Lecture 13: Godly Giver

The Sin Of Covetousness

 Balaam met death because he was tempted with covetousness. He sold his gift for money, and thus paid the ultimate price. Covetousness is the desire of those whose minds are focused on the things of this world. When Paul wrote, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth,” he had the sin of covetousness in mind (Cl 3:2). Every time the collection plate comes by, many people have a brief struggle with the sin of covetousness. The emotion that encourages one to hold back in his contributions is the feeling of having to give up that which one can consume on his own lusts.

 A.  Definition of Covetousness:

The Greek word of covetousness is pleonexia. It is a word that has a wide variety of equivalents in the English language. It can mean greediness, avarice, a desire to take more than one’s share, or a desire to take possession of that which belongs to another. Those who do not give according to how they have prospered are certainly covetous disciples. They hold back on giving according to their prosperity because they realize that they are relinquishing the right to consume upon themselves that which they release to the church.

Throughout the Bible there are is a variety of subpoints that fall under the definition of covetousness.

1.  Covetousness is a desire to possess more than one has.   This was the problem of the rich man about whom Jesus referred in the parable of Luke 12:13-21. Jesus introduced His illustration of the covetousness of the rich man by saying, Take heed and beware of all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses” (Lk 12:15). The fact that Jesus cautioned the disciples about the sin of covetousness should be a warning to everyone that this sin can creep into our lives, bringing with it a desire to possess the things of this world. In the preceding statement, Jesus helped us to examine ourselves. We are covetous if we think that life is to be focused on possessions. Jesus’ explanation of covetousness is the love of possessions.

 2.  Covetousness is a desire to acquire material things in an evil manner. It is the desire to acquire through unfair, dishonest or unscrupulous means the material things of this world. Because of the temptations that come with covetousness, Paul reminded the Thessalonian Christians, “For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness …” (1 Th 2:5). Since his focus in life was not to possess the things of this world, his relationship with the Thessalonians did not have the ulterior motive of taking possession of their things. But this could not be said of some of the shepherds of Israel when the nation was in a state of backsliding from the Lord. God said of them, “For with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness (See Ez 33:30-32).

 3.  Covetousness is the love of money. This was the sin of the religious leaders of Israel during the time of Jesus. the Holy Spirit stated that the Pharisees were “lovers of money” (Lk 16:14). In the context of his statements in 2 Timothy 3, Paul seems to indicate that covetous religious leaders would arise within the body of Christ.   “Know this also, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, covetous …” (2 Tm 3:1,2). We can understand why Paul was so cautious about this sin. Because of the covetous world in which he preached, he worked with his own hands to support his needs, even paying for everything that he ate. Such behavior seems to indicate that he wanted to shun all appearances of covetousness (2 Th 3:8). He reminded the elders of Ephesus that when he was among them that he “coveted no man’s silver or gold or clothes” (At 20:33). Peter also knew that covetous brethren would take advantage of the church. When in a state of apostasy, Peter warned, “And through covetousness they will with deceptive works exploit you (2 Pt 2:3).

 B.  The curse of covetousness:

Paul wrote, For the love of money is the root of all evils, by which some coveting after have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows (1 Tm 6:10). No greater truth could have been said concerning what seems to be our natural desire to acquire and possess. This urge can be so strong that it can lead one to great dishonesty and the destruction of one’s integrity. It is not the money in and of itself that is evil.   It is the love of the money that corrupts the very soul of a man. It is for this reason that the Bible is filled with exhortations to guard oneself from the sin of covetousness:

  • “You will not covet your neighbor’s house. You will not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17).
  • “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to covetousness” (Ps 119:36).
  • “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house …” (Pv 15:27).
  • “Woe to those who join house to house, who lay field to field until there is no place, so that they may be placed alone in the midst of the land” (Is 5:8).
  • “Woe to him who increases that which is not his …” (Hk 2:6).
  • “But now I have written to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother if he is a fornicator, or covetous …” (1 Co 5:11).
  • “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Ep 5:3).

 C.  The consequences of covetousness:

The insidious nature of covetousness is that the one who is covetous often has no idea that he is such. To consume upon one’s own desires has simply become the culture of his life and the life of his neighbors around him. Such people often judge themselves as nice people, for they are not drunkards or thieves. They are simply trying to maintain a life-style similar to their neighbors.   They often present themselves as good community leaders, and often present before the church a cloak of piety and spirituality. They are faithful in being with the disciples for prayer and Bible study.   But when the collection is made, they reveal their covetous culture. This is the one about whom John wrote. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not from God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 Jn 3:10). And how does one know he loves his brother. John further explained, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14). But how does one know that he has passed from death to life, and thus, loves his brother? John explains, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17).

Now we understand why Paul was so hard on the Corinthians in reference to their fufilling of their promise to help their brothers in famine in Judea. But in reference to his personal needs, he reminded them, “And when I was present with you and in need, I was not a burden to anyone …” (2 Co 11:9).   Paul simply suffered alone, but later in this and other statements, shammed the Corinthians for their lack of love toward him because they did not help him in his need. Their lack of care for him when he was in physical need revealed a flaw in their understanding of the concept taught in Galatians 6:6. They were thus not yet perfected in righteousness.

When we are covetous, we will not feel the need of those in need, and thus respond with a heart of love. In the context of the preceding words of John about those who would not manifest their love of the brethren by making sure that physical needs are covered, John concluded, “Whoever hates his brother is a murder. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn 3:15).

Sins of the flesh as drunkenness are clearly evident to all. But the sin of covetousness can reside undetected in the heart of one for years without being clearly manifested. As the rich consume upon their lust, and give only a token when the collection plate is passed, they can hide behind the cloak of a secret contribution. When the poor widow gave all her livelihood, it was known to all. But when the rich gave, their comparatively large contribution was actually a cloak that disguised their covetousness.

Liberal giving is the very core of Christianity.   It is the revelation of the heart of the one who truly knows God, and thus seeks to be godly. One has simply deceived himself if he thinks that token contributions can identify him with the God who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son for our sins.

 It is the curse of legalism that allows the covetous person to hide behind his token contributions (Lk 21:1-4). The legalist deceives himself into thinking that since he gave something, then he has fulfilled the law of giving. But he has conveniently created a religion after this own covetous desires. He has failed to see that we are not under a law of tithing percentages, but under a new commandment of love that moves us to give as we have been given to by the God who owns all things. Unfortunately, the legalist will go down in condemnation crying out that he gave, but never realizing that he did not give himself wholly over to the Lord. His tokens will take him into total destruction from the presence of the One who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

 D.  Character of the covetous:

The covetous person is actually denying the one true and living God. He does so because he substitutes another god for God. In the city of Ephesus, Paul was confronted by the adherents of an idolatrous religion (See At 19). Theirs was a religion of idols, and idolatry is creating a god after one’s own image and own desires. Therefore, when Paul later wrote to the Ephesian Christians, he identified the nature of the covetous person. He wrote that the covetous man “is an idolater” (Ep 5:5). The covetous man is an idolater because covetousness “is idolatry” (Cl 3:5). Covetousness is worship of the creation over the Creator. It is elevating the created things of this world above the One who created the world. Jesus explained,

“No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Mt 6:24).

David said of those who made idols, “Those who make them are like unto them [idols], as is everyone who trusts in them” (Ps 115:8). The one who idolizes the things of this world are like the things of this world. They are worldly.

A servant is of no value to his master if he serves another master, while pretending to be totally dedicated to his master. When one becomes the servant of wealth, then he cannot be totally committed to God. Not only does the covetous man trouble his own house, he troubles the house of God (See Pv 15:27; 1 Tm 3:15). In the case of Achan, covetousness caused the death of his entire family (Ja 7:21). He saw; he coveted; he took; he died. The idolatrous man can never give his entire devotion to God. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).

It seems that the heart of Demas was on the things of this world which he loved. Paul urged Timothy, “Be diligent to come to me soon, for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world …” (2 Tm 4:10).   As Demas, and Gehazi, many good men have fallen to the idolatrous nature of covetousness (See 2 Kg 5:22-25).

The sin of covetousness became so grave in Israel that the princes of Israel were known for their bribes by which they exploited the people, even to the point of shedding innocent blood to receive them (Ez 22:12). We must never underestimate the sin of covetousness. We must never fail to identify such as sin. And considering all that is stated in the word of God about the sin, we would do well to be on guard in our lives that we do not deceive ourselves that this sin cannot turn us away from God. Covetousness leads to the destruction of the spiritual life we have in Christ. Because it is a relentless curse to the soul of the Christian, it eventually turns one into a hard-hearted person who is void of empathy for the needs of his fellow man.

Through our obedience to the gospel, we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pt 1:4). It is our struggle to stay away from lusts that lead to spiritual death. Those disciples who would persist in their way of covetousness seriously challenge themselves through personal studies of the eternal sacrifice that Jesus made for us (See 1 Co 5:9-11). Those who with smooth and fair speech prey upon the disciples for gain, must also be challenged (2 Th 3:6). God is serious about the sin of covetousness because such is a character that is totally contrary to the godly nature of Christianity.

For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no man deceive you with empty works, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ep 5:5,6).

The covetous person needs to remember the words of Jesus that were spoken in reference to the rich man who was concerned only about laying up riches on earth for himself: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Lk 12:21). Remember, covetousness comes to light when the collection plate is passed.   One member boasted, “If I had US$1,000 I would give half to the church.” His fellow brother sitting beside him said, “What if you had two pigs?”   The man responded, “That’s not fair.   You know I have two pigs.”

 E.  Repentance from covetousness:

We must remember what the Holy Spirit said of the religious Pharisees. “They were lovers of money” (Lk 16:14). And when religious people who are lovers of money are denied their money by the preaching of the gospel, trouble is unleashed on the preachers of the gospel.

 1.  Simon the sorcerer loved, but lost his money. When Philip went to Samaria, he encountered one who was not unlike some preachers today. Simon was a preacher who was well known throughout the city of Samaria.   For a long time he had “practiced magic and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great (At 8:9). As we said, he was not unlike some preachers today who like to stand before the people with great pomp. And in order to guarantee his right to stand before the people, he worked his “miracles,” which were only magical tricks. And we assume that he was known for the two things that Solomon said would identify the leech: (1) Give! (2) Give! (Pv 30:15).

Simon certainly gained a great deal of money from his “miracle services.” He had the respect of the people he fooled. Luke recorded, “They all, from the least to the greatest, gave heed to him, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God’” (At 8:10). The people gave heed to the “miracle working” preacher “because he had for a long time astonished them with his magical arts” (At 8:11). But then there came to town a preacher of truth. Philip showed up with the message of the gospel. “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (At 8:12). The religious profiteering of the “miracle” working preacher was shut down.

But when religious profiteers are shut down, they do not go down peacefully. Simon lost his source of income. Nevertheless, the text says that “Simon himself also believed … and was baptized” (At 8:13). But when he saw the miracles that were done by the apostles, he possibly saw another “angle” by which he could get back into the religious money-making business.   So “when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (At 8:18). Simon saw where he presumed he could cash in on the religious business of miracle working (At 8:19). But notice what Peter said to the covetous preacher Simon, Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money (At 8:20). The reason Simon sought to financially invest in the “laying-on-of-hands” business was because of what Peter pronounced was in his heart. Your heart is not right in the sight of God (At 8:21). Peter identified the problem when he said to Simon, “You are full of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” (At 8:23). Bitterness originates out of a heart of one who craves something so much, that when he loses it, he is bitter. Simon lost his position as a “miracle worker” among the people, and thus, he lost his source of great financial wealth. Though he was baptized, he was still in the “bondage of iniquity.” When covetous preachers lose their source of income when their iniquity is discovered, their heart of iniquity will move them to lash out with all sorts of nonsense.

 2.  Demetrius loved and lost his religious money-making business.   In the city of Ephesus, another religious profiteer was endangered by the preaching of the gospel. The occasion was the conversion of people away from idolatry to Christianity. The mass conversion was so great that those who were into the idol-making business became somewhat disturbed. “Then about that time there arose a great disturbance concerning the Way” (At 19:23). The problem was that “a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines for Artemis, was bringing no little profit to the craftsmen” (At 19:24). So Demetrius called the craftsmen together and said, “Sirs, you know that by this craft we have our wealth” (At 19:25).   The problem was that a preacher of the gospel came to town and said “that gods made with hands are not gods” (At 19:26). And so the market for idol gods took a hit, and the wealth of the idol makers had a bad day on the stock market.   Consequently, Demetrius sought to stir up opposition against Paul by appealing to their belief in the idol god Artemis [Diana], that she was in trouble of being “dethroned from her magnificence” if this is continued (At 19:27). So what happens when the wealth of religiously covetous people is endangered? There is mass confusion and opposition against those who preach the truth (See At 19:28-41). One must never underestimate the culture of religious covetousness.

The repentant journey out of covetousness is painful. Sometimes it is so painful that one becomes, as Simon, bitter. To some, as Demetrius, wealth is far more important than truth, and thus, people as Demetrius are willing to stir up a riot against those who endanger their religious profiteering. But for those who seek to serve God, these are those who are willing to endure the pain in order to gain the crown. Those who are wealthy, and who bring their standard of living down for the needs of others, will certainly be blessed with great riches in eternal glory. We must keep in mind that money cannot give itself away. It takes a sincere and godly heart to do that.



Lecture 12: Godly Giver


 It was stated of the sons of Eli that they did not know the Lord (1 Sm 2:12). The fact that they did not know the Lord was revealed in what they did to the people of the Lord. The sons of Eli were taking advantage of the people concerning that which was required by the Lord in reference to sacrifices. The people were to come to the Lord with their sacrifices, but the sons of Eli wanted more than what the law required for the support of the priests.   They were greedy, and thus, they took advantage of what the people were obligated to do (See 1 Sm 2:12-17).   The Holy Spirit thus recorded of them, “Therefore, the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (1 Sm 2:17). That which the people should willing do, that is, give their sacrifices, they despised because the two priests, the sons of Eli, were taking advantage of their offerings. When preachers take advantage of that which the people of God are obligated to do to serve the Lord, then the preachers are doing an evil thing. They “do not know the Lord.”

Those whose purpose it is to preach for money are usually, according to Solomon, identified by two things. “The leech has two daughters, crying, ‘Give!   Give!’” (Pv 30:15).   We can know those who are constantly after the contribution with their hands out. They cry from pulpits across the land, “Give! Give!” They continually, as the sons of Eli, stand before the people and cry out for the offerings that the people are obligated to give. The people, therefore, “abor the offering to the Lord.”

The supporters are not always the problem when it comes to the function of money in order to propagate the gospel. We live in a world of Balaamite preachers who take advantage of the innocence of the sheep of God. They abuse the obligation of the church to give their offerings.   These profiteers often drive in fine new vehicles before the poor, promising that “God will bless you, too if you will give to the Lord [actually, ‘give to me’].” Their mansions on earth reveal that their minds are on the things of this world.

When Paul was in Corinth, he did not take support from the Corinthians. He was planning to visit them again after he wrote the second letter. But even on this visit he said he would not take their money (2 Co 11:9). It seems that the Corinthians in general had a tendency to accuse people of teaching for money because there were so many profiteers in the Corinthians society. If this were not a problem in the Corinthian society, then Paul would have willingly accepted their support on his visit after writing the second letter. But Paul did not want to be accused of being a Balaamite preacher, as so many are today in the world of Christendom. We would advise that preachers gain some wisdom from Paul on this matter. Since it is often the case that immature brethren are too quick to accuse preachers of preaching for money, then preachers should be cautioned in reference to the money of the offerings of the brethren.   Preachers must never forget that the One they preach had only one robe and no owned place to lay His head at night (See Mt 8:20).

Unfortunately, there are too many preachers in the religious world who are like Balaam. Balaam was minding his own business, doing the work of God. He was known for his work throughout Pethor. But Balak, king of Moab, had another agenda for Balaam.   He had money and a list of sermons he wanted preached to a people he feared. He was afraid of the blessed people of God, the Israelites, who were coming his way (Nm 22:3,12). He thus sought for a preacher to hire to carry out his agenda against Israel.

Balak had the support, the sermons to be preached, and the audience to whom he wanted them delivered (Nm 22:5,6). So with cash in hand, he went looking for a preacher he could tempt with purse and position in order to carry out his mission.   He knew that there were preachers out there who would sacrifice their freedom and principles for the sake of a salary. Paul knew that there were a host of these hirelings in Corinth who were masquerading themselves as messengers of light (1 Co 11:12-15).

Balak knew how to approach religious hirelings.   He went looking for a dynamic and successful religious leader. He said of Balaam, “I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (Nm 22:6). His method of tempting Balaam to preach his agenda was to send an important delegation of elders to the preacher. With the delegation, he sent the greatest temptation to acquire a hireling preacher.   He sent “the diviner’s fee,” a handsome salary (Nm 22:6). So with an impressive delegation from a foreign land, and the temptation of great support, Balaam was tempted to accept the agenda of someone other than God, and to preach what the supporters demanded.

At first Balaam held out against the temptation of salary and fame by refusing to compromise his principles. He would not allow his faith and freedom to be bought with foreign support from those of a foreign country who had their own agenda.   He even consulted God concerning the request of the delegation of elders. And he initially followed God’s command not to go with the delegation of elders, or to accept their support (Nm 22:8-12). He was following God’s ultimatum. It was not to be changed under any circumstances.

But Balak was relentlessly persistent. He thus sent a greater number of influential people who were more noble and numerous than the first delegation.   These were political people who would appeal to the political ambitions of Balaam (Nm 22:15-17). With the temptation of the high salary he initially received from the first delegation, this time Balaam was tempted by the foreigners with a great position and any request he might have from the nation of the foreigners (Nm 22:17).

Balaam again held out. He refused to go with the political delegation that was sent from the foreigners (Nm 22:18).

But Balaam weakened. He again asked the political delegation to spend the night.   God knew Balaam’s heart, and thus, he accommodated his carnal desires for gain. He thus allowed Balaam to be ensnared in his own greed for gain and fame (Nm 22:19,20). “So Balaam rose in the morning … and went with the princes of Moab.” The mold was then cast for the hireling preacher to sell his gift to another for the sake of support. Balaam wrote his own legacy that the Holy Spirit recorded in Jude 11, when Jude wrote of some who run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit (Jd 11). Balaam established a “way” of behavior that would always be identified with his name and would describe those who compromise their principles for the sake of a salary as Balaamite preachers. Peter defined this behavior: “… the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Pt 2:15). The angel to the church of Pergamos condemned those who “hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Rv 2:14).

How could a preacher who was minding his own business establish forever a legacy of greed and selfish ambition?   Simple. We must never underestimate the temptation that comes with a delegation of elders from a foreign country who come with a great “diviner’s fee” in order to hire those who would preach their agenda of sermons.   It takes men of great spiritual integrity and dignity not to sell themselves to such great temptations. When preachers live in great poverty, it is not difficult to understand why some would be tempted to sell their gift for a salary. We must always remember the life of Paul in Corinth: “And when I was present with you and in need, I was not a burden to anyone …” (2 Co 11:9). Paul did not sell out his gift even when he was in poverty. He did not because he had crucified to himself the carnal things of this world (Gl 2:20). When preachers sell out their gift by preaching whatever the supporters demand, then they have not crucified themselves with Christ. They are Balaamite preachers who will, with smooth and fair speech, tickle the ears of those who sign their pay checks. When we read the following concerning the ministry of Timothy, we conclude that Timothy preached what was necessary, for he did not sell out his gift to supporters:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables (2 Tm 4:2-4).

Lecture 11: Godly Giver


 When dealing with the financial relationship of the taught with the teacher, it is often not a comfortable subject to discuss because the taught are often so negligent in this Christian responsibility.   Nevertheless, because we as disciples seek to live after the mandates of God, we must seriously study these matters.   Therefore, we must examine ourselves in order to determine if we are wayward walking in reference to our responsibilities of taking ownership of our spiritual growth.

The subject of this chapter is a continued discussion from previous studies on this matter of which Paul wrote in the 1 Corinthian letter. Paul repeated some of his principles in the second letter that were revealed a year before when he addressed what seemed to be a problem among the Achaian disciples.   It is important for us, therefore, to repeat with Paul some of the important principles where the same disciples seemed to lack in reference to stewardship responsibilities. These principles are important to study simply because the duty enjoined upon disciples that is discussed by Paul in the context of the 2 Corinthian letter is often ignored by many who are, as the Corinthians, still spiritually immature.

A few examples might illustrate the problem that often prevails. For example, we received an email from a preacher who was complaining. He said he had been preaching for over thirty years.   He had visited a Bible Resource Center and spent some time with the director of the Center. Upon his departure, he asked for a free study Bible, to which the director responded, “There is nothing free. You must pay for them.” The preacher went away frustrated, as we suppose the rich young ruler did when Jesus said that he should sell everything he had and come and follow Him. “But he was sad at this saying and went away grieving …” (Mk 10:22), as did the preacher. But the director of the Center was right. He would not be a “church thief” for the sake of one who should take ownership of this own spiritual responsibilities in paying for a Bible he would use in his ministry.

A Bible printing group once sent over US$1,000 worth of books to a group of church leaders in a particular city.   The books were faithfully delivered on the basis that the recipients promised to pay later. But the payment never came. The recipients thus made the senders church thieves in that they expected something free for their own use. Such cases reminded one of Psalm 37:21. “The wicked borrows and does not repay.”

We had a seminar where the Teacher’s Bible was made available, but no contributions were made, either to the teachers of the seminar or the materials. One student in the seminar drove away in his US$60,000 Hummer with a “free” Teacher’s Bible and other materials. We were made church thieves because other poorer brethren paid for the printing of the materials for the seminar, as well as all the teachers who paid their own expenses to travel to and teach the seminar.

But then there are those beautiful stories of faithful brethren who take ownership of their spiritual growth. We labored in teaching for ten hours a day for three days in Lilongwe, Malawi. After the seminar, the delegation of over one hundred preachers who attended the seminar selected a humble fellow laborer of their group to bring, in his raged clothes and worn shoes, a contribution to buy petrol to get us on to the next seminar.   These brethren were mature functional partners in the body of Christ. We went away without being made church thieves, but praising these brethren for their spiritual greatness in Christ. Sometimes, the most poor are the ones who are the most willing to assume their responsibility to fellowship in the ministry of the word to the world.   We are reminded of the poor brethren in Macedonia who, in their deep poverty, went beyond their ability to sacrifice for others (See 2 Co 8:1-4).

We are now ready to delve into the financial dysfunction of the Corinthians that Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 11:7-10.   In this context, Paul sought nothing less than to shame the Corinthians for making him a church thief. He began his shaming of them with an embarrassing question for them to answer:

Have I committed an offense in humbling myself [by making tents] so that you might be exalted [by your opportunity to receive the gospel I preached], because I have preached to you the gospel of God without charge? (2 Co 11:7).

Paul worked with Aquila and Priscilla as tentmakers when he preached the gospel in Corinth. After many Corinthians had obeyed the gospel, he taught them for a year and a half before going on to Ephesus (See At 18:1-3,11). He humbled himself through physical work in order that the Corinthians hear and obey the gospel. And because he worked, they could not accuse him of preaching for money.   Paul was no Balaamite. However, after they obeyed the gospel, and thus were brethren in Christ, their financial relationship with him had to change, but it did not.

So as he stated in 2 Corinthians 11:7, did Paul commit an offense? If the Corinthians answered the question correctly, then he did? His offense was that he did not receive wages from them after they became Christians. Within only a few days after their conversion, the Philippians were sending support once and again to Paul, Timothy and Silas when they preached in Thessalonica (Ph 4:16). After only a few weeks in the faith, the Thessalonian disciples were doing the same.   But the Corinthians were still not supporting Paul during the year and a half that he taught the disciples throughout Achaia. Neither did they support him when he, Aquila and Priscilla, went on to Ephesus. The Corinthians made the trio church thieves by their need to receive contributions from the saints in Macedonia. In allowing this financial struggle to happen in the life of Paul, the Corinthians manifested their dysfunctional behavior in reference to the support of their father in the faith.

The Corinthians made Paul a church thief while he ministered to them the word of God. Paul supported himself and took wages from others in order to minister the word of God to the Corinthians without their support. I robbed other churches,He shamed the Corinthians,taking wages from them, in order to serve you (2 Co 11:8). They made Paul a church thief by not partnering with him in his ministry of teaching them.

Paul’s physical situation in Corinth was not good.   He was truly in need of food.   He, Aquila and Priscilla were simply not making enough money from their tentmaking business. His situation eventually reached the ears of the sharing and loving Christians in all Macedonia. And these Christians took action. They poured out their hearts to partner with Paul in all his physical needs.   Paul shamed the Corinthian Christians by saying, “And when I was present with you and in need, I was not a burden to anyone, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied (2 Co 11:9; see Ep 4:16).

Because of the slanderous actions of some in Corinth who accused Paul of enriching himself, though they enriched themselves by the support of the Corinthian church, Paul rebuked them further: “And in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself” (2 Co 11:9). After shaming them for their lack of consideration for a servant of God, Paul said that now he would not take their support if they offered it. He would not because of the messengers of Satan who were masquerading themselves among them to supposedly be messengers of righteousness (2 Co 11:12-15).

In all his preaching in the province of Achaia, of which one city was Corinth, Paul could boast that he preached the gospel without receiving money from the unbelievers to whom he preached the gospel. But he went beyond this. He did not receive wages from the unbelievers who became believers through their obedience to the gospel. None of the masqueraders could say this. Such is not unlike some preachers today who masquerade as ministers of righteousness, when really they are Balaamites selling their gift for money.   If a preacher would prove his sincerity before the people, it might be a time to do what one Malawian businessman said to a group of local preachers who were complaining about not being supported.   He said to them, “Get a job!”

So Paul had a job. But this was not the problem with those in Corinth. The problem was that Corinthians had not yet fully understood that when one becomes a Christian, he has assumed the responsibility of supporting the preaching of the gospel to unbelievers, and also supporting the teachers who teach the believers. This is God’s manner to preach the gospel and edify the saints.

What the context of 2 Corinthians 11 teaches is that when one becomes a disciple, he is under the obligation of Galatians 6:6. He must take ownership of his own spiritual growth by supporting those who teach spiritual things. Some brethren still have not understood their responsibility that is explained in 1 Corinthians 9:11. “If we [Bible teachers] sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If a group of disciples allow a Bible teacher to stand before them week after week without supporting the teacher, then they need to pray over Galatians 6:6 and 1 Corinthians 9:11. They are violating a principle by which God meant for the teachers of His word to be supported.

Lecture 7: World As It Is


 The Old Testament history books are a literary road map of the work of God in the affairs of this world. God has recorded this history for the sake of His people.   When Paul reminded both the disciples in Rome and Achaia of this recorded history, he surely wanted them to remind them of the fact that God was still working in the lives of His people at the time he wrote both Romans and the two Corinthian letters (See Rm 15:4: 1 Co 10:11). We too would give heed to his exhortation in order to do the same. Old Testament history was not simply recorded to give us a historical narrative of Israel, but to give us sign posts of the work of God in the affairs of this world. He thus expects us to conclude that since He worked in such a manner in times of old, then He is doing the same in these times.

From the day the Israelites were baptized unto Moses in the Red Sea (1 Co 10:2), to the time when about 3,000 were baptized into Christ for the remission of sins 1445 years after the Red Sea baptism (At 2:41), God worked among His people in order to bring about the cross of redemption and the phenomenon of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 (At 2:1-4).

Israel was purified through the wilderness wanderings.   After they were purified of their rebellious spirit and bondage mentality, they were placed in the land of promise. All went well until the people began to fall under the influence of the Canaanites they failed to eradicate from the land. They were then consigned to suffering their deportation into all the world. In being scattered throughout the land of their captors, they were again purified. They were spiritually prepared to again participate in the eternal plan of God to preach the gospel to the world.

A.  The scattering:

Because of their rebellion against God, Israel was taken into the wilderness of Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. But we must not forget that God was working in their struggles of captivity in order to turn their rebellion into repentance and to accomplish His plan to bring the Savior into the world. He was working in order to lay the foundation to take the message of the Savior into all the world.

The foundation for world evangelism was first laid when the northern ten tribes of Israel were carried away into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. Nineveh was the old capital of the Assyrian Empire. As biblical historians, we often make the mistake of viewing the expanse of the empire of Assyria to be from Nineveh to the west, since this is the only history we have of the Empire in the Bible. But we must view the empire to have also expanded far to the east.   We do not know how far east the Assyrians extended their empire, but we can make some guesses. It surely extended as far east as it did west, and thus the territory of the Empire could have extended to the eastern part of modern-day Iran, and possibly into Afganistan and Pakistan.

In the context of the vastness of the Assyrian Empire, we wonder concerning the extent to which the Jewish captives were carried away when the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722/21 B.C.   We wonder because we must understand that God was setting the stage for some awesome that would come centuries later in the history of Israel. So when we read historical statements as the following, we must see God at work for the salvation of man:

For the children of Israel [the northern kingdom] walked in all the sins of Jeroboam that he did. They did not depart from them until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day (2 Kg 17:22,23).

This deportation of Israelites also affected other peoples over which Assyria reigned, for other peoples were brought into the land of Canaan.

And the kingdom of Assyria brought people from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Ava and from Hamath and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel (2 Kg 17:24).

Now keep in mind that in all this movement of peoples, God was establishing a foundation upon which world evangelism would later take place over seven hundred years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel.

In order to continue the laying of the foundation for world evangelism, a little over 130 years after the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, the same process of deportation started with the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah. By the time of this deportation, the Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire. In reference to Judah, it was the same story of taking Jewish captives and spreading them throughout an empire. These captives were being planted in order to bring forth fruit centuries later.

“Now the rest of the people [of Jerusalem] that were left in the city, and the fugitives who fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away (2 Kg 25:11).

Jeremiah prophesied during the last days of the southern kingdom. In his prophecies, God promised through Jeremiah that He would scatter His people throughout the nations of the world. At least one thing is certain when we read these prophecies of Jeremiah.   In reference to the scattering of the southern kingdom as a result of their sin, God was using Israel’s rebellion as the foundation upon which He would universally crush Satan. Jeremiah recorded that the Lord said, “And I will cause them to be moved into all kingdoms of the earth …” (Jr 15:4; see Jr 9:7). This global movement of Israelites was presupposing that God would centuries later commission the disciples to “go into all the world” where He had scattered His people (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15). They would go into all these lands to which Jews were scattered in order to preach the gospel of deliverance from the bondage of sin.

Babylon, the capital of the Babylonian Empire, was south and further east of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. We would presume, therefore, that the captives of the Babylonian captivity were carried further east than the captives of the Assyrian deportation. These captives may have been deported as far east as the region called “India” in those days.

The Babylonian Empire was eventually conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire, whose borders extended from India to Ethiopia.   This was a massive empire, an empire throughout which Jews had been deported by the previous empires of Assyria and Babylonia, which kingdoms had been conquered by the Medes and Persians.   During the reign of Ahasuerus, one of the kings of the Medo-Persian Empire, Esther 1:1 states that King Ahasuerus “reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.” When a letter of deliverance was sent throughout the kingdom that the Jews be allowed to deliver themselves from the wicked plan of Haman, this letter went to scattered Jews who were living from India to Ethiopia (Et 8:9). We would conclude, therefore, that by the time of Esther, there were Jews living as far east as India and as far south in Africa as Ethiopia.

B.  The prophecy of the plan:

Now that we have taken a brief tour of Jewish deportation throughout the world, we must consider what this meant in reference to world evangelism and God’s eternal work to take the gospel into all the world.   A very significant prophecy of Isaiah lays the foundation upon which the world would be evangelized through the scattering of the Jews throughout the ancient world. This prophecy was made at the time the northern ten tribes of Israel were initially taken into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. It was made by Isaiah who prophesied from about 740 to 700 B.C.

With the carrying away of the first Jews into world captivity, God wanted these Jews to know that something would happen in their future that would turn their captivity into a blessing for all the world.   He wanted them to know that He was still working in Israel regardless of their captivity and deportation throughout the world. Isaiah wrote the following historical prophecy:

And it will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on top of the mountains, and will be exalted above the hills. And all nations will flow to it. And many people will go and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. And He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths,”   For out of Zion will go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Is 2:3,4).

The Passover/Pentecost feast was a time when the Israelites came before the Lord to celebrate their independence from Egyptian captivity. It was an annual event where as many Israelites as possible would be assembled before the Lord. When we combine this annual event with the prophecy of Isaiah 2:2,3, something wonderful was to happen in the future. From the time Isaiah made the prophecy, the thought of his message was in the minds of the Jews for centuries. However, Isaiah had stated something that they could not possibly have understand. It could not be understood until after it was fulfilled. And it would not be fulfilled until over 700 years after Isaiah made the prophecy.

During this 700 years, God was laying the groundwork for world evangelism through the captivities of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. He was scattering His people throughout the world and permanently planting many of the Israelites in the economic culture of the nations to which they were taken as captives. Throughout the centuries, the Jews embedded themselves in the culture and economic structures in whatever nation they lived from Ethiopia to India, and beyond. They were building synagogues as religious/cultural centers in order to maintain their identity in the lands where they lived and prospered for over seven centuries. God did not want them to lose their identity as Israelites, for when the prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled, God wanted the world to know that He had kept His promises to His people. God knew what He was doing.

The Israelites surely had no idea that God was working through them as displaced captives. We can come to this conclusion because we have the opportunity of reading the recorded history in the Old Testament, and the final outcome in the New Testament. But when Israel was struggling through the captivities and living the history, they were certainly puzzled as to how God would turn their calamity into their good, but particularly into the good of the world. It is certain that they had no idea that all the scattering of the captives was connected with the mystery of God that even the prophets could not understand when they recorded their inspired prophecies concerning the matter.   The prophets knew something was up, but they had no idea of the mystery that God had in His mind for all the world.   The predicament of the Old Testament prophets is clearly stated by Peter in 1 Peter 1:10-12:

Of this salvation the [Old Testament] prophets have inquired and search diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify, when He testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. To them it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to you they ministered the things that are now reported to you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven, which things angels desire to look into.

 C.  The fullness of the times:

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son …” (Gl 4:4). On the Passover/Pentecost feast of A.D. 30, God had a surprise for those travelling Jews who came to Jerusalem from Italy, north Africa and the Far East.   Acts 2 is a record of the beginning of the fulfillment of Isaiah 2:2,3.

During His ministry, Jesus attended at least three Passover/Pentecost feasts. During the last feast, He was crucified, and the fulfillment of Isaiah 2:2,3 began.   Of the 3,000 thousand who were obedient to the message of the apostles on the A.D. 30 Passover/Pentecost, some were from the far corners of the Roman Empire, which Empire now encompassed all the preceding world empires of Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia and Greece (See At 2:8-11).

The travelling Jews who experienced the message of the apostles of the A.D. 30 Passover/Pentecost, returned to their homes in far off lands.   They went home with a tremendous message on their hearts of what they had heard and seen, and experienced in obedience to the gospel (At 2:38,41). But we must not forget that there was another Passover/Pentecost a year later in A.D. 31. When this Passover/Pentecost came, those who were at the A.D. 30 feast a year before said to their fellow Jews who were not in Jerusalem the year before, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord …” (Is 2:2,3).

And they went, year after year to the annual Passover/Pentecost feasts. And it was in Jerusalem where the apostles stayed and preached the gospel to the world through those who came. They heard the message of the gospel. The visiting Jews saw the miracles of the apostles. They heard and obeyed the gospel. They then returned home also with a message on their hearts. The change of the paradigm of faith was so great that the early Christians turned the world upside down as the message of the gospel went from synagogue to synagogue, and nation to nation as returning Jews from the Passover/Pentecost feasts in Jerusalem returned to their homeland nations throughout the world (See At 13:5,14; 14:1; 17:1,10,17; 18:4,19; 19:8). The system of evangelism was so effective that Paul could write in A.D. 61,62 that the gospel “was preached to every creature that is under heaven” (Cl 1:23). God’s system of world evangelism through the deportation of His people throughout the world centuries earlier had worked.

 D.  Initial fulfillment of the plan:

So what would we conclude from this planned system that God worked out over seven centuries? There is certainly at least one important conclusion we must make. God is always working things together for good to bring about His eternal purposes. We are sure that the Jews who suffered during the seven centuries of social turmoil did not understand God’s redemption plan, for it was a mystery to everyone. The system by which God would evangelism the world was a mystery. The redemption through His Son was also a mystery.   Though the Jews experienced the captivities, they did not understand what God was doing in allowing them to be scattered among the nations of the world in order to get His redemption plan preached. We must not forget this point.

In order to reestablish the identity of Israel, a remnant of Israel eventually returned to Palestine after the captivities. This return of the remnant was in fulfillment of the promises that were made to the fathers. But the majority of the Jews had to remain scattered throughout the world. God was planning to use their settlement in the lands of their former captors as a means to take the gospel into all the world.   God works, and His work in these global matters is often never detected by those who must live through them by faith.

We must conclude that He is working even today through national calamity in order to bring about good for His people and the finalization of His eternal plan. He is simply not finished with His eternal plan for our existence. Our speculations concerning His work can only be based on the assumption that as He worked in the past He will work in the present and future. Since those things that were written before were written for our learning (Rm 15:4), then we conclude that we must learn from those recorded workings in the past in order to determine how He is working in history today. However, we would be cautious about adding details to His mysterious workings that He is now working out in the affairs of the world.   We serve a mysterious God, one whose ways are past figuring out. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out (Rm 11:33). We would never assume that we understand His “unsearchable judgments” as some modern-day prognosticators would, and subsequently make millions of profit at the expense of the ignorant and curious.

We believe in a God who knows the future. Since He knows the future, then even before He delivered Israel from Egyptian captivity, He knew that the Jews would eventually rebel and go into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. His eternal purpose was always to use Israel as the medium through which He would preach the gospel of Jesus to the world.

As Israel, we are free to make our own moral decisions. But in our freedom to make bad decisions, God can use our failures for His purpose. He did this with the nation of Israel. He can do the same today with us. Though we would be tempted to despair because of the wickedness of the world in which we live, we must continually remind ourselves that God is working everything together for the good of His people. As we stated before, God did not stop working in the affairs of the world at the cross. There is yet the crown that will complete His eternal plan for the creation of this world.

Lecture 10: Godly Giver


 We must never forget that the nature of the church of Christ is identified by love, and love needs no commandment, for the commandment is love (Jn 13:34,35). Therefore, in order to introduce his instructions in the context of 2 Corinthians 8:10-15, Paul stated to the Achaian brethren, “I do not speak by commandment” in the matters concerning their completing their promise to give to the famine victims in Judea (2 Co 8:8). This principle in reference to contributions is vital in order to understand the nature of the body of Christ. Love simply needs no commandment to act. Love is the action.

God is love, and those who would be godly after His nature will be identified by their love for one another (See 1 Jn 4:7-11).   God needed no commandment to initiate redemption on our behalf. In like manner, we need no commandment to act on behalf of our brothers. This is exactly what John wrote: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16). John wanted this point clearly understood. So he continued, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 Jn 3:17). This is the foundation upon which the whole universal body of Christ functions.   Love makes the body organic. And this is the reason why Paul did not need “to speak by commandment” in these matters.

Giving that is forced by commandment is not giving out of love. Giving out of commandment is not joyful giving. This is the major mistake of those who seek to bring over the percentages of giving of the Old Testament law (tithing) into the loving behavior of the body of Christ. When we start pressuring people to give according to a law of percentages, we have robbed them of the opportunity to give out of a heart of love. Until one learns to give out of a heart of love, he has not yet learned the joy of giving. Neither has he discovered the true nature of love of the body of our Lord Jesus. If he is still focusing on percentages, and not principles, then his giving will always be grudging giving according to some self-imposed law.

We should repeat here a note to those who still believe that giving is some type of selfish investment plan, that is, giving in order that God give us more material things. These folks seek from God a return on their investment. But godly givers do not think this way. God loved us unconditionally through His grace.   In order to emulate God in our lives, we too must give unconditionally. We are not expecting a return on the investment of our love for our brother.   The love that identifies the body of Christ is unconditional. It is not selfish. Jesus pointed this out when He said to His disciples,

When you prepare a dinner or a supper, do not call your friends or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you are repaid. But when you prepare a feast, call the poor, crippled, lame and blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just (Lk 14:12-14).

Disciples do not seek material repayment in this life.   Their “repayment” will only be when they are raised to walk on “streets of gold.” Godly giving is not in hope of carnal rewards in this life.

 A.  Held together by love.

 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.   And everyone who loves is born from God and knows God (1 Jn 4:7). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (1 Jn 4:11). By this, Jesus said, all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35). Therefore, in giving to the needs of other disciples who are suffering from a natural disaster, a body of loving people have no need for a commandment to give. Giving to others is simply the nature of a loving body. The body organically functions because it is a body of lovers.

We now understand why the Philippians gave “once and again” unto the evangelists Paul, Timothy and Silas (Ph 4:16). This is the secret as to why the Macedonians gave out of their deep poverty (2 Co 8:1-4). They simply could not help themselves. The disciples of all Macedonia were functional in their love for the whole body of Christ because this was who they were, a body of loving people. Therefore, the Achaians’ follow-through on their promise to give to the famine victims in Judea would manifest to others what Paul wrote, “… the sincerity of your love (2 Co 8:8). In other words, if the Achaians did not come through on their promise to give to the famine victims, then they would manifest that they were not a part of the loving body of Christ.   It would be revealed that they could not walk their talk.

In the context of 2 Corinthians 8, Paul explained the sacrificial grace of Jesus that manifested the unconditional love of God on the cross. Jesus was rich in heaven as the creator of all things (Cl 1:16). But because He is identified as love, Jesus’ grace (gift) to man was manifested in an action of love by giving up His riches for the salvation of man (See Ph 2:5-11). God is a giver. Jesus was the unmerited gift given out of love (Jn 3:16). If we would be disciples of a loving God who gave a loving gift (Jesus), then the mind of Jesus must be our mind. “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus …” (Ph 2:5). This is true discipleship.

 Jesus’ giving was an act of unconditional love for our sakes, and our giving must also be an act of unconditional love for the sake of others. He became poor for us, and thus we must become poor for others. This was the grace that the Macedonians had learned that was the sign of true discipleship. In their deep poverty, they “abounded in the riches of their liberality …” (2 Co 8:2). Therefore, when one seeks to be baptized into this body of loving disciples, he must be warned. The standard of living of the prospective disciple will come down upon obedience to the gospel, as it did with the Macedonians.

Disciples sometimes do too much talking about doing something, but do too little about walking their talk. Talk without performance brings our integrity into question. This was what Paul was trying to prevent by writing these things to the Achaian disciples who had talked a year before that they would give. But talk without contribution would bring their sincerity into question.   John recognized this among some disciples. He instructed, “Let us not love in word … but in deed …” (1 Jn 3:18). One must walk his contribution talk. So in order that the Achaians not embarrass themselves by not walking their talk about giving a year before, 2 Corinthians was written. Paul wrote these words that they fulfill the promise they made (2 Co 8:10). But now finish doing it [the promised giving] so that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may be also a completion out of what you have” (2 Co 8:11).

In 2 Corinthians 8:12 Paul said that we must not promise beyond what we have. The Macedonians knew this. This explains why they went “beyond their ability” to make a contribution to the famine victims. All God expected was that they give out of their ability. But the Macedonians had discovered the joy of discipleship. “If you know these things,” Jesus had said to the disciples after He washed their feet, happy are you if you do them (Jn 13:17). The secret that the Macedonians had learned is that happiness is generated out of loving sacrifice for others. This should not be a secret among the disciples of a loving God. It is, however, a secret among those of an unloving world.

The Macedonian disciples could not help but go beyond their ability because of their love for those who were of the body of Christ. The standard of living for loving people always comes down when they become Christians. All those things we consumed on our own lusts as unbelievers are sacrificed for others when we become believers. We can discover, therefore, the extent of our own discipleship by our performance in giving to others. It is for this reason that true discipleship is revealed by the passing of the collection plate.

 B.  Held together by mutual sharing.

In the context of 2 Corinthians 8, Paul moves into explaining the universal function of the body of Christ in reference to our fellowship in giving. For I do not mean that others be relieved and you burdened (2 Co 8:13). This one statement defines the organic financial function of the universal body of Christ in reference to contributions to special needs. Every disciple throughout the world has the same responsibility in the matter of contributing to the needs of the whole body. When there is a physical dysfunction in the lives of the members in one part of the world, then those who can supply those needs must go into action. Every member who has supplies must seek out of love to supply those members who need supplies. Paul explained to the Ephesians how it works:

… from whom [Christ] the whole body being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working of each part, causes growth of the body to the edifying of itself in love (Ep 4:16).

In 2 Corinthian 8 Paul was saying that it was now time for the Gentile Achaians to return the favor to the Jewish Christians in Judea. The Achaians now had an abundance of physical things that they could supply the Judean Jews who were suffering from famine. Now the Achaian Christians needed to remember that they were saved in a covenant relationship with God because the Judean Jewish Christians originally had an abundance of spiritual things (the gospel) that was formerly sent out and shared with the Achaians through the preaching of the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1-4).   When Christians share worldwide the abundance of either their physical or spiritual things, then the body is held together by what every part supplies (See Ep 4:11-16).

There can be equality among the parts of the body only when there is fellowship in supplying both the spiritual or physical needs of the body. If a group of people determine to stand independent from the whole body by their refusal to share when parts of the body are in need, then they can only compare themselves with themselves as they work within the cocoon of their own fellowship, which thing some in Achaia were trying to do (See 2 Co 10:12). An unwillingness to fellowship in supplying the needs of the body manifests a sectarian spirit that is carried out by denominating a group of disciples from the whole body.

If Christians seek to remain in partnership with the one organic body of Christ, then they must financially partner with one another. This is the concept that moved the Macedonians to beg Paul to take their physical supply for the Judean saints (2 Co 8:4). If we would seek to remain in this worldwide fellowship, and thus be in an equality (partnership) with all the parts of the universal body, then we must seek every opportunity to share in giving to the financial function of the body of Christ.

If we continually see ourselves in need of something, and thus expect others to give to us, then we will never take ownership of our fellowship with the universal body of Christ. It is for this reason that those who view themselves continually as unfortunates who should be supplied by the whole are those who can never feel that they are in partnership with the members of the one body of Christ throughout the world. If churches continually have their hands held out to others for financial help, then they cannot financially join in fellowship with the worldwide body of Christ. It is through giving to evangelists to preach the gospel to the lost, and to disaster needs of the body, that the first century church was bound and held together in the unity of the faith. Their unity was not only a matter of believing and obeying the one gospel, but also in their cooperation with one another as individuals who had been brought into a common loving fellowship in Christ.

 C.  Held together through partnership.

The partnership passage of the New Testament church is 2 Corinthians 8:13,14:

For I do not mean that others be relieved and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their need, that their abundance also may be a supply for your need, that there may be equality.

No better words could have been written to explain the partnership (fellowship) that all Christians of all the world have with one another in Christ. This one passage at least teaches the following:

Christians cannot live estranged lives from one another.

  1. Christians are their brother’s keeper.
  2. No Christian is to be burdened while others neglect their responsibility to fulfill the needs of others.
  3. When one has a supply of that which another is in need because of a natural disaster, then there must be supplying on the part of the one who has the supplies.
  4. No part of the body is to be neglected in having the opportunity to share his or her supply with those who are in need.
  5. The body must heal itself through the sharing of what every member can supply during times of natural disaster.
  6. The whole body must work as one body in order to supply the parts of the body that are suffering from disaster.
  7. No one part of the body is to be burdened in fulfilling a need while other parts of the body sit idle and do nothing.
  8. Except for those who are suffering from a disaster, no one part of the body is exempt in the matter of supplying the needs of the suffering.

One would ask to what extent must our partnership go in sharing in times of calamity? Paul answered, “As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over and he who gather little had no lack’” (2 Co 8:15).   The one who has abundance from his labors gives the leftovers for those in need. And because some shared their leftovers, he who gathered little from the harvest could still feed his family from the leftovers of the one who gathered much (See Ex 16:18). What Paul is saying is that if one does have leftovers, he needs to be looking around for someone with whom he can share his abundance. He needs to seek some opportunity where he can share the abundance of his harvest. Before we became Christians, we consumed our abundance upon our own lusts of the flesh.   But when we became disciples of the sacrificial Servant of the cross, we allowed ourselves to be consumed by the needs of others.

(Lecture 11 is coming in five days.)


Lecture 9: Godly Giver


In his first letter to the Achaians (1 Corinthians), Paul dealt with the dysfunction of the Achaian brethren in reference to their support of evangelists who were going forth to preach the gospel. In the second letter it seems that their dysfunction in reference to supporting these evangelists poured over into their failure to fulfill a promise to function as a part of the universal body of Christ where parts of the body were in need because of famine. They had made a promise to fellowship in the famine contribution for Judea, but they were negligent in fulfilling what they had promised. We are not told why they were negligent, only that the second letter was written in order that the contribution be made before Paul arrived in Achaia with some brethren from Macedonia.

The Achaians were financially dysfunctional in reference to the universal body’s responsibility to take care of itself in physical needs throughout the world. Though Paul thoroughly thrashed the Achaian disciples in 1 Corinthians 9 concerning their lack of support of preachers of the gospel, in the second letter he turned to the dysfunctional attitudes of some of the Achaian members toward the famine contribution. He felt that if they had promised to financially function in fellowship with the global body, then they needed to perform what they promised.

In the context of 2 Corinthians 8:10-15 Paul moves into the function of the universal body of Christ and the members’ care for one another. The background of his statements in this chapter was a famine that affected the members of the body in Judea. When the Judean members began to suffer from a famine, the whole worldwide body went into action to manifest the global oneness and equality of the body in supplying what was needed where the body was hurting. The members of the body manifested their oneness of the body by making a special effort to send relief funds to needy parts of the body in Judea.   This universal response of the body of Christ manifests that those who are truly of the body will join in with any effort where there is a physical need of the whole body. This is the spirit of Ephesians 4:16. Those groups of disciples who cannot think outside their own assemblies or villages have cocooned themselves in their own isolation and withdrawn their fellowship from the body of Christ. They have become a functional denomination within themselves.

Paul’s exhortation of the Achaian members on this matter certainly proves one very important point concerning the organic function of the one church of Christ throughout the world. If any individual member, or group of members of the body, want to remain in fellowship with the one universal body, then they must financially join with the whole body as the body seeks to care for itself.

 A.  Fellowshipping the one body:

 When Paul wrote the 2 Corinthian letter, he was in Macedonia and on his way to Achaia, in which province was the city of Corinth. He had boasted to the Macedonian disciples that the church in Achaia had a year before promised that they would give relief funds to the Judean disciples (2 Co 8:10). This commitment to share in the matter of fellowshipping through giving encouraged the Macedonians to also give, for they did not want to be left out of the fellowship of the one universal body.   So they too went into action to make a contribution, so much so, that Paul boasted of their sacrificial giving:

Moreover, brethren [in Achaia], we make known to you the grace of God that has been given to 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 testify that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord …” (2 Co 8:1-3).

The Macedonian disciples not only gave, they went beyond what would be expected of them. They went beyond their ability.” These were not wealthy disciples. Paul explained to the Achaian members that the Macedonians gave out of “great affliction” and “deep poverty.” Because of their deep poverty, Paul must have been very apprehensive about taking their money for the famine victims. Their willingness to give in their poverty moved them to impoverish themselves even more. And when Paul saw their destitute economic situation, he was quite hesitant to receive their gift. But he wrote of their earnest desire to remain in fellowship with the one body of Christ.   Paul wrote that the Macedonian disciples kept on begging us with much urgency that we would receive the gift …” (2 Co 8:4).

The Macedonians understood the nature of the fellowship of the universal organic body of Christ. They knew that they had to partner with all disciples in this outreach to help the famine victims.   They realized that in order to remain in fellowship with the one universal body, they had to partner with everyone in the matter of giving.

In their poverty, the Macedonians were not beggars to receive something for themselves, for being such would be a disorderly walk as members of the body. If they were beggars off the body for themselves, then they would disfellowship themselves from the fellowship of the saints (See 2 Th 3:6). They were “beggars,” but they were begging Paul and his company to receive their contribution, which was their fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Co 8:4). The Macedonian disciples knew that if they did not join in on this brotherhood contribution, then they would not be in fellowship with the universal body of Christ. The context of 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, therefore, is the biblical definition of partnership. Partnership in Christ means that all the members of the body of Christ must financially share in the matter of giving and receiving both spiritual and material blessings. This is a function of the body of Christ that is inherently natural for those who have obeyed the gospel of grace. Those who would seek to be a part of this body, therefore, must manifest their membership through godly giving. There is no other way for a disciple to manifest that he or she understands the nature of the grace of God that was poured out at the cross.

The sin of sectarianism (the desire to be set apart from the whole) is that individual assemblies of disciples exclude themselves from the whole. Churches sometimes become so autonomous and independent from the whole, that they have little concern for any “poor saints of Judea.” They have no desire to cooperate with the whole in order to fulfill the needs of the whole in any one part of the world. One of the clear evidences of a sectarian spirit is the unwillingness of any member, or group of members, to fellowship financially with the whole. This was a problem with some of the disciples in Achaia who were manifesting their own sectarian spirit to denominate themselves from one another over personalities (See 1 Co 1:10-13).

Church leaders often sin by discouraging the church they seek to lead from financially partnering with the needs of the worldwide church. From the behavior of the Macedonian disciples that Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, at least one point is glaringly clear. If any group of disciples (a church) does not financially share with Christians in other areas of the world when there is a natural disaster in which parts of the body are suffering, then they are not fellowshipping the universal body.   They have denominated themselves from the whole. They are a denomination because of their lack of concern and action to fellowship with the whole in accomplishing the function of the body of Christ. This is what the Macedonian disciples realized, and for this reason they begged Paul to take their contribution for the poor saints of Judea. In the disciples’ actions of contributing to the needs of the saints, therefore, they should make every effort through their contributions to manifest their solidarity with the global body. If any group of Christians do not globally function financially with the whole, then they are manifesting a sectarian spirit and a desire to function apart from the one body. In doing such, they establish themselves as a denomination.

We must keep in mind that the universal sharing of the body is only in reference to making sure that Christians be relieved during times of natural disasters where there is a physical need. The natural disaster contributions continue until the urgency of the disaster has passed. The same is true of the spiritual nourishment of baptized believers.   The Macedonian disciples sent aid to make sure that the gospel was preached in Achaia. But when the Achaians obeyed the gospel, then it was time for them to take ownership of their own spiritual nourishment by supporting their own teachers. The Achaians made Paul a “church thief” only after they became Christians. He did not, and would not expect support from them while they were unbelievers. But when they obeyed the gospel, then they were to do as the Philippians to send once and again unto the needs of those who go forth to preach the gospel (Ph 4:16).   Churches that continue to have their teachers paid by “the Macedonians” (foreigners) are making their teachers “church thieves.” They are as the Corinthians who have not taken ownership of their own spiritual edification, as Paul instructed in Galatians 6:6. Though they may not be able to pay all that is necessary for one to work in a full-time capacity, they should be paying something to their teachers.   If they are not paying their teachers completely, then they cannot expect their teachers to work solely with them. Paul’s instructions establish the principle that when one is working with those who are Christians in a local area, then those local Christians must be supporting their teachers.   If the local members are not doing this, then they are spiritually, and thus, financially dysfunctional as members of the body of Christ.

 B.  Common contribution manifests common function:

Because the preceding point is so vital to the unity of the one body of Christ, Paul explained in detail in the contexts of 2 Corinthians 8 the nature of the fellowship (partnership) we have in Christ in reference to our contributions.

In our study through his instructions, it is imperative to note that Paul is not viewing the one universal body to be composed of many autonomous groups of disciples who are functioning in cooperation with one another. On the contrary, he is viewing the individual members collectively as one body.   He is speaking of individuals whose desires are reflected through the “assemblies” of the individual members.   Their assemblies did not denominate them from one another. It is important to notice this lest any individual member would seek to neglect his or her personal responsibility of giving by hiding in the crowd of some autonomous assembly (church). When the collection is taken, therefore, if one individual part of the body does not give, while the brother sitting beside him does give, the stingy individual cannot find partnership with the whole body through the contribution of his brother.   The contribution of the entire assembly does not negate the responsibility of each individual member to give his or her share. Collection plate contributions are not an excuse for neglecting one’s personal responsibility to give to any need.

It is imperative to understand Paul’s instructions as the one universal body functioning as individual members, regardless of where they sit on Sunday, cooperate with one another to fulfill special needs.   In the entire context of his discussions on this matter, he is arguing against groups of disciples declaring their autonomy from one another, and then, relieving themselves of their global responsibility to function as a part of the one body of Christ. The individual saints of Macedonia understood this, but the Achaians may have still harbored some of their sectarian behavior that Paul addressed in the 1 Corinthian letter (See 1 Co 1:12,13). But if there is any behavior of the body of Christ that brings every member together as one in the universal body of Christ, it is when every member gives together for a common cause. If church leaders would seek to unite those who follow, then they would do well to educate and organize common causes that everyone agrees should be supported for the preaching of the gospel to the world.

This principle of unity is so important that Christians must look for opportunities where they can manifest their solidarity by financially coming together to support a common cause. Though a natural disaster may be an occasional opportunity to manifest our common unity and partnership in the universal body, we should seek for other opportunities to manifest our oneness in Christ. Throughout the New Testament, this common opportunity that is ongoing is the support of evangelists as they go forth to preach the gospel. This is where Gaius, as an individual member of the one global body, was doing well (3 Jn).   When individual Christians join together to support evangelists who are moving about the world preaching the gospel, they are manifesting the fact that they are functioning members of the one universal church.

The dysfunction of many of the Achaian disciples that Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 9 was that they were not fulfilling their promise to support the collective need of the famine victims, and in particular, the fellowship of supporting evangelists as Paul and Barnabas as they went about as evangelists preaching the gospel. Ironically, they were willing to support Paul’s critics who were locally working among them (1 Co 9:12), but they were not supporting those evangelists, as Paul and Barnabas, who were moving among both believers and unbelievers in their work as evangelists.

(October 10:   Lecture 10:  EMULATING THE NATURE OF GOD)


Lecture 8: Godly Giver


 We must give credit to the brethren in Achaia for being zealous to make promises to support the famine victims of Judea.   At least, by the time Paul came to the end of the 1 Corinthian letter, the Corinthians had been rebuked enough for them to take action for the poor saints of Judea. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, he stated that before he came, they must take up a contribution, for when he was there he did not want any contributions taken. They must take action, therefore, to make sure that the contribution for the famine victims for Judea be gathered before he arrived.

There was also a practical reason why Paul wanted the contribution taken before his arrival. The contribution was committed by all the saints in all the province of Achaia, the disciples in Corinth being one area of the house meetings throughout the province. Therefore, since the disciples in all Achaia promised to make a contribution, it had to be gathered from all the disciples of all the province. This would take some time, time which Paul evidently did not want to waste on this particular visit to Achaia, for He was on his way to Jerusalem.

 A.  Special needs:

Paul stated, “Now concerning the collection for the saints …” (1 Co 16:1). We must keep the “poor saints of Judea” in mind as we survey through the instructions that Paul gives to conclude his exhortation to the Achaia disciples in the 1 Corinthian letter. Because this contribution was for a particular situation, then we would conclude that this was a special contribution for a special purpose. In fact, it seems that all the contributions we read about in the New Testament were contributions for specific needs.   Whether the need was for an evangelist that came short in his self-support, or for Christians who ran out of money when they visited Jerusalem for the Passover/Pentecost feast, the contributions were made to meet special needs. Such is the case with the contribution about which Paul speaks in the context of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

 B.  The Sunday collection:

“On the first day of the week …” was a statement of practicality, not a command to establish a time for all contributions. In order to make a common collection, the obvious time to do this was when there was a common time of meeting of those who would contribute. And since the disciples met in their homes on Sunday, then this would be the obvious time for a collection to be made. The practical reasons are obvious. This was a common time of meeting. It was a time when there would be witnesses concerning what was contributed. It would be a time when each member could be known for taking ownership of his or her responsibility to give to the poor saints of Judea. No one was to be exempt from the contribution. Everyone was obligated to help the suffering saints in Judea.

We could not make the first day of the week a legal time for all contributions of the disciples to be made. Such would not be logical or practical. We must keep in mind that this was an occasional need when a contribution was made. Paul’s instructions were made in the historical context of a special need.   And because he instructed a time when the contribution was to be made, then we must assume that the Corinthians were not regularly having a contribution on the first day of the week before he wrote the instructions. They had not though He had ministered among them for over a year and a half (At 18:11,18).

Paul’s statements must be understood in the context of the special need, the famine in Judea. The first day of the week was certainly a practical time to have a special contribution, but we would not conclude that Paul was mandating a legal time when all contributions are to be made. If a need arose in the life of a Christian in reference to the need of someone on Monday, could the Christian say to the one in need that he must wait until Sunday in order to receive a contribution for his need? If a widow needed the rent paid on Tuesday, does this mean that she could receive funds for her house rent only on Sunday? If an orphan needed fed on Saturday night, would the orphan have to wait until Sunday? We must keep in mind that most of the world does not have church bank accounts in which to accumulate funds, and then serve needs throughout the week out of these funds. Most of the world Christians must go to their gardens and get some food to give immediately to immediate needs. Sometimes a little common sense will dispel a lot of nonsense in legalistic theology, and thus, give us a better understanding of the Scriptures.

 C.  Individual responsibility:

Paul continued, “… let each one of you …” (1 Co 16:2). A stingy and unloving Christian cannot hide among the faithful contributors. “Each one” means that every individual must assume his or her responsibility to join in the financial fellowship of the functioning organic body. If one would not contribute something to the special fund, then that person has excluded himself from the fellowship of the body. Making the contribution is the signal that the universal organic body is functioning. And if one does not get in on the functioning body, then he is a vestigial organ that is worthless in the function of the organic body. “Each one” means everyone.

   1.  Every disciple in all Achaia must contribute. We must not forget that the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians were written to the same people. The letter of 1 Corinthians was directed to the “church of God” at Corinth (1 Co 1:2). However, when we read 2 Corinthians, others are also included. Corinth was a city, but Achaia was the province. So 2 Corinthians begins with the statement, “… to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia (2 Co 1:1; 9:2; 11:10). Interesting! So when Paul speaks of “each one,” he means all the Christians in all the province of Achaia. Paul was not speaking to a single assembly of Christians who met at the same place at the same time on Sunday morning. His instructions of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 must be understood in the context that there were Christians meeting in homes throughout the province of Achaia.   These were the Christians who had promised to make a contribution for the famine victims (See 2 Co 9:2). It was not just those in Corinth, but individual disciples who were meeting at different places and different times throughout the province of Achaia.

  2.  “Each one” means equality. When Paul discussed the contribution in 2 Corinthians 8, he made a statement that each individual was not to be burdened while others hid from their responsibilities of giving to the need. “For I do not mean that others be relieved and you burdened; but by an equality …” (2 Co 8:13,14). Equality means everyone. If someone tries to skip out of the contribution, then he has burdened someone else. Every disciple must take ownership of his or her responsibility to give. No one person is to be left out, and no one person can hide out.   The Philippians understood this point very well, for they begged Paul to take their contribution in order that they work in fellowship with the universal body of Christ (2 Co 8:4). We would conclude, therefore, that if any disciple did not give something to special needs, then that disciple is not fellowshipping the universal body of Christ.

 D.  Bountiful giving:

 Paul instructed that each member of the body in Achaia give “as he may prosper” (1 Co 16:2). This statement certainly informs us that there is a difference between the tithing system of ten percent under the Old Testament law and what the Christian is to give. Those preachers who beat the sheep for ten percent have certainly violated the principle of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 16:2. They overlook the word “may” by enforcing ten percent.   However, in this statement, the Holy Spirit put no percentage on what a Christian must give. And considering the circumstances and purpose for this very contribution, there could be no percentage mandated. Christians do not give according to percentages, but according to principles. The contribution was for famine victims in Judea. These famine victims could certainly not give ten percent. They prospered nothing in famine, and thus, they had to be Christians to whom Christians were obligated to give. And because they did not prosper, the contribution was being made by those in other regions of the world where parts of the organic body had supplies. Ephesians 4:16 is about the principle that the whole body functions to take care of the whole body.

… from whom [Christ] the whole [universal] body being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies [throughout the world], according to the effective working of each part, causes growth of the body to the edifying of itself in love.

“As he may prosper” regulates the amount one gives. The more one receives, the more one gives. If one does not increase his giving with the increase of his income, then he would not be contributing liberally. Our challenge is to understand how much should one give in order to be considered a liberal giver. In the statement, “as he may prosper,” there is no percentage indicated. We certainly cannot use Old Testament laws on tithing in order to determine what percentage must be given in order to be considered a liberal giver under the New Testament covenant.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6 Paul made the statement, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. And he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”   This statement does not help much in determining how much one should give in order to feel that he is a liberal giver. It does, however, infer willingness to sow much in order to increase one’s harvest. The metaphor certainly encourages one to sow as much seed as possible in order to have a great harvest. But how much seed one must sow is not specified. All that we can conclude from Paul’s metaphor is that one should sow as much as possible. If he expects a great harvest, then he must guarantee such by sowing much.

 “As one may prosper” and “sows bountifully” lead us to Paul’s statement, “Let each one give according as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Co 9:7). The cheerful giver purposes, or plans his giving. His giving is not spontaneous. As the farmer plans for a great harvest, he purposely sows a great amount of seed. As one has prospered, he plans to give more. From what Paul said in the above statement, we can determine whether we are cheerful givers. One is cheerful in his giving when he comes to the appointed time of contribution with a plan as to how much he will give. If he has not planned, then at the appointed time to make the contribution, he grudgingly reaches in his pocket to see what is there to give. We can identify cheerful givers, therefore, by their planning to give out of that which they have prospered. The planning giver has sowed much in order to have the ability to give much.

In the phrase “God loves a cheerful giver,” the Greek word for “cheerful” is hilarious. We derive the English word “hilarious” from this world.   God loves a “hilarious” giver.   When one gives out of hilarity, then he knows there is no grief, no duress or constraint, about his giving. He has simply learned that “it is more blessed to given than to receive” (At 20:35).

So what would be the basis on which one could determine how much he should give? The answer to this question should be answered upon the foundation of the following statement:

But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant that was established on better promises (Hb 8:6).

Christians have a more excellent minister for their sins than the Levitical priest of the Old Testament. Christians have a better covenant with God than Israel’s covenant with God. Christians have a better promise of eternal life than the Jews of the Old Testament. Would it not be reasonable to conclude that Christians should give “better” than what was required of the Jews of the Old Testament?

Jesus continually ministers at the right hand of God on our behalf. In order for Him to have ascended on high to be our eternal mediator, He had to be given to us as God’s only incarnate and begotten Son (Jn 3:16). And to be this minister on our behalf, He made Himself poor for our benefit (2 Co 8:9). If one who supposes to be a disciple of Jesus, but is not moved to give beyond measure as the Philippians, then certainly he has not understood the nature of what was done for him by the Father and Son on the cross.

We have a better covenant relationship with God than the nation of Israel. The covenant that God had with Israel was with that nation alone. His covenant that He has with His people now is worldwide.   It is a spiritual Israel of God whose borders are far beyond Palestine. The greatness of the covenant is that one can come into a covenant relationship with God anywhere in the world. This means that those in a covenant relationship with God in Macedonia and Achaia had a responsibility toward those who were in a covenant relationship with God in Judea. The global nature of the organic body of Christ means that each member of the body has a responsibility toward every member of the body anywhere in the world.

Israel had the promise of the coming Messiah.   But Christians have the promise that because the Messiah came, they can look forward to His coming again and eternal life. With such a better promise, every disciple must determine that he will not be in eternal heaven with a feeling of guilt. That guilt will be that after a billion, trillion, mega-trillion years in eternal heaven, and if we could remember, we would be so ashamed of how little we gave in our contributions to get other people where we would be. Now we know why the Macedonians did what Paul said of them concerning their contributions. “… that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty, abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Co 8:2). We would conclude that contributions that are truly sacrificially given out of a joyful spirit, are truly honored by God.

 E.  Special giving:

As previously stated, the contexts of 1 Corinthians 16 was a contribution for a special occasion. What Paul mentions in the context of verse 2 teaches several lessons, some of which were generated in the context of the Corinthian disciples’ problem concerning the support of teachers. Paul stated, “… that there be no collections when I come.”   When Paul and others came to receive the famine contribution about which he spoke in this context, he certainly stayed in Corinth long past arriving on Monday and departing on Saturday of just one week. We must notice this simply because 1 Corinthians 16:2 is not a mandate for a regular contribution on every Sunday. If Paul stayed in town past just one Sunday, then they were not to take up any contribution. We assumed he stayed past one Sunday, and thus, on that Sunday some time they did not take up any contributions.

Sunday is a convenient time to take up contributions, but doing so is not a commandment outside taking up a contribution for a special need. The one who receives his paycheck at the end of the month and gives all that he has purposed to give the first Sunday of the next month, should not feel guilty about not putting something in the collection for the rest of the Sundays of the month. The point is that there is no legal requirement for Christians to make a contribution every Sunday of the year.   1 Corinthians 16 just does not teach this.

When Paul was in Corinth through at least one Sunday on this visit, the Corinthian church did not take up any contributions.   They did not on the basis of exactly what he instructed in 1 Corinthians 16:2. The reason he did not want them to take up any contributions was because he did not want to be accused of preaching for hire. His rebuke of their dysfunctional support of false teachers among them, without supporting him, would have been nullified if it were perceived that he came to receive contributions from them for his personal support. And in order to make sure that no one assumed that he was going to reach his hand in the contribution bag, he wrote, “And when I come, whomever you may approve by letters, these will I send to carry your gift to Jerusalem” (1 Co 16:3). Paul wanted witnesses of the fact that he did not take any money from their contributions. He would later explain in his second letter to them, “And in all things I have kept myself from being [financially] burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself (2 Co 11:9).

The Lord’s business must be supported by the Lord’s people. We assume that the Lord’s people, as faithful Israel, understood that all that they had belongs to the Lord. They therefore return to the Lord that which has been entrusted to them as good stewards.   This does not mean that the unbeliever cannot contribute to the Lord’s business. Though the unbeliever may not understand the responsibility of the Lord’s people returning to God that over which they have been made stewards, they are in actuality returning to the Lord that which is His. We would certainly teach the willing unbeliever a wrong lesson if we refused his contribution. However, we cannot obligate the unbeliever in order that he assume our responsibility to support the Lord’s business. He has no obligation to do so. Christians are obligated, not unbelievers. Christians are responsible, not unbelievers.

The Christian’s life is based on the principle of Matthew 6:33. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” It is not that the disciple of Christ considers his own needs first, and then gives to God the leftovers. If God is to be first in his life, then what one gives to God must be determined first, and then we live off the leftovers. In doing this, we honor God through our substances (Pv 3:9,10). The liberal giver does not adjust his giving by his standard of living, but his standard of living by his giving. It is not his function as a part of the organic body to maintain a certain standard of living, and then give leftovers. On the contrary, he purposes what he will give, and then, he adjusts his standard of living by what is left.

(The next lecture will be in 5 days.)


Lecture 6: World As It Is


 We would conclude that God has worked in the affairs of this world and in the lives of His people. He so worked in order to bring about the purpose for which He created this world. But we must understand why He had to work in our affairs. Since He created us to be free-moral individuals with the ability to choose, and placed us in the best of all possible environments in order that we be able to make choices, He knew that we would make choices that would lead to our harm. He knew that when the collective of humanity would make the same bad choices, humanity would end up in moral degradation.

So we start with all humanity that went all wrong.   A principle of humanity is brought out by the wickedness of man before the flood of Noah’s day. Of that generation of mankind, God pronounced, “… that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gn 6:5).   Herein is revealed a principle that we must not forget when studying the history of humanity. Societies become worse, not better, when they are left to walk after their own moral codes. This is not being pessimistic about life and this world.   We know this is true because the Bible says that it is simply not in man who walks to direct his own path (Jr 10:23). And since man cannot be left alone to establish his own moral codes of behavior, then there must be direction from above. But even when Divine direction is given from above, the majority of mankind can still go wrong. But those faithfuls as Noah who walked by faith, can survive even in the midst of total moral degradation.

So in view of the fact that we morally go wrong, even with the written directions of God in our hands, God transcends history in order to do His will regardless of our evil inventions. God never left man with the responsibility of carrying out His eternal plan of redemption. He could not do this because all sin (Rm 3:23). In view of what happened to all humanity before the flood of Noah’s day, the moral planning of man could never be the foundation upon which redemption could take place. God must personally work in history in order to bring about His purpose for which He created this world. And the purpose for this world is to bring created beings into eternal dwelling in His presence. If we are to make any sense out of this world, then we must accept this reason for the purpose of the world and our existence in it.

So the fact that man morally digresses to the point “that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart” are only evil, God uses the efforts of Satan, who seeks to destroy man, to bring about His plan for those He created. He illustrated this providential work with His chosen people Israel. He recorded His workings, and thus, from this record He expects us to read and learn (Rm 15:4; 1 Co 10:11).

Israel was chosen out of the nations of the world for a specific purpose. That purpose was to reveal in time the faithfulness of God in preserving a segment of society for the revelation of the Redeemer of all those who would walk by faith.

The Jews were not chosen because they were more righteous than other nations. They were not chosen because they were more obedient. They were a stiffnecked people. But this stiffnecked nature would aid in their preservation. In order to pave the way for the coming Redeemer, God needed a people who was tuff-skinned and determined, even though in their hardheaded nature they would eventually rebel against His moral standards.   Nevertheless, after they would pass through the fire of their Assyrian and Babylonian bondage punishment, the remnant of Israel that would emerge from captivity would never again go after idols and flirt with immorality. Their captivity would purify them in anticipation of the Savior who would come in the fullness of time of national Israel and the fulfillment of all prophecy concerning the Christ (Lk 24:44).

God worked everything for good through Israel. If we step back and take a look at Israel’s rebellion and captivity, we can see how God took that which was a national calamity in order to bring about the salvation of millions of people throughout the world.

As students of Bible history, we must never forget the reason why God chose Israel from the nations of the world. Knowing this reason helps us understand why He wanted all the Canaanites vacated from the land of Palestine. And if they would not vacate, He instructed Israel to eradicate their evil culture.   If Israel did not morally cleanse the land of promise in which He intended to preserve a segment of society, then there would be the danger that God’s people would go the way of all humanity as in the days before the ark of Noah was lifted from the face of the earth.   Isreal’s destruction almost came when they were only three months out of Egyptian captivity. But Moses pled for Israel and God relented to let them survive His fury against their rebellion (See Nm 14:11-20). When they came into the land of promise, they did not drive out the evil culture of the Canaanites. We know the rest of that story.

(Lecture 7 is coming.)