The Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

They Gave Themselves First to the Lord

I have spoken before of a collection that Paul was receiving from the largely Gentile churches in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Achaia to send to their poorer Jewish brethren in Jerusalem which was suffering and in need of relief.  For Paul, this was not only a means of remembering the poor which he had pledged to do any way (Galatians 2:10), but also a way of strengthening the tie between the Jewish and Gentile Christians.  The early church fathers liked to speak of Christians as being the third race created by the Spirit who had brought the two disparate groups together.

Here we read of Paul encouraging the Corinthians to finish what they had started.  We read in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 that they were engaged in the mission, but with the division and conflict, they had left off gathering the collection.  This is exactly the kind of thing that Satan does in churches: a church will have a vision or mission to do some work for the Kingdom, and suddenly finds itself in some conflict that threatens to wreck the whole plan.  You know that Satan is in that church stirring the pot over some issue that is inconsequential to the Kingdom.  Churches beware.

But then Paul brings up the churches in Macedonia which would include Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea.  In what appears to be a gentle attempt at shaming the wealthier Corinthians, he tells them of the generosity of these churches which were not only poor but experiencing persecution (“a severe test of affliction”).  Paul says that they begged for the favor of giving and gave beyond their means.  There are some wonderful points about giving that Paul makes in describing the way these Macedonians handled themselves: 1) They gave themselves to the Lord.  We cannot give rightly until first we give ourselves unto the Lord.  Our Lord condemned the scribes and Pharisees for tithing mint, dill, and cumin, but then neglecting weightier matters such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).  As Paul said in his previous letter, even giving our bodies to be burned means nothing without the love of God shed abroad in our hearts for our brothers and sisters (13:3); and, 2) they gave themselves to the apostles as God-ordained leaders within the Church and humbled themselves to give out of obedience, though no such command was made.  Servants are servants not just when called upon but whenever there is need.  And so Paul throws down the gauntlet before these wealthier Corinthians: Will you be outdone by these poorer churches?  Or more to the point, will we be outdone in our commitments by poor churches around the world experiencing persecution?

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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