Summary: The duty of all Christians to remember the poor.
RESPONDING TO THE POOR
When Paul made his second post-conversion visit to Jerusalem, it was in response to a revelation (Galatians 2:1-2). A prophet named Agabus had signified by the Spirit that there would be a great dearth throughout the Empire, and Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church in Antioch to bring relief to their brethren in Judea. Titus, a Gentile believer, also accompanied them.
The Roman historian Josephus reports that the reign of Claudius Caesar was indeed marred by a series of bad harvests, particularly afflicting the province of Judea. Whatsoever God speaks comes to pass! What is remarkable, though, is the practical demonstration of solidarity on the part of the Christians in Syrian Antioch towards the mother-church in Jerusalem. They determined, each according to his ability, to send the necessary relief.
The principle had been established in Jerusalem at Pentecost, when church members voluntarily held “all things in common” and redistributed the value of their assets “to each according to their needs” (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:34-35). Now, fourteen years later, they were reaping the benefit of their earlier selflessness. The person who has pity on the poor “lends to the LORD,” and He will pay back what we give (Proverbs 19:17)!
This is in keeping, too, with the context of the well-known teaching that “my God shall supply all your need.” That promise was first made to a people renowned for their practical generosity (Philippians 4:10-20)!
The second visit of the Apostle to Jerusalem was important because it led to a consultation between Paul and Barnabas, and James the Lord's brother, Peter and John. In this they expressed their unity. The “pillars” in Jerusalem wanted to add nothing to Paul's gospel, and simply re-emphasised the duty of all Christians to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10).
This useful and successful ministry of giving later became the model for Paul's second collection for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:25-27). Paul instructed the church in Corinth to lay aside their donations on the first day of each week, so that there would not need to be any hasty collections when he came to them (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).