need to securely transport the money involved, the size of the traveling party was most appropriate.
Paul received no personal gain from the enterprise. The only form of compensation he received for the years of effort he invested was a false accusation by the Jews (Acts 21:27-28) which landed him in the custody of the Roman government for about five years (Acts 22:24-28:30). He did receive free transportation from Jerusalem to Caesarea and then to Rome thanks to the Empire’s judicial system.
Through Paul’s tireless efforts and the brethren’s persistent generosity each Lord’s Day, the Great Collection made a huge down payment on the debt the Gentile Christians owed their spiritual kinsmen. They were their debtors.
It was their duty to minister to them, and they did their duty.