Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MACEDONIANS WHO DID NOT GIVE”

Second Corinthians 5.11, 14

The matter of Christian giving is among the most serious issues the believer will ever face in his life, owing to its bearing on his obedience to God, his submission to Christ, his commitment to reaching the lost, and his understanding of the proper relationship of this life to the next. It was while I was prayerfully thinking about our church’s interest in an upcoming PayCheck Sunday several years ago, and when I was looking over the list of those who had participated in the previous year’s PayCheck Sunday offering, that I remember my heart growing heavy. I then settled on a similar matter addressed by the Apostle Paul almost 2000 years ago. I bring it before you for consideration tonight. The parallels are not exact, but they are close enough, in my opinion, to make an application of the two situations for the purpose of exhorting Christians to do right. Follow along in your imagination as I describe the situation Paul felt compelled to address.

You remember the thousands who were converted in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and in the days following, men from all over the known world who had come to Jerusalem in impoverished Judea with only enough money to stay for the week, or so they had planned. However, they were wonderfully converted and ended up staying for several years, to be discipled by the apostles and trained for ministry. How they lived after they ran out of the money they brought with them is an interesting story. Those relatively few Christians living in and around Jerusalem greatly sacrificed by selling their possessions to feed the thousands who were unable to find work. Then, when persecution scattered the believers and most of them returned to their homes in faraway places, the Christians in Jerusalem were left behind, but without their valuables, without their properties, without any resources . . . and a famine on the way.

The Apostle Paul knew of the famine, as much as he knew of the racial prejudice the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Judea had for the people he was reaching with the gospel. As a practical matter, any hardship those Jewish Christians faced back in the Holy Land had no impact on the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles. However, the apostle knew there would be indirect benefits related to helping those Jewish Christians with an offering gathered to enable them to buy food. Besides, it was the right thing to do. So, he set about the business of notifying the churches in Asia and Achaia (what we know as the Turkish peninsula and the Greek peninsula) of his intentions. Owing to the dreadful poverty and long standing economic difficulties experienced by the people who lived in Macedonia (the direct result of Imperial Roman oppression, I might add), Paul made no attempt to appeal to the Christians there to raise an offering.

Though the special offering Paul was taking up had no particular sentimental appeal, since the Gentile Christians knew very well how the Jewish believers felt about them, and were very much aware of their racial prejudice, Paul’s activities did not major on rousing speeches and any exploitation of emotions. He simply laid out his plan. Reference to this special offering can be found in Romans, as well as First Corinthians 16.1-2, where Paul instructed the Corinthians how to go about raising the gift in an orderly fashion: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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.”

It is Paul’s comment about this special offering that is our most powerful evidence for Christians worshiping on Sunday, since it would be impractical for worship to take place on the seventh day (which is Saturday) and the offering taken up on the first day. Christian worship and Christian giving took place on the same day. It was when Paul was writing his second letter to the Corinthian congregation that we learn about the Macedonians, both their deep poverty and their astonishing determination to participate in this offering. Remember, this is not an offering to raise money to pioneer a new field for the gospel. Neither is this a special offering to raise money for the benefit of those the Macedonians had particularly fond feelings for.

The only thing the Jewish Christians in Judea had going for them in the eyes of the Macedonian believers, was their common faith in Christ and the fact that they, however grudgingly and reluctantly, had passed the gospel they received on to others, who eventually reached them with the glorious truth that Jesus saves.

This evening I want to set two considerations before you for reflection, for prayer, and for thoughtful meditation as PayCheck Sunday approaches:

First, CONSIDER THOSE MACEDONIANS WHO GAVE

Please turn in your Bible to Second Corinthians 8.1-5:

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.

Allow me to very briefly point out several things from this passage:

Allow me to label verses 1 and 2 as Paul’s praise of the Macedonian givers. Is it not obvious that Paul credits their participation in the offering to God’s grace in their lives, verse 1? “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.” Notice also verse 2 where, despite what Paul without exaggeration observes was their “deep poverty,” the Macedonians showed themselves to be great givers: “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.”

He rehearses their performance in verse 3. I want you to notice before we read, that the crucial factor for those Macedonian givers was their willingness to give: “For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.” To be sure, they demonstrated natural giving. They were tithers. They gave offerings. But they were also supernatural givers. Their willingness, coupled with the grace of God to enable them, made it possible for them to do more than was naturally possible for them to do. The difference? Their internal motivation. Their will was brought to bear to do what they did.

Second Corinthians 8.4 records Paul’s account of their prayer: “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” First, take note of the manner of their prayer. “With much intreaty.” In other words, they really wanted to participate in this offering Paul had presented to others. They did not want to be left out. Next, take note of their motivation. They saw their giving as ministry. Ministry, serving God, was what their lives were all about. You see, they were Christians. Third, take note of their method. They wanted Paul to receive the gift. Their method, then, was giving money. What is money? It is your valuable time in a form that is convenient for others to make use of. Finally, and this may be a surprise to you, take note of who they prayed to. They did not pray to God, but to Paul. What is prayer but asking? They knew God would receive their gift. However, they were not so sure Paul would let them participate, so they pleaded with him to let them in on the blessing.

Paul’s evaluation of those givers ends in verse 5, where he exposes to his readers their priorities. How can people with so little make such an impact as they obviously made? “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.” Their priorities were surprising: “And this they did, not as we hoped.” Their priorities were, obviously, spiritual: “but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”

Those Macedonian givers were marvelous Christians. They were spiritual, blessed with abundant grace from God to do a wonderful thing, with the entire enterprise (at least their participation in it) made possible because they simply wanted to wade out into the realm of deeper faith and commitment to Christ. So, for 2000 years they have been held up to us as examples to follow of the grace of God in giving.

However, WE SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER THOSE MACEDONIANS WHO DID NOT GIVE

How do we know there were Macedonians who did not give? My friends, there are always those who choose not to participate in offerings such as Paul was taking up. After all, it was not required. He did not insist upon their participation. It was their idea, the desire of a number of Macedonian Christians to give, but by no means all of them. You never get 100% participation for an offering, even when it is required, such as with tithes and offerings.

Add to that the financial situation they were all suffering under, and I am absolutely sure that a number of them (I have no idea what percentage) convinced themselves that there was no way they could give; they simply did not have the means. However, from what we know of those who did give, the real issue was willingness. After all, God’s grace enables a believer to do more than he can do. Anyone can give naturally, but only the willing, who avail themselves of God’s abundant grace, can give supernaturally. This is what some Macedonians did, but by no means all.

So, what was the difference? Obviously, the difference was willingness, since they were all in the same financial fix. However, some who were in deep poverty chose to do what they could only do by God’s grace, while others did not choose to do what could only be done by God’s grace. My interest is in what made the difference. Some Christians gave and other Christians did not. Some were involved in that spiritual enterprise they could easily and without condemnation have steered clear of, while others simply choose not to. But why?

Turn back to Second Corinthians chapter five. Before we look at two verses, keep in mind how this letter would have originally been communicated to the Corinthian congregation. It was delivered as a scroll at the hands of Titus and Lucas, Second Corinthians 13.14, and almost certainly read to the assembled body by one of them. Thus, from the two verses I will point out to you until Paul’s description of the Macedonians who gave was read would be less than two minutes of elapsed reading time.

With that in mind, read with me the first portions of verses 11 and 14, in which he declares his motives for doing what he did:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

“For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Do you think Paul’s audience would forget, less than two minutes after hearing, his own motivations for ministry read to them? Do you not think his readers would know from what they had heard in chapter five that what the Macedonian givers did in chapter eight was prompted by the very same motives that motivated the Apostle Paul? Of course, they would.

The Macedonians who gave were motivated just as the Apostle Paul was, by the terror of the Lord and by the love of Christ. Call it the fear of God and the love of Christ, if you want. It is the same thing. What was missing from those who did not give, who may very well have been otherwise wonderful Christians for the most part, was what those who did give when they did not have to give had. They had the fear of God and the love of Christ prompting them to action at a time of great inconvenience to put on display God’s power and grace in their lives.

In four days you will travel a narrow path of self-exploration. It will be a journey of discovery, and it will be similar to that traveled by the Macedonians, when some of them discovered they feared God and loved Christ, while others discovered that at that time they did not. Those non-givers may have been wonderful Christians, who on other occasions (especially the ones living in Philippi) were wonderful givers. And, indeed, let me make sure you understand me. No one had to give anything. However, I am convinced that throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity, there will be some who know Second Corinthians 8.1-5 is referring to them, with others realizing they had the opportunity, but passed on it to their eternal regret.

Our situation on this PayCheck Sunday is similar to Paul’s offering in certain respects. First, it is entirely voluntary. Second, as with Paul’s, our offering has no sentimental appeal or tear-jerking stories to attach to it, but is needful for our church’s ongoing gospel enterprise. We have to recoup the expense of our large painting job on the educational building, as well as get enough ahead to remodel the kitchen next door and do other important maintenance things. In the past, there were a whole bunch of people who sacrificially gave to secure this property that we enjoy. Now it is up to us to do what is necessary to properly maintain the property, and to get ourselves on a secure enough financial footing that we can move on and expand our outreach, as well as someday perhaps enlarging or replacing our facilities.

If you fear God, you will choose to will. If you love Christ, you will be prompted by your love to choose to will. You will have an expansive attitude concerning God’s grace, as well as doing what is necessary to broaden the reach of our gospel outreach. Not directly, mind you, but indirectly, with better maintained facilities, and eventually altogether different facilities. Over the course of the next four days, I would like you to think about your participation in our PayCheck Sunday offering. The amount is up to you, but let me encourage you to do something. I encourage you to decide what kind of Christian you want to be, as you consider the Macedonians.

Would you like to be like those Paul wrote about so eloquently, or are you content to be like those Paul simply passed over without comment? Will you exhibit power born of God’s grace, or not? Will you exhibit the evidence in your life of the fear of God (the beginning of wisdom), and the love of Christ (and this is love that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous)?

Perhaps you will write a single check next Sunday. Perhaps you will stretch your offering out over the next four weeks. It is entirely up to you. Come September 29, 2013 and the weeks following, we shall see.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org