Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Testimony Of God’s Grace In Tribulation

Temple Baptist Church - 9-13-2015
1 Thessalonians 3:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-6

A.  Before I leave these verses, I want to take a short look at the encouragement that these Thessalonian believers shared with others. 
1.  I cannot over emphasize the importance of being an encouragement to others.  Here we find a small church in dire tribulation was an encouragement to others: first of all, to the Apostle Paul, Timotheus, and others with them; secondly, to churches in Macedonia and the uttermost part of the world.
1 Thessalonians 1:8-9  For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.  (9)  For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
2.  They had encouraged the Apostle Paul to the extent that he said, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”  From the wording of this sentence, it seems to be not only praise for the church but also an admonition to continue to stand as the world watches—both in Macedonia and the uttermost part to whom the word of their example went.
3.  Here we are two thousand years later and this precious church is encouraging us in these last perilous times.
1 Corinthians 10:11  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
B.  I want to take another look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-6 in light of these verses.  1 Thessalonians was probably written around 54 AD while the 2 Corinthians epistle was written app. 60 AD.  Paul, when writing to the Corinthian Church, used these few people as an example of suffering along with deep poverty and the amazing grace, strength of God, unselfish love for souls, generosity in sacrificially giving, and love for missionaries who brought the gospel to them.  Triumph in tragedy! 
C.  Let us look at the circumstances that led up to this commendation. 
1.  In the early days of the church, we find the beginnings of the persecution of the saints at Jerusalem.  In Acts 3, Peter healed the lame man laid at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple which caused great hatred in the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The man asked for alms and Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
2.  In Acts 4, the priests, captain of the temple, and the Sadducees confronted Peter and he, being filled with the Holy Ghost, preached unto them.  They, knowing that a notable miracle had been done, took private counsel and then warned Peter and John not to preach anymore and released them.  In the later part of Acts 4 and Acts 5, the believers sold all that they had and laid it at the feet of the Apostles and had all things in common.
3.  In Acts 5-9, we find the power of God wrought about the salvation of thousands in Jerusalem.  Great miracles were being performed by the apostles which gave great witness to the gospel and the power of God to convert.  The Great Persecution had begun!  They killed James with a sword, stoned Stephen, imprisoned Peter, and persecuted the church by putting men and women in prison and to death.  The people of God fell into deep poverty.
4.  In Romans 15 and 1 Corinthians 16, Paul mentions the offering of the gentile churches for the poor and persecuted saints in Jerusalem. 
Romans 15:25-28  But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.  (26)  For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.  (27)  It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.  (28)  When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  (2)  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
5.  Which brings us to the 2 Corinthian epistle.  In chapters 6-8, we find Paul’s apprehension that they were rather more forward and zealous in words than in deeds. Their large promises had led him to speak of them in a way which seemed unlikely to be justified by the fulfilment.  Paul uses the afflicted, impoverished churches of Macedonia as an example of the true Christian grace of giving.
D.  Over the years, men of God—such as Bro. Richard Rawls—have used Temple Baptist Church in such encouragement of other churches.  H0w a small, handful of people who love God in Laurens, SC could put several million dollars on the mission fields of the world.  How a small, handful of people who had little could love missions and missionaries—making them a priority.  A blessing instead of a burden.
E.  What a testimony these believers in Thessalonica had?  Notice with me their missions giving to the Jerusalem Church.  2 Corinthians 8
1.  The Present of Missions - vs 1 - "bestowed"  Missions is a gift bestowed and giving is a grace bestowed.  What a joy it is to have a small part of winning souls and establishing churches around the world.
2.  The Poverty of Missions - vs 2 - "deep poverty"  Trials and Afflictions abounded unto joy  and deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.  Today, this is reversed as most only give out of their abundance.
3.  The Paradox of Missions - vs 2 - "affliction-joy, poverty-riches"  These believers saw problems and poverty as divine possibilities!
4.  The Power of Missions - vs 3 - "power ... beyond their power"   Here we find their tithe (cannot give until you tithe), their power of giving (gave of what they had), and their faith of giving (beyond their power as they tapped another a divine source)!         
5.  The Prayer of Missions - vs 4 - "praying us ... receive"  They begged the missionary - "prayed...much intreaty." This is reversed today as the missionaries almost have to beg the church.  They gave to the Missionary - "we would receive the gift" and fellowshipped with the Missionary - "fellowship of ministering."
6.  The Priority of Missions - vs 5 - "first"  Gave themselves unto the Lord - " the Lord," gave themselves unto the Missionary - "unto us," gave themselves Abundantly - "not as we hoped," gave themselves Obediently - "will of God."

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