Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 31
2 CORINTHIANS 6:1 – 8:6 – PART 2
We will begin this lesson with II Corinthians 8:1. I always tell people that I don’t preach at them, because this is a Bible study program. All we ever hope to do is just teach the Word, and help people to understand what the Word says, why it says it, and to whom it’s being spoken to, and that makes all the difference in the world. For you see if you go back into the Old Testament, and read some of those things and try to apply it today, then you’re in trouble. So what do you have to do? It’s still the Word of God – absolutely it is. But it wasn’t written to us. It was written to the Jews under the Law.
We feel we are reaching so many people who are confused. In fact I had a lady call one Monday morning and she said, “Now Les, I’m confused. The sermon Sunday morning was about when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, `What must I do for eternal life?’ His answer was `Keep the Commandments.'” I said, “That’s right. That’s what Jesus told him.” Then she said, “This morning you turn around and say we’re not under the Law but rather under Grace. Now isn’t that a contradiction?” I said, “No, because God just changed programs. Remember Jesus came to the Nation of Israel under the Law. But we’re not under Law. Jesus today would not write to us to keep the commandments. Today the message of salvation is “Believe the Gospel” as Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:1-4, and Romans 10:9-10. That is not a contradiction but rather a change in God’s modus operandi.”
Now as we have been stressing over the last several programs, in I and II Corinthians Paul had to deal with a church full of problems. He almost felt bad having to do it. But now within a year we find Paul writes this second letter and we find a whole different attitude. Paul is no longer condemning them for things, but rather he is encouraging them, and exhorting them. He is also boasting about them to the other churches. But now Paul comes to a subject that is still pretty touchy even today. He’s going to touch their billfold. So Chapters 8 and 9 are instructions on Christian Grace Age Giving! You have no idea how many phone calls we get from people who want to know, “What am I supposed to do?” Hopefully from these two chapters we will answer that from the Word.
Now before we go into Chapter 8, and Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians to get their offerings in order, let’s go back for a moment to Galatians Chapter 2, and see what prompted the apostle to encourage these Gentiles to bring their offerings. Now you want to remember that these early churches met in homes. They didn’t have full paid pastors as we do now. They did not have building complexes that had to be built or maintained. So the economy of these local churches was very limited, but still Paul is admonishing them to give. What was the purpose for this?
Galatians Chapter 2, and from our last teachings this is the Jerusalem counsel at about 51 or 52 AD. This was when the Jewish believers Peter, James and John and the other members of the local Jewish congregation in Jerusalem had called Paul up to Jerusalem to really settle the issue once and for all that he could no longer tell Gentiles up there in Antioch, or in other areas where he had started churches that they could be saved without keeping the Law of Moses, without practicing circumcision, and so forth.
Well as we know, and as we’ll see when we study Galatians, Paul did go to Jerusalem and withstood them to their face. Paul told them, that there was no way that he would ever teach his pagan converts that they would have to keep the Jewish Law, and practice circumcision, because they are now saved by Grace through Faith + nothing. So we find Paul and these believing Jews have this great conference. I imagine it went on a good part of the day. Finally, (Peter, by the work of the Holy Spirit, woke up, and realized that a long time ago (about 12 years ago) God sent him to the house of Cornelius and showed him that He could save a Gentile. So Peter said, “I guess Paul’s right,” and so the believing Jews gave in. That’s in Galatians Chapter 2 which is a sister chapter to Acts 15.
“And when James, Cephas, (Peter) and John, (I always call them the inner core of the disciples) who seemed to be pillars, (now what does that imply? Hey, they thought they were the ones in charge. They weren’t but they still thought they were. What’s happening? God’s changing the program, but the Twelve didn’t realize that. He’s coming out of Judaism, and legalism, and coming into the age of Grace. When they) perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; (just like we do today. When you come to an agreement you shake hands on it.) that we should go unto the heathen, (Gentiles) and they unto the circumcision. (or Israel, Acts 11:19)
I know that’s as plain as day, and how people miss it I’ll never know. But I missed it for years, and I guess people still do. But that was the agreement after this tremendous counsel at Jerusalem. “Ok Paul, you continue your ministry among the Gentiles, and we’ll no longer try to force you to practice legalism, and circumcision. You preach your Gospel and we’ll continue dealing with the Jews. But now the next verse is what I wanted you to see.
“Only they would (that is Peter, James, and John) that we (Paul and Barnabas) should remember the poor;…”
What poor? Well the poor Jews who were now stranded financially in Jerusalem. Now people don’t stop to think about that. Here we are, 52 AD, and that’s 20-some years after the crucifixion, and Pentecost, and the main concern of Peter, James, and John is that Paul not forget these poor Jews in Jerusalem. How come they were so poor? Let’s chase that down in the Book of Acts Chapter 2.
While you’re turning to that text let me finish the story of the lady who wanted to know if that wasn’t a contradiction when Jesus said keep the commandments for salvation. I teach believe the Gospel for salvation because you can’t mix Law and Grace. I knew I couldn’t convince her by just making a statement so I asked if she could have a one-on-one Bible study? She said, “Oh, I’d love that.”
So I took her back all the way through the Old Testament, the Abrahamic Covenant. And how that Christ came to the Nation of Israel and presented Himself as their Messiah, and how they rejected Him. I also showed her how Israel continued to reject Him in the early chapters of Acts and when that happened then God raised up this other apostle and sent him (Paul) to the Gentiles with the Gospel of the Grace of God. When I was all through she said, “It’s so logical isn’t it?” And it is so logical because there’s no way you could bring the whole Gentile world under Judaism, and legalism, and the Law. Now with the work of the Cross completed God could pour out His Grace on the whole human family, not just Israel. But where we’ve turned to here in Acts it is God still just dealing with the Nation of Israel, there are no Gentiles involved. You know the account, the day of Pentecost, and here Peter says –
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
See He’s dealing only with Israel. Now come down to verse 42, and remember we are looking for, “Who are the poor in Jerusalem?”
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (the teaching of Jesus and His earthly ministry) and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
Now what was that? That was a total communal system of living. Whatever they had they put it into a common kitty, and then the Twelve, Peter James and John and the others parceled it out to these believing Jews according to their needs. Now let’s move on to Chapter 4:32, and remember these are all Jews in Jerusalem.
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: [wouldn’t that be great if we could say that about churches today? I get so many phone calls from people who are in churches that are dividing. They are in controversy of one sort or another. Well this group didn’t have that problem yet. They were all of one heart and one mind] neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all. 34. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. 35. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, [the same one who helped the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey] (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation, ) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37. Having land, (in Cyprus) sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Now let’s jump back up to Chapter 2:5
“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, (remember this was a feast day, Pentecost) out of every nation under heaven.”
So they had come a great distance for this feast day. Here on the day of Pentecost you’ve got Jews who have come to Jerusalem from maybe as far east as India, Babylon, and Syria, Greece, Spain and maybe even Great Britain, and perhaps North Africa. So on the day of Pentecost and following, when Peter and the eleven were preaching, a lot of these Jews believed that Jesus was the Messiah and the earthly Kingdom was coming. Remember as soon as all Israel believed, the King and kingdom would come!
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing (the earthy Kingdom) shall come from the presence of the Lord;”
” Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
Now these believing Jews, once they became believers and the King and the Kingdom are just over the horizon, who in the world is going to go clear back to Babylon for example? I mean after all, the King is coming so why go clear back to Rome? Why go back to Spain or North Africa and eke out a living amongst the pagan Gentiles when the King is just around the corner. So what did they do? Hey, it was real handy, for all they had to do was stay in Jerusalem and live out of a common kitty because after all it was a stop-gap measure until indeed the King would come and the earthly Kingdom would be set up.
But remember all of Israel did not respond so the King didn’t come, and what happened to the kitty? Well, it ran dry. Remember they didn’t have a runaway stock market to invest their money in, and they didn’t have 25 % interest, and so the kitty went dry. What happened to these believers? They ended up poor. Remember they had sold all their goods, and now they probably couldn’t even buy a ticket back home. So here they are, they’re caught in Jerusalem. But remember, God is just! These people were caught in a legitimate cause becausethey had believed the Gospel of the Kingdom that Peter had proclaimed for their salvation, “That Christ was the Son of God, their Messiah, and that the King was coming, they had repented and were baptized (Matthew 4:17 and Acts 2:38)”
So God is going to take care of them until they would die a natural death. But, how? With this agreement that Paul made with Peter, James and John that wherever he would go in his ministry he would remember the poor saints in Jerusalem. Now before you go back to II Corinthians Chapter 8 let’s stop at I Corinthians Chapter 16, and we touched on this while we were in our study. Paul just barely touches on it here compared to II Corinthians where he spends 2 chapters on the subject.
I Corinthians 16:1-3
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, (this will be for the poor Jerusalem saints) as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3. And when I come, whosoever ye shall approve by your letters,(of commendations) them will I send to bring your liberality (your offerings) unto Jerusalem.”
See how plain that is? So what God is now laying on the hearts of these Gentile believers is the necessity of those Jewish believers who got caught in the fact that the King and the Kingdom didn’t come so they were poor, they were destitute. Let me show you another one in Romans 15:25. I’m sure that anybody who knows anything of history realizes that at this point in time there were no mission boards to help people. There were no foreign missionaries to help support them. So what was the need? Well for the local Church there wasn’t that much. They were meeting in homes, and they didn’t have to pay salaries or anything like that, but their responsibilities were these poor believers in Jerusalem.
“But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. (Paul didn’t have a ministry among the Jews so he wasn’t talking about preaching to them.) 26. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia (this is the same area that his Corinthian letters are dealing with) to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” Now verse 27 and here is the reason.
“It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. (in other words the Greeks in Macedonia and Achaia were not out in left field by giving offering to the Jews in Jerusalem. That was appropriate, that was as God intended it. Why?) For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their (Israel’s) spiritual things, their duty (as Gentiles) is also to minister unto them (the Jew) in carnal (or material) things.”
Can you see that? That was their responsibility. Because when all this was taking place, Israel had not been totally set aside, the Temple was still going, and Israel was still in the land and these Jewish believers were destitute and remember there was no welfare system. The priesthood of the Temple certainly wasn’t going to take care of them because they had embraced Jesus of Nazareth Whom these religious leaders detested. So these believers were in an island of need, and the only hope they had was the collection from the Gentile believers as it would be sent to Jerusalem. Now in light of all that let’s turn to II Corinthians Chapter 8.
II Corinthians 8:1
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;”
Remember Macedonia is Northern Greece and Achaia was in Southern Greece, all of Greece is mountainous, and when you have a rough mountainous countryside back when most people eked out a living agriculturally, how much material wealth did most of these people have? None. They were poor themselves. Now to these little congregations out into that mountainous area of Greece, this is who Paul is referring to.
II Corinthians 8:2a
“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy…”
This is something that America doesn’t understand any more, and that is that there can be joy without material wealth. Now you talk to most of us who remember the 1930’s depression, how much money did we have? None. There wasn’t money for anything. Were people as downtrodden and depressed as they are today? No. People were happy. I can remember asking my dad how in the world did you stand farming with a bunch of horses especially after machinery and tractors came in? Do you know what his answer was? “Well we didn’t know any better.” And that’s so true, and it was the same way in the depression, “people were poor, but they didn’t know it.” So what were they? They were happy. And the same way with these poor people up in Greece. They didn’t have anything materially, nothing! But they had all kinds of joy and happiness because they had been removed from paganism with all of its superstition, and with all of it’s fear, and they had been set free by the Gospel of Grace. Now reading the verse again.
II Corinthians 8:2
“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” In other words no matter how poor they were they would still give, and they gave liberally. Now verse 3:
II Corinthians 8:3
“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;”
Paul or Titus didn’t go in there and do a bunch of promoting and arm twisting. All they did was express the need that the Lord was laying on them to give to help the poor saints in Jerusalem.
II Corinthians 8:4a
“Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift,…”
Do you get that? As poor as these believers were in Greece they actually begged Paul for the opportunity to give to those saints at Jerusalem. That’s quite opposite from today isn’t it? Today there is a lot of promotion and telethons of one sort or another in order to get people to give. But they didn’t have to here. Now reading on in verse 4.
II Corinthians 8:4b,5
“…and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (in Jerusalem) 5. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, (in other words they stepped into God’s saving Grace) and unto us by the will of God.” (They opened themselves to Paul and his ministry.)
Now this is where it has to begin isn’t it? It doesn’t do a nickels worth of good for an unbeliever to give for the things of God. God doesn’t need it, God doesn’t want it, and God can get along just fine without it. But oh listen, He expects the saints to give as He leads them to give. Not with any legal binding ramification that you will give a certain amount under Law. But remember under Grace, as we seen in I Corinthians 16:2, you give as God has prospered you. You give as the Lord has laid it on your heart, and not according to a set of rules and regulations. Now verse 6:
II Corinthians 8:6
“Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”
In other words Titus is picking up the mantle from the apostle Paul to gather these offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem.