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Giving: A Matter of the Heart (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 7, 2022 4:00 am

Giving: A Matter of the Heart (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 7, 2022 4:00 am

Is tithing an outdated practice? Hear the answer on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines the apostle Paul’s instructions to the early church concerning the collection and management of funds.



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Let's talk about tithing. Is that still relevant for us today or is it an Old Testament practice?

It's a sensitive subject. We'll hear answers today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg looks at what the Apostle Paul had to say to the early church about collecting and managing funds. We're beginning a series titled Firm Foundation. I invite you to turn once again to the portion of Scripture that was read for us a moment or two ago, in 1 Corinthians 16. As we come to these precious moments in which we anticipate God speaking to us through his Word, we pause further to seek him. Be known to us, Lord, in the study of your Word, we pray. Grant to us freedom from every distraction that our minds may be set on you. May we see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly as a result of our study.

For Jesus' sake we ask it. Amen. And in the fifty-eighth verse of chapter 15, Paul was calling his readers to focus stability and to purposeful activity. And now, in coming into these opening verses of chapter 16, he addresses some very practical matters, and he moves with great fluidity and great ease from this essential high matter of the doctrine of the resurrection down to the concerns of people and personnel, of encouragement and love and fellowship, and here in these opening four verses, the telling issue of money. And what we have here is godliness in working clothes. What does it mean to be godly? Well, it has an impact on our wallets. What does it mean to be godly?

It has an impact on our sex lives. And indeed, for those who think of the expressions of Christianity as some kind of remote, distant, unconnected, disengaged experience, then nothing could be further from the truth. Now, in what Leon Morris refers to as a chatty little section, here, these opening verses, Paul provides instructions for a collection of money to be made expressly because of circumstances of poverty. And so it is that we address this matter and discover in it a pattern and also a number of principles for giving money to the Lord's work. For some of us, this is a refresher course. For others, it may well be new information. But for all of us, it is very, very important. And I'm glad to be able to address the matter just in the course of exposition, not as a special message in order to try and drum up money from amongst God's people. We remain thankful for the way he continues to work in this regard within our church family. So it's a good time to address the issue of money when nobody thinks that it is a special message just in order to stir up further funds.

No, it is not that at all. Now, I would like to ask, of the passage, a number of obvious and straightforward questions. And in doing so, hopefully get to grips with what is being expressed here. First of all, the simple question, What was the collection to which Paul refers? Now, about the collection, he says, for God's people. Well, we know that it was a collection for God's people, for the saints, for those who have been called to a life of holiness.

This is not a unique group of people who graduated top of their class with religious honors, but it is the company of faith who have been called to holy living. Now, as is often the case when you study the Bible, looking at this verse all on its own, one is hard-pressed to say very much more about it than that it was simply a collection for God's people, about which the Galatian churches also knew something. And that is why, in the study of the Bible, it is important to interpret Scripture with Scripture, and to look through the New Testament and say, Now, are there other places where this issue is addressed that would help to shed light on this so that I might understand more fully something about the nature of this collection?

And the answer is yes. And I want just to address a couple of passages with you so that you would see how this is so. Romans chapter 15, and in verse 26 Paul speaks to this issue. He says, I am on my way, in verse 25, to Jerusalem, in the service of the saints there. You see this interchangeable use of saints and God's people, bearing testimony to this normalcy of what it means to be a saint. In the service of the saints there, for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. So there is this matter that he is telling the Roman church about as well. In 2 Corinthians and chapter 8, he refers to the same thing and tells how the believers in the Macedonian churches had, out of their most severe trial and their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty, welled up in rich generosity. And this is in direct relationship to this question of the needs that were expressed in Jerusalem.

In the history book of the church—and this is my last reference to this—Acts chapter 24 and verse 17, Paul, in his trial before Felix, makes mention of the same thing. He explains why it was that he was showing up in Jerusalem. He says in verse 17, After an absence of several years I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.

So, in Romans 15, in 2 Corinthians 8, in Acts 24, we have these cross-references which help us to understand the somewhat cryptic expression that is made here in the opening verse of chapter 16. What was this collection? It was a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Why were the Jerusalem believers poorer than the others? Well, we're not told, but we can wager a guess—namely, that Jerusalem itself, despite its significance as a religious and cultural center, was at this time a poor city. Indeed, Jerusalem was not sustained by the giving of the people that lived within its borders, within its walls.

But Jerusalem was largely sustained by the gifts of Jewish people who lived beyond the environs of Jerusalem, and these prosperous individuals sent money into Jerusalem to make sure that the thing didn't fall apart. Now, the Jews then themselves in Jerusalem were somewhat poor. Those who had come to faith in Jesus Christ out of that Jewish community were poorer yet.

Because when the funds came in for the Jewish people in Jerusalem, the Jewish people in Jerusalem were so annoyed about the profession of faith that had been made by many of their Jewish counterparts that they weren't for a moment gonna pass any of that money on to these crazy Christian people. And so the Christian people found themselves impoverished as a result of the persecution which broke out upon them—and you can read of that in Acts chapter 8 in relationship to Saul of Tarsus himself, and you can also read of it in 1 Thessalonians 2. Here you had a group of people who once were doing fairly well, who once were just going through the normal religious orthodox framework of their day. They had encountered Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, their lives had been radically changed in a discovery of his grace and of his goodness, and as a result of that, they were not healthy, wealthy, and wise. As a result of that, they were getting beaten up, pandemonium was unleashed against them, and they found themselves at the very bottom end of the scale when it came even to the prosperity of the people of God in the then-known world. Therefore, says Paul, given that that is the case, I want to make sure that we pay attention to the need that is expressed in Jerusalem, and I want to make sure that you participate in giving to them.

Now, those of you who are thinking would realize that the Jerusalem church, of course, had led the way in their participation in one another's lives, insofar as, following Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost, we read that each of the folks that had committed themselves to the church were together, Acts 2.44, and they had everything in common, and selling their possessions and their goods they gave to anyone as he had need. You say, well, my, my, that was a terrific start. What happened? Well, it's obvious what happened. You can only keep that going for so long.

Eventually, without an inflow, you don't have any outflow left. And when they had initially come to faith in Jesus Christ, they had all the benefits of their background and their prosperity, and so they sold and they raised finances and they made sure that they cared for one another. But now, in light of the persecution, in light of the famine, in light of all of this poverty, they had dipped into this as often as they could, and they now found themselves in dire straits. And so they were a needy people.

That, then, is the answer to the first and obvious question. What was this collection? It was a collection for the poor in Jerusalem, and that is a wee bit of background concerning it. Secondly, why was Paul so concerned? Why was Paul so concerned?

Well, there are a number of fairly straightforward responses to that, I think. It would never do for the Christians to lag behind their Jewish and pagan counterparts in the care of the poor people amongst them. In other words, if the first-century equivalent of the United Way was working in Jerusalem and the Jewish people and the pagan people were being supplied in their great want and in their poverty, then it is just not right if those who name the name of Jesus Christ and who have brothers and sisters that have resources scattered throughout the world—it is just not right for them not also to benefit from the generosity of those who are in the family of faith. And, of course, that is exactly what Paul was calling for. Secondly, the collection about which he is so concerned was a tangible expression of the unity and the oneness that existed in the body of Christ.

Now, this may not be immediately obvious, but if you think about it, I think you will get it fairly quickly. The believers in Jerusalem were largely Jewish—almost exclusively so. The believers, as a result of Paul's missionary journeys, were largely Gentiles. And some of the most conservative folks within the Jerusalem church actually had real doubts as to the nature of what was going on on these Pauline missionary journeys. And you can read all about that in the opening chapters of Acts.

They weren't prepared to believe that these people could actually come to faith out of a different background other than Judaism. And so Paul sees it as an opportunity to express the unity and the solidarity that exists amongst all who name the name of Jesus Christ. The issue is not whether you came to Christ from a Jewish background or a Gentile background.

The issue is not whether we have black skin or white skin or yellow skin. The issue is that we have been united in Jesus Christ, and it is that bond in Jesus Christ which is then to express itself in the most practical and tangible of ways. And there is no more practical expression of that love than when a man or a woman reaches into their pockets and, taking out of their resources, gives to the need of others around them.

And Paul was greatly concerned that it should be so. Indeed—and this would be the third thing that I would say—it is in our giving that we express one of the key evidences of God's work within our lives. The corollary of that statement, of course, is that it is in our failure in giving that we call in question the work of God within our lives. First John chapter 3 verse 17, If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? So he says, you call yourself a Christian, and you have resources, and there's need in the Jerusalem church, step up. Third question, when was this collection to be taken?

When was the collection to be taken? Well, all you need is your Bible and an understanding of the English language on the first day of every week. In the Greek it reads, On every first day of the week. These are the same instructions as had been given to the Galatian churches. You can find that in Acts chapter 18.

And now, says Paul, I want you to implement these same things in Corinth. And first of all, he says, I want you to understand the importance of regular giving. Regular giving. There is a system about the time of giving here. There is a spontaneity, as we shall see, about the amount of giving.

But the regularity is something to which he calls them. And it is, incidentally, a wonderful illustration of the pattern which was established by the early church of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, on what became known as the Lord's Day. When we did the Ten Commandments together some time ago now, and then they aired on the radio, the most vociferous response that I received was to our study in the Fourth Commandment concerning the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Now, I was unable to engage in a major dialogue over the phone or even by mail, and I'm not going to unpack it all for you here, but I want you to notice in passing that here is one of the early evidences of the fact that for Christians, despite any lingering Jewish commitment to the temple and Sabbath day worship, for Christians, they transferred their allegiance and their worship and their giving to the resurrection day. And it was on the day of resurrection that they gathered as a church, and when they gathered as a church, giving was part of their gathering.

You can make your own study of this at your leisure. John chapter 20, on the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, it takes place on Easter evening. That is Easter Sunday night. Jesus waits for another complete week before he reappears.

He appears again on the Sunday evening. And you find that it was normal for Christians to worship in this way. There is one interesting aside that you find in Acts chapter 27 in relation to Paul's ministry himself—Acts 20, I should say—in verse 7, where in relationship to their movements through Macedonia and Greece, we're told in verse 5 of Acts 20, "'These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas, but we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.'" And then it says, "'On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.' Paul spoke to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he kept on talking until midnight."

Do you think those people were hungry for the Word of God? What day did it take place? On the first day of the week.

Why did they wait? They waited for the first day of the week so that they might have the opportunity to worship in this way. And by the time the apostle John writes the book of Revelation, sometime around AD 90, in Revelation 1 10, he is referring to it as the Lord's Day. So when was this giving, this collection, to take place?

On the first day of every week. Fourth question. Who was to be involved?

Well, again, the answer is right in front of you. In the next phrase there, in verse 2, each one of you—each one of you—it is clear from Scripture that God has given to certain people special abilities to give, a special gift of giving, in the same way that it has given to some a special gift of leadership, to others a special gift of proclamation. This does not mean that they have the exclusive prerogative over it, but it means they have been uniquely called to this issue.

And that is certainly true of giving. You can read of it, for example, in Romans 12 and in verse 7. But those individuals who are called and privileged to take that lead role, if you like, are not supposed to do it so as to compensate for the absence of commitment by the rank and file of the church. Each one who is in the church is called to commitment in relationship to financial giving.

Now, the emerging pattern in the church was very, very clear. Acts chapter 4 and verse 35, we find that the people brought their resources, and they put them at the apostles' feet. There were no needy persons among them, the reason being that from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them brought the money from the sales, and they put it at the apostles' feet.

And it was distributed to anyone as he had need. In other words, Joel did not sell his field and then go over to Fred's house and say, Hey, Fred, I really like you. I don't really like Sammy, and I don't like Johnny, and they're not getting any of the proceeds of my field, but I like you, and you like me, and … So, here's my money, aren't I a great guy, and don't you love me?

There was none of that. The guy sold his field. He didn't want to let his left hand know what his right hand was doing. He wasn't doing this in order to curry special favor with an individual. And so he simply brought the proceeds of his sale, he laid it at the feet of the apostles, and he said, Okay, apostles, you know the church better than anybody else. You give the money as it should be given.

There is an essential and necessary principle there. You find the same thing at the final verse of Acts chapter 4, where Barnabas, the son of encouragement, sold one of his fields, and he brought the money, and he put it at the apostles' feet. Acts chapter 5 and verse 2, in relationship to Ananias and Sapphira, again in the sale of resources, they brought it, and they put it at the apostles' feet. Now, we don't want to say more than the Scripture says, but we don't want to observe less than the Scripture makes clear—namely, that the principle of giving within the framework of God's people is to be done in such a way that those who have been entrusted with the responsibility of the leadership of God's people will themselves be godly men of integrity who will be able to determine how those funds should be disbursed. And it is the responsibility of these men to exercise godly wisdom and integrity, and it is the responsibility of the people to exercise godly trust and confidence in those who will answer on the day of judgment for every penny disbursed and every decision made.

That's the pattern. Each one of you, no matter how much you've got, no matter how little you've got, each one of you—sometimes in receiving the applications for membership here at Parkside Church in response to the question, and what is your response to the privileges and opportunities of giving financially to the work of the Lord at Parkside, and what are your intentions there? The answer is sometimes given, Well, I don't give anything now, and I'm not planning to give anything now, but I will someday when my circumstances are different.

That's a genuine cause for concern. Because the issue is not that we have a lot of money out of which we can give. The issue is that since our giving is to the Lord, we want always to be giving—each one of us. And if all that I can give would be the result of no longer taking the plain dealer six days a week and put that in the offering plate, that would be absolutely fine.

Because each one is to be setting aside on the first day of every week their resources. Our giving is a reflection of God being at work in our lives. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg and a message titled, Giving a Matter of the Heart. Here at Truth for Life, we are grateful for the way God is at work in the hearts of so many of you who listen to this daily program over the last couple of years. We have seen remarkable growth.

We've seen more and more people accessing Alistair's teaching through the mobile app and online. It's amazing how God is using this ministry to proclaim the truth of the Bible to a growing worldwide audience. Without the financial support we get from our truth partners, listeners who give each month and who pray for this ministry, this unprecedented growth would not be possible. And as we continue to press forward, we are praying God will continue to use Truth for Life in an even broader way. And an ever-growing Truth partner team will help make all of that possible. So if you've been listening for a while, you've thought about joining us as a partner in this ministry, will you do that today?

Give us a call at 888-588-7884 or sign up online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. When you do, we'll say thanks by inviting you to request our two monthly book offers. The book we're talking about today is titled Lessons from the Upper Room. The author is Sinclair Ferguson and he guides us through the very intimate dialogue that took place between Jesus and the disciples in the hours before he was given over to death. Sinclair draws out the details of this extraordinary exchange described in John's gospel so that we can more closely observe Jesus speaking to his friends from his heart. As you read this book, you'll learn how Jesus' teaching and his prayers for himself and for himself and for everyone who believes in him has the power to change lives. Request your copy of Lessons from the Upper Room when you join the Truth partner team or when you make a one-time donation online at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Do you ever wonder how much money you should give to your local church? Join us tomorrow to find out what the Bible says. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-10 11:47:47 / 2023-05-10 11:56:49 / 9

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