1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 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. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” (2 Cor. 8:1-5)
Before we get to the last part in this series of teachings, let me make something clear. Let’s look again at Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-8.
“7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
Let me state here that the Apostle Paul would not have congratulated a believer for acquiring a material blessing. He wouldn’t have walked up to a brother and said to him, “Wow, what a beautiful car you have!”
Or, “What a nice suit!”
Or house, or wife or whatever. Not Paul, who stated that he had undergone the loss of all things in order that he might gain Christ. Not Paul, who said that he counted the things of this world as dung, that he might gain Christ.
The Apostle Paul’s sights were set on things incomparably far more glorious than whatever the world had to offer.
Unfortunately, the church today is full of all this PC stuff, and God’s people honor one another based on the successes they have in this world. The reason for this, of course, is because the church has left the true foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the revelation of the sufferings and death of Jesus in our hearts.
The church is left only with all this baby stuff.
And now, to our last chapter in this series. We will end this series by looking at how the Macedonian churches gave.
The first thing that is very obvious is that the Macedonians gave. Many people take it for granted that every believer is a giver. We all talk the talk, and so naturally people assume we all give. But that’s not true. There are many who simply cannot give.
But we cannot even begin talking about the grace of God if we cannot give of our material things. If we cannot give, it is clear that we are devoid of the revelation of God’s grace in our lives. (The grace of God comes upon us through an understanding of the cross in us.)
And so, to prove the grace of God upon their lives, the Macedonians gave. But, again, notice they did not give as we know “give”. On the contrary, they gave a whole lot differently.
“3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” (vs. 3-4)
There is simply too much treasure in these scriptures to begin to analyse in such a short space as I have here, so I will zero in on only a small part in verse 3, where it says,
“to their power… and beyond their power.”
I consider this the impossible scripture. It is hard enough for people to give within their power; how could these give beyond their power? And what, exactly, does it mean that they gave beyond their power? This is an amazing, incredible, and impossible scripture.
If you squeeze someone hard enough, they will reach the end of their endurance and die. That means you have squeezed them beyond their power. For this reason, it could only be that something had happened in the lives of the Macedonians. Something so incredible that it had squeezed the natural life out of them. Something had happened in their lives, and whatever it was, it had taken them beyond the natural. When they gave, therefore, they did not give in the natural.
Long before Paul arrived at their shores for this assignment the cross had squeezed the Macedonians to their deaths, praise the Lord! – and on to doing things beyond their power.
So what does it mean that the Macedonians gave beyond their power?
It means that they gave beyond human ability. Let us try and see how they gave. It means that someone took their last ounce of flour (for they were poor, remember) and gave it to Paul & co to take to the more needy saints in Jerusalem. It means that someone took their shirt off their back, folded it carefully, and gave it to Paul. And this man did not have another shirt (don’t forget, they were poor). It means that someone emptied their purse and gave all to Paul. These saints sacrifice was so much so that even the battle hardened Paul was taken aback and he initially refused to take up all their offering.
“Hey, hold it!” he must have said. “How are you guys going to manage? How are you going to survive?”
But the Bible says the Macedonians beseeched the apostles “with much intreaty” to accept their offering. That means they pleaded with them. The situation in the natural was such that these people had to plead with the apostles to allow them to give! They said to them, “No, please allow us to share in the fellowship of ministering to the saints. Don’t worry about us. We know that after you are gone, God will provide for us.”
The picture is very clear here. The Macedonians were left with nothing! And yet they were more than willing and happy to be left in this situation.
That is what it means by that they gave beyond their power.
And, y’know, it could all have turned out differently. Had Paul found the Macedonians having left the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ that he first preached to them, the scenario here would have been a whole lot different. The church elders would have called Paul aside and said to him, “After you are done collecting the offering for the Jerusalem saints, remember us also. Moreover, as you can see here, we have nothing to give you. Oh, we are sorry.”
But no! The Macedonian churches, full of the grace of God, did the exact opposite. I believe even the thought that they were poor had never crossed their minds!!
Aren’t you glad for the Macedonians? They upheld the gospel! In a time when everyone else was compromising the gospel, these saints held firmly to the revelation of
I feel excited even as I write. And I am praying right now that both you and I, and the church at large, may allow the grace of God to work in us to the extent it did in the lives of the Macedonians, to the end that we may give of our lives even beyond our power, to the glory of God.