Summary: This sermon completes the series on 1 Corinthians. It addresses some issues of discipleship.
A. If you were Paul, how would you close this letter you had written to the Corinthian church?
1. As we have seen, it was a troubled and struggling church.
2. There were doctrinal problems and glaring moral failures.
3. And even though it appears that this was Paul’s second attempt to address the problems via letter, there had been precious little – if any- evidence of progress.
B. Might you be tempted to close the letter with scoldings and ringing threats?
1. Would you set a time limit for the correction of the problems?
2. Or would you simply close on a note of terse formality and allow them to draw the conclusion that you were growing impatient with their worldly attitudes and ungodly behavior?
C. Well, regardless of how you or I might close such a letter, here is how Paul closed:
1. He encouraged them in a good work that he knew they were helping with.
2. He expressed his desire to see them soon.
3. And he sent warm greetings from his beloved brethren.
D. As we spend a few minutes with the final chapter of this letter, I want us to step back and take in some of the lessons in basic discipleship that surface in this chapter.
I. Discipleship and Giving
A. Having just concluded an extended discussion of the resurrection, Paul makes an immediate transition to the subject of a collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem.
1. Paul again used the same formula he has employed as he has addressed each of the questions the Corinthians had asked him.
2. The previous questions have been about marriage, meat sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection of the body.
3. Now he addresses their last question which has to do with a collection of funds for some unfortunate brethren in Judea.
4. So, verse 1 in the NIV reads, “Now about the collection for God’s people.”
B. The book of Acts mentions a famine which came over the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius, A.D. 41-54 (Acts 11:28)
1. The full force of the famine hit around A.D. 45, but it is apparent that some were still suffering from its effects almost a decade later.
2. The instructions about to be given to the Corinthians were the same Paul had already given to the churches of Galatia.
3. Over the centuries, the guidelines for this contribution have been taken as the basic pattern for the way Christians should give to the work of the church both in times of crisis and for the routine accomplishments of the church’s ongoing mission.
4. Before we look specifically at the instructions, let’s note a few things…
C. Did you notice that Paul did not hesitate to talk about money.
1. In fact, the Bible, from its earliest chapters all the way through, is quite specific about the danger of money and the importance of putting God first in our use of it.
2. Certainly, religion and money is a dangerous mixture.
3. Nothing can be more negative in the exploitation of people than certain forms of religious fundraising.
4. But at the same time, nothing can be more positive for our personal lives and positive in doing the work of God than financial giving.
5. Let me say it frankly, many or most preachers are scared or worried about bringing up the subject of money.
6. They fear that people will think they are just trying to raise the church budget or raise their salaries.
7. But the truth of the matter is that the Bible talks so much about it that it is hard to avoid the subject.
8. And so, here we are, cruising through 1 Corinthians, and what do we run into? Instructions about giving.
D. The cover of Time magazine a couple of years ago (9/18/06), showed the front end of a Rolls-Royce with a cross as its hood emblem and the bold words, “DOES GOD WANT YOU TO BE RICH?”
1. The article said that some megachurches say “Yes.” While others call it heresy.
2. It is true that some preachers make false promises in their efforts to raise funds – they appeal to human greed – “Give so that you will get even more!”
3. Those kinds of methods and messages truly make me sick.
4. But there are wonderful promises that God has given us related to giving and properly handling our finances.
5. The point is not to give or to tithe in order to somehow hit the lottery jackpot.
6. The reason for our giving should not be focused on how much we can get from God.
7. The primary reasons for giving should include our love for God and our desire to support the growth of His kingdom, and we should couple those with our thankfulness for God’s blessing and our desire to obey His commands.