Contributing to the Needs of the Saints

Intro:    Rom 12:9-13 – 9 Let A love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;  give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

 Romans 12:9-13 contains several short, concise admonitions. These can be viewed individually, but we have been considering these admonitions in the larger context of chapter 12, and even the previous 11 chapters of Romans. Paul was pleading with them on the basis of God’s mercy to be transformed inwardly and to offer their bodies outwardly in sacrifice to God. Christians are called to be new people, inside and out. One remarkable characteristic of the transformed Christians in the N.T. was there benevolence. Our focus today reflects this characteristic in the last commands of vs. 13 – “Contributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

 I. “Contributing to the needs of the saints.” – This brief command challenges me. Are we truly “contributing” to the needs of other Christians?

A.  What are “the needs of the saints”?  Often the first question that is addressed (and often the last) is “what are the needs of the saints”.  Usually someone will quickly answer that one’s needs can be defined as “food, clothing & shelter“. If one has these his needs are met.

1. Certainly these are basic, and Paul says that we should be content if we have these.  (1 Tim 6:8 –  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.) But I believe that we must be careful to not be to narrow in our definition of needs.

2.  Consider Jesus’ words in  Matthew 25:35-36  ….for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”  –  [hungry, thirsty, (sustenance) stranger (shelter), naked (clothing), sick (encouragement), in prison (companionship)]

B.  The question that needs to be asked comes from the other part of the phrase. Am I contributing?  Am I doing anything to help with another’s needs? We need to be careful to not attempt to justify our neglect by asking the wrong question.  Luke 10:25-29 – 5 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’* and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”*  28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  

1.  What follows his question is the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus did not answer his question directly. His answer was to point Him to His responsibility to be a neighbor to another person. (Not who is my neighbor, but am I acting neighborly)  “Go and do likewise” (v. 37)

C.  The Command Explained: In the context this admonition is a specific application of vs. 10 – “Be affectionate toward each other with brotherly love” – The flow of our relationship to each other is out, not in. We must be ready to give to each other.

1. The KJV (& NKJV) uses the word distributing. But the better translation may be contribute (NASV) or share (NIV). The Greek word comes from koinonia, which means communion, sharing, partnership, fellowship.  Fellowship, in the Bible, is more than a theological concept. It is the activity of sharing, and includes this practical aspect of sharing my physical resources with others. It indicates that I’m a partner with other saints, and their needs are my responsibility. I don’t own anything, and what I have, I manage for the Lord. If we fail here, we cannot claim the true fellowship of the body, even if we agree doctrinally and assemble to worship together.

D.  The Command Exemplified:  The early church modeled this transformed character vividly.

1.  The church at Jerusalem: (one church caring for their own poor)  

  • Acts 2:44-45 – 44 Now 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.
  • Acts 4:32-35Now 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. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Notice that the early church modeled the family relationship where physical blessings were shared and the needs of every member were considered significant.

a. This fellowship (sharing) of physical resources was a vital part of the work of the church. To teach that the work of the church is spiritual, not physical, is not to teach that we can neglect the physical needs of each other.

b.  In Acts 6, when the needs of the Gentile widows were being neglected, the apostles wasted no time in seeking a prompt solution. It was not their job, but it was a job that needed to be done. note: although I am convinced that Paul’s command in Romans 12 is primarily directed toward individual Christians, the early church also pooled their resources to help needy saints.

2.  The church at Antioch presents an example of one church helping other local churches care for the needy saints among them.  Acts 11:27-30 – 27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

3The churches of Macedonia and Achaia sent assistance to the church at Jerusalem. (many churches helping one church) – Romans 15:25-26 – 25 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. If we are striving to follow the example of the 1st century church we will not hesitate to give generously to other Christians who are in need.

a.  Later, the generosity of the Lord’s church not only filled the needs of the saints, but also broke down the social and economic barriers that may have separated Christians, and became a real source of unity. 2 Cor 9:12-15 – 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 II.  Reasons for Being a Contributor: God’s commands are not without reason and motivation. Why should we be willing to contribute to the needs of other Christians? I see answers both here on Romans 12 and elsewhere.

A.  Because of mercy of God. Paul begins his admonitions in Romans 12 with a reason. Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God…”  What does this mean? All that God would ask of us here is exemplified and motivated by what God has done for us in Christ. Mercy – not getting what we deserve. – rather than condemn us, God has redeemed us and given us life instead of death. He did this because He loved us unconditionally.

1.  If God loved us, we must love each other. Notice how John make this practical connection: 1 John 4:9-11 – 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

2.  But John does not leave it there. We cannot simply say that we love our brother. We must be willing to contribute to him.   1 John 3:16-17 – 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  The cross of Jesus demands that I contribute to the needs of my brothers & sisters.

a.  Would you lay down your life for your fellow Christian?  Difficult to know. But John says I can know one thing. If I am unwilling to help him with his bills or feed him, I would never lay down my life for him.

b.  “Whoever has this world’s goods” – notice what makes you and I responsible here. If I have it I must be willing to give it up. Many times those who have the most are the least likely to give. Paul charged them that are rich in this age . . . that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to share. ”  (1 Tim. 6:17-18) Those who “are rich in this age” would certainly include most Christians in America.

c.  “And sees his brother in need” – So many times we excuse our negligence because the person never asked for help. The implication here is that I become responsible the moment I see his need. Does it also imply that I need to be looking for the opportunity?

d.  “shuts up his heart” – the term here is in the first aorist tense indicating a decisive moment of slamming the door on one’s compassion. (Robertson’s word pictures)

e.  “How does the love of God abide in him” – the question is rhetorical and compelling.

  • The “love of God” is the reason I do it . Because He loved me.
  • It is also the fruit of doing it. When I do it His love abides in me.

 Conclusion:   Hebrews 13:16–“But to do good and to share forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. “  Did you notice that? Sharing with others is a sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because it is a call for me to trust God. There is a promise in every call to sacrifice. He will not let me down or cause me to be ashamed. Close with one last passage. Read this with me.

  • 2 Cor 9:6-11 – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
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