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. 8:1-4
In this final part, we will include verse 5 of this portion of scripture, which is the foundation upon which all that is written therein is built. This discourse would be incomplete – indeed, it would be meaningless – without an understanding of this verse. Verse 5 reads: “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.”
But first, let us consider verses 3 and 4. These verses tell us about the practical outcome of the grace of God that was bestowed upon the Macedonian churches. This is so important for us to understand.
These churches were very poor materially, but when they heard about the physical lack that the Jerusalem church was undergoing, because of the richness of the grace of God in their hearts, they immediately decided to share whatever they had with the brethren who were in need.
There is something very important that I want us to realize about what went on here. The Bible says: “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…”
I want us to arrive at the astounding conclusion that the Bible brings up here, which is that the Macedonians gave until they were left with nothing.
Paul says, “For to their power… and beyond their power”, they gave.
What do you think that means?
I believe it means these brethren gave as much as they could give. But then, because of the richness of their generosity, which was a result of the joy that was in their hearts, they decided, ‘No, that’s not enough.’
They then went back inside their houses and took the little they had put aside for themselves and their children and told Paul and the apostles, “Take even these!”
They were left with nothing.
I am sure they were preparing to pull out even their door frames and put them on the donkeys that Paul came with, and Paul was overwhelmed with the sheer incredulity of it all.
Why would they pray Paul “with much intreaty” to take of their goods? It is not common to see people imploring you to take their goods. In churches today, hundreds of programs have been promulgated to make people to give. Actually, it is a form of arm-twisting – and where this fails incentives are brought in!
Have you not heard, in church: “With your gift of a hundred dollars, you can become the proud owner of such and such a souvenir”, or, on the internet, “Click the link at the very top of this description, ‘like’ this site, and you could win great prizes…”
Such a language with the Macedonians would have been as alien as a Martian talking to a man from Earth.
The Bible says the Macedonians gave of their goods willingly, joyfully and cheerfully. “…they were willing of themselves”.
But the Macedonians were rich! They were rich in grace. They could afford to give liberally, almost luxuriantly.
I am sure the Macedonians intreated Paul because he most likely refused to take more of their goods, realizing that these people would be left with literally nothing!
But the consequence of the grace that they carried in their hearts is that they were more concerned about the poor saints in Jerusalem than they were about themselves. They were ready to go without, just so their brethren could have.
These Macedonians were willing to sacrifice themselves that others could live.
Elsewhere, Paul talks of Priscilla and Aquila, “Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4).
Finally, let us look at the most important verse in this scripture, verse 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.”
This is talking about revelation. Anyone can give, but if it is not a result of the revelation of the cross in their lives, such giving is not of the Spirit. This is so important for the church to understand, the fact that we need to give in the Spirit.
There are people who do things for worldly glory, or to satisfy their egos or, as we just saw, to profit in other ways. The gospel, on the other hand, has to do with losing our lives. Hence, the cross.
The revelation of the cross is the heart of the gospel. When we catch this revelation, we are willing to lose our lives for Christ. That is why the Apostle Paul would not preach any other gospel other than the gospel of the cross of Christ. The revelation of the cross in our hearts brings the grace of God into our hearts, and we can live the resurrection life, which is a life that has died in the natural, but is alive in the Spirit.
[Below: The Macedonians gave liberally!]