Read - 2 Corinthians 8
Message - Scott Woodburn
I'd imagine that you know who I am and what I am, but for those of you who aren't sure, my name is Scott Woodburn and I'm a Presbyterian. Now there are a multitude of reasons why I'm a Presbyterian but one of them is that I don't believe any part of the church of Jesus Christ is independent. Today independence in the church is seen as a good thing. Many fellowships proudly declare themselves to be "non-denominational" because as we all know there is nothing worse or more unbiblical than being part of a denomination!
Today I'm not banging the denomination drum but instead as we consider this passage we see quickly that Paul would never have trumpeted the independence of any part of the church. The church in Judea was struggling. During the reign of the Emperor Claudius there had been a great famine with the fellowships in Judea taking a particularly heavy blow. Relief had already been sent from Antioch (Acts 11v27-20) and Paul was now able to tell the Corinthians about the response of the church in Macedonia.
Things in Macedonia weren't wonderful, they had endured their own severe test of affliction (v2a) but their experience of God's grace (v1) had resulted in an abundance of joy (v2b) that had overflowed in a incredibly generous response (v2d). Here is the reality of the Gospel. As we receive Christ by faith so the Gospel transforms us every day. Hard hearts become soft and selfishness is replaced by generosity. Even though the Macedonians themselves knew extreme poverty (v2c), Paul amazingly tells us that the Macedonians had given according to their means (v3a) and by their own decision had given beyond their means (v3b). Paul hadn't guilt tripped the Macedonians. As they had experienced the abundance of God's grace, it had naturally overflowed into an abundance of giving.
They went on to beg Paul for the privilege of helping their fellow Christians (v4). I'm certain that most Macedonians would probably never visit Judea but that certainly was no issue as they were obviously men and women who believed in the holy catholic church. Wait...what? Am I advocating union with Rome? No, not now and not until all superstition and falsehood is put aside and the Gospel of grace thunders out from the Vatican. Instead the holy catholic church is how we speak of Christ's Bride. She is holy or set apart and she is catholic or universal. The church doesn't belong to a certain people group, it isn't a British body, it isn't exclusively for the whites and it isn't split into small independent chunks.
The Christians in Macedonia had more in common with the Christians in Judea than they did with their pagan neighbours. The church is one body with Christ as it's head. The Macedonians belonged first to the Lord which flowed into service to the church (v5). Titus had already begun a collection among the Corinthians and this should now be continued (v6) and Paul expects that as the Corinthians excel in so much, so too should they excel in generosity for the holy catholic church.
This passage is a wonderful corrective to our modern "me first" thinking. We are "me first" when we go to church and we are "me first" when we go home. As we read this passage we cannot escape the interdependence of the church. Read that sentence again...I said inter-dependence NOT in-dependence. We are to love and support each other at home and in far flung places that we will never see or go. As Christians in Ballynahinch we have more in common with Christians in Belarus than we do with pagans living in our street. May the Lord forgive our selfishness of spirit and may we excel in generosity to the church catholic. As we have been loved abundantly by Christ may we in turn love and support the household and family of God.
Q4 What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.