Charity and History - RR41610B
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by permission of the Chalcedon Foundation|
[Mark Rushdoony] The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him, He also will hear their cry and will save them. Oh Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Let us pray. Oh most good and glorious God and heavenly Father, we praise you for your goodness to us each day. We thank you for your merciful salvation to us through Jesus Christ, we thank you that this brings us together, that this unties us with all believers everywhere of all time. We thank you that this gives our life meaning, purpose, and hope. Help us to find our purpose here and now, in this day and this week, in our service to you. May the time that we have together this morning strengthen our bond and strengthen our faith in you and your Son Jesus Christ and our purpose in service. We pray this in Christ our saviors name, amen.
The scripture for this morning’s message is 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15.
“9 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” [00:04:03]
[R. J. Rushdoony] As we have seen, Saint Paul called attention to the fact that there are three types of giving required by God of His people. He is dealing in particular with the third type, the first is the tithe to God, the second, gifts and offerings above and beyond the tithe. The tithe is a tax, we do not give God a gift until it above the tithe. Then the third we would have to call the deacons offering, an offering to minister to the needs of people.
Now, Paul calls attention to the fact that there is a famine in Palestine, a great deal of hunger, and he urges the Corinthians to give generously. They have already given once and given well, now again he trusts they will do the same in spite of the fact that there is a disagreement between themselves and Paul. In other words, ‘Do not hold back on your duty to God because you are displeased with me, Gods servant.’
Now, what we have to recognize at the same time is the nature of Roman law. What we do not appreciate is the fact that in antiquity and all over the world, gifts apart from the state were virtually unknown. Everything was handled by the state. If you moved outside the state to accomplish what you did, you were a dangerous man. The only reason that in Hebrew or Jewish cultures they could give charitably, they could do things outside Roman law, was that the Romans early decided: ‘These people are dangerous, they are trouble makers, they are so wedded to their God and to their way of doing things, we had better give in to their law, we had better make it a special privilege, the Jews can do things no one else can do.’ Therefore, whether it was meetings that were unregistered with Roman authorities, or giving charitably, the Jews could do it when no one else could. Everything else was tightly controlled by Roman law. [00:07:43]
So that, if there were needs in a certain area, charity...
So that, if there were needs in a certain area, charity could not meet those needs, they had to be met by Roman law or not at all.
Well, the one exception made by Roman law, was for Jews. They knew the Jews were wedded to their law, and while they were unwilling to give special privilege to the law of Israel, to Gods law, what they did acknowledge was that unless it went beyond certain limits, for example no death penalty, the Jews could use their law; but it was valid only for themselves, no other peoples.
Now, when Christianity began legally it was just another Jewish sect; but subsequently and especially after the fall of Jerusalem, the Roman Empire withdrew all such privileges from Christians, so that what Paul is dealing with, he deals with circumspectly to avoid Roman penalties, Roman law. And so as he urges them again for the second time to give to the need of the people in Palestine who are faced with a fearful famine once again because nothing was growing, he urges it circumspectly.
No doubt the people in charge of raising it were the Deacons, but he doesn’t even mention the deacons here although they are implicit throughout. The reason of course was, it was dangerous. He asks them to do it without referring to a church office or those officers, as a kind of free will offering among people who are Christians with their fellow peoples, Christians and non-(Jewish) Christians, in Palestine. [00:10:36]
So, we have a very remarkable and important fact here...
So, we have a very remarkable and important fact here. One scholar, about 150 years ago, called the office of deacon the ‘most single important office in all of history.’ Why so? For most of us, the deacon is nothing. Well, the reason for it was that over the centuries, a great deal of Europe was subjugated, made Christian, made able to be productive when it was a desert land, the sea was reclaimed at points as the Netherlands, because of Christian charitable work, because of the Deaconate.
Now, the Deaconate, age after age, has acted because of the faith of peoples, not because of any law. Now, even when the church was most active in using the deaconate, as for example Saint Paul’s day, it was never seen as a requirement. In Calvin’s day there were two offerings in a service, one came fairly early in the service, but then at the conclusion during the concluding prayer and hymn, a second offering was taken to meet the needs of peoples, the poor, the needy, the sick, and so on. This was not a requirement; and yet, in Calvin’s Geneva they felt so strictly about it that they took an offering during the closing hymn and prayer, and then to make sure if somebody were deeply in prayer and missed the plate as it went by, they had the deacons stand outside the door with the plates once again, to give them a second chance to give. But it was never mandatory, never required. It was a part of God’s government.
We really are not going to understand the Bible and the kingdom of God and what it means until we understand that the law of God by and large is not enforced by the state, nor by the church; that it is for individuals to enforce. That you and I, reading the word of God, feel that we have an obligation to do this or that. And the deaconate or the work of deacons, above all other things was radically on the voluntary side. The deacons had no power to command a congregation; in certain things elders and pastors could, deacons, no. The deacon’s work was to be a work of grace, that grace moving in the hearts of all believers would inspire them to give above and beyond any requirement. [00:15:10]
And so, Paul reminds the Corinthians of this...
And so, Paul reminds the Corinthians of this. He takes the issue above and beyond the personal, above and beyond himself or any other apostle; that this is their service of the Lord. Well, you begin to see what, when I previously spoke I called attention to: The kingdom of God creates a marvelous Godly society in which crime is dealt with, in which human needs are met, the work of God carried on, with virtually no interference or activity by the state or the church; but by individuals taking and applying the word of God.
This you see is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not like the Roman Empire or the IRS in Washington D.C., it doesn’t say: ‘Do this or else we are going to act thus and so against you.’ The kingdom of God lays down the law of God very definitely, very explicitly, but then it leaves it up to you to obey God, to do these things.
So, what the kingdom of God envisions is not a society in which church or state are commanding people and saying: ‘Do this or else.’ No. The kingdom of God is an order in which God says: ‘If you are grateful to me, you will do these things. It does not say you will have to sow because I order it, no, he that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly, but he that sows bountifully, generously, shall reap also bountifully.’ Amazing. Here in what has always been in history a major area of statist activity, God says it is up to you, not up to the state. [00:18:21]
The Roman State took heavily from people...
The Roman State took heavily from people; it had welfare programs throughout the empire. And of course it also in the process made itself the primary beneficiary of its welfare programs. But God says: ‘Give.’ Personally, directly, or through the deacons, bit without any compulsion.
We can only create a Godly society when it comes from the heart and without compulsion. We know the horror that Rome became because of welfarism. We know what we are becoming because of welfarism. And we have to say emphatically that there is only one way, God’s way that can adequately meet these needs.
When Europe was more Christian as in Calvin’s day, or with an imitator of Calvin a Catholic Bishop, Saint Charles Borromeo, the people gave out of their hearts because their leaders had taught them this was Gods way. They never gave because the state required it; and they met every kind of need, they met the needs of old and young, of the poor, of the wayward. They met the needs of broken families. If a husband were derelict, the deacon’s met with him and told him what his duty was, and that his place in society depended on his relationship to God, and he had better obey the word of God. There was no statist threat. And yet, whether in Milan with Saint Charles Borromeo or in Geneva with Calvin, every need was met. [00:21:18]
In fact, if you went through Geneva and you were a...
In fact, if you went through Geneva and you were a traveler, and the city hotels were filled up, Christian organizations cared for you. And Calvin had his name at the top of the list of persons willing to provide a place for homeless travelers. In fact in those days, every hospital was in part a hotel, so when all the spaces filled up, the hospital took care of the travelers.
You see, what God was saying was: ‘There is a way of meeting the problems of human society without statist or church compulsion.’ And so here, in the case of a famine, Paul is not saying: ‘This is a terrible thing’ and of trying to make their hearts bleed by giving them horror stories of the famine. No. What he does instead is to call attention to Gods word. He summons them to give and give generously; at no point does he command it.
Now, Paul and the other apostles do not go very explicitly into this matter of the Deacon’s fund. After all, the Old Testament already had spoken of it. But then it was dangerous to write too much about something like that, because Rome would move against them at once, as in not too many years it did, and forbade all such things. Although in devious ways the Christians continued to govern as God required them to govern. [00:24:07]
Now, It is easy for us to say...
Now, It is easy for us to say: ‘The whole problem is too big for individuals and Deacon’s funds to handle it.’ But handle it they have done. In times worse than ours, simply because they have done it in obedience to God, they have done it not because a person had said: ‘I need this and that’ but because they have found that there is real human need, not fraudulent ones.
As you can see, gods kingdom is not a statist one, nor an ecclesiastical one, it is not controlled by church nor state, nor by compulsion. It is controlled by the faith of believers. And that is why Chalcedon has as it has seen needs here and there, tried to meet them. As we have in Zambia. Because we believe that it is God’s way to meet the need, not because church or state requires it, but because our faith tells us. This is the way the world should be ruled. Just as we are to be ruled by faith, so too is the world.
As you can see, this is a different picture of the world and of history than humanism ever gives us.
Let us pray. Our Father, we give thanks unto Thee for this Thy word. We thank Thee that Thou hast shown us the way, to change this world from the kingdom of man to the kingdom of God. Bless us as we hear and obey Thy word, in Christ’s name, amen. [00:26:44]
Are there any questions now about our lesson?...
Are there any questions now about our lesson?
Well, if there are no questions, let us conclude with prayer. Our Father, how great and glorious is Thy word. How marvelous Thy plan for this world and the people therein. Teach us to look unto Thee, to obey Thee, to rejoice in Thy government, and in everything to give thanks unto Thee.
And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen. [00:28:13]