Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GRACE GIVING”

Second Corinthians 8.1-5

 

Allow me to illustrate how all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.[1] On the day of Pentecost and shortly thereafter thousands of Jewish men who were prepared to visit Jerusalem for just the feast days, heard Peter preach the gospel, trusted Christ, and remained in that economically depressed city to be discipled by the apostles. However, it was not long after they were saved that they completely exhausted their personal savings. This was to be expected. And since Jerusalem and the surrounding region was already poor they found no means by which they could support themselves. Responding to the need of the new believers to stay in Jerusalem for training by the apostles to equip them to serve God, the local believers in Christ sold everything they had to feed and clothe those from out of town, while they housed them in their own homes.[2] Then, in God’s Own time, the Jewish Christians from out of town who had come to Christ on Pentecost and soon afterwards were driven out of Jerusalem by persecution and they returned to their native lands, but now carrying with them the gospel message and the wisdom and maturity to establish churches and serve God as spiritual leaders and pastors.[3] Back in Jerusalem, however, things became even more severe. On one hand the Jewish Christians loved God, but on the other hand they had a crippling racial prejudice against the Gentiles that threatened to hinder the spread of the gospel even further. And then great famine struck Judea leaving those Jewish Christians who had given up everything for the cause of Christ in danger of starving to death because of their inability to grow or buy food. Seeing this danger to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem as an opportunity for hated Gentile Christians to respond to their need, Paul knew that it would go a long way toward eliminating racial prejudice and would end up advancing the cause of Christ if the Gentile Christians sent money to Jerusalem to help the Jewish Christians buy food.

What a wonderful response to God’s Providence. How encouraging it is to learn from Paul’s example that tragic circumstances can frequently be God-given opportunities in disguise to all but the spiritually mature. It is in the context of raising the money from the Gentile churches to send to the Christians in Jerusalem and in surrounding Judea that Second Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 were written. You realize of course that you need to raise money just like the church at Corinth did. And although you are not raising money in an effort to take steps to bring greater unity to the cause of Christ, you are involved in an ongoing effort to raise money to support your church’s ministry and an ongoing effort to raise money to support your missionaries. Additionally, consideration must be given to the future of your church. What about expanded facilities should God continue to add to your numbers? What about an associate pastor someday, or do you wait for me to drop dead and then go about the business of calling a young guy with an unproven record of experience and fidelity to good doctrine? If you are going to finance your gospel ministry as Paul led those churches to finance their effort, and also prepare for inevitable issues certain to arise, it stands to reason that you find out how it’s to be done.

In my text for today we will take note of the conscious steps that the people in a congregation must take (in unison I might add), to avail yourselves of God’s grace for giving. Shall we stand together for the reading of God’s Word? 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.

 

Examine, with me, four things that will show you how you can acquire the grace of God for giving, just like Paul told the Corinthians how the believers in deep poverty in the Macedonian churches did:

 

THE FIRST THING WE SEE IS THEIR PRAISE

 

In verses 1 & 2 we read of Paul’s praise of the Philippian and Thessalonian churches to those he wrote to in Corinth:

In verse 1 we see that the praise is the result of God’s grace:

 

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”

 

What do we see about the grace of God as it relates to the Macedonian churches? There are a number of things, one or two of which may be a little surprising to some of you: First, Paul informs the Corinthians that the grace of God was bestowed. That is, it was given. Has it ever dawned on you that God gives grace? Some people think you have to work for God’s grace, or take part in a sacrament to obtain God’s grace. Still more people don’t think about God’s grace at all. The reality is that God’s grace for Christian service must actually be given by God to be possessed. Second, this bestowed grace is bestowed on churches. We normally think of grace being given to individual Christians. However, it seems as well that God corporately bestows grace upon entire congregations. It might be good for some Lone Ranger Christians, for some Christians who like to go it alone without a church, to keep this truth in mind. Would you not agree? Finally, this bestowed grace is bestowed on particular churches. The Macedonian churches were blessed with this grace, and Paul was informing the Corinthian church how to receive the blessings of God’s grace for churches. However, to presume that every church has the grace referred to by Paul here is a mistake. Not every church has this grace, though I am persuaded every church can obtain it.

This praise, which results from God’s grace, results in great giving, according to verse 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.”

 

Those of you who are circumstantial Christians need to pay particular attention to this verse. Those of you who think that bad finances hinder your service to Christ should memorize this verse. What is more accurate of the relationship between material prosperity and Christian service is that the state of your finances requires that your service to Christ be adjusted, be adapted to fit the circumstance you find yourself in. Let’s memorize a little poem that summarizes verse 2 nicely. Repeat after me, “Great living in affliction and great giving in poverty.” Let’s do it again. One more time. How very descriptive of the Macedonian congregations. The great trial of affliction the Macedonians endured was the result of a Roman governmental policy to insure that Macedonia, which was after all the home country of Alexander the Great and which had backed Marc Antony in his rebellion against Octavian (known as Augustus Caesar). The Roman Empire engaged in a long term program of economic retribution against Macedonia for what their ancestors had done. Therefore, those Macedonian Christians suffered along with everyone else as the Romans intentionally stripped the region bare of anything which would enable people to earn a decent living. Rome knew, just as recent communist leaders in the 20th century knew, that malnourished and starved people simply don’t have the energy that’s needed to mount a revolt. What we’ve seen in former communist countries is economic collapse, not revolt. But how did the Macedonian Christians respond to their great trial of affliction? Abundant joy. And how did they respond to their deep poverty? Rich liberality. Great generosity. They were really big givers. How in the world did those churches manage that? The grace of God. So Paul is really, when you think about it, praising what the grace of God has accomplished in those congregations.

 

THE SECOND THING WE SEE IS THEIR PERFORMANCE (8.3)

 

“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves.”

 

Three comments seem necessary to make at this point about their performance:

First, there was performance that was natural giving. This was their giving that was related to their power. That is, they gave according to their ability. This is the kind of giving that anyone can achieve. This would be tithing. No spiritual power is needed to tithe. You don’t even have to be saved to tithe. How many cults are there whose people tithe faithfully? Mormons, JWs, and Adventists all tithe. So you’d expect this from every congregation, right? The members at least tithed.

But then in addition to tithing there is supernatural giving. This is the giving that is “beyond the power” of the giver. If you are doing more than you are able to do, the capacity to do it has to come from outside you. Right? And you wouldn’t expect Satan to supply the ability to give supernaturally to a Christ-honoring church ministry, would you? Therefore, it is reasonable to surmise that this giving is the result of that grace Paul referred to in verse 1. God has now intervened in the lives of the believers in that congregation to enable them to do more than they could do, to give more than they could give. Of course, the unsaved man would think that this is impossible. But the saved man would say, and perhaps even show, that with God nothing is impossible. What is the difference, then, between the Christians who give according to their ability and the Christians who give beyond their ability? What is the difference between a Macedonian church and the Corinthian church?

I think the answer to that question is internal motivation.

 

“...they were willing of themselves.”

 

We know that the grace of God is available to every believer. We see that in First Corinthians 1.4-9. And we suspect that the grace of God is also available to every church, since the Corinthian church that doesn’t have it is being informed by the Apostle Paul how to get it. Does that not sound reasonable? We also know that those churches that give in mediocre fashion have the same God as those churches that give with abundant generosity and beyond their natural means. Would anyone disagree with me about that? So, what is the difference? Internal motivation. The Macedonians, you see, were “willing of themselves.” They did not respond to some external motivation in which they were pumped up and jazzed up to froth at the mouth and go out and commit the sin of presumption and call it faith. This does not mean that some kind of informative or informational campaign is necessarily wrong. Paul is conducting an informational and motivational campaign to raise money here. However, he is careful to seek proper motivation on the part of God’s people. He wants the Corinthian’s motivation to be the result of God making spiritual truth come alive to them through the Word of God. Bottom line, then, was that these people wanted to perform for God. They wanted to live by faith. They wanted to give by faith. Do you? It is a question you need to ask yourself. It is a question no one can answer for you.

 

THE THIRD THING WE SEE IS THEIR PRAYER (8.4)

 

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

 

Notice, if you will, that since they were a people in poverty, it doesn’t look as though Paul initially asked them to participate in the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. So the Macedonian churches prayed that Paul would allow them to give, just like other churches. The prayer mentioned in verse 4, then, refers to the Macedonian’s supplications to the Apostle Paul, not really prayers offered up to God.

Look at their manner in pleading with Paul. Paul writes,

 

“Praying us with much entreaty....”

 

Folks, these people were really serious about participating in this big collection. Verse 4 actually contains the summation of a godly appeal made by the Macedonian churches. And in their appeal they begged Paul to allow them to give. It has been my observation as a pastor that it is oftentimes the less affluent Christian who is the most committed giver, who seeks most earnestly to give, and who will raise the biggest stink if you don’t let him give. And that’s good.

Now, look at their motivation when pleading with Paul. The Macedonian’s motivation was an intense desire to participate in the “fellowship of the ministering of the saints.” They desperately wanted in on the action. Was it because they, being poor but able to eat, would closely identify with the Jerusalem Christians? Perhaps. But it could also be that they simply realized that loving God and ministering to His children, their own brothers and sisters in Christ, could not really be separated the one from the other. To really love God is to engage in ministry.

And what was their method for ministering to those saints so far away? They gave money. Does that sound carnal and materialistic to you? It shouldn’t. What is money but your personal labor, converted into something which is portable? Your money is your work time in the form of currency. Not something to love but something to make good use of. And when you minister to someone, or to a group of people, you are giving them something of practical and real value when you are giving your money to the cause of Christ. The Macedonians could not hire the Jerusalem Christians to work for their bread. Too far away. Neither could they go to be with them to comfort them, for fear of simply adding to the number of mouths to feed. So they sent money to enable them to buy food.

 

PRAISE, PERFORMANCE, PRAYERS. THE FINAL THING WE SEE IS THEIR PRIORITIES (8.5)

 

“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.”

 

What can we say about the priorities of the Macedonian Christians in the churches of Thessalonica, Philippi, and other communities of that region?

First, we can say that their priorities were surprising. I don’t know exactly what it was that Paul did expect, but the Macedonians surpassed his expectations by a mile. How about you? How do you do compared to people’s expectations of you? Do you pleasantly surprise people by God’s work in your life, or do you disappoint people by the apparent absence of God’s work in your life? I know that we should never establish our spiritual priorities based upon the expectations of other people, but rather according to what God’s Word teaches us. However, do you delight the soul of another Christian by displaying proper priorities as a believer? You ought to. It’s called exhorting one another, by your example if not by your words.

In addition to being surprising, their priorities were spiritual. Pay particular attention to the giving that’s important here. Pay particular attention to the one kind of giving that will lead to another kind of giving. The Macedonians first gave themselves to God! That is, they presented themselves as living sacrifices to God.[4] And having done that, they then presented themselves to Paul and Timothy, by the will of God. And then what happened? Well, we already know. They gave themselves to God. Then they gave themselves to the spiritual leadership, by the will of God. Then they gave money.

 

What did those churches decide to do that resulted in them receiving the kind of praise from Paul that they received? And what did they decide to do that involved the grace of God? If you’ve been careful to think through what Paul has written you have already noticed that Paul deals with the Macedonian church’s giving in the reverse order that it actually took place. For you the Calvary Road Baptist Church to be a great giving church capable of supporting many missionaries, and capable of tending to increased building and space requirements as the needs arise, you need to individually decide that you are going to corporately, as a church, do the following:

First, establish right priorities. And you will never have right priorities until you, already being a Christian, give yourself to God. Once you give yourself to God you will be willing to follow spiritual leadership, according to the will of God, which means according to scripture. And then you will, as the pastor leads according to the dictates of God’s Word, be willing to finance your church’s ministry with your giving. But it’s priorities first.

Then come prayers. Having decided to establish the right priorities, you now seek to execute those priorities. You seek to serve the God you have given yourself to. And you will not be denied. The Macedonian believers asked Paul to let them minister to the saints in this way. If you have right priorities, you will seek opportunities from spiritual leaders to put your faith to work. And you will not be denied. Having opened the door of opportunity you now begin to perform. Where did we get the idea that performance does not count? Of course performance counts. What sets the stage for Paul’s praise of these people is the fact that they are, by the grace of God, performing. And when they perform they receive praise. So, where does grace come in? Simple. With right priorities, that lead to seeking opportunities to serve, that results in performing when you get the opportunity, you are praised. And when you receive praise for what you have done that was really beyond your ability to do, then you know that it was God’s grace which made it possible.

Are you a tither? If not, you aren’t really even doing what you could do in the flesh. You’re not even doing what a lost person could do if he wanted to. Want to solve that problem? Want to be able to live a life and give gifts beyond your individual ability? Then make the priorities of the Macedonians your priorities. Make the prayers of the Macedonians your prayers. Then the performance they exhibited you will exhibit and the praise they received you will also receive.

You decide to do that personally and the whole world will feel the effects of your decision as it affects the ministry of your church. Calvary Road Baptist Church needs to do no less than God enables you to do, but no more than God wants you to do. That means your giving should not be less than God enables, but no more than God leads you to give either. At the end of it all, it is all about advancing the gospel. It is all about bringing the good news that our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and bled and died on Calvary’s cross to save men from their sins, to make them new creatures, and to give them life and an inheritance on high. We give so that others may hear, just as others gave so that we might hear.



[1] Romans 8.28

[2] Acts 2.45; 4.32

[3] Acts 8.1

[4] Romans 12.1-2


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