Lecture 9: Godly Giver

FINANCIAL FELLOWSHIP OF THE ORGANIC BODY

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disciples who cannot think outside their own assemblies or villages have cocooned themselves in their own isolation and withdrawn their fellowship from the body of Christ.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

INDIVIDUAL COMMITMENT TO FINANCIAL FELLOWSHIP

 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

GOD WORKED WITH PURPOSE

 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.)

Lecture 7: Godly Giver

HAVE WE NO RIGHTS?

 When we think of the Corinthian disciples we think about dysfunctional disciples. In our study of the problems that prevailed among the Corinthians, we must understand that the letters of both 1 & 2 Corinthians were written to all the disciples in all of Achaia (See 1 Co 16:15; 2 Co 1:1; 9:2; 11:10). However, it seems that there were some power struggles among the disciples, specifically in the city of Corinth. These struggles led to the same dysfunction that was happening among those to whom John wrote in 3 John. The problem among the disciples to whom John wrote was about Diotrephes who loved to be first, and thus in his narcissistic behavior, he disrupted the evangelists who came through the area, for he refused to receive and support the evangelistic function of the body of Christ (See 3 Jn). In Corinth the problem was a group of puffed up leaders masquerading themselves as children of light (2 Co 11:12-15). In their arrogant attitudes, they challenged the authority of the inspired instructions of Paul. They refused to take note that what Paul wrote was the commandment of the Lord (1 Co 14:37). They were seeking to dismiss the influence of Paul by challenging the authority of his inspired words (See 1 Co 2:6-16). All this disruption led to a financial dysfunction of the church of God in Corinth. And because of this financial dysfunction of the Corinthians disciples, we have the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians that reveal a great detail of information concerning the financial function that should be characteristic of the body of Christ, especially in the area of supporting evangelists.

 A.  The right to eat.

In the context of correcting the Corinthians’ dysfunction concerning the support of evangelists in 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, Paul began by asking if he had a right to eat and drink. He presents his argument in this context on behalf of the support of those who go faith in travels to preach the gospel. It is an argument that is based on John’s deductive conclusions of 3 John 7 that we should financially support those who are going about preaching the gospel to unbelievers.

John’s deductive argument is that the evangelists went forth to preach the name of Jesus. But in their preaching, they did not take up contributions from the unbelievers to whom they preached. Since they had a right to eat and drink, then the believers, not unbelievers, should support them because it is the work of the church to preach the gospel. Paul argues that this is particularly true if he and Barnabas were married and their wives traveled with them as the other apostles. He wrote, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, even as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Co 9:5).

Paul and Barnabas worked with their own hands in order to support themselves. Paul supported himself while in Corinth, through the believers from Macedonia also sent support to him (2 Co 11:7-9). However, he had a right to be supported by the Corinthian disciples while he labored for a year and a half in the city (See At 18:11). But the Corinthians did not support him, even when he was in need. It appears that in his need, they did not so much as offer to help him. Such was a manifestation of their spiritual immaturity, and their financial dysfunction as members of the universal body of Christ.

 B.  Laborers are worthy.

 Paul then asked the Corinthians if it were not right for a soldier, farmer and shepherd to receive pay for their labors. “Who as a soldier serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of the fruit? Or who feeds a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock” (1 Co 9:7). Who would serve to protect the people if he were not paid? Who would farm if he were not allowed to eat of his own produce? And who would be a shepherd if he could not drink of the milk? These are logical questions that Paul asked the Corinthians, for he knew that they knew the answer.

Paul was speaking from the point of view of spiritual dignity. Unbelievers would reason that support is rightfully given to soldiers, farmers and shepherds. But in their behavior toward him, the Corinthians were not doing that which the unbelievers would naturally do for the laborer who was worthy of his wages. In giving these principles of payment, Paul wanted to remind the Corinthians that these same principles were based on what God commanded in the Old Testament. “For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You will not muzzle the ox while he is threshing’” (1 Co 9:9; see Dt 25:4). It seems that the Corinthians considered the rights of an ox to be fed more important than feeding the preacher. If God is concerned for oxen, at least those who claim to be His people should be concerned for His evangelists.

 C.  Partake of one’s hope.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that Deuteronomy 25:4 was also written for our sakes. “Or does He say this altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, not doubt, this is written so that he who plows should plow in hope, and that he who threshes in hope, should be partaker of his hope (1 Co 9:10).

The evangelist lives in hope of partaking of the fruits of his labors. He does not take contributions from the unbelievers. Therefore, the church must support him. This is especially true if the evangelist is functioning locally as a teacher. In 1 Corinthians 9:10 Paul teaches that the teacher of the body must expect to be paid by the body. And thus, disciples who do not pay their teachers are as dysfunctional in the area of finances as the Corinthians.

Paul rebuked the stingy Corinthians. “If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (1 Co 9:11). No disciple has a right to plead poverty when he or she has been taught spiritual things by a teacher. If one has no money, but a garden of fruit, then the material fruit must be paid to the one who teaches spiritual things. The widow who gave her last two coins knew this principle. Any group of disciples who do not do likewise are sinning against the mandate of God that he “who is taught the word share [support] in all good things with the one who teaches” (Gl 6:6). This is what is right and according to the word of God. So we ask the question again: When was the last time you paid your Bible teacher?

We must not be too harsh on the Corinthians. After all, they were at least financially supporting those who were working against Paul (1 Co 9:12). Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 9:12 is that if they supported the arrogant and puffed up teachers among them who spoke against him, then he had more right to their support because he fathered them in Christ (1 Co 4:15).

While in Corinth Paul did not use his right to be supported because he did not want to be accused of preaching for money (1 Co 9:12). But he reminded the Corinthians of the right of the priest under the Old Testament law to be supported by the people. The people offered the sacrifices, but the sacrifices were shared with the priests (1 Co 9:13). This was the law even before the Old Testament was written. For example, Abraham paid a tenth (tithe) to the priest Melchizedek (Hb 7:1,2). Such was Abraham’s duty. And in case the Corinthians, or anyone else throughout history did not get the point, Paul wrote, Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel(1 Co 9:14). For the disciple who seeks to follow Jesus, this is all that is needed to be said. If one does not support the one who is preaching the gospel, then he is disobedient to the commandment of the Lord. He sins against God. We must be as clear as Paul on this point. If one would be a faithful and functioning member of the church, it is his or her responsibility to make sure that both evangelists who go about preaching the gospel are paid, and those teachers who labor locally are also paid.

Since Paul’s mandate of 1 Corinthians 9:14 is very direct, we must understand the context of the statement. Preaching is the work of proclaiming the good news (the gospel) to unbelievers, not believers. In fact, when the word “preach” is used in the New Testament, reference is to the gospel being proclaimed to unbelievers. Christians preach to unbelievers, but they teach among themselves to believers. Now consider what John said in 3 John 7, that the evangelists did not take up a collection from unbelievers when they went forth to preach the gospel. John’s argument was that the believers must therefore provide the evangelists with the right to eat and drink while they preach to unbelievers. Therefore, Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 9:14 is that it is the mandate of the believers to support the evangelists who go forth to preach to the unbelievers. The context of Paul’s 1 Corinthian 9:14 statement is that the Corinthians should have been doing what the Philippians and Thessalonians did when he went to Corinth. The Corinthians should have given Paul the right to live from his preaching the gospel when he left Corinth to preach to unbelievers in other areas. 1 Corinthians 9:14, therefore, is a mandate to support the preachers who are going forth to preach to unbelievers. This is not the passage to use when discussing support of local teachers who are teaching believers. That passage is Galatians 6:6.

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Lecture 5: World As It Is

THE NONSTOP GOD

 When the Son of God stood with His incarnate feet on Palestine soil, He said, “My Father is working until now …” (Jn 5:17). And we conclude that He is still working today.

If we conclude from Scripture that God knows the future, then we must conclude that He knows what He is doing by working all things “together for good to those who love” Him in the present. If we come to this conclusion, then we may be somewhat frustrated with our own lack of ability to understand what He is doing in the present in order to bring about that which is good for His children. But most important, we might struggle with our faith that He is able to bring about the finality of His eternal purpose for this world.

We assume that God is presently working. But our difficulty is perception. We have a difficult time perceiving His present work in the affairs of this world, and specifically, in our lives. This is particularly difficult for “inactive Christians,” if there is such a thing. Those who have their lives programmed with a rigid schedule are at a loss to determine that God is working in their lives. Those who are so consumed with the affairs of this world, have a difficult time perceiving the work of God. This is the sadness about those who are doing nothing in the realm of walking by faith. If our faith takes us only to a non-relational assembly with others who are also “dead in the water,” then no one is perceiving, or experiencing the work of God in their lives. Unless one is launching by faith out into the deep waters of work for Jesus, then he has no realm in which to perceive God’s work in his life. It is easy to have faith while standing in the boat. But it takes faith to jump in deep waters and walk. If we do not walk by faith, we will have little faith in the One who is able to reach down and answer our cries for help. Just ask Peter.

We need to take this quest for the abundant life beyond our personal lives. We must enter into the realm of God’s work in the world of affairs around us. In order to do this, we go to our source book by first examining the faith of the saints in the Old Testament who walked in the comfort of God’s directing hand. The faith of these giants of faith is revealed through their steadfastness while living through the apostasy of Israel, and often not perceiving that God was even working through their sin. Their faith was revealed throughout Israel’s history in the wilderness wanderings, during the time of the constant torment of the Canaanites whom Israel did not flush out of the promised land, as well as their eventual going into Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. They simply, or magnificently, trusted that God was working.

It is always challenging to understand that God is working throughout the worst of circumstances. But if we conclude that He is working all things together for good for His people, then we must hold to this conclusion, regardless of the doom and despair that we might be enduring in our present lives.

We have found that some have difficulty believing in a God who is working things out for the good of those who are enduring the sufferings of this world. But the God in whom the Christian believes is not impotent in reference to the affairs of man. We are not deist, that is, believing that God created the world and then walked away. We believe in a God who “is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being (At 17:27,28).

God’s work in the affairs of man did not begin two thousand years ago. It has been His business since the beginning. Jesus reminded the Jews, My Father is working until now …” (Jn 5:17). And so, this is the conclusion we take away from Galatians 4:4. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son ….” God was working from the beginning to bring Jesus into the world. The beginning of what eventually concluded in the “fullness of time,” reached back to the very beginning of time, before the Garden of Eden, before the first “Let-there-be” statement was made and the earth sprang into existence (See 1 Pt 1:19,20). We believe in the working plan wherein our Savior was crucified before the creation of this world (See Mt 13:35; Ep 1:4; 1 Pt 1:20). We believe in an involved God who worked from the very beginning of that which exists to the “fullness of time” at the climax of the cross. But we also do not believe that God went on vacation at the cross.

God’s involvement in the affairs of the world since the beginning of time assumes that there is purpose to this world, and that purpose is Divine. The “fullness of time” marked only one milestone of His work in time. One milestone was accomplished at the cross. This was a salvational milestone that was measured by the “fullness of time.” But since the cross, we have entered into another time zone, of which it too will come to a fullness. This fullness of time will end in the crown. And because we have not yet reached this milestone, we conclude that God is still working in the affairs of mankind in order to bring about His eternal plan for us.

Our foreknowing God has worked throughout history in order to bring into His eternal glory and presence those who will make a free-moral choice to serve Him. He is the God in whom “we live and move and have our being.” He is a God who cannot keep His hands off His creation. And because He cannot keep His hands off, He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hb 1:3) in order to get us to our crown at the end of all things.

In order to increase our faith in this God in whom we believe, we must go back in history to an era where we might conclude that things got out of control. At least those who were experiencing the calamity of those times might think that God had vacated His creation and forsaken His people. We go back to the history of Israel in order to be reminded that our God is in the midst of His work right now, as He was with Israel, in order to bring about the intervention of His Son again into the affairs of man. Our case that our God is transcendent—He intervenes in the affairs of this world—is proved by the Bible record of His work among His people, which work will not conclude until we hear the sound of a last trumpet. This is a thrilling story of God working all things together for the good of all those who walk by faith. We know that it is often difficult to perceive His work during times of struggle. But we must keep in mind the crowd of Old Testament witnesses who remained faithful in their struggles, while they too found it difficult to look around to find tangible evidence of His presence (Read Hb 11). But reading of their faith is such an exciting story. It is one from which we cannot walk away without believing that the one true and living God is the one “in whom we live and have our being.” He is a God whose presence is not defined by our words concerning distance, but a God who is simply here and there at the same time. He is not confined to the definition of our words, nor to the hands on our clocks. His being and work are not limited to the definition of the words in our dictionary.

 

Lecture 6: Godly Giver

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF THE GOSPEL

 Speaking of taking ownership, consider some of the leading (rich) sisters of Thessalonica. We remember standing in a prayer circle with a group of men. All of us were praying. When it came time for one brother to pray, he prayed, “God, forgive us men of arguing over who is in control. Thank you for our women, for all they say is, ‘What’s next.’”

Sometimes we need to follow the example of the women.   Lydia was in Philippi (At 16:11-15) and there were leading women in Thessalonica (At 17:4). Both the church in Philippi and Thessalonica were financially functional when it came to supporting evangelism. We wonder if the Christian sisters in both areas did not have some influence over what the disciples as a whole should be doing?

 A.  Ability to do and send:

When Paul, Timothy and Silas went to Thessalonica for the first time, they went straight to the religious center in town, which was the synagogue of the Jews (At 17:1). What was unique about this synagogue was that there was a great number of Gentile converts (proselytes) who met in the synagogue. From these “a great multitude of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women were obedient to the gospel (At 17:4).   We would assume that these “leading women” were possibly quite wealthy. At least for some reason, many years later Demas was possibly attracted to their wealth when Paul wrote of him while he himself was in a Roman prison, “… for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed to Thessalonica …” (2 Tm 4:10).

If the leading women in Acts 17 were indeed wealthy women, then they did not give themselves into poverty. By the time 2 Thessalonians was written, the Holy Spirit had to write a letter through Paul that these women not be begged into poverty by some among the Thessalonian disciples who had quit their work. 2 Thessalonians was written less than a year after these leading (wealthy) women became disciples. Then also consider the fact that when Paul wrote of the behavior of Demas, we might assume that the leading women were still wealthy.   At the time, Demas forsook Paul and went to Thessalonica. 2 Timothy 4:10, where Paul spoke of Demas’ behavior, was written several years after the conversion of the leading women in Thessalonica in Acts 17. The point is that the New Testament teaches nowhere that the wealthy should contribute themselves into poverty.   Doing such is simply not good stewardship on the part of the wealthy. Neither is it beneficial for the evangelism of the church. Paul wrote the “disfellowship” context of 2 Thessalonians 3 to protect the wealthy. Those who are gifted in making money are encouraged to give, but they are not encouraged to give themselves into poverty. We have always asked churches that are in developing world environments if a wealthy person could be a part of their fellowship. If the wealthy could not be a part of a fellowship of disciples, then the disciples have a problem, not the wealthy who are giving. If the local disciples beg the wealthy members into poverty, then from where will the funds come to preach the gospel to the world? The poor must acknowledge the fact that there are some in the body who are gifted with the ability to make money. We must not envy this gift, but give glory to God. This is a grace in which some can truly praise God. “But as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all diligence, and in your love for us, see that you abound in this grace also (2 Co 8:7). This is the grace of giving. And we encourage one another to abound in the grace of giving.

 B.  Desire to be a doer and sender:

Now consider the Thessalonians. Since the majority of those who were converted in Thessalonica were Gentiles, and very devout, we would assume that their desire would be to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. The result of what the Thessalonians did in the months that followed is a testimony to their devout convictions, as well as their desire to take ownership of the mission of the body of Christ. As the Philippians, they were financially functional as active parts of the one body.

After Paul left Thessalonica, he traveled on to Achaia. What is interesting to note is what he found in the region of Achaia when he arrived. It was about six months after he had left Thessalonica that he wrote back to the new converts the following testimony of the fact that the Thessalonian Christians had taken ownership of the gospel they had obeyed:

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you were examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to speak anything. For they themselves report about us, what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God …” (1 Th 1:6-9).

Notice carefully the Holy Spirit’s witness to the evangelistic function of the Thessalonian disciples. They became imitators of the evangelistic zeal of Paul, Timothy and Silas who came to them working with their own hands to support themselves, and receiving once and gain from the functioning disciples in Philippi (Ph 4:16). The example of the Philippians even influenced the Thessalonians. In fact, when contributions came from the Philippians, the Thessalonians may have felt somewhat embarrassed. If they were to take ownership of the preaching of the gospel in their own region, then they had to financially come to the party.   And such they did in an overwhelming manner.

As the Philippians, the Thessalonian disciples became “examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Th 1:7). It was a phenomenal contagion of evangelistic enthusiasm. Philippi inspired Thessalonica and Thessalonica inspired the whole provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. The enthusiasm for evangelism spread like holy wild fire from one obedient heart to another.

 C.  The result of doers and senders:

The testimony of the Thessalonians’ zeal was in the fact that the word of the Lord has sounded forth from them (1 Th 1:8). Such is the identity of a functioning organic body. The Philippians sounded forth the word from Philippi by sending support once and again to the evangelists Paul, Timothy and Silas in Thessalonica. The Thessalonian disciples sounded forth the word in Achaia, specifically Corinth. But the Corinthians? They were financially and evangelistically dysfunctional. They became a dead-end in the function of the body to sound forth the word of the Lord. And now we know why most of the Holy Spirit’s teaching concerning the support of evangelists is found in the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians. As members of the universal organic body, they were dysfunctional in supporting evangelism.

 We do not need to speak anything (1 Th 1:8). This is the testimony of a functional body of disciples. This is the Spirit’s testimony of the organic body at work, both in the local area where body members reside, as well as in areas beyond where they live. When local Christians take ownership of the gospel where they live, there need be no more evangelists coming by to do the job of preaching the gospel. If an evangelist cannot make this statement to those where he has preached, it is possible that he planted the wrong seed, or he failed in his work to disciple those he first taught. He may have failed Jesus when Jesus instructed, “… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20).   Or he may have failed the Spirit when the Spirit said through Paul, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tm 2:2).

However, the problem is usually with the soil in which the evangelist plants the seed of the word of God. Remember the dysfunction of the Corinthians on this matter?   Paul chastised the Corinthians.   It was the Corinthian soil, not the Seed, that was the problem.

For no other foundation can man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be manifested, for the day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test each man’s work to determine what quality it is. If anyone’s work endures that he has built, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. But he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Co 3:11-15).

Paul’s efforts with the “Corinthian soil” was about to be burned if they did not repent of their immature ways. If they did not turn from their dysfunctional ways, he would suffer loss because he was their father in the faith (1 Co 4:15).   But he would carry on and receive his reward for his labors as an evangelist. The Corinthians, if they did not repent, would become smouldering ashes.

The Corinthian situation was certainly a different story from the Thessalonians and Philippians, as well as those in Antioch, Ephesus and Jerusalem.

When Paul wrote the 1 Thessalonian letter, he stated, They themselves report about us” (1 Th 1:9). Who is the “they”? It was not the Christians in Achaia. There were no Christians there when Paul arrived.   By the time Paul reached Achaia, word-of-mouth, the “bush telegraph,” had already communicated the phenomenal conversion and dedication of the Thessalonians. The whole region was talking about the conversion of the Gentiles and leading women in Thessalonica. The point is that we should ask ourselves the question, “Was our conversion so radical that the whole province is talking about it”?   Admittedly, the Thessalonians had the fire and conviction of new converts. We must not let that fire of conviction be extinguished from our lives.   The only way to keep it burning in our hearts is to continually be in the presence of the newly converted.   But if we stop preaching the gospel to the lost in our local areas, we will have no newly converted in our presence to keep our fire going. When we stop preaching and converting the lost, we have set a course for our fire to be extinguished. Is this what Jesus meant when He spoke to the church in Ephesus many years after they were new converts, a time when they had lost their first love (Rv 2:4).

Lecture 4: World As It Is

WE WOULD PROGNOSTICATE

 Many of us have spent our lives in daily Bible study, taking moments to breathe in order to survey the world around us. We are as the prophets of old who “inquired and searched diligently … searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them did signify …” (1 Pt 1:10,11).

What a Bible-saturated mind invariably does is start one on a journey of viewing the world around us through the eyes of God and recorded Bible history. So many principles of history have been revealed throughout the Bible that the Bible student cannot but view all history through a biased understanding of how God works in the affairs of this world, which past works and affairs are recorded in the Bible. When we come to a certain saturation point of Bible history, one begins to perceive some incredible works of God in the past, which perception molds our world view of how God now works. We begin to understand that God is still working to bring about His purpose for all things, especially for the good of His people. We then begin to fully appreciate what God promised in Romans 8:28: “And we [Christians] know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

And this is our quest in our obsession with recorded Bible history. We seek to know His purpose in a world that often seems like it is out of control. And in a world that seems like it is out of control, we begin to understand through a knowledge of His word and work that actually everything is under control. He is upholding everything with the power of His word, and thus, we trust His work (Hb 1:3). We conclude:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Ps 46:1-3).

If there are those who would think that our world view of history is prejudiced by too much Bible, then they are right. We offer no apologies. We would believe that the Bible was laid in our hands as a gift of God, and thus, a gift that would be our road map to make our way through of this twisted world in which we live. We are thus tainted with the impressions of inspiration of the Holy Writ.   Our philosophy of history is anchored in what has been recorded through the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit as He took writer after writer throughout history through His inspirational influence to map out how God has worked in the past in order that we have faith in His work in the present and in the future.

If we would affirm that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Rm 15:4), then we have learned well. If there is nothing new under heaven, as Solomon eventually learned (Ec 1:9-14), then our understanding of the present, and our prognostications of the future, are seated in the words the inspired history Book. This is the encouragement that the inspired word of history offers. In one’s mental saturation with inspired history, he of necessity comes to only one conclusion: “ … all things work together for good to those who love God.” We must never forget this. This biblical world view of history is especially important to remember if we are in the depths of despair in a situation wherein there seems to be no hope. We are sure that Job eventually remembered this throughout his trials. We too must remember the promises of God: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Ps 55:22). “He will not suffer your foot to be moved.   He who preserves you will not slumber” (Ps 121:3).

As driven students of Bible history, we must be incurably optimistic when faced with the despair that the world dictates . If one’s world view is based on the reports of the nightly news, or the daily newspaper, then he will conclude that everything has gone and is going horribly wrong. We often lead ourselves to believe that there is no hope. And truly, we are often lost in a world of misfortune and failure. We often cry out in complaint as Gideon: “Oh my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us?” (Jg 6:13). Even Job had his time of complaint.

My soul is weary of my life. I will give free course to my complaint.   I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, “Do not condemn me. Show me where You contend with me. Is it good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands and shine on the counsel of the wicked?” (Jb 10:1-3)

We must not forget that the nightly news and the daily newspapers are in business to make money off the misery of our lives. They economically thrive on those who thirst after seeing and reading about doom and gloom. Christians who are led by a fickle desire to allow their environment to form their mental state of mind, must turn off the news and stop reading the newspapers. We must repent of our culture of complaint that has developed out of a Facebook circulation of immoral junk and jokes. We must turn our attention to reading from the Word that says “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37). If we watch the news and read our newspapers more than we study our Bibles, then we are in trouble. If we spend countless hours every day reading circulated junk about which to complain and gripe, then we need to repent. We need to start studying our Bibles again. Satan is not dumb. After all, he has more Christians spending more time on Facebook and YouTube than in the study of their Bibles.

We would thus look past the circulated news of doom and reports of despair. We are “other-world minded,” and thus, our philosophy of history is not based on a glamorization of broadcasted sin. It is based on a Divine theme, a salvational plan that is being played out in the best of all possible environments that was created for the purpose of bringing free-moral individuals into an eternal dwelling with their Creator. We would believe that there is infinite Divine control in a world that we too often and finitely assume to be out of control.   We often allow ourselves to believe that it is all wrong when it seems that all things have gone wrong. We sometimes erroneously conclude as Habakkuk questioned, “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours the one who is more righteous than he? (Hk 1:13). We choose not to be thus minded.   We so choose because we believe that God is in control. We choose to believe that the wrong will eventually be righted by the One who upholds all things by the power of His command (Hb 1:3).

So we cannot help ourselves from being incurably optimistic. If the “Bible tells me so,” then we have no other option but to conclude that the One who upholds all things by the word of His power will eventually bring about that for which He created all things. His “plan of salvation” is not yet complete. The cross has taken place. But the crown is yet to come.

When the Malaysian MH 350 flight was lost from the radar of humanity, there was great mourning on the part of the families of everyone who was on board the fateful flight. A placard stand was erected in the airport at Beijing. On it one could write a brief statement in reference to the rescuers’ efforts to find the lost plane. As we noticed the brief statements of the placards that were hung upon the display stand, there seemed to be two categories. There were those notes from the family members who had no world view that included God. These notes simply read, “Have hope.” And then there were the other notes that were placed there by those who had God in their world view. These notes read, “Hope and pray.”

Hope by itself may give one a sense of peace of mind, but hope without the possibilities of Divine intervention leaves one with only the abilities of the rescuers. The Christian has hope, but his hope has a foundation of faith in a God who is working all things together for good. It is this hope that we would have, not simply a fatalistic optimism that everything will somehow work itself out by chance.

And herein is the wonderful gift of having in our hands an inspired record of how God worked all things together in the past for the good of those who loved Him. We would thus walk by faith as those faithful ancients about whom the Hebrew writer inscribed the words, These all died in faith, not having received the promises. But having seen them afar off were assured of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were foreigners and pilgrims on the earth” (Hb 11:13). We want to be so assured of what God is now doing in order to work us toward the crown, that we will confess that we too are only foreigners in this world.

In our study of Divine history, therefore, we have hope for the future because of the evidence of how our God worked in the past. Someone rightly stated it: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hb 11:1). Our God has given us evidence of how He has worked in the past in order to give us hope of how He is working now and will continue to work in the future. This is how the ancients of old functioned in their daily walk of life, and this is how we will do the same in our lives today (Hb 11:2).

Lecture 5: Godly Giver

THE JOY OF FINANCIAL FUNCTIONALITY

 Most all of the members of the early body of Christ functioned organically from the time when they were still dripping wet from the waters of baptism. Even on the birthday of the ekklesia (church), “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (At 2:44). The members of the body were not only connected to the Lord in a covenant relationship through obedience to the gospel, they were also connected to one another in service to the physical needs that prevailed at the time, especially to the support of those who went forth to preach the gospel they had obeyed.

The beginning of the ekklesia in Acts 2 sets the model for everyone who would later obey the gospel. As a result, the organic function of the early obedient went forth out of Jerusalem to all the world, even to us today. Growth of the church happened because others followed the example of those first disciples. Growth happened in Antioch (At 13:1-3). Growth happened in Ephesus (At 19:8-10). It happened in Thessalonica (1 Th 1:6-10). And it happened in Philippi (Ph 4:15,16). It was simply understood that when one freely received the gospel, he was to make sure that it was freely preached somewhere else. One of the greatest examples of this was the sacrificial giving of a few Christians in the city of Philippi.

A few years after their conversion, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only” (Ph 4:15). The Philippians’ partnership with Paul in preaching the gospel to other places through Paul began when they were new Christians. In fact, they were only a “few days” old as Christians when they began their support of the evangelists who went on to Thessalonica, for Paul, Silas and Timothy stayed only a few days in Philippi (See At 16:12). These were not “taker Christians,” “for even in Thessalonica,” Paul wrote, “you sent once and again for my needs” (Ph 4:16). When Paul went on from Thessalonica in Macedonia, the Philippians, who were in Macedonia, even continued their financial partnership with him in preaching the gospel in Achaia. He later wrote to shame the Corinthians, “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).

The fascinating function of the Philippians, as well as the Thessalonians, who both resided in the province of Macedonia, is that they contributed to reach out with the gospel to other areas from the very beginning of their walk in Christ.

As the Philippians, the Thessalonians went to work, both locally and regionally, by sending support to Paul while he was in Achaia (More later). But what is strikingly awesome about the behavior of the Philippians was that from their very beginning as new Christians, they “sent once and again” unto Paul’s needs while he was in Thessalonica, and then in Achaia. We wonder why they did this? Was it something that Paul taught them? Or, was Paul one who preached for money? From what Paul did in both Thessalonica and Achaia, the answer to these questions was that he worked with his own hands in order not to beg off the brethren (See 2 Co 11:9; 2 Th 3:8). Both the Philippians and Thessalonians witnessed his sacrificial behavior, and thus, they were moved to help support him in order that the gospel go beyond the borders of their province.

Now as we study through these examples of supporting evangelists, we must not forget one very important point. The evangelists were going forth. They were not “stay-at-home” preachers who misappropriated the work of an evangelist. They were on the move preaching to the lost in other areas, not preaching to the saved at home. This does not mean that the local brethren should not support their teachers. This is not the discussion of this chapter. The point here is that those who obey the gospel must make sure that the gospel is preached to the lost in every nation of the world.

So the next question would be, Was what the Philippians believed and accepted inherent in the gospel that Paul preached? This would be our conclusion. God is a giver. He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). Therefore, anyone who would truly accept the message of God’s love, seeks how he or she can get this message out to others. Godly people want to give as God gave good news to them (1 Jn 4:19). This is the beauty of the gospel. When one obeys this message of love, he must give, even when one is in poverty circumstances as the Philippians. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s testimony of the disciples in Macedonia where Philippi was located:

Moreover, brethren, 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, begging us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints(2 Co 8:1-4).

The only begging that should ever come from a disciple of Christ is his begging that someone take his contribution. Why have we reversed this to an outstretched hand that is always looking for a gift? If one becomes a disciple of Jesus, then his begging from others must stop. If it does not, then the person never really believed the message of the free gift of grace that moves believers to be givers. Godly people do not beg for themselves. They only beg that the needy receive their contributions of love. Now we can understand why Paul wrote that the Thessalonians must withdraw their fellowship from any person who would seek to beg off the church. He wrote to the disciples who had some beggars among them, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks disorderly and not after the tradition that he received from us” (2 Th 3:6).

Paul did not behave disorderly among the Thessalonians (2 Th 3:7). He, Timothy and Silas did not eat “any man’s bread without paying for it” (2 Th 3:8). Their “orderly walk” and example was that they worked with labor and hardship night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you (2 Th 3:8). So if there are any among the brethren who are “not willing to work neither let him eat [beg] (2 Th 3:10). Christians are not beggars off one another. They are partners together in Christ. If there are beggars among us, then Paul states that these beggars are walking disorderly. And because they are walking disorderly, two things must happen: First they must not be allowed to continue to beg off those who work, and second, if they persist in their begging, then they must be disfellowshipped from the family of God. The church is not a fellowship of beggars, neither is it a welfare society for those who can work when there is work to be done.

Christians who beg off other Christians are walking disorderly in reference to their function as members of the organic body of Christ. If one would be a member of the same church to which the Thessalonians were added, then he cannot be a beggar off his fellow brothers in Christ. If they continue such begging behavior, then they cannot be in fellowship with the organically functioning body of Christ.

The Philippians, as well as the Thessalonians, saw a different culture in the message of Jesus, and thus, they established a culture of giving. They could not compare themselves with other disciples in their region, for there were no other disciples in their region to which they could look for an example. The only example they had was reflected in the behavior of the sacrificial living of Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas, which example was an emulation of the sacrificial behavior of Christ. “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation …” (See Ph 2:5-8). As an example to the Thessalonians and Philippians, Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas made themselves worked with their own hands (2 Th 3:9). And so, Paul could write to the financially dysfunctional Corinthians,Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ (1 Co 11:1). The Philippians and Thessalonians had imitated the behavior of Paul. Now it was time for the Corinthians to enjoy the sacrificial life of Paul.

In the area of physical things, one does not come to Christ to see what he can get. If one does, he will not experience the pure joy of being a godly giver for Jesus. Simon came to Christ to see that he could get, but when Peter said he could not buy it for himself, he became bitter. (Read carefully At 8:18-23, specifically verse 23. Simon became bitter because he could not make a profit out of laying hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit.)

The Philippians saw what they could give, not what they could get. As a result, their standard of living came down because of their giving out of their deep poverty. And they did this with the abundance of their joy and their keep poverty” (2 Co 8:2). We used to say, “Give until it hurts!” We were wrong. The truth is that we must experience the abundance of the joy of Jesus until we give. There should never be any “hurting” in giving. It should simply be as natural for the Christian as eating to preserve our natural body. This is why the Philippians could joyfully give out of their deep poverty. Therefore, the conclusion from our study of the example of the Philippians is that one does not really understand the message of the gospel of joy unless he comes away from the waters of baptism looking for something on which he can pour out his joy. Doing such is inherent in the message of the “good news” (gospel) that we have obeyed. Giving, therefore, should be an occasion of just pure joy, not “hurting.”

Lecture 3: World As It Is

WE ARE HERE FOR THERE

 We were created for eternity. We are blessed with a spirit from God that is conditionally eternal only in the presence of our eternal God (2 Th 1:6-9). We are the result of an Eternal Love, and thus, we are headed for an eternal presence with this Love. In order that our transition from here to there happen, God had to guard His justice by offering instructions on how to find the Way (At 9:2). This offer was made for those of His creation who would chose to follow His directions into His eternal presence. In order that God’s justice be true and unaccused, an opportunity from the confines of this material world for the eternal presence of God was made possible through the sacrificial offering of God Himself. The totality of His intervention among men, therefore, is based on the promise that God is working to get us from here to there. For this reason, we must view all that transpires in the present world as God’s efforts to get as many people as possible into His eternal presence. We are thus not confused by the chaos that prevails in many places of the world. We are not confused or discouraged because we know that our God is at work to deliver us from this testing environment.

In answer to the question, “Why was the world created?” and “Why Israel?” the answer can be found only in the statement that will be made by Jesus at the end of the world, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation [creation] of the world” (Mt 25:34).

The world was created by a loving Father who seeks to bring His loving children, whom He now claims as His own, into His eternal presence, in which presence, their eternal existence is guaranteed. Now we must consider this for a moment. Since the creation was never meant to be an end within itself, then there must be a reason for its existence, and ours. Its existence was to produce an environment for those who will exist beyond its termination. There is no Bible teaching that says that the world will continue as it is without end. If one were to adhere to the philosophy of evolution, then he might come to the conclusion that matter (the earth) is eternal. But if one believes the Bible, then there is an end to the heavens and earth that we now experience (Compare 2 Pt 3). The world as we know it will come to an end, but not those children of faith whom God has prepared for His presence in a new heavens and earth (See 2 Pt 3:13). They are His children in this present world, but they are not of this world. The fact that this world is temporary, therefore, establishes the conclusion that the world was created for an eternal purpose that will exist beyond the termination of the world itself.

We are here in order to prepare for being somewhere else. Christians are only “sojourners and pilgrims” on their journey through the existence of this world (Hb 11:13). This world is simply not their home. It is a place of transition to the eternal presence of the Father of their spirits (Hb 12:9). Since this world is a place of transitioning sojourners and pilgrims, then when there are few sojourners and pilgrims to transition, then the world will no longer be useful for the purpose for which it was created.

If there is a finality to this world, then this world exists for the purpose of those who will exist beyond this world. Those who will exist beyond this world are those who are of the faith of Abraham. By Jesus “all things were created …. All things were created through Him and for Him (Cl 1:16). All things were created for Jesus, including all humanity. All was created for a purpose, that purpose being “for Him.” Jesus would have no need of an eternal earth as it now is, since the eternal existence of the faithful who now inhabit the world are not dependent on the existence of the world. But as one with the loving God, the Son of God has an eternal dwelling for us that is not dependent on the world as we know it. He will thus discard the created world in order to preserve that which does not depend on the material for its existence.

So what would be His purpose in creating a temporary environment for us? If this environment is coming to a close, then those who walk by faith will exist beyond the end of this world. As we move closer to the end of all things, we must conclude that His allowance of the continuation of this present world is simply for the purpose of giving birth to more sons of faith who will dwell with Him in eternity. Since this world is coming to an end, then we would conclude that there is some reason why God would bring this world to an end. And since we would conclude that there is no limit to the population of heaven, then we must also conclude that this world will exist until it has fulfilled its purpose.

Now Paul revealed that there would be living Christians around at the time when Jesus would appear for a second time (See 1 Th 4:13-18). We would correctly assume, therefore, that God has planned a specific time for the termination of this present world. We will never know that time until we hear the final trumpet. It will be the remaining faithful “Noahs” who will hear the trumpet. At the sound of that trumpet the resurrected and changed saints, will with the with the living saints, enter into an eternal existence in the presence of God. Whatever God does with the present world is not our concern. We only know that we will be restored to eternality, which thing Adam and Eve gave up in the beginning (See Gn 3:22-24).

If the purpose of this world is to populate that which is to come, then this world is useful for this purpose as long as citizens are produced for eternal dwelling. But when this world is no longer conducive to the population of that which is beyond this world, then this world is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was created. This brings us back to the teleology (the end purpose) that was expressed in Genesis 6:5-7. In the flood, God terminated the population of the world because the world produced no more sons of faith. When this world no longer produces that for which it was created, then it is gone, in a moment, at the voice of an archangel, at the sound of the last trumpet (1 Th 4:15,16).

If the world is here, therefore, for the purpose of populating of heaven, then our business is God’s business to get people into eternal glory with Jesus. Since the Christian is no longer his own, but has been bought with a price (1 Co 6:20), then it is simply senseless for him to consume upon himself that which is temporary. It is his primary mission to bring glory to God by focusing on the mission of God and the purpose for which this world was created. Terms and phrases as “materialistic,” “worldly minded” and “carnal” define those who are caught up and confined to this temporary existence. But terms as “evangelism,” “mission minded” and “hope” define other-world minded people. These terms find the centrality of their biblical definition in the purpose for which God created all things, and then gave a mission to those who are of faith.

The closer one gets to the heart of God, the closer he gets to the mission of God that is inherent in the creation of this world. Evangelistic minded Christians are in touch with God. They are in touch with the mission of God and His purpose for the creation of this world. Their world view is centered around the purpose of taking as many people as possible into eternal glory. It is the love response of their hearts to follow after their loving Creator, whose mission it is to have loving beings in His presence for all eternity.

In order for the loving to be with the eternal Lover, God came in the likeness of the created (Ph 2:5-11). He was incarnate in the flesh of man (Jn 1:14). However, after His resurrection, His body of flesh was changed into that which we will also be changed after our resurrection (See 1 Co 15:35-58). We do not now know the nature of His resurrected and changed body. But we know that when He comes again, we will be changed to be like Him. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we will be. But we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).

When we consider this one statement of the Holy Writ, we are held in awe at the sacrifice that the Son of God made for us. The Son will “appear” a second time. In order for Him to appear, there would have to be substance to His presence. We will “see Him.” In order to be seen, there must be a body that would reflect His glory. His will be a bodily appearance. John says that we will be like this body of His. Ours will be a changed body (1 Co 15:50-54). But we will see Him as He is, in His permanently incarnate, but changed body. John is saying that the Son of God permanently incarnated in the flesh of man on our behalf (Jn 1:14). Though He was changed in His resurrected body, there was something permanent about Him giving up the form of God (See Ph 2:5-11). He did this for us. The permanency of His eternal sacrifice wonderfully manifests His abiding love for us throughout eternity. What words are there in any human language that would explain this love, this sacrifice? He did this for us!

If Jesus, the loving Creator of all things, created us for an eternal existence with Himself (Cl 1:16), then this is love beyond what any man can experience on this earth. We are driven to be in the presence of this eternally incarnated loving Creator. We cannot help ourselves. And we cannot but seek to take everyone we know with us into this awesome love and freedom from the sufferings of this present world that has gone wrong in so many ways. We cannot help but cry out as John when he was so emotionally overcome with the awesome visions of Revelation, Come, Lord Jesus (Rv 22:20). We realize that we were created not for here, but for there with our Lord Jesus.

Lecture 4: Godly Giving

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF ONE’S LOAD

 The letter to the Galatians may have been the first letter of inspiration written to the early Christians. It was written to the disciples in the region of Galatia where Paul and Barnabas went on their first mission journey (At 13,14). If the letter was written early, then we assume that the teaching of the letter was directed to new Christians. They may have been less than five years old in the faith. This fact is important because it gives us an idea of what God expects of His children even from their early years in the faith. In the letter, Paul not only addresses the threat of legal religiosity, but also exhorts the disciples concerning responsibilities they must assume as God’s children.

In the first chapters of the letter, Paul addressed the doctrinal challenges that faced these new Christians. In chapter 5 he gave a final exhortation to stand free in Christ as opposed to being brought into the bondage of legal religiosity (Gl 5:1,2).

It is in chapter 6 that the Holy Spirit, through the hand of Paul, reveals some very practical responsibilities of our function as members of the universal body of Christ. In 6:4 he admonished that each disciple must take ownership of his or her own work by not boasting in the work of others. The disciples should not behave as some in Corinth who took glory in the work of others (See 2 Co 10:13,16). On the contrary, “… each one will bear his own load” (6:5). Paul laid the foundation for what was coming. When it comes to taking ownership, “each one” must assume the responsibility of being a disciple. Every disciple must take ownership of that which one should assume as a productive member of the organic body of Christ. Christians cannot pass off on others their responsibilities. If one would be a Christian, and thus a disciple of Jesus, then he cannot assume that someone else will bear his load. Christians seek to give physical things freely as they were freely supplied with spiritual things (See 2 Co 8:14). A disciple of Jesus simply cannot ask someone else to bear the load that God expects him to bear.

In the context of Galatians 6, Paul led his readers to the responsibility of verse 6. “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with the one who teaches.”

The word “share” is from the Greek word koinonia. The meaning is “joint partnership.” We hear of many unfortunate definitions throughout the world of the word “partnership.” To many, partnership means, “Give me the money and we will do the work of spending it.” This is one’s “cuffed-hand” culture speaking. But this is certainly not what Paul was saying in the context of Galatians 6:6. The ownership that is expressed in 6:5 must be continued into verse 6. “Each one” must join in partnership to support the teacher. The student must take ownership of his teaching by supporting his teacher. Whether his teaching comes through the person of the teacher, or through the book a teacher might write, the student has the responsibility of personally paying the teacher or buying the teacher’s book. Disciples who do neither are simply walking contrary to the instructions of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 6. They walk as dysfuncational members of the body, and thus in violation of fellowshipping those who are teachers of the word. One cannot expect to grow spiritually in study of the word of God if he seeks to acquire his knowledge of the word without taking ownership of his source of teaching.

In the use of the word koinonia in 6:6, money is involved. Obligation and responsibility are incurred. Each student has the responsibility to pay the teacher.   The student cannot sluff off on another his or her responsibility to pay his or her Bible teacher. Any disciple, therefore, who does not pay his teacher is behaving in a manner that is contrary to Paul’s instructions in Galatians 6:6. He is trying to come to his teacher empty handed. He sins while trying to grow spiritually by being taught the word of God without paying the teacher. It is a spiritual contradiction. And thus, we now understand why those of some societies who have freely received to many contributions find it difficult to grow to the spiritual levels of true discipleship in stewardship. The culture of their outstretched hand always hinders them from taking ownership of their responsibilities to be Christians who give.

Any student who would walk out of a Bible class, without feeling his responsibility to make sure that the teacher was supported for his labors in teaching, has certainly left the class to walk disorderly. Anyone who would seek a free spiritual book written by a teacher is working against the spiritual nourishment that he would receive from the book. We are dysfunctional disciples when we expect a free ride in reference to the sources of our being taught.

It would be good to offer some suggestions on this point since this fundamental teaching of the word of God leads us into many of the texts that we will discuss later. We remember in the early 1980s when we went as evangelists to the West Indies (Caribbean). We lived on the island of Antigua. In the first few months of going from shack to shack in teaching, we were pleasantly surprised by the giving of the people. These were truly “Third World” (developing world) residents. According to Western standards they were very poor, living in shacks across the island and eating from their own gardens. But in every house we entered and taught the word of God, after the class the people of the house, the students, would collect up some fruit in the house to give to us, for they had no money. We graciously accepted their “pay” for the class, and went on our way thinking, “These folks got the point. Someone in the past taught them well.” There were no cuff-handed people on the entire island.

Their history had taught them a great lesson of ownership. In the early 1950s, the general population, which was held in economic bondage by the land owners, went on strike. In doing so, the people had to struggle for themselves to survive. During those years of trying to feed their families, the people ate anything to stay alive. In all their struggles to survive, they learned a great lesson of life. They learned to take ownership of their own lives and their own destiny. And when some foreign teachers later came by, they would not take something (teaching) for nothing. The West Indies people could teach the post-colonial, post foreign-aid cultures a few things about financially taking ownership of oneself by paying their teachers. People look at the West Indian culture with respect because of who they are. But people will always look down on a cuffed-hand culture. The word “partnership” has a difficult time being understood correctly in such cultures.