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The Care of God, Part 4

February 26, 2006

This sermon was presented before the Load, Kentucky, Church of Christ, on February 26, 2006. God cares for His people, and has set forth the means to provide that care. I pray that we shall all learn His methods in caring for His children.  Bernie Parsons

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The Care of God, Part 4

A sermon by Bernie Parsons

Part 4 in a series of five, presented at the Load, Kentucky, church of Christ on Sunday, 02/26/2006

Previously we studied how that the early Christians sold their excess properties and pooled the money, disbursing to each Christian as the need arose. As we continue to examine the way that the early Christians dealt with helping the poor, we re-examine the passage from the apostle Paul’s first Corinthian letter.

1 Corinthians 16:1: “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.
3: And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4: And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.”

The apostle Paul revisits this subject in his second Corinthian letter.

2 Corinthians 8:1: “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.”

Paul says that the Macedonian churches had given liberally of their resources, even beyond their means. That is, they sacrificed in order to have enough to share with their needy brethren in Jerusalem, which they then urged Paul and his companions to take to those brethren in need.

2 Corinthians 8:6: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
7: Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”

Paul said that he had asked Titus to follow up with the Corinthian church to make sure that their generosity matched that of their Macedonian brethren.

2 Corinthians 8:8: “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”

Some try to bind what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:1 as a commandment for all Christians. It reads: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”

However, in 2 Corinthians 8:8, he says that it is not by commandment, but rather that it is to be a generosity matching that of others, and proof of their sincere love for their needy Christian brethren in Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 8:9: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

In verse 9, the apostle Paul invokes the example of Christ, who left the riches of heaven, becoming a poor human, in order to share His riches in heaven with His followers.

2 Corinthians 8:10: “And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.
11: Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
12: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”

Again, Paul abandons the order that he issued a year earlier, in the first letter, stating it now as advice, rather than an order, as he had previously put it. Having invoked the example of Christ, and the generosity of the other churches, Paul now exhorts the Corinthians to do what they had been willing to do a year earlier. He clearly states that they are to give of what they have, not overburdening themselves.

2 Corinthians 8:13: “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
14: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
15: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”

Paul now reaches back to the teachings of the Law of Moses in order to make plain what he is suggesting.

Exodus 16:14: “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15: And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
16: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
17: And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
18: And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.”

As the ancient Israelites shared the manna, so the Christians were to share resources. Those who have more than they need share with those who do not have enough, so that everyone has enough. The tables may one day turn, and the recipient of the help today may be the giver of help tomorrow. We reap what we sow.

2 Corinthians 8:16: “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
17: For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
18: And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
19: And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:
20: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
21: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
22: And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.
23: Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.
24: Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.”

Paul next establishes the credentials of those whom he had sent to gather the offering for the needy saints. He let them know that the money would reach the intended recipients. The men who would carry it were honest, godly men of sterling reputation in the church. Having invoked the sacrifice of Jesus, reminded them of the sharing of the manna collection, and recalled their earlier eagerness to help, he now asks for proof of their love, that they live up to the bragging that he has done about their readiness to give.

2 Corinthians 9:1: “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
2: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
3: Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
4: Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
5: Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.”

Apostle Paul writes that he had used his boasting about Corinth to stir up the hearts of the Macedonian Christians to be generous. He tells the Corinthians that they must measure up to his brags about them. Therefore, he sent other brethren on ahead to help round up the Corinthian gifts, lest some Macedonian Christians should come with him when he came to get the Corinthian collection and take it to Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 9:6: “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”

Next, Paul used the scriptural concepts that those who did not sow much would not reap much, and also that the one who lends to the poor, lends to the Lord, and will prosper.

Proverbs 28:19: “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.”

Proverbs 19:17: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

2 Corinthians 9:7: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

The Christian is to give in an amount that he decides, and not out of constraint, or because it is exacted of him. One must give cheerfully, not begrudgingly. There is no teaching here of tithing. The oft-abused scripture about our righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees is out of context when applied to tithing, or collecting for the needy.

2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10: Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)”

Psalms 112:9: “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.”

Isaiah 58:10: “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”

2 Corinthians 9:11: “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
12: For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
13: Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
14: And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
15: Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

Paul points out that it is God who gives us an abundance, to meet our needs, and to share with others who are worse off then we. This causes us to give thanks to God, and to praise His name. Thus, the benefits are twofold: the needs of the saints are met while at the same time all are made to rejoice and thank God. This causes those outside of Christ to take note of our joy in the Lord, and our thanksgiving to Him.

Note in verse 13 that Paul says that people glorify God by the liberal distribution to the saints, and to all men.

Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8: For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10: As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

As the Israelites were commanded to assist the strangers (Gentiles) living among them, so are Christians taught to help all men, and not just those who are Christians. Our help begins toward those within the body of Christ, but reaches out into the non-believing community, as well. This is one of the ways that we let our lights shine.

We see an experiment, as Paul put it, in relieving the needy. (One can suffer need without necessarily being in poverty.) This is done by sharing our abundance—our surplus—thus creating equality. Today’s giver may be tomorrow’s recipient, or vice versa. We have this beautiful expression of charity, as a reflection of the love of God. It is a wonderful example of how needs can be met—through a collection of generous, voluntary donations over time, so that there is enough on hand to meet sudden needs arise.

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