Stephen F. Olford: Continual Sacrifice

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“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 1 Corinthians 15:55-16:2

“In the original Greek there is no break between what we call the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters. So Paul is virtually saying that a shared resurrection life in Christ is a serving life. The Lord Jesus gave Himself in death and resurrection, no in order to save us from sacrifice, but rather to teach us how to give ourselves and our substance in continual sacrifice. Thus, Paul finds no difficulty in moving from the theological heights of chapter 15 to the practical depths of chapter 16.

The occasion of this instruction in the grace of giving was a crisis in the church at Jerusalem. Because of persecution and opposition, many believers had suffered the despoiling of their goods and some even the loss of their lives. Paul felt it was his duty to provide financial assistance for such poverty-stricken saints in the mother church. Embedded in Paul’s admonition are principles that will abide for all time: giving to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity.”

Stephen F. Olford in The Grace of Giving: A Biblical Study of Christian Stewardship , third edition (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000) 36-37. This book is another good one in the long bibliography of great books I share with my students.

Olford uses sketches the nature of our share resurrection life in Christ that is a serving life in which we give ourselves and substance in continual sacrifice. It contains three timeless principles, namely, that we give to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity.

These three principles build upon one another. To give with regularity might mean it comes out of our accounts automatically. We get paid on a cycle so we give on a cycle. The other two, however, seek to drive us much deeper.

To give out of personal responsibility is to embrace our role as stewards of substance. For example, if about 70% of people don’t have a spending plan to live within their means (commonly known as a budget), they are exhibiting recklessness and not personal responsibility.

This was our story when Jenni and I got married. Only 13 months into our young marriage, we were paying the bills and realized we only had something like $7.34 in the checking account. We had to call our behavior what it was: irresponsible. We repented, that is, changed directions.

Lastly, because so few have a spending plan, they certainly cannot be practicing reciprocity. Generosity in the New Testament is always measured according to our means. As we are blessed, we bless others. That’s God’s design, His economy.

Few grasp this deep level like the Korean brothers and sisters whom I am serving this weekend. The two main pastors at New Harvest Ministry are my former students, Edward Chun and Andrew Gu. It’s beautiful to see them raise up a congregation aimed at continual, generous, and sacrificial service.

What about you? Does your continual sacrifice reflect giving to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity? Or in theological terms, is the victorious resurrection life of Jesus Christ manifested in your service and generosity?