Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:1-9)
Except maybe for a proverb, a single verse of Scripture must not be read apart from it's immediate context. So we have to read 2 Corinthians 8:9 with the verses preceding it. When we do, we will see a church excelling in many areas, but Paul wants them to grow in a neglected area-- the area of giving and self-sacrifice. So Paul wrote about the wonderful brethren in Macedonia. The Macedonians were poor, yet they sacrificially gave for the needs of others. Here is a poor congregation, making themselves even poorer to for the welfare of others. Paul was persuading them to imitate the Macedonians (verses 1-8)
Here comes verse 9. Though the Macedonians were good examples of giving and self-sacrifice, the perfect and ultimate example is the sacrifice offered by the Lord Jesus. If we truly understand the grace of Jesus in Christmas, we will be gracious to others in how we serve them and in how we treat them. Perhaps the most popular portion of Scripture about the Lord's self-humbling is Philippians 2. There Paul urged his readers to have the same mindset as Christ (Phil. 2:5). Doing so will lead us away from selfishness. It will make us look to the interest of others (Phil. 2:3-4)
Theologian J. I. Packer explains the spirit of Christmas this way:
"... the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow men, giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need. There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be. If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives." (Knowing God; 20th anniversary edition, p.64)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)This is the connection between Bethlehem and Calvary; the manger and the cross. As God, he is immortal. He could not die. His incarnation was necessary for in God's design of the redemption, someone must be sacrificed for the expiation of sin.
The purpose of his poverty is laid here: "so that by his poverty, we might become rich", implying of course that before the great sacrifice, before we have inherited all the spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3), we were in a state of poverty. We were poor in the sense that we are subject to pain and suffering as a result of the sin that entered through one man and spread to all mankind. It is a misery so great that would last for all eternity-- if the Lord had not shown his mercy. But he did showed his mercy by sending his Son to deal with this root problem of all our miseries namely "sin".
The rich and glorious King came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph. 1:7). And because the root problem of sin has been dealt with, we are now rich. Every spiritual blessing is ours. We are already given much benefit today, and more will be given in eternity: "so that by his poverty, we might become rich."
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)"He became poor", not by ceasing to be God or taking off any of his divine attributes, but by adding another nature to his divinity. He became flesh (incarnation). And when he came in to the world, he did not choose a palace as a birthplace, rather he chose to be born in an inn where there was no room for him. He was placed not in the finest crib but in a manger.
Becoming poor meant veiling his glory with human flesh. Yes, that glory so bright that not even angels could look upon directly with their bare eyes must now be hidden in frail humanity.
The Mighty One was born a real baby. The one who was sustaining the world was at the same time dependent on his parents. He cries when he is hungry or when his diaper is wet as if he was saying: "Mother, Mother help me"-- yet if he will not restrain his power he would survive anyway. For he doesn't need the help of human hands in order to survive because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25).
Becoming poor meant though he owns all the living creatures in the oceans, he would have to eat a small if that is all his carpenter foster father Joseph could afford.
Becoming poor also meant submitting himself to human vulnerability to pain and suffering; to the abuses of sinful man, to be insulted, to be spit upon, to be accused of wrongdoing when he knew no sin-- a suffering ending ultimately at the cross.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Iglesia ni Cristo ministers teach that Jesus was non-existent before he was conceived by Mary. He was just an idea in the mind of the Father. But this verse poses a major problem to that view. You see, Jesus was born in a poor family yet this verse says that isn't Jesus' original state. He was rich before he became poor. If he did not exist before he was born into Joseph and Mary's family, in what sense was he rich before he was poor?
This verse will only make sense in a framework which views Jesus as pre-existing before he became man (John 1:1; 8:58) And in that pre-incarnate state, he was equal in glory with the Father (Phil. 2:6; John 17:5). He was not just a pre-existing spectator to the Father's activities; he himself was very active in creation and in governing the affairs of nature and history (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:10; Col. 1:16-17). All privileges in the heavens and on the earth were his; in this sense he was rich.