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Partnership One With Another


Chapter 8      Plurality

We live in the day of grace. It is written in the book of Galatians that we are not under the law. If we are not under the law, then we are simply not under the law. Neither are we under the consequences that result from not following the law. (The curse of the law.)

In the Old Testament, and in the gospel period, the law was in effect. One of the many laws was the law of the tithe. Malachi chapter three, from which many teach that we are to tithe, or suffer the consequences, is addressed to the people of Israel, and they were under the law. We are not.

We have been given God's model for giving and sharing of our prosperity in this age of grace. The example that we are to follow is given in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts.

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the lord Jesus: And great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Each believer in the church shared with the other believers as needed. Many believers went so far as to sell houses and properties that weren't needed so they could provide money to fill the needs of the people of the church.

God's plan for the needs of His people to be met was and is still very simple and straight forward. Reread Acts 4:32-35 and notice that it was not a complex structure or organization, but it was a simple partnership (koinonia) with each person taking responsibility and reaping benefits.

In the short time that passed between Acts chapter four and Acts chapter six, the church grew from about 120 people to many thousand. As you can imagine, there were problems that had to be overcome to carry out the distribution of the money, food and other items. In Acts 6:1 we see that some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. We have the record of the way that the problem was solved.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the holy ghost, and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. Acts 6:1-4

Some have taught that this example was not carried on into the later part of the early church, but over twenty years later when the book of II Corinthians was written, Paul said that there was to be an equity by the sharing with each other to fill needs. (II Corinthians 8:12-15) This instruction and example is for the believers of the age of grace, of which we are a part.

In First Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructed, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him."   The word of God further instructs us in II Corinthians 9:7, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: For God loveth a cheerful giver." We should give because we are operating the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. God has given us His word and we must choose to believe and give willingly out of love. It is our choice. God will not force us to give. However in II Corinthians 9:6 the revelation to us is, "He which soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully."

We are give an extremely strong example of giving for the wrong reason in the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. They did not give out of love and believing, but to glorify themselves.

From the account in II Corinthians 8:24, we find that giving to supply others need is a way to show "the proof of your love." The book of James makes a very important point concerning sharing our plurality to fill other's needs:

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not the things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believeth that there is one God; thou doeth well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead.
James 2:15-20

When we as believers know the word of God, we then are responsible to believe and carry out that word. In II Corinthians chapters eight and nine, Paul gives instructions to the scattered churches at Corinth, concerning a special collection to help the starving saints in Jerusalem. He doesn't tell them to talk about it or pray about it, or to wait around. But he encourages them to get on with it.

Now therefore, perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye be burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. II Corinthians 8:11-15

Go back to Acts 4:32-35 and read it again. As you read, notice the following six truths of this revelation:

First, no one felt that their possessions were there own. Everything that we have is because God has blessed us. God has supplied our need so that we can carry out the ministry of reconciliation that He has given us. God supplies us so we can give, not so we can squirrel it away. Look at the following verses:

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things ... I Timothy 6:9-11

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate. Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. I Timothy 17-19

The second truth in Acts chapter four that we should see is that they had all things in "common." "Common" is the Greek word koina which means shared or common. Possessions were not held as a high priority, because spiritual things were most important. This word koina is the word that koinonia comes from, which is translated fellowship and means partnership.

Third, no one in the group at Jerusalem lacked for physical needs because there was an equality in the church.

Forth, those who had more than they needed sold unneeded possessions and "laid them down." They turned loose of their gift and turned it over to the "apostles." (Later gave them over to the seven men who were designated to manage the distribution.) They didn't give with strings attached to the gift.

Fifth, distribution was made. People gave. People distributed. God supplies our needs through people. Distribution is made possible by people who choose to believe what God has plainly told us in His word about sharing our possessions.

Sixth, distribution was made according to the need of each individual. Acts chapter four gives us the basic plan of plurality within the body of Christ. Each individual church is responsible to receive and distribute to the needs of believers within the church.

The church should help all believers within their group as needed until they are able to stand on their own and contribute to the common need.  I Timothy gives us very specific instructions concerning who the church is responsible to support on an ongoing basis:

    3 Honor widows that are widows indeed.
            (honor: tima place value on)
            (indeed: ontos really being)
            (widow: xeras lacking husband)

    4 But if any widow have children or nephews,
            (not a widow indeed)
            (nephews: ekgona grandchildren)

    let them learn first to shew piety at home,
            (piety: eusebeiv respect to parent)

    and requite their parents: for this is good and acceptable before     God. (requite: amoibas repay)

    5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate,
            (desolate: memonomene without support)

    trusteth in God and continueth in supplications and prayers night     and day.

    6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
            (pleasure: spapalosa self pleasure)

    7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. 
            (give in charge: paraggelle transmit a message)

    8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his     own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
            (infidel: apistou unbeliever)

    9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under three-score         years old, having been the wife of one man.
            (taken: katalegestho enrolled)

    10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up             children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the         saints feet, if she have relieved their afflicted, if she have                 diligently followed every good work.

    11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they
            (refuse: paraitou decline)

    have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
            (wax wanton: katasteniasosi grow lustful)

    12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.     And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to         house; and not only idle but tattlers also and busy-bodies,                 speaking things which they ought not.

    13 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children,     guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak         reproachfully.

    14 For some have already turned aside after Satan.

    15 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them         relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may             relieve them that are widows indeed
            (relieve: eparkeito help) (charged: bareistho burdened)

Widows indeed are women that are over 60 years old and have no means of support. The church is to make arrangements for these women to be taken care of, and the church is to provide for them. Other widows are to marry. They fall into the general guidelines given in Acts chapter four. The church is to help them until they either marry or become able to work to support themselves.

Paul goes into great detail to explain why some elders should be financialy supported.

    I Timothy 5:17-18:
    17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double             honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
            (honour: times money paid) (doctrine: didaskalia teaching)

    18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that             treadeth out the corn. And the labourer is worthy of his reward. 
            (labourer: ergates worker, figuratively, teacher)
             (reward: misthou pay for service)

     I Corinthians: 9:7-14
    7 Who goes a warfare anytime at his own charge?
            (charge: opsoniois pay for service)
    Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or     who feedeth a flock and eateth not the milk of the flock?

    8 Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same             also?

    9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the     mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care of     oxen

    10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no             doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope;         and that he that thresheth is hope should be partaker of his hope.

    11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if     we shall reap your carnal things?

    12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we             rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power: but suffer all     things lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

    13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live     of the things of the temple? and they which wait the altar are             partakers with the altar?

    14 Even so hath the lord ordained that they which preach the             gospel should live of the gospel.

This is what the word of God says about plurality. Now we need to believe the word, do the word, and see the wonderful results of God's word in action. The word also tells us the following:

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thoughshalt heap coals of fire on his head. Romans 12:20

Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.   As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:7-10

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Ephesians 4:28

The evidence is clear, we are to give of our plurality based upon the New Testament records. Therefore, "my little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." I John 3:18

    By Neil Tolman

Neil's House