The benevolence of God reflected in his people.

Posted on 10 Jun 2018, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: 2 Corinthians 8: 1-15 & 9:6-15
Text: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Great Generosity

Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,begging us with much urging for the favor [a]of participation in the [b]support of the [c]saints, and this, not as we had [d]expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.

But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the [e]love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 I give myopinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.11 But now finish [f]doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gatheredmuch did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Instructions and Greetings

16 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to [a]put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

The benevolence of God

Reading 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:7-15

Text: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

In our well to do society here in New Zealand we enjoy pretty much the best of everything, more food that we need. Today’s motor cars compared to those built 100 years ago and smooth highways have made local travel comfortable and quick. Air travel gives us the ability to go just about anywhere in the world without breaking the bank. To what may we attribute this wealth? Ultimately the benevolence of God and the beneficent effect the gospel has on society. . Not only does the good news about Jesus save sinners and grant them eternal life but the gospel also helps restrain evil, encourages good ethics, and improves people’s standard of living, health, education, wealth and so on. All of this can be attributed to the benevolence or goodness of God.

Furthermore as those who belong to God and have the mind of Christ we are called by Jesus not only to be hardworking, careful, thrifty and prosperous but as it says in Luke 16:9 “to make friends for yourself by means of the Mammon of Unrighteousness so that when it fails they will receive you into eternal dwellings.” Who are these ‘friends’? We discover that in Luke 14:12 when Jesus said, “When you put on a dinner do not invite your brother, relatives or rich neighbours but invite the poor the lame the cripple the blind”

This was also behind Paul’s concern for the church in Jerusalem. He wanted the goodness of God to be shown through the church at Corinth toward the poor on Jerusalem.

Why were they poor? There are a number of reasons. As Christians they were seen as a sect a breakaway group and lost all privileges under the Jewish system including the receiving of money set aside for the poor.

Its also possible that many who travelled to Jerusalem at Pentecost, heard the gospel and were saved may have stayed on and joined the local Jerusalem church. This meant that they were new in the city probably unemployed and so the church would have to try and care for them. According to Acts 4:33-337 in the early days of the church the members gladly shared with each other but over time its possible that their resources were spread too thinly. In Acts 8:1 we read about the stoning of Stephen  and the persecution of the church in Jerusalem which followed resulting in and I quote verse 2 “ they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.  Further on in acts 11:27-30 we read of a great famine and a collection for the brethren living in Judea and so in his letter to the Corinthians Paul encourages the believers there to hold this collection for the needy church in Jerusalem.   He wrote now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches in Galatia so do you also.”

(The churches in Galatia were those which Paul and Barnabas helped plant during Paul’s first missionary journey. They included including Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.)

Now what motivated Paul to encourage the churches in their giving?  a) Well there was obviously a great need there and God wants us to care for all those in need especially in the household of faith. That according to James 1:17 is a definition of true religion.  b) Another motive was the unity of the church. Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles and this angered some of the more exclusive Jewish believers. Paul was concerned that they didn’t understand that the gospel is for all people. He hoped that bringing a gift collected by Gentile Christians for the church in Jerusalem would help build bridges between the churches.

The fact that money was collected and taken to Jerusalem from these churches shows that the people in Galatia Macedonia and Corinth had a living faith. It says in James 2: 14 “Of what use is it brothers if a man says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of daily food?  And one of you says go in peace be warmed and be filled and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their bodies what use is that? Even so, faith if it has no works is dead.

What is a living faith? It is a faith in the goodness of God expressed in these words which we read earlier in 1 Corinthians 8:9. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

In a moment we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper together and be reminded yet again of how rich in Christ we are. We have the forgiveness of sins. We live in the grace and favour of God. We have communion with God and with each other now and forever! These are priceless blessings.

We truly are those who have received the goodness of God and here in this passage we as God’s household, are commanded to do likewise. Look again at the end of verse 1. My translation has “so do you also” the word do in the Greek is Poiesate. To spell out the grammar it’s a 2nd person plural imperative verb which has the force of a command. So the ministry of mercy in giving of our tithes and offerings to the needy and contributing to the work of the church is not optional it’s commanded.

What might that look like, what are the implications? For us there are several.

  1. 1. Giving is an act of worship. Paul instructed the Corinthians to set aside some money on the first day of the week. Every member was to come to the Lord’s Day gathering on the first day of the week to give his share of the offering. That has established a pattern for the church down through the ages that an element of corporate worship is the offering. This is part of our sacrifice. It says in Romans 1:12 “By the mercies of God present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which is your spiritual act of worship.”

So to give a portion of our money to the Lord is a part of that Holy Sacrifice; that spiritual act of worship. Money is hard earned and there are so many things we think we need and could spend it on. We like to see our bank accounts get larger; not smaller. However a practical part of our religion and our true worship is making sacrifices of our money by contributing to the needs of the saints and advancing the cause of the gospel.

  1. We also notice in the text that giving was regular on the first day of every week. All the members (Each one of you, vs 2) of the church at Corinth were to set aside the offering at home and then bring it to the assembly on a regular basis. Warren Wiersbe made the comment: “If today’s church members were as systematic in their giving as they are in handling their other financial matters the work of the Lord would not suffer as it sometimes does.”
  2. Paul also shows in the text that giving must be proportionate. “Let each one of you put aside and save as he may prosper.” The Jewish believer in the church would have been familiar with the tithe. Paul doesn’t mention it in his letters to the Corinthians but neither does he deny it. Its possible that Paul he alludes to the tithe in 2 Corinthians 9:6 where it says “He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly.” He who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.” This lines up with Malachi 3: 10 where it says “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need.” The meaning is the same in 2 Cor. 9. So certainly a tithe in proportion to our income is a good place to begin. But don’t let is end there, God loves a cheerful giver.
  3. 4. Look at 2 Corinthians 9:7 where it says let each one give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” It comes down to your attitude! Can you see the need and importance of true religion which is to care for the needy and keep oneself untainted by the world? Can you see the importance of the gospel and how it has been the most powerful change agent for good all over the world? Can you see that in tithing your income to the Lord you are contributing to the Lord’s work and his plan of salvation? If we can understand these things and see the blessing Christ has brought into the world then that is the antidote to any reservations you might have about contributing to the Lord’s work which has eternal value.
  4. God is a great and gracious provider. We see this in 2 Corinthians 9:8 where it says “And God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed”. Here we’re urged here to trust in the goodness and grace of God. Cheerful hiving is a significant way in which we can express that trust; that God will meet our needs to such a degree that we are willing and able to give to others. God is faithful and will respond to our charity by supplying our needs and rewarding those who use their resources for the needs of others. Look what it says in verse 10 of 2 Cor. 9. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in everything for your liberality which through us is producing thanks giving to God.”

So we come back to the main theme which is that our motivation to give must be the goodness of God who “though he was rich became poor for our sakes that through his poverty we might become rich.”

  1. We also note in the text the importance of handling church funds honestly. In verse 3 we read “And when I arrive whomever you approve I shall send with them letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem. And then Paul adds that he hopes ton accompany them on the way.” Again going across to 2 Corinthians 8”16 -14 we see that the various churches involved in this special offering appointed delegates to help Paul manage the funds and take it safely to Jerusalem Paul encouraged the churches to participate in the offering and to choose dependable representatives to take care of it. So too in the church giving is church centred. We have our deacon and treasure and session to ensure that funds are handled honestly and responsibly.

7 Finally giving glorifies God. In going forward with their collection the Corinthian church glorified God by affirming with their actions the goodness of God and the Gospel of Christ.  2 Corinthians 9:13 says “because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God on your behalf for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all.”  The collection received in Jerusalem produced prayers of thankfulness and praise to God for which Paul at the end of the chapter calls an indescribable gift.

In conclusion then the goodness and graced of God and the gospel of Christ has brought countless blessing to our lives including the material blessings which in the normal course of life are often by products of the rich spiritual blessings we have in Christ. So as Jesus once said we are encouraged “to make friends for yourselves by means of the Mammon of unrighteousness (i.e.  worldly wealth) so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.”

It also interesting that Paul wrote about this right after his teaching in the resurrection. At the end of chapter 15 is a hymn of victory and then at the beginning of chapter 16 Paul wrote about money. Worship and works go together. Our labour including our giving is not in vain because our Lord is alive. It is his resurrection power that motivates us to give and to serve our saviour and one another

Amen.