Let Us Pray for God's Grace of Giving!
O Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, You are a God of grace and mercy—a God of power and compassion! As we enter into Your presence this day for worship fill us with a sense of wonder as we hear Your Word. Lead us to sorrow over our sins, to rejoice in Your forgiving love, to grow in our understanding of Your will and ways, and to recommit ourselves to Your service. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Our God is a good and gracious God, who fills our lives with His blessings. He certainly did this for Joseph who, after being sold into slavery by his brothers and also imprisoned in Egypt, was exalted to a position of authority second only to Pharaoh!
One of God’s greatest blessings is our faith. Simon confessed his faith in Jesus as the promised Christ—the Son of God. Jesus said that God the Father had revealed those truths to him—truths which become the foundation of our Christian faith!
Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
In Christ Jesus, through whom we are blessed by God’s grace, dear fellow redeemed:
The concept of “grace” is one of the most important concepts of Scripture. It deals directly with the nature of God, our hope of salvation, and our ability to live our Christian lives. The Bible assures us that we are saved “by grace…through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8). We are not saved by our own good works, nor could we be, for we have all sinned against God and find ourselves by nature condemned by His law (cf. Romans 3:20,23). Rather our salvation is a gift from God, given to us solely in view of His divine love and mercy. Therefore, grace is rightly defined as “God’s undeserved love.” Grace, however, is not simply an attitude of God, but rather it is part of His very essence. Our God is gracious, even as He is just, all-powerful, and all-knowing. The writer to the Hebrews urges us believers to “come boldly to the (God’s) throne of grace” (4:16). When we through the Spirit’s work come to faith in Jesus Christ we enter a state of grace, which means that, our sins have been forgiven by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God, and we rejoice in the hope of sharing God’s glory throughout eternity in heaven (cf. Romans 5:1-2).
There is another aspect of grace, however, which may not at times receive the attention it deserves. That aspect of grace deals with our Christians lives and is the special grace, or what we might call the privileged ability given by God to Christians to fulfill their callings in this life as God’s children. For instance, the apostle Paul speaks of the “grace given” to him by God, so that he might be a minister of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:15). God by grace gave grace to Paul which enabled him to serve in the public ministry as a missionary and apostle. In our text Paul speaks to us of the grace of giving—the subject we want to consider today. To be able to give with generosity and confident joy is a gift. It involves a special ability, which only the Spirit of God can provide. Man possessed this grace of giving, which is part of the very image of God, at the time of creation, but lost that grace when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve, who had been blessed with every possible blessing, assumed when they were tempted that God had deprived them of something and so they took that which was forbidden. Man has continued to take—uncertain of his standing with God, depending upon himself, and giving way to his selfish and covetous desires, he takes and takes thinking that if only he can take enough he will be secure and satisfied. But the things of this world do not bring security or lasting satisfaction. My dear friends, true security is found in a solid faith relationship with Jesus Christ and true satisfaction can only be achieved as a result of that faith relationship. Such a relationship paves the way for every believing child of God to receive the gift of the grace of giving. LET US PRAY FOR GOD’S GRACE OF GIVING—a grace of giving illustrated by Jesus Christ; a grace of giving emulated by the Macedonians; a grace of giving encouraged by the apostle Paul!
Yes, the grace of giving was illustrated by Jesus Christ! We will begin a consideration of our text by looking at the last verse first: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” As the Son of God grace is part of the essence of our Savior. He possesses a love for us like His Father’s. It is a love that we do not deserve, but from which we benefit so greatly, and that benefit is emphasized here. Jesus, who as true God sat on heaven’s throne surrounded by the praises of hosts of angels—the possessor of all things, gave up the full acknowledgement of His glory and use of His possessions to become one of us and experience the trials and rejection of life in this sin-filled world. Let us be clear that when Jesus was born of the Mary, it was not the fact that he became man that made Him poor. He remains true man even today, but lives now as the God-Man in an exalted state. Rather, as Paul explained to the Philippians, “Christ Jesus… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the dead of the cross” (2:5b,7a,8b). Jesus became poor in that He gave up that which He rightfully possessed in order to serve us. Jesus was not born in a gleaming palace in Rome, but rather was born in gloomy barn in Bethlehem. Jesus was not raised in a gated community within the capital city of Jerusalem, but in a small hut in the village of Nazareth. He did not own a beach side cottage on the Mediterranean, but rather as He explained to a potential follower, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). He did not wear expensive silks or have a closet full of clothes, but rather the soldiers drew lots to divide the only clothes He had just hours before His death. Yes, the Son of God gave up everything—even His relationship with His Father and His very own life, in order that we who by nature are poverty stricken spiritually might become rich.
By nature we are spiritually poor—every one of us! Oh, there are many people who do not recognize this fact. In fact, some Christians become so enamored by this world that they too can forget this fact. Jesus in the Revelation confronted the Laodicean Christians and warned them, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). Sin by nature separates man from God. Sin can blind eyes to the truth. Oh, it is true, that many people seem to get along just fine without God in this world. They enjoy themselves and appear to have many things, but their enjoyment and their things are temporal. This life is all too brief as the obituary column in theFree-Press reveals each day. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment!” (Hebrews 9:27)
Jesus gave Himself for us to change our destinies and to give us the gift of eternal life. Why did He do it? The answer is not found in us, but rather is His grace—His love for us, which we did not deserve. Jesus was able and willing to give Himself for us for a number of reasons, all of which are important to understand if we are to receive the grace of giving. Jesus knew who He was—the very Son of God who possessed all things, but who was not possessed by those things. Jesus’ greatest desire was to fulfill the “will of the Father who sent” Him (cf. John 5:30). Jesus loved us and in spite of our sins was determined to fulfill His Father’s plan of redemption so that we might have life. Jesus kept His eyes on the prize and knew that when His work was done He would be received into glory! Yes, the grace of giving was illustrated by Jesus Christ!
LET US PRAY FOR GOD’S GRACE OF GIVING…a grace of giving emulated, secondly, by the Macedonians! This entire text revolves around a natural disaster—a famine in the land of Palestine. The famine had come to that region and left many without food or the necessary resources to purchase food and the other necessities of life. The apostle Paul, upon hearing of the disaster, immediately called upon the Christians of Greece and Asia Minor to help their fellow Christians in Judea. As is the case today, different groups of Christians vary in their ability to respond to emergencies. Some have been blessed with considerable assets, while the assets of others are quite limited. What proves so interesting and is therefore so instructive for us today is the example of the Macedonian Christians. They, in spite of their limitations, had been blessed with the grace of giving. Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”
Note two things about this group of believers. First of all, this group of believers found great joy in giving generously to help others in spite of great personal trials and in spite of great poverty. These individuals were not wealthy individuals simply giving of their surplus. They were individuals in “deep poverty,” which suggests that their situation was at least as dire if not more dire than those people they were seeking to help. Secondly, these individuals were moved with great urgency, freely and willingly to give more than anyone thought they were able to give. Paul says, “They were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift.”
What motivated these Macedonian Christians to be such givers? It was indeed a gift of God’s grace, but a gift based upon something absolutely prerequisite and essential. Paul writes, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God!” The Macedonian Christians knew who they were. By God’s grace they had been redeemed. They belonged to God and wanted to draw near to Him. They gave themselves to their God and desired, as had their Savior Himself, to do nothing other than to fulfill the will of God. They saw their brethren in Palestine in terms of precious souls bought by the blood of Christ…as members of the same body of Christ, and destined to be united with them in Christ throughout all of eternity. The key to the grace of giving is such an understanding, for when I know that I am a child of God destined to spend eternity with God in view of the redemptive work of Christ, then I am prepared to dedicate myself to God and give as God. Yes, the grace of giving was illustrated by Jesus Christ and emulated by the Macedonians!
LET US PRAY FOR GOD’S GRACE OF GIVING…a grace of giving encouraged by the apostle Paul! The Corinthian congregation had been encouraged by the apostle Paul to join the other Christians of Greece and Asia Minor is taking up a collection for the believers in Palestine. The Corinthians Christians, unlike those in Macedonia, had been blessed in many ways, including financially. Paul urged Titus, his colleague and special representative to the Corinthians to “complete this grace” among the Corinthians Christians as well. He pointed out that they “abound(ed) in everything.” They had a great and knowledgeable faith, were gifted in sharing that faith, and were blessed with good and loving hearts. But having many gifts, does not necessarily lead to an ability to give with both joy and generosity. That requires a gift of grace.
It is no secret to anyone who regularly read his or her Bible that the Corinthian congregation, in spite of its many blessings, was a troubled congregation. 1 Corinthians is a catalog of sins, most of which bespeak the need for the grace of giving. Jealously, pride, and selfishness caused deep divisions within the congregation and hampered its witness to the unbelieving world around it. The solution for the Corinthians, according to Paul, was to repent of their sins and keep their eyes on Jesus Christ. He was the Head of the Church, and so therefore the Corinthians were not to divide themselves in support of one pastor over against another. He was the giver of all talents and abilities, so use them to honor Him as opposed to exalting self. He was the giver of materials wealth, and so use that wealth to uplift rather than to embarrass those who had little. In connection with this project—consider Christ who gave so much, so that we might inherit what will prove to be everything!
My dear friends, as we consider ourselves and our own Immanuel congregation, it will do little good to compare ourselves either to the Macedonians or the Corinthians, but it will profit us greatly to learn from their examples. Whether we are individually rich or poor, our goal should always be to draw closer to our God as His dear children. Let us remember the grace and mercy of our God in sending Jesus. Let us repent of our sins and pray that God would remove our selfish natures. Let us to place a high priority on our spiritual needs. Let us remember that is it more blessed to give than to receive. LET US PRAY FOR GOD’S GRACE OF GIVING! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting