Jesus calls us to come as we are. But, his call is also to not for us to stay that way. God is in the business of transforming. True love embraces imperfections, but true love desires and seeks the best in others- and that means change. In fact, I’d argue that true unconditional love brings about change naturally. Conditional love is slavery, unconditional love is freeing. It lets us truly change and transform as our lover would deem best. Unconditional love, when truly received and understood, does not produce laziness, but instead produces zeal and love and power for transformation. We begin to transform and grow more- especially we are realize how glorious unconditional love is.
This is how the gospel works. God displays his love for us in giving His Son. His love is not a warm fuzzy feeling, but it is a covenant commitment- one He was willing to shed His blood to display. Love gives. God gives. See, God is holy, and thus our sins, our rebellion against his law, is offensive to Him. But, God gave Jesus in his life and death and resurrection to display His love for undeserving people. To embrace us fully in our sin, and yet He did so with the goal of ultimately changing for better. To make us eternally like Him. No one is more joyful than God, therefore nothing is more loving than transforming us into His image.
But, what does it mean to be live like God? To be transformed to look like Him? One of the church words for this is “godliness.”
Alistar Begg refers to Chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians is “Godliness is walking clothes”
If all we said about the resurrection means anything, this is how we will live- by loving others. Paul turns from some of the grandest truths of the Bible to the simplest: we should care for others. He takes us from calculus back to simple addition- because we all need to be reminded.
We can talk about the resurrection all we want- but if do not love others- as Paul says back chapter 13- “it is vain.”
Paul gets practical first- “Now concerning the collection.” First, this section remains me of the joy of preaching as we do- passage by passage through books of the Bible. We believe this is the normal diet of preaching for God’s people. It exalts God’s Word. It allows Him to set the agenda. God planned a sermon on giving- please know that. God did not include this here by accident, nor did He have us preach on it here by accident. Let’s please recognize what God has spoken.
As we consider the collection, the topic of giving, Paul answers 5 questions for us.
Why?: for the saints (v. 1)
Saints is not a class of believer. Many have the idea that saints are simply the cream of the crop believer- St. John, St. Mark, St. Paul. But, the Bible teaches that all believers- even the messiest- are saints. Paul refers to the Corinthians church, even in their mess as “saints” in 2 Corinthians 1:1. In fact, Paul refers to almost every church he writers to as “Saints.” This is good news brothers and sisters.
To be a “Saint” is simply to be set apart. To be rescued and ransomed out of the world. Consider an analogy: Assorted Jelly Beans. Have you ever seen those? There are hundreds of flavors. Everything from ear wax to cherry and everything in between. If you reach in and eat whatever you grab, you never know what you might find. But, if you do that and end up grabbing a pleasant flavor instead of a gross one- that is the impact of a saint on the world around them. A pleasant, distinct, difference from the other tastes around them.
Believers are a distinct group, and Paul was making this collection for them.
as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. (v. 1)
We read in the letter to Galatia that Paul was eager for the poor to be remembered (2:10). He goes on to say,“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Paul was speaking here about giving- read the context, specifically verse 6.
Paul was taking a collection for saints need at the church in Jerusalem, whom he writes elsewhere about making a delivery to (Romans 15). Regardless, we see that Paul expected us to care for one another. Love for one another is not a warm feeling, loving one another requires action. We are called to love as Jesus loved and that meant giving our life, giving of ourselves for others, even the unloveable.
“Biblical love is not emotions or feelings, but attitudes and actions that seek the best interests of the other person, regardless of how we feel toward him.”
—Jerry Bridges, (The Practice of Godliness, NavPress, 1996, p. 208)
God gave His Son for us when we were unlovable. Can we spare some of His blessings for the needy around us?
Consider the words of John, “16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18
When? “On the first day of every week” (v. 2)
This is interesting. We see the early church gather on the first day of the week as opposed to Saturday. Why? Jesus rose on the first day of the week, so we gather on that day (historically called, “The Lord’s Day”).
Paul assumed his audience would be gathering. Can we assume that of people who claim the name of Christ today? There was no such thing as a Christian who did not gather.
He also assumed that they would come prepared for the first day of the week.
If we can prepare where we will eat this afternoon, we can take time to prepare for what we will actually do this morning. Worship is so much more important than Cheddars!
On the first day of the week the people of God gathered, and on this day Paul commanded them to take up this collection.
Who? “each of you”
This wasn’t just something for the “rich Christians.” This was something each person was to do. As Christians we are not spectators of a game- we are participants in a mission! Thus, we each play a role in the church and in God’s purpose. Young, old, new believers, old believers- all take part in God’s mission. All of us are called by God to be a part of this church and God’s mission.
God’s retirement plan is glorious, but so many of us take it too early. He hasn’t called you to retirement until He calls you home, until then, God says continue to press forward. Remember how Paul finished the last chapter? Continue to abound! Continue to stand steadfast!
What? “put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper”
We bless out of the blessing we have. Each of us gives out of our prosperity. God is wanting is to see giving is not to be done out of compulsion, but out of compassion! Our giving should be done out of joy, not out of guilt!
This relates to what the Bible says regarding Tithes. People are always curious what pastors think about the “tenth” that the Old Testament people gave.
First, I would love for the Bible to lay on us the giving expectation of the Old Testament. If you counted together all of the tithes they were called to give, it was closer to 33% regularly.
The tithe was never meant to be a rule of compulsion. The tithe was something we can model, but not something we should consider a mold. The New Testament would call us to break out of that mold! We are not called to give a hard and fast percent, but to dedicated and overflowing joy! Paul writes elsewhere,
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Does this feel hard for you? Feel the weigh come off with the promise of God!
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
The Bible’s perspective on giving is not “How much do I have to give?” The Bible question is, “How much impact can I make?” We give out of whatever prosperity we have. For each of us that is different.
With? Accountability (v. 3-4)
3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
Paul cared about accountability with the giving of others. Notice he wants to send it through those who have been accredited. He said he would even go if need be!
God cares about how His people’s collection is handled. There should be accountability, there should be a proper trust and supervision where necessarily. This is why our church has transitioned to having a budget and through voting for major decisions (including treasurer, spending of large funds). We understand these may be foreign to some people, but we also understand that we want to obey God’s principles- and they require accountability and stewardship.
As pastors- Kevin and I will stand before God and give an account for how we have pastored. See this in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” These words keep me up at a night. Every word. Every conversation. Every interaction. Every cent. I will give an account for it all
As pastors, we do what we do, including stewarding funds and preaching on giving, recognizing that an absolutely Holy God sees and knows. This isn’t a game for us.
Believers: Does our giving reflect these principles? Are you consistently and regularly giving to the collection of the saints? If you aren’t, God is calling you to begin doing so. Part of what it means to be a believer is to be generous, and part of local church membership is supporting the body.
Non-believers: God cannot be bought. We cannot earn our salvation. We can only gain access to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Turn and trust. You cannot truly understand generosity until you have received generosity.