Thankful to Share
As we give thanks this season for the blessings which God has graciously given us in Messiah, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a pastor who has a heart to share the blessings he has received. I first talked with Pastor Scott* when he called me with a question he had concerning Paul’s teaching in Romans 15:25-27:
“But now, I (Paul) am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual blessings, they are indebted to minister to them also in material blessings.”
As we discussed this portion, noting how it speaks to the God-given responsibility of Gentile believers to share with Jewish people from what they have received, Scott was amazed that he had not heard this teaching before and expressed his desire for others to hear it as well. Though I would rather leave it to Gentile believers to teach on this subject, I was convicted to not let my feelings stand in the way of God’s truth, so here is my teaching on this important portion from God’s Word.
A Blessing to the Nations
Paul’s heart was ablaze to bring the Good News of Messiah to the Gentile world. In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul shares his travel plans (15:23-29), and his travel prayers (15:30-33) for his upcoming opportunities to further the Good News. On his way to Spain, he planned to stop by Jerusalem in order to bring a gift from his Gentile brothers to the Jewish believers there. We see in Scripture that Paul saw this gift as very important; so important in fact, that he was willing to give his life to bring this gift to Jerusalem! (See Acts 21:10-13) Why would he feel so strongly about this?
Since Paul saw Yeshua as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, “the Seed of Abraham,” who would be the “blessing to all the nations,” he understood his own ministry to the Gentiles to be a result of this fulfillment (see Gen. 22:18, Gal. 3:14, 16). Thus this “gift” represented the Gentile believers’ appreciation for what they had received through Israel’s Messiah, their love for their Jewish brethren, and one step in fulfilling their calling “to make Israel jealous” for Messiah (Romans 11:11). Yet even more than that, this gift was a testimony to the Jews in Jerusalem of the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah – a testimony worth living for and as need be worth dying for! (See Acts 21:17-20) For this gift represented what the Hebrews foretold was one of the proofs that Messiah has come: the nations would believe on the Jewish Messiah and love the Jewish people! (see Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10, 12; 42:1, 6; Jeremiah 4:2; Micah 4:2-3; Zechariah 14:16, etc.) As Paul shares about the Gentile believers’ gift in Romans 15:25-27, he gives several principles regarding the relationship between the Gentile believers and their Jewish brothers in Messiah.
A Blessing from the Nations
In verse 26, Paul states that the Gentile believers were pleased to give a gift in response to the grace they had received. Their gift is referred to as a “contribution,” which literally means, a partaking in the needs of others. So here we see Paul’s first principle:
By God’s grace and mercy we are called to be gracious and merciful to others in need.
Opportunity and Obligation
But if the gift was for the poor, why would someone give because they were “indebted to minister?” Wouldn’t the needs of those in poverty be reason enough to give? Yes and no. The poverty provided the occasion, but not the reason. The financial need provided the opportunity to give, but the Gentile believer has a spiritual obligation to minister to the Jewish people. The second principle Paul speaks of here is:
Those who receive spiritual blessings are indebted to minister back through material blessings.
This is taught throughout the Scriptures. In I Corinthians 9:11 we read, “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” And in Galatians 6:6, “The one who is taught the Word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” Simply put, you thank the Lord by appreciating the means He uses to edify you. However, in Romans, Paul is developing an even greater principle for Gentile believers and their testimony in Messiah. In Romans 11, Paul explains to Gentile believers that they have been grafted into a cultivated olive tree, the root of which is the people of Israel. As long as the Gentile believers receive of the “richness of the root,” (the promises to and through Israel – Rom. 11:17), they have an obligation to give back to help the people of Israel, especially the remnant saved by grace (Rom. 11:5-6)
A Lesson in Love
Some may ask, “How can we pay back our past benefactors: the Apostles, etc., now that they are gone?” In 2 Samuel we read of a situation that sheds light on this question. When David first became king of Israel he sought to bless the family of Saul, despite Saul’s hostility, in light of the blessings he had received from Saul’s son, Jonathan. Even though Jonathan had already died, David asked if there was anyone left of Saul’s relatives to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake (2 Sam. 9:1). When David was informed of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son, he welcomed him warmly into his household to eat at his table for the rest of his life (2 Sam. 9:6-7).
If David had been cruel to Mephibosheth, what would it have said about David’s love for Jonathan? Likewise, if Gentile believers don’t care for Messiah’s brethren according to the flesh, what does it say about their love for Yeshua, the King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2)? In light of Paul’s teaching, Gentile believers need to pray, “Is there one of the house of Israel that I may show kindness to for the sake of Yeshua, the King of Israel?” Like Mephibosheth, a ‘spiritual lameness,’ or “partial hardening” has happened to Israel (Rom. 11:25). They need your care for Paul’s sake, for the promises’ sake, and for Yeshua’s sake!
Since by faith in Messiah you are a child of Abraham, you are a part of the family, and called to love as part of the family (See Rom. 4:16-17). So here we have our third principle:
As members of Messiah’s family, Gentile believers have a debt of love to Israel.
Have you received the gift of Messiah’s love? If so, then like all believers, Jewish and Gentile, you too have a debt of love as a member of His family. This Thanksgiving season may you seek the Lord in how you can be a blessing to the Jewish people, to “minister to them” out of the blessings the Lord has graciously given to you.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah.” – Eph. 1:3
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual