Tuesday, 15 November 2022
Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. Acts 11:29
The previous verse referred to the prophecy of the famine coming “throughout all the world” during the days of Claudius Caesar. With that noted, it now says, “Then the disciples.”
This is a united effort that is coming about by those who have been ministered to. Being disciples implies being trained by others. What these disciples will do is next stated as “each according to his ability.”
The verb is imperfect showing an ongoing state. Also, it more precisely says, “according to the prospering of each.” The word translated as “prospering” is found only here. It signifies “to be good for passing through,” and thus it speaks of ability. Today we might say, “Good to go!” It reflects the state of the individual in relation to his financial needs and abilities. Of those who were good to go, they “determined to send relief.”
This is more of a shortened paraphrase. The words literally read, “to send for ministry.” There will obviously be a need when the famine comes and because there is advanced warning of it, there is the ability to prepare for it in advance. This is not unlike what Joseph did for Pharaoh in Genesis. The ability presently exists, and it can be used for a need that will arise at a time when the ability to tend to it will no longer exist. With that understood, this charitable ministry is intended to go “to the brethren dwelling in Judea.”
It is not said why this ministry is being sent. It is possible that Agabus told them the need would be greater in Jerusalem. It may be that the apostles constantly expended themselves in the service of others and relied on others for their daily bread. It may be that there was already a fund in Jerusalem that existed, and which would be quickly used up in a time of famine.
Whatever the reason, it was understood that there was a need in Jerusalem and that the disciples felt the burden of helping them because of the blessing they had already received from the mother church, such as in the sending of Barnabas, Agabus, and others. Hence, the need is identified, and it is met according to the ability of the disciples.
Life application: What is said in this verse is not unlike what Paul says in 1 Corinthians –
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
There was a need, promises were made, and Paul was ensuring that the promises would be kept by reminding those at Corinth of what was said. These were disciples that had obligated themselves to tend to the mother church in Jerusalem. And Paul explains why this was good to do in Romans 15 –
“For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” Romans 15:26, 27
Those in Jerusalem had expended themselves on behalf of the church in spiritual matters. Paul was correct in saying that they should, therefore, be tended to in their material needs. Today, there are really only two verses for the care of those who tend spiritually to others, neither of which has a thing to do with “tithing.” That is an Old Covenant concept that should never be taught in the church. Rather, Paul says –
“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” Galatians 6:6
“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.” 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7
That pretty much sums up the obligation of those who are ministered to by others. Share in the good you have and give freely but without compulsion. Rather, give according to your own purposes.
If you ever feel pressured to give, then you should wait until you don’t feel pressured. If you cannot give, then why would you? The Lord knows your heart. If you desire to give but are financially unable, then it makes no sense to do so. Instead of money, you can still offer prayer, encouragement, or help in the kitchen. Never feel compelled by others to do what is not coming from a cheerful and willing heart.
Lord God, thank You for those who tend to us in spiritual matters. Please bless them with a special blessing today. We are grateful for what they do, but we are also grateful to You for making it all possible. Thank You for Jesus who has led the way in all good things for us. Praises to You for what You have done, O God. Amen.