Summary: This is the fourth and final sermon in the series, "Becoming A Contagious Congregation, A Study of the Church at Antioch".
One last paragraph about the church at Antioch.
"And in those days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
From this we learn a responsible pattern of giving in the Christian church.
1. Contagious churches give to causes outside their own walls.
The prophecy encompassed a famine throughout the Roman Empire. Indeed, historians record several years of bad harvests between the years A.D. 45 and A.D. 48. The Jewish historian Josephus records that many families in Judea suffered greatly during this time. Many people died for lack of money to buy food.
Surely we can conclude from this that the Christians at Antioch would suffer somewhat from the famine as well. At the very least they could have rationalized that they needed to save their surplus in case the famine hit them hard the next year. Yet they did not use their own needs as an excuse for not helping meet the needs of others. For the contagious congregation, charity doesn’t always begin at home.
True, every local congregation has bills to pay. But scripture indicates God especially uses the church that gives to causes other than its own.
Take the church at Philippi for example. They gave mission offerings to Paul when no other churches in Macedonia did. (Philippians 4:15) Even when he got to Thessalonica, they sent at least two monetary offerings to assist him in his efforts to spread the Good News. (Philippians 4:16) It was to this church that Paul wrote more about joy and rejoicing than any other church! Paul refered to joy and rejoicing at least 17 times in this brief letter. The Philippians were able to rejoice with Paul (Philippians 2:17,18) because they shared in his missionary expenses.
You all probably get tired of me mentioning our three kids in Bible College, but next Spring when our two oldest walk the stage and get their diplomas they won’t be the only ones rejoicing! Mom and Dad will rejoice because we have shared in the expense of making it possible.
There is great joy in helping others. This kind of joy is one of the things that makes a congregation contagious. People want to be in a joyful environment.
2. Contagious churches give to those who have been a spiritual blessing to them.
When Antioch needed someone to come and help them disciple new converts, the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas. The church at Jerusalem could have kept an excellent worker like Barnabas for themselves. But they showed their care for the spiritual need in Antioch.
When tough times came, Antioch reciprocated by sending money to buy food for the church members at Jerusalem.
When the churches of Macedonia and Achaia (Greece) made financial contribution to the poor saints in Jeruslame Paul said this:
"It pleased them indeed, and they are debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things." (Romans 15:27, NKJV)
The Bible also says, "Let him who is taught in the word share in all good things with him who teaches". (Galatians 6:6, NKJV)
It is unfortunate when individual Christians and churches neglect those who have been a spiritual blessing to them.
The church that gives unselfishly of its spiritual resources can expect God to provide its material needs. The church that gives freely of its material resources can expect God to provide its spiritual needs.
3. Contagious churches give "every man according to his ability".
This is the same pattern Paul would later teach in 2 Corinthians 8-9. What happened initially in Jerusalem in Acts 2 where everyone put their resources into a common treasury was apparently only a temporary measure until the gospel had been preached "to the Jew first".
Afterwards we see the churches communicating the need, and each individual church member deciding what they could afford to give.
The Bible says,
"...He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, NKJV)
Every one of us gets to make the decision on how much we will give. We shouldn’t give out of guilt or manipulation. But we also need to keep in mind that giving is like sowing seed. If you don’t invest a lot in seed time you won’t see a great return in harvest time. The phrase "God is able" reminds us if we give to the needs of others He can see to it that our needs are met.