Shelby G. Floyd
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.—Galatians 2:9 KJV
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE MINISTERING OF BENEVOLENCE
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE MINISTERING OF BENEVOLENCE
One area of Christian fellowship, one with another, involves the sharing of our material blessings with the poor and the needy. The church of Christ had hardly been established until a situation arose where many members of the church were in need of the necessities of life. Their fellow-members, who were blessed with material goods, rallied to their support and liberally shared their blessings with those who were not as fortunate as were they.
Concerning the fellowship of ministering to the needy, Luke’s says,
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them unto all men, as every man had need”(Acts 2: 44-45).
The attitude of the members of the Jerusalem church toward those who were poor and destitute is to be seen by their liberal distribution of their material blessings (Compare Acts 4:32).
Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan that one should help the one who is destitute, even though he is not one of our own group (Luke 10:25-37). Christians then must be ready at all times to help anyone who is destitute; but in a special way they should count it a privilege to help those who are needy in the family of Christ: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 NKJV).
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE NECESSITY OF THE SAINTS
Someone has called the twelfth chapter Romans the Bible in miniature. It is a very comprehensive chapter concerning the duties and responsibilities of the children of God. One of the divine injunctions of that chapter is, “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). In this verse the word distributing is from koinoneo, which is defined, “To enter into fellowship, join oneself as an associate, make oneself a sharer or partner.” To have fellowship with the necessity of the saints is, “to make another’s necessities one’s own as to relieve them.” The term distributing translates a Greek word, which is a present participle, and therefore it is a form of a verb—an action word that has feet!
There are some today who contend Christian fellowship is a state and does not involve specific acts. However, the distributing to the necessity of the saints was an action and the Christians in the church of Christ at Rome were the subject of the action. It would be impossible for them to have fellowship with the saints unless they had a part, unless they acted from their own free will in contributing of their material blessings to provide the necessities of those who were destitute.
Since the word distributing is a present participle, the Christians at Rome were to continually distribute of their bounty to the necessity of saints. Therefore, it is impossible to have a state of fellowship in ministering to the needy unless we do something to relieve their distress. Christian fellowship then involves specific acts, which are the result of obedience to the expressed will of God.
The children of God should count is a blessed privilege to share their material wealth with the poor and destitute. David said, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalms 41:1).
MINISTERING MATERIAL THINGS
At the time Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome, he was making preparations to take a collection to the poor saints which were at Jerusalem. He wanted the Christians at Rome to know what their brethren in other parts of the world were doing to relieve the necessity of the poor at Jerusalem:
“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15:25-27).
The Jewish Christians at Jerusalem had been responsible for the blessings of the gospel coming to the Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia; therefore, because they had shared their spiritual things with the Gentiles, the churches of Macedonia and Achaia were in debt to them and were obligated now to share their carnal things with the members of the church at Jerusalem. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia had fellowship in the ministering to the saints because they had actually made a certain contribution to relieve their distress.
In Romans 15:26, the word contribution is from koinonia, which means, “a benefaction jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship” (Thayer, p. 352). It is not enough to talk about having fellowship with the poor and needy, but one’s sincerity is demonstrated by a collection or contribution to relieve their wants.
Late in life, the apostle John said, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:16-18). Accordingly, the churches of Macedonia and Achaia did not love the poor at Jerusalem in word or in tongue only, but they loved them in deed and in truth. They demonstrated their love by an overt act, the design of which was to supply their wants. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia probably involved the congregations at Philippi, Thessalonicia, Corinth, and possibly others.
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON
1. Describe and discuss this situation in the Jerusalem church which brought on the ministering of benevolence.
2. Is it necessary for Christians to help those who are not members of the church? How do we apply the parable of the Good Samaritan to this question?
3. What does the phrase “distributing to the necessity of the saints” in Romans 12: 13 mean?
4. Does Christian fellowship involves specific actions or is it just a state?
5. Is “distributing to the necessity of the saints” a continuous responsibility? Discuss.
6. Which churches were involved in the collection for the poor at Jerusalem? In what way did they help?
7. What two ways are we all debtors? Compare the teaching of Romans 1: 14 and Romans 15: 25.
8. Can a church collectively contribute to help the needy? See Romans 15: 26.
9. How does one prove the sincerity of his fellowship with the needy?
10. Discuss how faith and love are alike in connection with works.
44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.NIV
25But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.
Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
Copyright © 2002, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142