The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, carefully instructs them on the topic of almsgiving. In II Corinthians chapter 8 he begins with a testimonial of the church in Macedonia. This church (ekklesia) was modeling the grace of compassionate, beneficent giving to those in dire need—the Judean church. Paul exhorts the Corinthian ekklesia to follow the pattern of their generosity and their diligent follow-through in providing much needed financial aid for the struggling Body of Christ in a different geographic location.
Of note is that the Macedonians are giving alms not because they are at ease and have an excess of wealth themselves, but rather “in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” (II Corinthians 8:2). Verses three and four follow on with greater emphasis that “…according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of ministering to the saints.”
What motivated these Macedonian believers to be so generous? What empowering grace was upon them? Is this grace still in operation today? Is it for select believers who have the gift of giving as mentioned in Romans chapter twelve, or is it to be employed by every disciple of Christ? These questions are answered within this same chapter and throughout the Scriptures.
Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul reveals four key components of how this grace, this manner and act of living, was bestowed upon and completed in the Macedonian believers and can be received and cultivated in us today:
- They received a divine grace that was greater than their natural ability. (verse 1)
- They first gave themselves fully to God. (verse 5)
- They submitted to the Holy Spirit working through the apostles teaching and instruction, especially that of Titus, allowing this grace to be developed in them. (verse 5)
- They chose to imitate this divine grace first displayed through Jesus Christ, our pattern. “…For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (verse 9)
Though it seems unwise, and even contradictory, to the natural way of reasoning – giving even out of our own poverty or lack – there is a divine grace that can be developed in us through the working of the Holy Spirit. As we present ourselves fully to God (not holding any part back), gain understanding of the Scriptures, and choose to imitate Christ, we too may have this testimony of liberality to the glory of God.
Our next post will answer this question in greater detail: How is this grace of almsgiving received and matured in us?