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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:Grace that Gives
Text:2 Corinthians 8:1-9; 9:6-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Tithing
 
Preached:2020-03-08
Added:2020-03-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

March 8, 2019

Order of Worship for the Morning Service– 9:30 a.m.

Silent Prayer
* Call to Worship
* Votum & Salutation
* Song of Praise “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” # 403

Service of Reconciliation and Renewal

Assurance of Pardon
Song of Confession “Who, O Lord, with Thee Abiding” # 15 B
Congregational Prayer
Offering: 
Service of God’s Holy Word

* Song of Preparation: “We Give Thee But Thine Own” # 185
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Sermon: “The Grace that Gives”
Prayer of Application
* Hymn “Lord, You Love the Cheerful Giver” # 184
* Benediction
 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


A Grace that Gives

2 Corinthians 8.1-9; 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15  

March 8, 2020 Bethel URC

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the opening article of the Belgic Confession lists the attributes of God. The very last thing it says about God is that He is the overflowing fountain (source) of all good. I’m not sure how many of us have ever thought of God as a fountain, bit that imagery is found throughout the Scriptures.  James 1 says ever good and perfect gift is from above, coming down (flowing down, streaming down, cascading down) from the Father of heavenly lights.

 

Boys and girls, imagine a fountain -- not a drinking fountain like we have in church -- but a huge giant fountain in a city square where there is a constant stream of water shooting up into the air and cascading down.     

 

In Chicago, one of the most popular attractions is Buckingham Fountain located downtown in Grant Park. It is one of the world’s largest fountains (holds 1.5 million gallons of water) and when you look at it, it kind of resembles a tiered wedding cake. It has several tiers or layers. At the very bottom, surrounding the entire fountain is the shallow circular pool. As you go up from there, there’s a large bottom basin, a cup shape basin, and going one level higher, the middle basin (slightly smaller), and then at the top is the upper basin.

 

What happens is once the fountain is turned on, the water from the pool is pumped 150 feet straight up into their air, and then as that water falls, it starts to fill those three basins below until one by one those basins fill up, and then what happens? The water starts to cascade down from the top basin, to the middle basin, to the bottom basin, and it’s an amazing and beautiful sight. And the point is, the basins below receive an inexhaustible supply of water. They are always full, because water is always flowing from the fountain.

 

Now I want us to keep that imagery in mind as we consider this passage together, because it is teaching us an important principle about giving. Our giving is a reflection of God’s giving. I can say it even stronger than that, our giving is always a response to God’s giving. We give because God’s goodness and grace has graciously flowed down to us. That is the theme of this passage: 

God’s Grace to His people Results in their own Generous Giving.

  1. The Character of this Giving (chap. 8:1-9)
  2. The Manner of this Giving (chap. 9:6-7)
  3. The Inexhaustible Source of this Giving  (chap. 9:8)

 

1) The Character of this Giving (chap. 8:1-9)

Please look with me then first, at the character of this giving. Let me give you a quick point of reference with respect to both of these churches and their location. Paul is writing this letter to the church in Corinth, which was in southern Greece. He mentions the Macedonian churches which were located in the region north of Greece – perhaps where the church of Thessalonica was located.  

 

Paul is writing this letter to the saints in Corinth (in part) to explain to them why he did not come visit Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem (be like me going to visit the church in Edmonton, but then choosing to pass by the churches in Leduc on the way back to Calgary).  It does appear that they were upset that Paul had bypassed them (chapters 1-2).

 

But Paul has another purpose in writing this letter. He wants to share with the church in Corinth the amazing thing he experienced when he was with the church in Macedonia. Namely, their practice of giving.  And, permit me to say a few words about this as well. If you page back to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 16, verses 1-4, you’ll see Paul’s directive to the saints in Corinth - and to all churches – was that on the first day of the week, which is a Sunday, the Lord’s Day, when they met for worship, they were to set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income, for the purpose of supporting the church – the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.

 

The Christians in Jerusalem were in need. Some commentators spoke of a famine that had struck the land of Palestine. There was also the persecution that broke out against the church. So the Christians in Jerusalem were suffering. So the churches in Asia Minor, and in Corinth and Macedonia, were being called upon to assist the saints in Jerusalem by presenting their offerings.

 

So that’s the context here. That’s what Paul is talking about. Now, please turn back to our passage, back to 2 Corinthians 8:1 and I want you to follow along as I read these words once more. It says: And now brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  

 

That verse is the entire key to these two chapters – and really to this entire sermon. And it all focuses on that one word: grace. Here, Paul is about to talk about finances. He’s about to discuss a sensitive subject even in his day -- people giving a portion of their income to help others; to support another church; to help support the mission trips of the Apostles as they were sailing back and forth from Jerusalem to Europe and Asia, and even to Rome.  

 

Paul is about to use the Macedonian churches as the example to follow, as the model, the blueprint for how all Christians, everywhere, are to give. And it struck me (looking at verse 1), that it would have made more financial sense if Paul would have written this: brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the incredible financial windfall that God has given the Macedonian churches.

 

We want you to know about the incredible turn of fortune they had when one of the richest men in all of Macedonia was converted to Christ; and he joined their church; and he put his money where his mouth is; and he wrote a check for 100 million dollars – so now the church in Jerusalem can rest easy. They’re all set! God has provided! But no. That’s not what he said. Paul speaks of grace.

 

We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches! And why is that so important? It’s because for us as Christians everything we do must flow from the grace of God. Even how we handle our money. How we spend, save, lend, and show charity is not primarily a fiscal matter. It’s not a matter of pure economics. No. it’s a spiritual matter. It’s a matter of the heart. It’s a matter of grace. As Christians saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ we believe that the hand of giving is always connected to the heart of grace – to the God of grace.  We give because God has so graciously given to us!

 

It is God’s grace that allows us to see our finances from the proper perspective. And if you ever wanted a working definition of God’s grace – something that really sums it all up, just look at verse 9. For you know (and we should all change that word a moment to ‘we’) for we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we through his poverty might become rich!

 

What Paul is describing there is the process of humiliation that the Son of God willingly endured to come into this world and to give His body on the cross to make atonement for our sins. The Son was rich yet for our sakes he became poor: the Son of God was rich in that He possessed all the blessings and glory and honor of being in heaven. Of being in His Father’s presence. Of being in the presence of the heavenly hosts and the cherubim and seraphim who are constantly about the throne singing Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God almighty who was, and is, and is to come.       

 

But he gave all that up to come to this earth and save us. He set aside, He willingly emptied himself of all the glory and praise that was rightfully His, and he became poor. Philippians 2 says, he  made himself nothing. He took the very nature of a servant. He came in human likeness and became obedient to death even death on the cross. The Son of god who never knew suffering, suffered his whole life long. The Son of God who is the blessed one and righteous and holy and beloved of God, became sin for us. He was accursed for us. He was forsaken by His Father and suffered the shame and agony of hell on the cross. That’s what it means that he became poor.

 

And why did Jesus do that? So that we, through his poverty, might become rich! So that you and I, who are all unrighteousness, who are full of sin and deserving of hell, might have our sins forgiven, our guilt removed and instead of hell, inherit the priceless gift of everlasting life with God in glory!  

 

I know that people like to say: “Man, if I only had a million dollars it would change my life!” But the reality is – no, it wouldn’t. Because you haven’t changed. Your buying power may change, but you remain the same. And if you don’t know Christ, then you are still bankrupt and the poorest among all people. You have nothing without Christ! You are not going to heaven without Christ.   

 

But what if you said: “If I only had the grace of God?” Now, that’s something that can change your life! That’s a priceless treasure worth more than all the money of the world. That’s something that will forever make you rich! 

 

And the reason Paul highlights God’s grace before he speaks about sowing and reaping and giving generously, and all the rest, is because this is the source. This is the fountain head. If we have this grace, if we have received this grace, then we will give! It cannot be otherwise!        

 

2) The Manner of our Giving

Secondly, let’s discuss the matter of our giving. Here I want to focus on verses 2-5 in chapter 8 and touch on a few things in chapter 9. Here is where we see what Paul meant (practically speaking) by what he said about the grace that God gave the Macedonian churches. He catalogues how they gave. Follow along with me.

 

Verse 2: out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. So what does that tell us about how they gave? The language suggests that the saints in the Macedonian churches were experiencing a severe affliction of some sort, most likely persecution.

 

Now I don’t want to make more of this than I should, but this would certainly seem to be the perfect excuse for churches in Macedonia to simply say no to Paul. Hey Paul, we know the people in Jerusalem are hungry and hurting, but this isn’t a good time for us. I’m hurting here myself. I’m not sure how long this persecution is going to go on. I’m not sure what they’re going to do next. Maybe they’re going to freeze my assets and lock me out of my back account.

 

Maybe they’re going to shut down my business and take away my livelihood, so maybe come back next year. Because now I need to save every dime and dollar I have (I know you don’t have dimes and dollars but saying that just sounds better than saying loonies and toonies).

 

So do you understand what this means? How did they give? They gave selflessly. Out of their own poverty. They gave in spite of, and without regard for their own circumstances. They gave of their riches like Jesus gave of Himself to us. Without regard for what would happen to him – His only concern was for us. To help, to save us, to redeem us. (Additional point: and see the principle that guides this selfless giving as it is given in verses 13-14. The goal is equality and fairness).

Again, what enables a person to give like that? Grace. Only God’s grace! And notice as well, they did so with overwhelming joy – tying in to what it says in chapter 9. One of the main principles of how we are to give to God, is cheerfully.

 

God loves a selfless giver, and God also loves a cheerful giver. He loves a giver that is not reluctant to give, or one who does not sign heavily when he gives, or has to be nudged or elbowed to extend his arm and drop those notes into the collection bag. Rather, instead of a sigh, his heart sings for joy when he gives! Such a person considers it a privilege (not a necessary evil but a privilege) to give!

 

Look at verse 4. Paul says they URGENLTY PLEADED with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. This is amazing. They who were poor, and would be beggars themselves, begged Paul for the privilege to sharing in this service to the saints in Jerusalem. How amazing, how moving is that! That’s God’s grace in action! Giving out of poverty; seeing it as a privilege!

 

Then look at verse 3: For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  If verse 2 best describes their selfless giving, verse 3 describes sacrificial giving.

Notice again that theme – the mark of grace. The manner of giving is consistent with the nature and character of God’s grace.  We give as Christ gave: selflessly, cheerfully, willingly and even sacrificially! Even when it seems like we have very little to give, we trust God that even the very little we have to give is a blessing to others. It is an offering of love, a sacrifice of love.

 

I think of the example Jesus gave us in Luke 21:1-13 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

 

That example showed exactly what we’re talking about here. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of those who gave to the church only to be seen by others and counted as magnanimous and generous -- and yet Jesus shows that this poor widow gave more than all of them when she gave her two copper coins.

 

This should make us all stop and consider what we give to God, and why we give to God. Are we giving for the right reasons? With the right motives? With the right attitude and with a generous and cheerful heart? Am I giving to God because the church simply expects it from me and I don’t want to get a call from the elders or deacons? Or am I giving because I love God. Because He loved me. And because I have tasted of the sweetness and the goodness of His grace.

 

I can spend a lot of time today talking about how you can manage your money. I can emphasize how we should all do what the Macedonians did and put God first, put Christ first in our giving. Making sure we give to God of the first fruits of our labors, setting aside first that which belongs to God and then that which we need to pay the bills and everything else. But I want to put the focus where the Bible does -- on God! if you want to know how to be a faithful giver, a gracious and generous and selfless giver then look to God and be amazed at His grace and mercy and love!  So that is the most important thing. And remember this as well: if we do not know the grace of God, then all our giving is in vain.

 

And if we do not give for the right reasons all our giving is in vain. Or if we give with a unwilling spirit, with a resentful heart, with a miserly spirit, then it’s all in vain also. Better to not give at all than to give for the wrong reasons. It’s better first to know and understand the grace of God, and then let THAT move you and motivate you to give!        

 

3) The Inexhaustible Source of this Giving (chap. 9:8)

I am going to close by touching quickly on our third point: the inexhaustible resource of our giving.  2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every (all) good works. 

 

What Paul has done here linguistically is remarkable. He has stacked one superlative upon another. Boys and girls a superlative is a word or an expression we use to express the highest quality or the highest degree of something.

 

It’s like using the good, better, best comparison. We might say that our dad’s cooking is good. Grandma’s cooking is better than dads. But moms cooking? Wow – that’s the best! It’s the greatest! There’s no stronger way to say it than that!  

The word best is the superlative. So Paul is using the superlative language to describe God and His grace and goodness.  And God is able to make (not just some, not just an average amount. Not just a lot, but) all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every (all) good works.       

 

Paul is simply communicating to us what we have been saying all along. You cannot out give God. He’s the overflowing fountain of all good. He’s the inexhaustible source of all good. God is infinite and eternal. He is a being unlike anything else in creation. He never grows tired. He never grows weak. He never runs out of energy or strength.

 

The sun is probably the greatest source of energy that we know of in the entire universe. It warms our planet. But even the sun received its energy from God. And even the sun is not infinite or eternal. Even the sun will expire someday. And that’s ok. Because in the new heavens and the new earth we will not need the sun because the glory of God’s Son will be the only light we need. 

I want to conclude today’s sermon by sharing with you this beautiful insight written years ago by Pastor Alexander MacLaren. It actually ties in beautifully with the illustration of the fountain I gave at the beginning.

 

In this verse, we see the fountain, the basin, the stream. ‘God is able to make all grace abound toward you’ -- therein is the fountain. God makes all grace abound to us. 

 

‘That you always have all that you need’ -- there is the basin that receives the gush from the fountain.

 

‘That you may abound in every good work’ -- there is the steam that comes from the basin.

 

He summarizes it as follows: The fountain pours into the basin, that the flow from the basin may feed the stream that flows out to others!

 

And that describes so perfectly also the reason God bestows His goodness and kindness and grace to us. So that we may not simply hoard all that e gives us. That we may not selfishly keep all these things to ourselves. But that we might be used of God to be a fountain as well. So that God’s gifts to us may also overflow in our lives to others.

 

So that as the grace and goodness and gifts of God come cascading down from heaven into my life, filling my basin, I might overflow so that others around me may also be filled. And what a great reminder as well that the fountain of God’s grace never runs dry.

 

That fountain is an inexhaustible stream of blessing and grace and goodness and strength. So we need never worry that we will somehow out give God. The oceans will dry up before we can exhaust the blessings which flow from God. So let that be an encouragement to us beloved. And so let us give to others, and give to the church in the same way that God, in His grace gives to us. Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2020, Pastor Keith Davis

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