Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďBUT WE WANT TO BE ROBBEDĒ

Second Corinthians 11.8

Everything at our church begins with evangelism. And, really, what is missions but evangelism by another name, and the Great Commission at another location? Missions is about replicating ourselves in a different part of the world, so that we are compliant with our Saviorís command to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded. It is the highest calling, the noblest enterprise, and the most enriching activity that a child of God can ever hope to be involved in. Of course, different Christians are involved in missions in different ways. However, if the missions enterprise is scriptural there will be several characteristics about it, however you will be involved: First, missions is always a local church ministry in Godís Word. Second, missions is always in Godís Word about actually starting churches. And, third, missions is recognized in Godís Word to require money.

Let me begin by reviewing the Apostle Paulís dealings with the Christians in Rome: Paulís letter to the Romans is best understood when it is recognized for what it is, a letter to Christians in different churches in the city of Rome from a missionary they know by reputation but do not know personally. Romans, then, is a letter from a missionary that both introduces him to his audience and elicits their support of his ministry. How does Paul choose to introduce himself? His letterís primary function is to set forth those things which he believes and preaches (primarily about the doctrine of justification), sinful manís need for justification, the gracious nature of justification, an explanation of how the Jewish people fit into Godís plan regarding justification, and the consecration of justified people and the outworking of Godís grace in Christ in their lives. To state it even more concisely, Romans is about sin, salvation, the Jewish people, and serving God. Interspersed with the Apostleís very weighty explanations of crucial doctrinal issues, he explains to the Romans that he has desired to visit them, that he has future plans to visit them, and that he wants their help to reach those yet unreached who are far to the west in what is today Spain. This is clearly understood from what Paul says about fruit.

Paul refers to fruit five times in his Roman letter. Three of those times the word fruit is used ordinarily, as a description of the general behavior and conduct that are produced by the life of an unsaved person or a saved person. Turn to Romans 6.21-22, where we see two of those verses in which Paul refers to fruit:

21     What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

22     But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 7.4 is the third verse:    ďWherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.Ē

These three verses clearly show that Paul uses the word fruit, not as converts (as the word fruit is used by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 15.1-8), but as denoting behavior that reflects the spiritual condition of the person in question. Unsaved people exhibit behavior described as fruit that is shameful, while those same people who are now saved exhibit behavior that is likened to fruit that is holy and that is ďunto God.Ē

   Again, Paul does not use the word fruit in his letter to the Romans to refer to new converts, the way Jesus did when speaking to His disciples about the vine and branches bearing fruit in John chapter 15. Look with me to the other two places Paul uses the word fruit in his letter to the Romans, 1.13 and 15.28:

1.13      Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

15.28    When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Despite evidence to the contrary, many people are still of the opinion that the fruit Paul refers to in Romans 1.13 and 15.28 has to do with new Christians, supposedly those Paul wants to see saved under his preaching when he passes through Rome. However, if you will read the context in which Romans 15.28 is set you will see that the word fruit as Paul uses it here has to do with money, not new converts. Read Romans 15.17-28:

17     I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

18     For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

19     Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

20     Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another manís foundation:[1]

21     But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

22     For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.

23     But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;

24     Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

25     But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

26     For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

27     It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

28     When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

When Paul refers to fruit in Romans 1.13, ďthat I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles,Ē he means that he expects to receive money from the Romans when he passes through, just as he had received money from other Gentile Christians, namely those in Macedonia and Achaia (Greece). Every time the Apostle Paul uses the word fruit in his letter to the Romans, he is referring to the natural outgrowth of a personís life. If you are unsaved, your fruit will be shameful and will end in death, Romans 6.21. If you are a Christian, your fruit will be unto holiness and will end in eternal life, Romans 6.22, and is the result of union with the resurrected Christ unto God, Romans 7.4. It is in Romans 1.13 and Romans 15.28 that Paul more specifically refers to money when he makes mention of fruit. In Romans 15.28, it is money that he has collected to be taken to the Christians in Judea, and in Romans 1.13, fruit refers to money that he hopes to raise when he passes through Rome on his way to Spain.

Does this expectation of Paul seem to you a bit presumptuous? After all, he is not really asking the Roman Christians to pray for him and to give him money when he passes through, after he has been to Jerusalem. He is letting them know that once they understand what he is about and what he believes, he expects them to give him money to complete his mission. Paulís expectation of receiving monetary support from the Christians in Rome should not seem presumptuous to any Christian. Giving money should be seen, along with prayer for the missionary, as the very normal outgrowth of the Christian life, the expected result of the Holy Spirit working in the life of a believer. That is why it is referred to as fruit. Just as you would expect an apple tree to produce the fruit of apples, so you should expect from Christians that they give money to advance missions. However, if I have learned anything in more than thirty-five years of gospel ministry, it is that what you expect and what you get are frequently two different things.

In Second Corinthians 11.8, we see Paulís surprising words: ďI robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.Ē Allow me to establish the context. From First Corinthians we know the believers in that city had some serious spiritual problems. They had formed cliques, were behaving in some ways like lost people, tolerated sin in their congregation, had concerns about marriage and divorce, refused to support their pastorís material needs, and were confused about spiritual gifts.

First Corinthians was a letter written to not only strongly rebuke the Corinthians, but also to remind them to take the necessary steps to collect the offering for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. I read a portion of his instructions in First Corinthians 16.1-2:

1      Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

2      Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

From Paulís second Corinthian letter, we see that, in the main, his audience responded very well to his strong words. Additionally, he had wonderful news to report, that when the impoverished Macedonian churches heard about the money he was raising from the Galatian and Greek churches, they insisted on participating. Paul had not asked those in Philippi and Thessalonica to give money, because he knew how poor they were. However, they were real Christians, and claimed their right as believers to join in the effort. Turn to Second Corinthians chapter 8, and read along with me silently:

1      Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2      How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3      For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4      Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

5      And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

6      Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

Do you recognize the tactic the Apostle Paul is employing with the Corinthians? To be sure, they had responded very well to his stinging rebukes and corrections in First Corinthians. However, when it came time to pony up the money they had committed to giving they were dragging their feet. Therefore, Paul was using the unexpected but sterling example of the very poor Christians in Macedonia to shame the Corinthians into keeping their word. Though it should be thought to be the most expected consequence of the new birth, to be like your heavenly Father and to be like your blessed Savior with respect to giving (the Father gave His Son and the Savior gave His life), there are some Christians (and I guess they really are born again) who have problems with this aspect of the Christian life.

My text is Second Corinthians 11.8, where the Apostle Paul confronts just such a congregation, populated with just such believers, about their reluctance to give for the spread of the gospel. When you find that verse, please stand and read along with me silently: ďI robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.Ē Paul here uses a word, translated robbed, that is used nowhere else in the New Testament. The word refers to robbing temples or of the plundering of soldiers.[2] Paul is reminding the Corinthians that he allowed other Christians and congregations to give more than their fair share to finance his ministry to the Corinthians, while they paid absolutely nothing for the gospel ministry that led to their salvation.[3]

Follow Paulís line of reasoning in our text:

First, YOU ARE WILLING TO RECEIVE THE BENEFITS OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY AT NO COST TO YOURSELVES

Paul did not challenge whether the Corinthians were genuinely converted. Throughout his first and second letter, he speaks to them as Christians who are in need of correction, not as sinners who are in need of conversion. So, the gospel was brought to them by Paul and his colleagues, and was financed by the poor Macedonians he had referred to in Second Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, and reminds them once more of in Second Corinthians 11.9: ďAnd when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.Ē Thus, your new life in Christ was financed by others, the church where you are fed, encouraged, and bring your lost friends to be reached with the gospel was and is financed by others, yet you feel no debt of gratitude for what others have done, for the sacrifice others have made, for the money others gave?

This is what Paul is suggesting to the Corinthian church members. To be sure, no sinner should ever have to finance the gospel ministry that brings him the good news that Jesus saves. However, should there not be at least some gratitude felt?

Second, YOU TAKE NO ISSUE WITH THE FACT THAT THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL IS AN EXPENSIVE PROPOSITION

Who would deny that spreading the gospel is an expensive proposition? Keeping in mind that Paul and his traveling companions probably number a half dozen men, with some of them not as adept as Paul was in supporting themselves in each city they went to, how was the difference to be made up? We know from Romans 1.13 that Paul expected the Romans to finance his travel to Spain. We know that the Macedonians financed his efforts in Athens and Corinth. We also know that when Paul was in prison in Rome, the church in Philippi supplied him with not only money, but also a personal attendant named Epaphroditus.

Recognize that this approach was not limited to the Apostle Paulís ministry alone. Turn to the little epistle of Third John, where we see beginning in verse 4 that walking in the truth, and being a partner in the spread of the gospel, is vitally connected with supplying what missionaries need in the way of material goods and provisions:

4      I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

5      Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;

6      Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:

7      Because that for his nameís sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

8      We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.

Who would deny that missionaries have physical and material needs that are expensive? Who would deny that the time spent financing his own ministry reduces a missionaryís effectiveness, just in terms of the amount of time it takes to earn a living? Additionally, who would deny that a place to meet, copies of scripture, health care, food and clothing and a place to live, as well as travel expenses, are all unavoidable expenses in the spread of the gospel ministry, and that these things were paid for by other people in order to get the gospel to you? Therefore, you would not take issue with the expense of spreading the gospel, including bringing the gospel to you without any outlay of money on your part. Is that not correct?

YET YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO GIVE SOME WHEN THOSE WHO HAVE MUCH LESS ARE EAGER TO GIVE SO MUCH MORE?

One example of someone with much less giving so that others with much more could receive the gospel freely is obviously the Macedonians. Especially those in Philippi were the objects of a Roman policy of economic oppression because the city had sided with Marcus Antonius in the civil war won by Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar. Yet, despite the economic woes brought on them beginning a generation earlier, they not only wanted to give to spread the gospel, they did give to spread the gospel.

Corinth was a relatively prosperous city in Paulís day, much more prosperous than those in Philippi and Thessalonica. Yet the Corinthians hesitated when it came to showing forth their new life in Christ, insofar as being generous with what God has given you is concerned. Those who had so much less gave so much more. Paul shows us that when this type of inequity occurs in giving to gospel missions, it needs to be pointed out to those who are guilty of doing it. ďBut thatís guilt motivation!Ē All I can say is that a Christian who is guilty ought to feel guilty about being so chintzy.

Finally, HOW IS SUCH BEHAVIOR JUSTIFIED IN THE LIFE OF SOMEONE WHO CLAIMS TO HAVE LIFE IN CHRIST?

The Lord Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice when He died on Calvaryís cross, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. As the Father gave His Son, John 3.16, the Son gave His life. Is it extreme to expect someone who is now a child of God to take on some likeness of his heavenly Father? Is it unseemly to anticipate that someone who is converted to Christ, who follows Christ, and who is being conformed to the image of Christ, should also in some ways act like Christ?

Let me tell you what missions is all about. It is about making Christís name known among the nations. It is about preaching the gospel to every creature, and expecting those creatures who have responded to the gospel to shoulder the responsibility with us and doing their part. Selfishness and self-serving is not the behavior of believers in Jesus Christ. Though we are sometimes guilty of selfishness and self-serving, as were the Corinthians, we need to be both instructed and corrected so that we can take our light from under the bushel and let it shine more brightly. Our annual missions conference is partly to accomplish just such a purpose.

Notice something about our text in closing. While Paul declares to the Corinthians that he robbed other churches to do service to the Corinthians, we find no indication in the Word of God that those other churches had any complaints about being robbed. Why did the Philippians and the Thessalonians, as well as the Galatians, not complain that Paul robbed them to take the gospel to people they did not know and would not meet this side of heaven? For two reasons, I think:

First, this was how the gospel was brought to them. Think about it, beloved. Three thousand saved on the Day of Pentecost, with thousands more saved later, in a city that could not support or employ so many men. So, how did those new converts survive? They were supported by the sacrificial giving of Christians in and around Jerusalem, until the time came for them to return to their homes. This was how the church in Antioch, for example, was started. No one in Antioch paid for the gospel to come to them. The gospel that came to them was financed in Jerusalem. The church in Antioch financed the churches in Galatia. The churches in Galatia financed the spread of the gospel to Macedonia, which in turn financed the spread of the gospel to Athens and Corinth. My friends, this is how the gospel came to us. And this is how the gospel is supposed to be carried on by us to regions beyond. Thus has it always been and thus is it supposed to be.

There is another reason why the Philippians and Thessalonians financed Paulís efforts to spread the gospel. They would not be denied participation in Godís unfolding drama of redemption. Do you think a reasonable Christian will allow himself to be excluded from Godís great gospel enterprise? Are you mad? My friends, there is everything right and normal about a Christian giving himself and then giving his money to support missions, while there is something terribly wrong with those who withhold their money for less important things. I will not be excluded from Godís plan, from Godís enterprise, from Godís glorious work of reaching the lost with the great gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you will allow anything to exclude you from missions giving, there is just simply something wrong with you that needs fixing in a hurry.



[1]This verse is yet another argument in favor of Paulís intention to bear fruit in Rome not being the fruit of sinners being saved.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 489.

[3] 1 Corinthians 9



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org