“For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).
He said the churches had gone beyond what was even hoped for — and they didn’t consider their own poverty when the need arose. How could they do this? Because, first, Paul explained, they “gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”
They had their priorities in order. They were keeping the commandments of Christ as He said some six times in the New Testament to “love they neighbor.”
In Mark 12: 30, 31, Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
This was the principle Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He said: “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41). “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Matthew 5:45).
The Sermon on the Mount (probably Horns of Hattin) was given primarily to the disciples and could be called the Constitution of the Kingdom, says Dr. Herschell Hobbs in “The Life and Times of Jesus.” The Beatitudes, which lead His sermon, is a formula for success and gives the characteristics of those who are in the kingdom of God. Each line begins with blessed, or happy. These absolutes signify the nature of the citizens of the kingdom.
It is interesting to note that the Greek word is makarios, a word also used to describe the island of Cyprus because it was “blessed with everything necessary to produce everything necessary for a happy life.
Jesus gives eight statements in Matthew 5 — all focused on a relationship with Him — everything needed to have that blessed, successful and happy life:
Blessed are the poor; Blessed are they that mourn; Blessed are the meek; Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; Blessed are the merciful ; Blessed are the pure in heart; Blessed are the peacemakers; and Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In this sermon, Jesus gives the recipe for living a joyful life. With these teachings Christ set the foundation for His kingdom. In case some thought he was destroying the law with these principles, he warned them, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. ...” The churches in Macedonia knew the secret — how that, even in their affliction, they abounded in joy. This changed their deep poverty into riches because of their liberality. They practiced the “Law of Love.”
The Christian will experience the deeper meaning of His teachings. In reality, more will be expected of His children than the law asked ... “beyond their power — willing of themselves.”