Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

SJ in the NT: 2 Cor 8-9

Posted by Chris on May 4, 2007

INTRO

There is really no one theme to single out here– this is probably the richest text in all of the New Testament relating to the christian ideal of economic social justice. Rather than write about it myself, I’m just going to post a summary I made of a four-part sermon series by John MacArthur called “A Biblical Model for Giving.” He also has another four-part series called “A Biblical View of Money.”
You can find the link to the transcripts, at BibleBB.

You can read the text of 2 Corinthians 8-9 here, and I will quote a brief part below:

…we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints… At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality… Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

“A Biblical Model for Giving”: 13 Points

Paul wants the Corinthians to give to the saints in Jerusalem. Now remember, it’s not a one-time offering, it’s a systematic weekly offering. In [1 Corinthians] chapter 16 and verse 2 he says that these offerings are to be collected every week. He says every one of you is to give every week. Over a period of at least a year they have known about this offering and Paul wanted them systematically and weekly to be giving so that there would be accumulated a large amount of money that when he came he could then take back to the needy saints in Jerusalem.

He wants to instruct both the Corinthians and all Christians through all time to give following the pattern of the Macedonians. Giving is the behavior of devout Christians. Where you have devout Christians you have givers. All they need to have is an opportunity and they will respond. Christian devotion, Christian dedication, Christian commitment results in Christian giving and generosity.

Their Giving:

1. Initiated by God’s grace

2. Transcended difficult circumstances.

3. Joyous.
Verse 2 again he talks about their abundance of joy

4. Not hindered by poverty.
He mentions in verse 2 their deep poverty

5. Generous, it overflowed in the wealth of their liberality or generosity

In verse 3 we saw three other elements of their giving.
6. Proportionate, that is they gave according to their ability, according to what they were capable of giving in proportion to what they had.

7. Sacrificial.
He says it was beyond their ability. That means they gave more than they were really capable of giving.

8. Voluntary. What about free-will giving? What does the New Testament say about free-will giving? It says given amounts are personally determined. Give whatever you want. Look at chapter 9 verse 6 of 2 Corinthians, here’s how to give, “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart.” You give whatever you want realizing that whatever you sow is what you’re going to harvest. Give and it shall be given unto you. You can’t out give God.
So the amount is up to you. Whatever you purpose in your heart, whatever you desire to give, whatever you want to give voluntarily, generously, sacrificially, proportionately, that’s the way you give.

9. Viewed as privilege not obligation (and it is a privilege)
. Look at verse 4. This is a wonderful reality. He says of the Macedonians, they were begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints. Now there’s some wonderful words in that verse, giving us the main point…begging, a very strong word, a very pleading word, it’s used in Luke 8:28 of the words of the demoniac who was pleading with Jesus
They viewed giving as a way to express their generosity on behalf of the fellowship, their love of the brotherhood that they’d never even met. They viewed giving as a way to be partners in a shared life. They viewed giving as a way to express grace and blessing and to receive it in return from God.

10. An act of worship.
“They first gave themselves.” That is THE supreme act of worship when you give yourselves. Go with me to Romans chapter 12 because there is the very important text which teaches this. In Romans 12:1 and 2 we read, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,” your bodies meaning yourselves, of course, “present yourselves a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.”

11. In submission to their pastors
. A little footnote here. Whenever people in a church become disillusioned about their leaders, their giving drops. And I say this, any pastor who leads his people to give, leads them to experience grace. It is God’s grace that moves them to give. It is God’s grace in the giving. And it is God who graciously resupplies. You simply expose yourself to grace upon grace upon grace. When you teach people to give, you’re not impoverishing them, you are enriching them with grace upon grace.

12. In concert with other Christian virtues
. It’s not giving in a vacuum. It’s not giving in isolation. It’s not giving contrary to what’s in your heart. This kind of giving is in perfect harmony with other Christian virtues. You find me a heart filled with faith and utterance and knowledge and earnestness and love and I’ll show you a generous heart.

13. A proof of love. Verse 8, this is so important, here he says, “I’m not speaking this as a command.” Isn’t that amazing? But again remember, this is in consideration of the fact, listen, that free-will giving is never according to legalism. It’s never according to obligation. It’s never according to some prescription. He’s saying I’m not commanding you but I’m telling you prove your love.
I’ll tell you one thing about giving, it verifies the level of your love. You can give without loving, that’s required giving, but you can’t love without giving. And the amount of your giving expresses the amount of your love. As John says, “How can you say you love God if you don’t love the brethren? How can you say the love of God dwells in you if you close your compassion to someone in need?” Fervently love one another.
Whether you love the Lord, whether you love His church, whether you love those in need is evident by your giving. The true test of sincere love is not your emotions, it’s not your feelings, it’s your action. And many people are under the allusion that they love because they feel things. Your love is not measured by what you feel, it is measured by your actions and your actions may disprove your own assessment of your feelings.

CONCLUSION
So the Macedonians are our model. They show us that giving is to be initiated by grace, that is to be a supernatural kind of giving. It is to transcend difficult circumstances. To be done with joy. Not hindered by poverty. It is to be generous, proportionate, sacrificial, voluntary. It is to be sought as a privilege not an obligation. It is a part of worship. It is to be done in submission to pastors and leaders. It is to be concert and harmony with other Christian virtues and it is to prove our love to God to His church and His people. That’s the Macedonian giving…the giving of devout Christians. Such giving, as we’ve said all along, is the path to blessing, a path I trust you are eager to walk.

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