Read thru New Testament Devotional – September 16, 2017

Paul’s admonition for godly living (6:11-9:15)-continued
2 Corinthians 8-9-He tells them about the offering going to Jerusalem.

From its birth on the Day of Pentecost, the Jerusalem church had had to cope with the extreme poverty of many of its members. There were three main reasons for that situation.

First, the Jerusalem church consisted largely of pilgrims. Many, if not most, of the first converts were visiting Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost, when the church was born. They were Hellenistic Jews, who lived in the Gentile lands to which the Jewish people had been scattered in the Diaspora. Acts 2:9–11 describes them as “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” On that Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2:41). Soon afterward, the number of men in the church reached five thousand (Acts 4:4), not counting the women. Since there were no churches or Christians anywhere else in the world, the converted pilgrims remained in Jerusalem. Only there could they sit under the apostles’ teaching and find fellowship with other believers. Most of them were not wealthy and could not afford to stay indefinitely in Jerusalem’s inns, nor would they wish to, given the condition of the typical inn. And many of those staying with Jewish relatives were alienated from family after becoming Christians and had to leave. They would have had no option but to move in with the Jewish believers who lived in Jerusalem. Many of them were also poor, so housing thousands of converted pilgrims would have been a great hardship for them.

Another reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was persecution. New converts lost their jobs or businesses and were ostracized by their families and friends. Just as Jesus had predicted, they became the outcasts of Jewish society (John 16:2).

A third reason for the Jerusalem church’s poverty was the generally poor economic climate of the region. The Romans extracted all they could from their conquered territories, seizing their resources and imposing a heavy burden of taxation. The result was rampant poverty in Israel. Adding to the region’s economic woes was the worldwide famine predicted in Acts 11:27–29.

The Jerusalem church made a noble effort to meet the needs of its poor members. Acts 2:44–45 records that “all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need,” while Acts 4:32 adds, “The congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” Because of their selfless dedication to meeting one another’s needs, in the early days of the church “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). But eventually, as the needs grew and persecution mounted (cf. Acts 8:1), the Jerusalem church was overwhelmed with needs and undersupplied with money.

Paul recognized their need and determined to take up a collection for the Jerusalem church from the churches of Asia Minor and Europe (Rom. 15:25–27). He also sought by doing that to strengthen the spiritual bond between those largely Gentile congregations and the Jewish church in Jerusalem. The apostle knew that the love offering would help ease the suspicion, bitterness, and hostility with which Jews and Gentiles generally regarded each other. It would tangibly express the spiritual reality that through His death, Jesus Christ “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” between Jews and Gentiles, making them one (Eph. 2:14).

Paul first wrote to the Corinthians about this collection at the end of his first inspired letter to them (1 Cor. 16:1–4). But he had asked them to participate earlier, during his ministry in Corinth. Their rebellion against Paul had temporarily halted the collection, and since the relationship was restored, Paul instructed them to pick up where they left off. Paul had Titus encourage the Corinthians to begin the collection when he brought the severe letter to Corinth (2 Cor. 8:6).

In chapter 8, Paul listed several motives for giving. The first, because giving is the behavior of devout Christians (8:1–8), derives from the example of the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea). This passage reveals that giving is motivated by God’s grace, transcends difficult circumstances, is with joy, not hindered by poverty, generous, proportionate, sacrificial, voluntary, a privilege, an act of worship, in submission to pastors, in concert with other Christian virtues, and evidence of love.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 274–276). Chicago: Moody Publishers, Logos Bible Software

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8:1-6-Paul gives praise to the churches of Macedonia for the wonderful liberality they had shown in the offering which they took up and sent to Judea.

Macedonia. Roman province in NT times, beginning as a kingdom in the 7th century B.C. Little is known about the first several centuries of its history, but with the coming to power of the Greek king Philip II (359–336 B.C.), and especially his son Alexander III (the Great, 336–323 B.C.), Macedonia became a world power. After Alexander’s death, the empire was divided among his successors into several regions, one of them the original Macedonian kingdom. Instability held sway for the next 150 years, and in 167 B.C. Macedonia came under Roman rule. Initially divided into four districts by the Romans (Acts 16:12 is a possible reference to this division), this territory was made into a Roman province in 14 B.C. with Thessalonica as its capital. Briefly, from A.D. 15–44, Macedonia was combined with Achaia and Moesia (other parts of Greece) into one large province; however, in A.D. 44, the three were again separated. Macedonia’s importance continued through the Roman era, and it remained a separate ...

Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Logos Bible Software

For a map showing Pauls Missionary Journeys (and the location of Macedonia) see: http://www.blueletterbible.org/images/rosepub/imageDisplay/#s=maps_pa ul3_b

It was beyond what Paul had expected...because it was beyond their own ability. The reason they did this was because the financial offering which they sent was a reflection of the spiritual offering of their own lives to the Lord (:5). Our giving should always be a reflection of our love for the Lord.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15-Paul gives some principles of Christian giving...

  1. tokeepyourgivinginbalancewiththerestofyourChristianlife(:7);
  2. toprovethesincerityofyourlove(:8);
  3. toimitateChrist(:9);
  4. tohelpmeettheneedsofothers(:14);
  5. Godonlyexpectsustogiveoutofwhatwehave(:12);
  6. to demonstrate to others how to give so that if necessary in the future

    they will reciprocate (:14-15);

  7. to develop self discipline to complete something that you have begun

    (:12).

2 Corinthians 8:16-24-Paul tells them that they have sent several men to receive their offering...that they want everything to be done in such a way that no one can be discredited. He didn't want there to be any confusion about why the offering was being taken, where it was going, or if it made it there.
Prayer: Lord, please help me to always show the "proof" of my love for You not just through my words, but through my actions. Help me to give myself first to You...and then for my life to be living proof of that relationship. Please give me a heart to help others who are in need.

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