Summary: A church worth talking about is a church that finishes what they started.
It is related that a man once came to Charles H. Spurgeon, and asked that great preacher if his church was a pure church. He said he was looking for a pure church that he might belong to it.
Mr. Spurgeon said that he did not know about his own church; but he did know that there were many good people in it—saintly people and truly Christian people.
But there might possibly be a Judas among them, as there was in the company of Jesus’ first apostles. And there might be some deceivers and idolators and those who walk unruly, as there seemed to have been in the churches of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, Thessalonica, and all the others to which the New Testament epistles were written.
On the whole, he thought that his church was not the one his brother was looking for. Instead, he did not know that there had been such a church in all history.
“But,” said Mr. Spurgeon, “if you should happen to find such a church, I beg of you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing.”
The point to this opening introductory story is simply this; there is not perfect church.
The Corinthian Christians gave their founding pastor, Paul, more trouble than all his other churches put together. No sooner did Paul get one problem straightened out in Corinth than three more appeared.
For anyone operating under the naive presumption that joining a Christian church is a good way to meet all the best people and cultivate smooth social relations, a reading of Paul’s Corinthian correspondence is the prescribed cure. But however much trouble the Corinthians were to each other and to Paul, they prove to be an abundance of blessings to us, for they triggered some of Paul’s most profound and vigorous writing.
Having explained his changed plans and having described the nature and orientation of his ministry. Paul now turned to the subject of gracious giving. This was no abstract topic: it concerned the collection for the poor in Jerusalem which Paul had been organizing for several years. The Corinthians, hearing about the collection, asked Paul what part they might have in it. Paul instructed them concerning these arrangements in 1 Corinthians 16:2-3;
“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. 3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem”.
Good intentions had not been translated into fruition, however, so Paul asked Titus to look into the matter. What factors interrupted the Corinthians’ good intentions? No one knows. But one likely possibility was the presence of the false apostles who received support from the church and may have diverted to themselves some of the monies intended for that collection (cf. 2:17; 11:20). As a result, Paul’s refusal to accept support was a sore point with the Corinthians (cf. 11:7-12; 12:13-18).
Titus had found the Corinthians in need of an encouraging word which Paul delivered in chapters 8-9 of this letter. This—in conjunction with Titus’ work and that of unnamed assistants (8:23; cf. Acts 20:1-4), climaxed by Paul’s visit (Acts 20:3)—brought the collection in Corinth to a successful conclusion (cf. Rom. 15:26; Acts 24:17).
Whenever possible, Paul preferred to motivate and instruct by deed as well as by words. He did not hesitate to urge the Corinthians and others to imitate his manner of life (cf. 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1a; 1 Thes. 1:6; 2 Thes. 3:7-9). But he was also quick to point to other worthy examples, including Timothy (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:19-20), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:18), and of course, Christ (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 11:1b; 1 Thes. 1:6) and God the Father (Eph. 5:1). Paul gave the Corinthians two examples of liberality in his second letter: the Macedonian churches and Christ.
It is the example of this church, Macedonia, that I want to focus our attention to today because I believe that the simple point that God and Paul wants to get across is this, a church worth talking about is a church that finishes what they started.
I. A Church Worth Talking About is a church that DEMONSTRATES the GRACE of GOD – v. 1
The Roman province of Macedonia included all of northern Greece. The known churches of the region were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. The first two are well known by every generation of Christians because of the two letters addressed to them in the New Testament. At one time, the Macedonian province had been known for its natural resources. But down through the centuries the area had been ravaged by war, and Rome had stripped it of its wealth. Because of this the churches of the area were somewhat poor in material wealth. But note a glorious fact: they were extremely wealthy in the grace of God. God had bestowed an abundance of grace upon the churches—so much grace that Paul is able to use them as a dynamic example of God’s grace. Remember that grace means the favor and blessings of God, all the good things of life which God gives us—the greatest of which is salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s blessings were “bestowed on” the churches. The idea is that God just poured or laid blessing after blessing upon the churches. They knew the grace, the favor, and the blessings of God in a very, very special way.