We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
II Corinthians 8:1-2
Our Scripture focus for this Advent is one of the Bible’s richest meditations on receiving God’s grace and giving it, as found in II Corinthians 8-9. In these two profound chapters the apostle Paul sets forth the Overflow of God’s Grace. This overflow of grace originates within the mutual love and self-giving of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From eternity to eternity “each divine person gives, each receives, and each returns. Each loves and glorifies the other two, and each receives love and glory from them.” (Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge). The DNA of the Trinity is self-giving love; God is love. It is God’s essential nature to love and to give Himself for others, with no thought of return.
This means that God can no more stop loving and giving than God can stop being all-powerful, eternal, and wise. The wonder and mystery of the ages is how God has turned self-forgetting love towards the world in giving His Son for all who will receive.
The love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has overflowed to us in Jesus Christ, making us new creatures in Him. We are made receivers of His grace that we might be channels of His grace to others.
In today’s Scripture text the apostle Paul points to the Overflow of God’s Grace into and through the lives of impoverished Christians in Macedonia. Paul notes that it was “the grace of God” that “overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” Hearts moved by grace then flowed into generosity to poor brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. As God delights in showing grace, so God works delight in the Macedonians giving of themselves for others.
The Overflow of God’s Grace might be illustrated in the two seas that are in the Holy Land, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The origins of both Seas can be tracked back to the majestic 10,000 feet peaks of Mount Hermon to the north. As the summer sun melts the snow the runoff flows into the Upper Jordan River, which then flows into the Sea of Galilee. Most visitors to the Holy Land return talking about the beauty of the Sea of Galilee, teeming with many kinds of fish, marine creatures, and plants. The waters received from the North Jordan pass through the Sea of Galilee into the South Jordan River, then flow into the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea receives the flow of the South Jordan River but has no outlet for giving. It is a sea that just takes. The waters flow in, but not out. As a result its waters are toxic and bitter, with no fish, marine life, or plants. Thus it earns it name, the Dead Sea.
Two bodies of water receiving the same river! One receives and gives, and lives. The other only receives, and dies. Perhaps these two seas testify to the truth about life, and the truth about God’s Overflow of Grace. It is in the receiving and giving of God’s grace that we come alive!
- What are some ways that God’s free, undeserved grace has prompted you to give?
- What does the illustration of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea say to you?