2 Corinthians 8.15-9.5

Title: A Letter of Commendation: The Three Apostles

Text: 2 Corinthians 8.16-24

Introduction: Perhaps you’ve heard about the old miser who called his doctor, lawyer, and pastor to his deathbed. “They say that you can’t take it with you,” said the dying man, “but I will – I have a plan. I have three envelopes with $100,000 in cash in each one. I want each of you to take an envelope, and just before they close the casket, I want each of you to slip your envelope into my casket.” They all promised to do so. And at the end of the funeral they did it! On the way home, the conscience-stricken doctor confided in his friends, “I’m building a clinic, so I took $50,000 and put the rest in the coffin.” Then the lawyer fessed up, too, “I kept $75,000 for a legal defense fund and put $25,000 in.” At this, the preacher said, “Gentlemen, I’m ashamed of you. I’ll have you know I put in a check for the full amount!”

I guess it’s ok if I poke fun at ministers – I just happen to be one. And, I’m guessing you’ve heard your fair share of stories of pastors who have robbed the church. Even missionaries.

This is no joke:

Ex-IMB missionary sentenced to two years for stealing IMB missions Funds; AP January 26, 2015

Today’s passage is about the three men who were charged with the responsibility of collecting gifts from churches, specifically, the church in Corinth.

  • Three Apostles
  • Their Accountability
  • Paul’s Continued Appeal for the Collection

1.     Three Apostles: Three Brothers sent for the Collection (16-19a; 22)

exp.: Rd v 16-17; just as the Corinthians had accepted the challenge to give to the needy in Jerusalem, Titus had accepting the challenge to go and collect it, carry it to Jerusalem and see that it was deposited there to meet needs.

  1. Titus – he volunteered, because of his close affiliation to the Corinthians; rd v 18;
  2. The Evangelist – εὐαγγέλιον; it seems that most early Acts 20.4 –
    1. (1)Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians,
    2. (2)Aristarchus and
    3. (3) Secundus; and
    4. (4)Gaius of Derbe, Derbe in Pamphilia? No. Acts 19.29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. Plus, the Western text has commentary notes that inform the read that Gaius was from the town of Doberus. I suppose a variant or some form of Derbe. Another location with the same town name. Example Antioch.
    5. (5)Timothy; and But Paul probably would have mentioned him by name.
    6. the Asians, (6)Tychicus and
    7. (7)Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for
    8. (8)*us (Luke) at Troas;
    9. (9)Sosthenes; Acts 18.17: Riot at Corinth; also writer of 1 Corinthians – so these guys know him! But again, he’s a Macedonian.

So, who was it? Dunno! What we do know: 9.4 – They were not Macedonians. If any were to accompany Paul and these guys, then there is a possibility that they might be embarrassed at the poor showing. So, if you list all of these men and do away with the Macedonians you’re left with:

  • Tychicus, Trophimus and Luke. The interesting part of this is that the early church fathers said this was Luke. There are some great “proofs” presented by them. He wrote the 3rd Gospel – something he could be recognized for in v. 18; rd v 18; lit.: famous in the Gospel. So, answer we don’t know. Barnabas? Apollos; there is a 3rd person appointed to this task. I call him…
  1. Earnest – rd v 22;

app.: So we have three men – apostles, their called in v. 23 (messengers in the ESV)

t.s.: these three men are the ones who carry this letter to the Corinthians; Now let’s look at their task.

2.     Their Accountability: the three brothers accept responsibility for the collection (19b-22)

exp.: rd v 19a;

  1. Their Appointment by the Churches (19a)
  2. Their Administration as the Collectors (19b-20); ministered, same word as deacon; our deacons, whom you select and we, elders appoint to the task of counting the offering; rd v 21
  3. Their Aim in Finishing the Task (21) has two aspects to it:
    1. Their Honor before God and Man;
    2. God’s glory (v19b) for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

There is a 4th part to this accountability: they were appointed to it, their responsibility to administer it, and their honor before God and man – 4thly, their proven record has given the churches confidence to give them this great responsibility; rd v 22;

  1. Their Proven Record: They’ve been Tried, Tested and found True (22); rd v 23;

app.: So, there you have it: 3 Apostles, commissioned with this great responsibility – appointed to administer this gift, this offering, with the Aim of Honor before God and men. They have proven themselves worthy of finishing this task.

t.s.: So, Paul gives another appeal to the Corinthians;

3.     Paul’s Continued Appeal for the Collection (24-9.5)

exp.: rd v 24; prove your love with action! It seems the Corinthians talked a good game in the beginning, but somehow, over the course of time, they had taken their eyes off of the goal. Things had changed. They got lazy and stopped working on this. Other tasks entered into the picture. Maybe funds were needed elsewhere.

t.s.: You might be asking: This is all fine and good, Bro. Fred, but how does this affect us? That was good for them – and Paul needed to get on to them. How does this apply to me personally and to Calvary in general?

Application: I’m so glad you asked:

In August of 2011 – I heard about a challenge being issued by our State Convention’s president to embrace a UUPG – an Unreached, Unengaged people group. In September, I believe it was, Jason Moore and I went to an Embrace conference. Later in the Fall, I believe at the Convention, based on the reception I’d received from you guys, I signed a commitment card to lead my church to embrace a UUPG. We started praying – specifically for three different areas. Within 3 months, we felt a release to drop one. Then we prayed for two areas. It took a lot longer, but we eventually dropped one and began to focus on one area alone.

A little research revealed 3 UUPG’s in our area of focus. We researched and prayed about these three groups and pretty much unanimously felt God’s leading to one specific group. This group had been rejected. Former slaves, they were now the lowest people on the rung of the ladder of life. I can only remember only one person recommending another people group other than the one we chose. And that wasn’t even a recommendation, just a passing: did you consider these people?

On July 20th, 2013, almost two years after the journey began, I wrote the following letter to our president:
Dr. Richards, It has been nearly 2 years ago that I saw your picture in an article and the story related to that photo. You committed 1,000 SBTC churches to embrace a UUPG. I picked up the phone and called your office to ask about it. I spoke to a lady whose name I don’t remember, but she told me the jest of what that meant and that I’d be learning more and more about it in the months to come. Well, I visited with my leaders and challenged my church to become one of the 1st churches to embrace a UUPG. It scared them, but accepted the challenge. It was a few months later that I filled out a card and made that commitment public at a SBTC event. I wanted you to know that we’ve prayed long and hard about our UUPG. Through a long process, God narrowed our search down to a specific group. We purchased our tickets to go on our vision trip this past week. In October, we’ll journey to this place to walk amidst the people we’ve been praying for. I’m so excited and thrilled as a pastor to be leading our people to do this. Instead of sending my folks each year to different places, we’ll now be focused upon one people. It’s been a long two years, but a wonderful journey that is just beginning. Thank you for your leadership and for what you do to lead us on to God’s agenda. We’ve been blessed by your faithfulness.

Fred Smith, Calvary, Tyler

It’s been 16 months since we’ve gone on that vision trip. We came back and challenged the church with the following Recommendations:

  1. Return to our UUPG with Smaller groups… 3 x 3 or 2 x 3 – 6 people was too much. (we’ve not done that.)
  2. Return in March 1-18, 2014 during their festival time. There will be some indigenous peoples there who can be our translators. (We didn’t do that)
  3. Put Boots on the Ground. We need a couple or a family on the ground coordinating efforts for us. An FOB – Forward Operating Base, Base Camp if you will. These people can do reconnaissance missions and enhance the effort for us. (we haven’t done this)
  4. Form a CBC Mission Team to specifically focus on this mission. (we kind of did this, we formed a team to do this and focus on missions, ministry and evangelism here) We only have so many workers in our small church.
  5. Begin Praying about filling a need – a reason to be there. 4 aspects of this need
    1. Simple: When traveling so far and costing so much, we need the task to be simplified
    2. Sustainable: by the boots on the ground and through short term trips
    3. Low Tech: These people live at 11,000 feet. We have to carry everything up single file trails to get to their villages. Whatever we do must be low tech. In other words, you’re not getting the Carter Blood Mobile up there!
    4. Inexpensive to implement/maintain: with costs already extreme, we must choose something that is low cost and easy to implement and maintain. Like, it must be able to be hiked in. If we ask Dr. Latta to go and do dentistry work, we’re not going to have electricity or dental chairs. And we’re sure not hiking them in!

Review each one: We’ve really not been able to accomplish these. We’ve missed some opportunities and have just had difficulty in others.

Well, Calvary, It’s time! The Mission Team has given a set of recommendations to the elders. The elder’s have made some small adjustments and are just about ready to present it all to you. Are you ready? ?

I feel a bit like Paul. I’m concerned. I wonder if your heart isn’t fully engaged in this. I have this picture on my computer to remind me of a particular moment on our trip. Show pic. This woman, we didn’t even get to meet her. She stayed away from us until we had gone by. Look at that smile.

Without Christ this young lady and her family are doomed to a life of ancestor worship, idol worship. Buddhism, Hinduism and the like. She faces a Christless life and to die a Christless death. No hope.

Now that we’ve finally arrived at this place to give and go, I wonder if you’ve become like the Corinthians. A lot of time has passed. Have you forgotten?

Here is what I need from you:

  1. More intentional focused prayer. Committing daily to pray for this effort. Some have. I have, but I wonder about us all. We all need to be praying. Satan wants to stop us – to make us fail. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful in it’s working. Pray.
  2. Set money aside.
    1. For our missionaries. We will present someone to you soon. It will take $30,000-$40,000 more dollars. Instead of a one year trip, we’d like to make it a two year commitment. Will you sacrifice to make this happen?
      1. Cancel Cable for a year? Dish? Lower your subscription.
      2. Tell your parents to cancel you cell phone, your internet?
    2. Not eat out after church on Sunday? Or at all?
    3. Instead of that ski trip or Disney trip, or hunting trip – do something closer to home? Instead of flying, take a bus? Or drive? Instead of a hotel, camp out.
    4. Maybe someone is feeling a call to sell something personal – a toy, a plaything and donate that money. I don’t know – you follow God on that.
    5. Will you sacrifice to make this happen?
  3. To go.
    1. Seriously pray about going. There are so many ways to encourage our missionaries, to see the work 1st hand. I’m telling you, it will change your perspective on missions.
    2. It’ll cost you money, time, energy, you’ll have to get into shape, lose a few pounds. Learn some of the basic words of their language.
    3. If you go, you won’t be able to engage these people for three days, because that’s how long it’ll take you to get there. You might get sick, diarrhea, sleepless nights, fire crackers going off in the night, you could be arrested and spend some time in jail before being deported. Will you consider going?
    4. If you go, remember these people are unreached and unengaged for a reason? The government doesn’t want you there. The trip to get there is three days. I’ve thought through this and don’t see how you can start ministry before the 3rd day. Even if you went straight there, you’ll have to get some sleep.
  4. Make a Public Commitment

I think some folks have decided in their hearts that this is just too hard. Let’s look for mission trips closer, let’s look for mission trips that are cheaper. You have some decisions to make.

  • Annie Armstrong
  • Lottie Moon
  • Faith comes by Hearing
  • The Cook’s are going to Montenegro
  • There will be Youth Missions; Family Missions; Pleas to purchase Bibles, etc.

With all of these missions to emphasize, which will you choose? Your resources are limited. And if you divide your recourses amongst them all, which ones will suffer and get less? It’s tough. What will you do? Here’s my fear: rd 9.1-5; I bragged about your readiness, I’ve told the state leadership about your readiness. We’ve been written up in magazine articles, we’ve been focused on at conventions and conferences, The state has asked to have next years mission Conference at Calvary because you have displayed your great passion for Mission and Ministry. And now, I do have complete confidence you, but I have a little fear. I, what did he say, Otherwise, if some Baptists come with me and find that you are not ready… we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident.

You have accepted the challenge; the time is upon us.

I need you to sit down with your family and your finances and make a decision about how to support the missionaries we’re going to send. We’ll need a monthly commitment, above and beyond the tithe. Next week, you will be given a challenge and I want you to be ready. I’m going to ask you to make a public commitment.

KR grew up in a pastor’s home. She said that they didn’t really have a lot of money. It came time to give an offering – above and beyond the tithe – for missions. The kids voted to give up Ketchup. For an entire year. Every time they ate and Ketchup was usually used – they didn’t have any. They remembered to pray for their missionaries. Ketchup for a poor family. What would that equal today – for a little kid? What would the equivalent be for you?

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