As we pickup from where we were in part 1, we see what has happened in Macedonia is similar to what happened in Acts 5; this is a miracle. As the Holy Spirit fell on the early church, filled with the Holy Spirit, also fell into poverty. Why, because the early church was Jewish…and those who began to follow Jesus would not only have been rejected by their families, but disinherited. “Follow that Jesus of Nazareth as your Messiah, I cut you off, you are no longer my son! You can forget your inheritance.” Overnight they lost everything to follow Jesus. So those who became followers of Jesus who at one time had wealth, no longer did, and those who still had wealth didn’t consider it their own.
Why; because the great grace of God was upon them. Acts 4:32-35; “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
The grace of God came upon them and transformed them unifying them under the leadership of the Apostles. I believe that not only was the grace of God upon the apostles to give witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, but it affected their lives to give what they had for a witness for the kingdom of God. These two, grace and power, go hand in hand. Do you need God’s power, you need His grace. You need His grace, to use His power.
So how is it that we recognize the grace of God being upon us in such a way? Acts 4:32-35.
Many today will say that this isn’t for us in the church of the 21st century. My question is then…why isn’t it? Oh, I know all the arguments that will be given; it’s because of their own disposition not to believe that God still moves upon His people in the same way.
We understand the situation may not be the same, but God who dwells in heaven is the same…and if He would so desire for this to happen…then why not? His grace is still the same. His power is still the same. Our sinful conditions are still the same. People have not changed.
What we need is a desperation crying out to God to grant us His marvelous, matchless grace once again so that we can stand of one heart and one soul; so that with great power we can give witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus by his great grace upon us all. With this demonstration of the power of the Resurrection is the demonstration of the power of His giving grace. A grace which permeates us…to give as God has given and will give.
We need a meeting with the grace of God again. A change, a transformation from an attitude of doing only what’s necessary to get by mentality, to a way of resurrected thinking which has been transformed by His grace to do what is abounding, and abundant…the same as God’s grace which has been measure out towards us, by His boundless love.
You see that as the Apostles preached the Resurrection and all its glory, as the effects of it were to resurrect man’s hearts in every way, includes the grace of giving. As impossible the resurrection is apart from the power of God, so is this grace of giving found in Acts 5. Now those who would hear the testimony of the resurrection would also give witness to it by the grace of giving by the early church.
There will be many times that we as a church will need a fresh encounter with the grace of God so that our minds, hearts, attitudes will be refreshed once again, so God will melt our hears to give abundantly, abundantly for our church and the mission which God has mandated for us.
Again look at the attitude of grace that the Macedonians enjoyed.
2 Corinthians 8:4; “imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
There will be times, very soon, in which I am going to ask that you give not only sacrificially, but supernaturally. In other words…in faith…that God will supply the need for your giving.
Now with that understanding many could get the idea that if God doesn’t supply my needs according to His riches in glory then I’m off the hook to give. Philippians 4:19; “19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
This scripture has been abused especially with the doctrine of the “name it and claim it” and “Word of Faith” movement. Paul in the previous verses has been contrasting his times of prosperity with his times of great need and poverty, and yet through all these different stages of Paul’s life God has sustained him by the giving of the church in Thessalonica (vs. 8). Paul did not seek or ask for the gift, but sought the fruit that abounds (there is that word again) to their account.
Philippians 4:19 is a direct reference to what God will do when we give…fruit that abounds to our account, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Then what Paul declares will happen as we follow the will of God in our giving…”And my god shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He is referring to all our needs…physical needs…spiritual needs.
Perhaps the reason we haven’t seen this kind of supernatural intervention in our lives is because we are so concerned about what we have, and maybe more, what we do not have.
See what Paul said in vs. 11-13; “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul writing 2 Corinthians around 55 AD., tells us that the churches in Macedonia were then givers by the grace of God, and with Philippians written around 61-62 AD., we see the church at Philippi (in Macedonia) continued in the grace of giving; grace had been instilled into their lives.
Back to 2 Corinthians 8
The Macedonians understood the idea of giving supernaturally to be sacrificial. They gave first; and with the understanding and expectation that God can make up what they would lack by their sacrificial giving. And if He didn’t…this didn’t nullify their faith, but they sacrificed, suffered lack, but did it joyfully. This is confirmed by what Paul says in vs. 2;
“2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.”
In the trial of Affliction they had overflowing, a surplus, and an excessive joy. This means they suffered for the response of their giving. They did without because they gave. The Macedonian churches did without because they sent their money to another church so that the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ were provided for. And this gave them joy…joy to do without in order to meet the needs of the church.
In spite of their deep poverty…they abounded in the riches of their liberality. Nothing was going to hold them back from giving. They gave in spite of, in opposition to their deep poverty. It’s like they were shaking their fist in the face of poverty saying; “we will give to God.” We have no fear of you for the abounding joy of giving in the grace of God is upon us.
How can we say this, where does this fit in our understanding of God’s provision for us?
3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
God’s promise of provision is found in His grace and by us following His will. It is not with the reward of great wealth if we give to His church and purposes. Today all of us would be considered wealthy according to many other countries standards. If we acquire wealth here on earth we then have been given a stewardship over His provision then we are to use it in a way that glorifies God and brings honor to Him. Not waste it on our carnal desires.
1 John 3:17, 22; “17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight”
James 4:3; “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
The grace of God sets us free for the encumbrances of wealth…so we use it according to His will and grace. The grace of God changes our views, He changes our hearts, gives to us a heavenly perspectives so that we see giving from His vantage point of eternity from the short-sightedness of our finite, living in the now lives. We have a vision impairment when it comes to giving. We see giving from what benefits us…not what benefits the kingdom of God.
How will you know when your perspectives changed…when you give by grace and rejoice for the privilege of giving to God’s kingdom. When you in spite of circumstances give, enduring your situation, knowing that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. When you revel in giving, not hording, or receiving, but seeking first the kingdom of heaven, knowing that these things your heavenly Father knows what you have need of, and will supply all these needs.
James 4:2-3 NLT; “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
Even, as the Apostle Paul had to endure, times of plenty…times of poverty…God always supplied his need. In God’s grace, He helps us to trust Him again, gets us lined up to give ourselves by His Grace. This fundamental change of our hearts and attitudes to give ourselves over to Christ…
Romans 12:1-2; (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”
This is how you build a church. Giving yourself to the Lord first, then to understand the vision of the house. As God raises up leadership, raises up a flock, you say; “I’m in!” I’m part of this. I’m not a causal attendee, this vision is my vision, this battle is my battle, and this church is my church.” I pray for my church, pastors, and elders. To a vision that we who are called to a local body of believers give ourselves and dedicated ourselves to.
They took Paul’s lead, they were in God’s grace giving not out of convenience, wealth, prosperity, so that they could get something back, but our of a deep abiding joy…a joy that overflows from God’s exceedingly great grace.
Paul now says to them in verse 8; “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.” As we have viewed the giving of the Macedonian people…Paul is asking this question; what is your motivation for giving…is it from Grace? If it is…your pattern for giving will be easily seen following the biblical pattern of Grace.
How are we to give to the Lord?
1. Systematically—1 Corinthians 16:1-2; “On the first day of the week.” Not only on special occasions but every week of the year.
2. Individually—1 Corinthians 16:2; “let each one of you lay something aside,”
3. Proportionately—1 Corinthians 1:2; “storing up as he may prosper,”