“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian Churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
2 Corinthians 8:1-5
The Word of God often astounds me with the richness of its teaching. A few years ago while meditating upon 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 for a series of messages focused upon our stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted to us, I found myself becoming increasingly convicted by the logical argument that the Apostle Paul advances as he encourages the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonian Churches in giving to an offering being collected for impoverished saints in Judea. Paul uses the argument here to illustrate his point regarding our living Christ-centred lives. In essence he confronts his readers with a description of what our lives will look like when we give ourselves to the Lord without reservation. This is the fruit that comes from genuine repentance, and it is sorely needed in our 21st century world.
The question Paul confronts us with here is, “Do I trust the Lord without reservation?” The Macedonians obviously did. They firmly believed, and applied to themselves, the principle that the Lord would take care of them if they “sought first His Kingdom and Righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) That this is easy for us to speak about but much more difficult to live out is demonstrated by an extensive quotation by Scott J. Hafemann in The NIV Application Commentary on 2 Corinthians of teaching by William Law in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, pages 352 – 353)
““Every exhortation in Scripture to be wise and reasonable, satisfying only such wants as God would have satisfied; every exhortation to be spiritual and heavenly, pressing after a glorious change of our nature; every exhortation to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love all mankind as God loved them, is a command to be strictly religious in the use of money.“(ch. vi, 53)
Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Law’s call was to apply the cross to our money.
“The Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the mystery of Christ upon the cross. It was there and from thence that He taught all Christians how they were to come out of and conquer the world, and what they were to do in order to be His disciples. And all the doctrines, sacraments, and institutions of the Gospel are only so many explications of the meaning, and applications of the benefit of this great mystery.
And the state of Christianity implieth nothing else but an entire, absolute conformity to that spirit which Christ showed in the mysterious sacrifice of Himself upon the cross.” (ch. xvii, 196)
Further, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:6-7, Law say that conformity to Christ in giving was not an option or merely good advice, but the necessary outworking of what it meant to be Christian itself.
“Every man, therefore, is only so far a Christian as he partakes of this spirit of Christ.
…The necessity of this conformity to all that Christ did and suffered upon our account is very plain from the whole tenor of Scripture.
If “we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.”…
It was for this reason that the Holy Jesus said of His disciples, and in them of all true believers, “They are not of this world, as I am not of this world.” Because all true believers conforming to the sufferings, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ live no longer after the spirit and temper of this world, but their life is hid with Christ in God.” (ch. xvii, 196-198)”
To this we can only add Amen!!