• What was once a time to celebrate the birth of God's gracious rescue of this world has become a frantic few months of consumerism, depression, conflict and stress. Sadly, we're often so busy with what Christmas has become that we've forgotten what it truly is. We've forgotten the story. The book of Hebrews points its readers, both in the 1st century as well as in the 21st century, towards Jesus. He is the reason for the season. He truly is greater than anything we imagine!
5. He Is Greater: Than the Universe [Hebrews 1:1-4]
  • Since God's Son is chief over all, we must bow before Him as the Sovereign Lord.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God has revealed Himself in many ways (Hebrews 1:1) 
    • God has revealed Himself most fully in Jesus, His Son, the Messiah; in Jesus who is fully God Himself. (Hebrews 1:2 & 3)
    • Jesus is greater in every way than anything, as He is the One, fully God, who brought salvation. (Hebrews 1:2-4) 
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • How has God revealed Himself from your perspective? 
    • How is Jesus fully God?
    • Why is Jesus greater in every way?
      Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
      • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
        • How has God spoken?
        • In what ways does the text indicate that God has revealed Himself? 
        • What are the “last days?” 
        • How has God “spoken” through His Son?
        • What does it mean that Jesus was “appointed” as “the heir of all things?”
        • What does it mean that Jesus has “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high?” 
        • Why is Jesus superior to the angels? What is the “name” that Jesus has inherited?    
      • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
        • What is the implication that God has “spoken” many times and in many ways? What does it mean to you?
        • Are we in the “last days” and if so, when do the “last days” end?
        • List the descriptions, characteristics and qualities of Jesus as set forth in the text. What do these say to us and to you?
        • What is the implication of the assertion that Jesus is the “exact imprint of His (i.e., God’s) nature?” 
        • What does it mean to you that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power?”
        • What has Jesus accomplished with respect to sin? How has He dealt with it? How has He dealt with your sin?
        • What do you understand about angels? Are they powerful? How is Jesus superior to angels and what does that mean to you?
        Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
        • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
        These Notes mark the beginning of a new Series covering the New Testament book of Hebrews. The name of the Series is “He Is Greater” and the focus is on Jesus Christ – that He is greater than anything else (because He is fully God), that He is our great high priest, and that because of His greatness He must reign in every way in our lives, in heart, mind and action. It is a book that either quotes or references the Old Testament numerous times, and in so doing, teaches that the old covenant of law has been fulfilled, or completed, in the new covenant of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection to glory; the old covenant is in that sense obsolete, having been replaced by the new covenant; the old covenant was that which pointed to Christ, a shadow or a copy of the real thing that was to come in Christ. And now that He has come, Christ is God's final word, and indeed, He truly is greater than anything we imagine!

        By way of background before diving into the text, the book of Hebrews, while called a “letter” by many translations, is more accurately a sermon, also termed a homily, sent to a particular audience. The only elements of the typical ancient letter format appear at the end of the book, since the sermon was sent to this audience. (See Hebrews 13:22-25). The author of the book did not have the opportunity to deliver the sermon orally; hence the sermon was written out. The audience is not specifically identified in the text, but textual clues seem to indicate that the audience is Jewish Christians in Rome (cf. Hebrews 13:24b) who were known by the author (cf. Hebrews 13:19, 23 & 24). These Jewish Christians were under some degree of affliction or persecution which came after the years when Jews and Christians were expelled from Rome by Claudius, and after the reign of terror under Nero during which many Christians, including apparently some from the church in Rome (cf. Hebrews 13:7) were martyred, and after Peter and Paul themselves had been executed. Thus, the book was likely written in the later 60s AD, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70AD. Many Jews and Jewish Christians had returned to Rome by that time, but they were a minority and the Jewish Christians were under social and official pressure as by then, Christianity was no longer a religion protected by Rome. In fact, The Roman government treated the Christian religion as a threat to order. Consequently, the author was writing, at least in part, to exhort these Jewish Christians to continue on with Jesus, who was greater than anyone or anything, and not to fall away either to Judaism or to no faith, under the pressure of their circumstances.

        Who was the author of the book? No one knows. The book itself does not name its author, unlike what is the case for most of the New Testament writings. Moreover, there is no consistent proof from history as to the author. Some in the early church ascribed the book to Paul the apostle; others pointed to no author in particular. Since those early days of the church, theories have been propounded in favor of the author being Paul the apostle, Barnabas, Silas, Priscilla, Clement of Rome, Luke, or Apollos. Whether or not any of the foregoing is the author, it is generally agreed that the actual author was part of the “Pauline circle.” It seems to this writer that there is a strong case to be made for Apollos as the author. Apollos was a Jewish man from Alexandria (Alexandria was a famous city in northern Egypt, known as the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient world, famous for its library and museum, and second in influence to Rome. The city and its museum attracted many of the greatest scholars of the known world.). He was known to Paul (see I Corinthians 1-4) and, likely, to Timothy (see Acts 18 & 19). He was learned in the Scriptures which to him would have meant the Greek translation known as the Septuagint which was created in Alexandria (Acts 18:24-28), and was not only well-educated but a powerful speaker (Acts 18:24-28), ministering principally to Jews and pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.  He had some authority within the church in general (I Corinthians 1:12; 3:22), and most certainly knew of Rome and the situation of Jewish Christians there from Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1 & 2, 26). All of these factors, when put together with the thrust of the book of Hebrews, including its many references to the Old Testament using the Septuagint translation, the author’s intimate knowledge of the traditions and foci of Judaism, and the eloquent Greek and powerful rhetorical devices of the sermon text, all suggest Apollos as the most likely author (We will have to wait for the identity of the true author when we get to heaven!).

        As noted above, the central focus of the book is Jesus the Messiah, and the central message is “stay true to Jesus, as He is true to you!” (cf. Hebrews 3:6). And in reading the book as if it were being delivered orally as a sermon, this central message comes through loud and clear as the author pulls, pushes, admonishes, exhorts and encourages his audience to keep on following Jesus and living for Him. To this end, the author begins his sermon with what is perhaps one of the strongest statements in Scripture of who Jesus is. To the readers of this book, then, the first four verses of Hebrews 1 set up the message to come in this sermon; they state the case for Jesus being superior and the last word, for being far beyond even what God revealed before Jesus through the prophets and in other ways, for being worthy of their devotion, and for being the One they should from whom they should not fall away.  The author states clearly that it is God who spoke in the past and who has spoken in His Son, Jesus, concerning God’s program of salvation to all who believe. In short, the author in effect says to his readers, “Listen up! Remember who you have believed and put your trust in. He is greater than anything, and He is the most important thing.” As a method of rhetoric, then, these verses are the invitation to the audience of readers to what is to come in the sermon, and a direction to once again lift up and praise Jesus the Messiah (see Hebrews 12:1-3 as the essence of where the sermon will end up.). But what are the specifics of these verses?

        Verse 1 looks back to the fact that God has already spoken to humans, and specifically to the Jews. How and when did God speak? He spoke to the people (“our fathers”) through the prophets (A prophet is one who speaks forth the word of God. The readers would be familiar with the prophets of old as they knew the Old Testament Scriptures.), He spoke many times in this way and by many different means. In other words, God has not been silent; His revelation of Himself and His purposes is frequent, varied and continuous; His revelation is known, often involves humans (the prophets) as the vehicle for His message, and is documented; His word is important and dynamic. And we know, as did the readers of this book, that God’s message through the prophets pointed to the Savior, the Messiah, who is worthy and to be exalted. But now, writes the author in verse 2, we have received God’s final, meaning His most complete, word, the word that puts the most awesome exclamation to His revelation. And that word is God’s Son. There is no need for further revelation; Jesus is the fulfillment of the prior revelation, and in Him alone is salvation; there is no turning back. But who is this Jesus, the One who is greater?

        Many commentators view verses 2 and 3 as derived from a Christian hymn. Whatever the case, what is clear is that these two verses speak of the greatness of Jesus and His divinity. Seven truths emerge: 1) Jesus is God’s Son; 2) Jesus is heir of all things; 3) Jesus is Creator; 4) Jesus is a source of glory; 5) Jesus is equal to God in substance; 6) Jesus is sovereign over the universe; and 7) Jesus is the Savior of mankind, having completed the work of salvation. Thus, Jesus is with and part of God from before time, in time, and at the end of time into eternity; He is indeed God and reigns with Him in power by His word, and is clothed in the splendor of glory. There is none greater; that is Jesus! To further prove his point, in verse 4 the author uses the first of what will be several comparisons in the sermon, and in so doing employs the rhetorical device of persuading that one is great by showing that one in comparison to another thing. And to the Jew, who had a high view of angels, thinking them to be in counsel with God, helping Him in the carrying out of His will and mediating the old covenant, and even worthy of worship (We know, however, that angels are not to be worshiped. See Revelation 19:9 & 10), the author says that Jesus is greater than the angels! Angels are created spirit beings with heavenly bodies (I Corinthians 15:40) who can and do appear in human form on occasion (e.g., Genesis 18:1, 22); they do not marry or procreate (Matthew 22:28), nor do they die (Revelation 12:4). They have emotions (Luke 15:10), and are organized and divided into ranks with responsibilities and functions to carry out (see Daniel10:10-21). They are certainly powerful and even mysterious; but they are not divine. So, as great as angels are, Jesus is greater; He completed the work of salvation (“purification for sins”), something which angels could not do. In what He did, Jesus inherited a “name” (cf. Philippians 2:9-11. Note that in antiquity, one’s name was more than just a label; rather, one’s whole character and person was somehow wrapped up in one’s name. So in Jesus’ case, His name was superior and “earned” by His obedience to give Himself up on the cross as payment for sins, and be resurrected to life.) What is that name? It is not Jesus; it is likely the “Lord.” (see Revelation 19:11-16). Jesus is thus “better than,” or “superior to,” or “greater than” angels because of His Sonship, and He is God. Therefore, even the angels bow before Him. And the implication to the readers of this book is that they, too, should bow before Him.

        What a start to the book of Hebrews! Jesus the Messiah is greater in every way because of who He is and what He has done. He is superior in everything and calls for the worship and response of all, leastwise the original readers of the book, but certainly of all who follow as well who bow the knee to Jesus. He is greater than the universe because, quite simply, He is God and He is outside the universe; He is the great eternal One, the One who has bought and paid for our salvation. To the Jews in Rome who were afflicted and tempted to back-track on their faith, the author is saying, “Don’t back-track; why would you do that, as you serve the One who is greater than the universe. Bow down to Him.” To each of us today, the book of Hebrews is saying the same thing – no matter your situation or circumstances, if you know Jesus as your Savior, don’t lose heart; keep following Him to the end in these last days until He returns. He is worth it because He is greater than the universe; He is Jesus, Lord of lords and King of kings, exalted Savior and Redeemer. Worship Him! Amen

        What was once a time to celebrate the birth of God’s gracious rescue of this world has become a frantic few months of consumerism, depression, conflict and stress. Sadly, we’re often so busy with what Christmas has become that we’ve forgotten what it truly is. We’ve forgotten the story.
        The book of Hebrews points its readers, both in the 1st Century as well as in the 21st Century towards Jesus. He is the reason for the season. He truly is greater than anything we imagine!

        1. Greater Than The Universe [Hebrews 1:1-4] [Luke 1:26-56]
        Since God’s Son is chief over all, we must bow before Him as the Sovereign Lord.

        2a. Greater Than The Angels [Hebrews 1:5-1:14] [Luke 2:8-15]
        Jesus’ superiority to the angels rests on the fact that He is ruler over all.

        2b. Greater Than The Cynics, Critics, and Skeptics [Hebrews 2:1-4] [Luke 2:16-20]
        Since we have encountered such a great salvation, we must be careful not to drift away from it.

        3. Greater Than Our Destiny [Hebrews 2:5-9] [Luke 2:21-40]
        The fate of mankind is to die, but the hope for the believer is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

        4. Greater Than All Existence [Hebrews 2:10] [John 1:1-14]
        Jesus, the eternal Word, is God in human flesh revealing the life and light of God to darkness.

        5. Greater Than Only Christmas Day [Hebrews 2:11-18] [Luke 2:41-52]
        Jesus became man in order to bring us to God. He was born to die so that we may live!


        • There's no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time to choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, Lord ... my times are in your hand!”
        5. In God We Trust: While My Trouble May Be His Blessing [Philippians 4:10-20]
        • God expects us to be wise in our use of what is His. “For I have learned to be content.”
        Sermon Preparation Guide
        • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
          • Sharing with and giving to others in need will bring a blessing from God. (Philippians 4:17 & 19) 
          • Contentment in each and every circumstance must be learned. (Philippians 4:11 & 12)
          • The key to contentment is found in Jesus. (Philippians 4:13)  
        • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
          • How are you doing in terms of sharing and giving to others in need? 
          • What steps do you need to take to learn to be content?
          • How do you find contentment in Jesus? 
            Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
            • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
              • Why is Paul rejoicing in what the Philippians did?
              • Describe why and how the Philippians gave to Paul? What were their motivations? 
              • What blessing is in store for the Philippians in their giving? 
              • What are the spiritual benefits of giving for the needs of others, particularly those in Christian ministry?
              • What does it mean to be content in the way Paul describes contentment?
              • What was Paul’s attitude in receiving gifts from the Philippians? Did he need their gifts? 
              • What was God’s attitude towards the giving the Philippians did?
              • What is the relationship between the promise in verse 19 and one’s giving? Are we entitled to God’s blessing and provision if we give? Should the promise be our motivation for giving?
              • Why is giving like the Philippians did an acceptable sacrifice to God?    
            • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
              • What should your attitude be towards those who might give to you in your need?
              • Is our giving limited to money? If not, what other things or resources can we give to others?
              • How do you define contentment for yourself? What adjustments might you have to make to your definition in light of verses 11-13?
              • How does Jesus strengthen you for the living of life in each and every circumstance? 
              • How does one learn to be content? What steps must you take to learn contentment?
              • Do you consider giving to be an offering to God? Why is God pleased with your giving?
              • What does verse 19 mean to you? How will you live going forward in light of the promise in verse 19?
              • What is the most meaningful lesson you have learned from this passage?
              Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
              • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
              As we come to this final installment of this Series, we look back and realize we have learned much. We have seen that God owns it all and thus our “possessions” are His and for His use. We have seen that God provides for our needs so we needn’t worry. We have seen that our giving is an offering of worship. And we have seen that God expects that we use the gifts (time, treasure and talent) He gives us to multiply results for His kingdom. This fifth installment will teach us that as we rest in Him and His provision, whether it is direct or through others, we must learn to be content in our circumstances whatever they are, and that whatever “troubles” we may have are the opportunity for His blessing.

              On his second missionary journey, which began with Barnabas who early on was replaced by Silas (Acts 16:36-40), Paul eventually came to Philippi in the district of Macedonia (Acts 16:11 & 12) and planted a church there. He visited the church in Philippi some years later on his third missionary journey (Acts 20:1-6).  Several more years have now elapsed and Paul is in prison in Rome (Philippians 1:7, 13, 17. The date of this imprisonment is roughly 10-11 years after the Philippian church was planted.) and writes a letter to the believers in Philippi. It is a very personal letter, and the verses covered in these Notes underscore that fact as he writes about his situation and his needs and the way that the Philippians had helped him with their gifts.

              The Philippians had given Paul a gift of financial support and in verse 10, he begins to write them his thanks. Apparently, the Philippians had wanted to make a gift previously, but for whatever reason had not had the opportunity. Perhaps it as at a time when Paul was collecting the gift for the Jerusalem church and he didn’t want there to be any mis-perception if he received a gift at the same time. In any case, Paul expresses his joy in the gift and his thanks for the generosity of the Philippians (Philippians 4:10, 14-16). He notes that by their gift they literally shared in his trouble (another version says his “affliction”), that the gift indeed supplied his needs and more (Philippians 4:18a), and that it was an offering acceptable to God (Philippians 4:18b). Moreover, Paul adds to his thanks the fact that the Philippians were the only ones who supported him after he left Macedonia (Philippians 4:15), and that they had sent at least one more (and possible two more) gifts to him subsequently (Philippians 4:16). The Philippians had given voluntarily, liberally, more than once, and with no expectation of receiving anything in return; they had given from their hearts and out of love for God as expressed in their love for Paul. In light of these things, Paul notes that he does not seek the gifts for himself, but rather desires that the giving by the Philippians “accrue interest” to their “spiritual account.” (Philippians 4:17) In short, there is spiritual benefit to giving in that it pleases God and redounds to the spiritual growth of the giver, as Paul reminds the Philippians that in their giving, God will, in turn, “supply every need” of theirs “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 & 20) All in all, Paul’s trouble, meaning his hardships and then imprisonment in Rome, has led to his blessing through the gifts of the Philippians, and to the blessing of the Philippians through their giving multiple times to Paul.

              In the midst of the foregoing words of encouragement and thanks to the Philippians, Paul comments on the subject of contentment. Why so? Because contentment is something that believers, including Paul, have to learn, and because contentment permits the believer to live in a state whereby both giving and receiving are made easier. In the old nature (that is, without a relationship with God through Jesus), when one is prosperous generally one wants more, and when poor, one also wants more. Either way marks discontent with one’s circumstances. And beyond that, the reaction to the circumstance by the natural man is generally one of self-sufficiency; “I can help myself.” or “I can handle this, and tough it out.” The secret for the believer, writes Paul, is to allow the Holy Spirit to change one’s mind and attitude from self-sufficiency, from wanting more, from fighting circumstances, to humble contentment and resting in one’s circumstances whatever they may be, trusting in God for everything including the strength to live in those circumstances. (Philippians 4:11-13) Having plenty (living in abundance) means that one is able to share more because one has more. Having little means that one can give from what little God has and He will still provide for one's life.

              Thus, in Christ, one can live in the high or the low, with much or the little, being fully supplied or needy. In making this statement about contentment, Paul turned on its head the thinking of his day espoused by the Greek Stoics. The Stoics use of the word “content” (Greek “autarkes”) to mean “entirely self-sufficient” which was a state of mind by which the individual was “absolutely independent of all things and all people.” (per William Barclay in his commentary on the Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, revised edition) The Stoic sought to remove desire and emotion from one’s life to achieve this state of self-sufficiency, and steeled oneself to whatever happened. Altogether, the Stoic sought contentment by human achievement. In contrast, Paul says that the believer seeks contentment by sufficiency from God. Contentment is thus inextricably intertwined with trusting God. God owns everything, God provides everything, God knows you and your needs, and God is worthy to be trusted in everything because of who He is. Therefore, you can be in whatever circumstances and you are still in God’s hands, able to give and to receive, able to bless and be blessed, able to live for His will and purposes in everything.

              Paul was on the receiving end of giving by the saints at Philippi on multiple occasions. He accepted the provision as being the provision from God via those believers, and was joyful and thankful. The Philippians, on the other hand, were blessed in their giving, it being an offering to God and the means by which God would bless them (Philippians 4:18 & 19). And both Paul and the Philippians, and us today, need to learn to be content in whatever circumstances we are, resting in the goodness and the provision of our great God who loves us and who will strengthen us for the living in those circumstances. How do we learn to be content? By believing that God provides and strengthens, by asking God to help us be content, by submitting our wants and desires to Him, by trusting Him for our every need, by being generous and wise in the use of our resources, and by being abundant givers who love to bless others. Are you content? If not, do you want to be content? I hope so, and indeed I pray so, for that is the place to be as a follower of Jesus who died for you, and in the hands of the Father who “will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Jesus Christ. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19 & 20)
              • There’s no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, Lord...my times are in your hand!”
              4. In God We Trust: Even When I'm Afraid to Invest Myself [Matthew 25:14-30]
              • God sees responsible saving driving radical giving. “For God has entrusted me with much.”
              Sermon Preparation Guide
              • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
                • God entrusts us with time, treasure and talent. (Matthew 25:14 & 15)
                • God expects us to make use of and invest out time, treasure and talents. (Matthew 25:15, 19)
                • God will judge us as to how faithful we are in using and investing our time, treasure and talents. (Matthew 25:19-30)  
              • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
                • How are you using and investing your time, treasure and talents?
                • What time, treasure and talents has God entrust to you?
                • How will God judge your faithfulness in your investing your time, treasure and talents in His kingdom?
                  Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
                  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
                    • Remember that parables are a means of making one or more points or setting out one or more operable truths. What is Jesus seeking to teach with this parable?
                    • What is the implication of the fact that the master entrusted his servants with his property?
                    • What is the implication of the fact that the master went away after entrusting his property to his servants?
                    • Describe in your own words what each of the servants did with the talents entrusted to them? What was the outcome of their efforts?
                    • Did the servants know when their master would return?
                    • What did the master expect of his servants upon his return?
                    • What was the approach of each of the three individuals in reporting what they had done with the talents entrusted to them? Compare and contrast these approaches.
                    • What was the response of the master to each of the three individuals? What had he expected of each of them?
                    • What was the reward given to the first two individuals and why was it given?
                    • Why did the third individual receive no reward but instead received a punishment? Describe his punishment. Why was it appropriate and on what was it based?
                  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
                    • Who is your “master?”
                    • What has your master entrusted of His into your care? In other words, what time, treasure and talent has been entrusted to you? Describe these?
                    • What are you doing with your time, treasure and talent?
                    • How specifically do you use your treasure? Do you consider your treasure yours or God’s?
                    • How can you “invest” yourself in His kingdom?
                    • Are you living as if you expect your master to return and take account of your life? Are you afraid of your master, or do you love your master and want to serve Him?
                    • What does it mean for God to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
                    • What does it mean for you to be faithful to God with your time, treasure and talents?
                    • Is a reward from God to be sought, or is your reward to please Him in how you spend your life – your time, treasure and talents?
                    • Should you follow through on a commitment to give? What if you do not?
                  Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
                  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
                  The last study showed us that we are to be willing to give from what has been entrusted to our care, that is, from our time, our treasure and our talent. The Corinthian believers had promised to give to the offering for the church at Jerusalem, but had second thoughts. Paul admonished them to follow the example of the Macedonian believers who gave out of their own poverty without having been asked. Such giving multiples God’s blessing and provision and is an act of trusting God for ourselves and our provision. Our attitude in such giving should be that of joy and thanksgiving for the opportunity to help others as part of God’s plan of provision for them. But how are we to go about handling what God has given to us before we offer it back to Him, before we give? In fact, Jesus Himself gives us guidelines through the parable of the talents found in the gospel of Matthew.

                  In this parable, Jesus is actually continuing His teaching about the kingdom of heaven and the eventual coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age (Matthew 24:3, 30, 36 & 37), and as part of that teaching, speaks of the servant of the kingdom of heaven and whether or not the servant was “faithful and wise” in handling the Father’s “household.” (Matthew 24:45 & 46). He gives the parable of the ten virgins who are waiting for the bridegroom to come, five of them foolish and five of them wise and prepared. Then comes our parable of the talents. It is clear that Jesus is focusing on how it is that His followers live on earth, how they take care of the goods of the Father entrusted to them, and how they “invest” their lives. The “property” entrusted to the master’s servants (Matthew 25:14 & 15) is referred to as “talents” which was a monetary term. For our purposes, the larger meaning of “talents” is our “time, treasure and talents” given us by God.

                  The first truth from this parable Jesus gave us is that in the kingdom of heaven (which, by the way, means God’s rule and reign over everything and over us, and that of which we are a part in terms of being citizens of that kingdom and thus subject to God’s will and purposes), we are given, or more accurately, we are “entrusted” (Matthew 25:14) with something from God, namely “time, treasure and talents” as referred to above. Time is the days of our lives that we can live out to serve Him or not; treasure is the resources with which to live including money and possessions; talent is the abilities given us to use for Him or not. In short, we are entrusted with much that can be used, and His intent is that in fact it be used, for His kingdom and glory. In the parable, the master gave 5 talents to one person, 2 talents to another, and 1 talent to a third individual (Matthew 25:15). Then, Jesus says, the master “went away.” (Matthew 25:15b) In other words, he left this total of 8 talents with the three men to be used, knowing that each of the three had ability (Matthew 25:15). Then Jesus describes what each individual did with what was given him. The one with 5 talents used them effectively and wisely and turned them into 5 more through trading and “investing” them. The one with 2 talents did likewise, turning them into 2 more. In contrast, the third individual simply buried the 1 talent given him, doing nothing with it.

                  “After a long time,” (Matthew 25:19), the master came to settle accounts with the three individuals. This leads to the second truth from this parable, namely that we are accountable for that which God entrusts into our care and keeping. God not only expects us to make use of His resources, He expects that such use will be productive … that it will multiply His kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, then, stewardship is more than holding on to resources and eventually giving them back; it involves “investing” oneself and in that sense, taking risk for the benefit of the kingdom. We have been given time; how do we use it for God’s kingdom? We have been given treasure; how do we use it for God’s kingdom? We have been given talents; how do we use them for God’s kingdom? We are to be responsible with all these resources, and particularly with money. When we save our money, what are we saving for? Is it so we can buy a bigger, fancier car, or new clothes all the time, or some other kind of expense that revolves around self? No; it’s so that we can use those resources to meet needs, considering them God’s provision, and then give more to the building up of the kingdom. And by “investing” thusly in the kingdom, God is honored and we are blessed. But the same holds true with the investment of our time and talents.

                  The three individuals had to report what they had done with the talents entrusted to them. In the response of the master we find the third lesson from this parable, namely that there are consequences by way of judgment for how we use our time, treasure and talents. So what was the outcome of the accounting of the three individuals. The first two reported that they had each doubled the talents entrusted to them, and each received the same response, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:20-23) And both were given a reward of being given more responsibility in the master’s kingdom and the joy of participating with him in that kingdom. Notice that both these individuals received the same “reward.” It didn’t matter that they had received different amounts of talents and achieved different results. Rather, the same reward was for their faithfulness in using those talents for the benefit of the master. As for the third individual, things did not go so well. He reported to the master that he was afraid of the master, because the master could produce results whenever he wanted, making something out of nothing (Matthew 25:24), and as a result he hid the one talent entrusted to him and did nothing with it except return it to the master. This individual’s “investment” was unacceptable to the master because it showed disrespect for the master, a lack of faithfulness and trust in the master’s trust in him, and gave evidence of no effort to produce from the talent given him, or invest the talent to multiply it.  This servant had no heart for the master, so the master therefore rejected the individual, calling him a “wicked and slothful servant, and taking the talent from him and giving it to the one who took five talents and turned them into ten talents (Matthew 25:26-28). Further, the master upbraided the individual by telling him that at the very least, he could have invested the talent in a bank and made some interest, even if he himself did nothing. (Matthew 25:27) Then he cast that “worthless servant” into the “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:28, 30) by way of judgment. The third individual had failed his master, failed to trust his master, failed to serve his master, and failed to invest his own time, treasure and talent for the master.

                  So what are we to say from this parable? How does it apply to us? The parable teaches us the three lessons set forth above: God entrusts us with time, treasure and talent; God expects us to use our time, treasure and talent for His glory and multiply these gifts for His kingdom; and God will judge our faithfulness in how we respond to His faith in us. The bottom line? Take account of what God has entrusted to you and use those things for His glory, faithfully investing yourself into His kingdom. Surely He has given you time to use for Him; each day is a gift entrusted to you to use for His purposes. Surely He has entrusted treasure to you, no matter how big or small in amount, and He expects you to invest it in His kingdom. And surely He has given you certain talents and abilities, experience and training opportunities, and He expects you to put those to use for Him and His glory. He wants faithfulness from you in using these things and literally investing yourself for Him. How are you doing? What will your reward be? Will God say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” when the time comes for Him to judge. If you are a follower of Jesus and a child of God, the call is that you be faithful and invest all He has given you into His kingdom for His glory. Invest yourself; don’t hold back. He loves your faithfulness, and He deserves your faithfulness because He is worthy. So, invest yourself, and then keep on investing yourself as long as you have breath.
                  • There’s no doubt we are living in unstable and turbulent times, but there has never been a better time choose to have all-out trust in our God. For our culture, the topic of money and giving is one of the most difficult things to address, yet the Bible speaks abundantly on it. We have been created to say with tremendous faith, “I trust in you, Lord...my times are in your hand!”
                  1. In God We Trust: For More Than the Value of a Dollar Bill [II Corinthians 8 & 9]
                  • God wants us to give generously as an offering of worship. “For God loves a cheerful giver.”
                  Sermon Preparation Guide
                  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
                    • Giving is an act of grace. (II Corinthians 8:6 & 7)
                    • Giving should be voluntary, out of love, and from the supply of God's provision. (II Corinthians 8:8, 14; 9:8, 10 & 11)
                    • Giving honors God. (II Corinthians 8:19, 21; 9:13)
                    1. Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
                      • How does giving reflect grace and extend grace?
                      • What comes first, God's provision or our giving?
                      • How does giving honor God?
                        Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
                        • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
                          • Why did Paul cite the example of the giving by the Macedonian churches?
                          • Describe how the Macedonian churches gave.
                          • What did it mean that the Macedonian churches gave themselves first to the Lord before their actual monetary giving?
                          • List the characteristics of giving as laid out by Paul for the Corinthians.
                          • How is Jesus an example of the way in which we should give?
                          • What does Paul mean by writing that there should be fairness in the giving?
                          • What would giving demonstrate about the Corinthians?
                          • What is God's desire about our giving? What does God like about our giving?
                          • What principle is enunciated about the relationship between our giving and God's provision?
                          • How is our giving a ministry of service to others? What should we expect from the recipients of our giving?
                            • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
                              • Should you follow through on a commitment to give? What if you do not?
                              • Make a list of the attitudes and thoughts you have about your own giving? How do your attitudes and thoughts line up with the principles in chapters 8 and 9?
                              • Do you give cheerfully?
                              • Do you give sparingly or bountifully? What is the result from God if you give sparingly? If you give bountifully?
                              • What does II Corinthians 9:8 mean? What does it mean to you personally?
                              • How can you put II Corinthians 9:8 into practice in your life?
                              • What changes, if any, will you make in your giving habits as a result of your study of these passages from II Corinthians?
                              • How can you glorify God in your giving?
                              • Do you trust God to provide to you so you can give? How will God provide for you?
                              • What will be your harvest of righteousness as you give and give more?
                              Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
                              • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
                              So far we have learned that God owns everything from beginning to end, that we are stewards of that which He chooses to entrust to our care, and that we are not to worry about money and possessions because He has promised to provide for His children as we seek Him and His righteousness first. So, money and possessions are all about trusting in God. But what about what to do with that which He has entrusted to our care? Well, glad you asked. The answer is to begin with giving, and the text for this study is found in chapters 8 and 9 of what we know as Second Corinthians.

                              The Apostle Paul had a significant relationship with the church at Corinth, having planted the church there and then lived and ministered in the city for at least a year and a half (Acts 18:1-18). He also wrote letters to the church at Corinth, two of which are in the New Testament, and at least one other letter which is referred to in the letters we do have (II Corinthians 2:3; 7:8). The city was a major urban center, culturally diverse, prosperous as a mercantile community, and known for its moral looseness. The residents of the city who became believers came out of that background and therefore had much to learn about what it meant to follow Christ in terms of their lifestyles, attitudes and mindset. As a result, Paul continued to teach and minister to them through his letters after he had moved on from the city, as he was no longer able to be present with them in person though he desired to be (II Corinthians 1:15-17; 2:1-4).

                              As Paul ministered in various other places in the Roman empire, planting and visiting churches in different regions and cities, he had a heart to raise funds for the church in Jerusalem. The believers in Jerusalem were relatively poor due to on-going food shortages in the region, their ostracism by non-believing Jews which adversely affected them socially and economically, the burden of double taxation (Jewish and Roman taxes), and their need to support a large number of teachers and the many visitors to the region (See Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10). It seems that the process of the collection took quite some time, as much as ten years, and early on during that time period, Paul had invited the church at Corinth (in the province of Acaia) to participate in the collection, and they heartily agreed to do just that (I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8:10). In due course, Paul put together a group of individuals to assist with the delivery of the collection to Jerusalem. These individuals were actually representatives from the regions where these outlying churches were located, specifically in Macedonia, Galatia and Asia (See Acts 20:4).

                              In his letter we know as Second Corinthians, among other things he has to say to the church in Corinth, Paul wants to remind the church of its part in the foregoing collection which he does in chapters 8 and 9. The church had apparently not followed through with their gift for the Jerusalem church (II Corinthians 8:10 & 11). Why was that? It is not altogether clear, but it may well have had to do with the fact of the class divide in the city between the wealthy and the less fortunate, a divide that had continued in the church when people from both ends of the economic spectrum became believers. The collection was for the poor, and the well-to-do in Corinth in general did not like the poor and the artisan workers who were not well off. Hence, the collection in Corinth had come to a halt despite the initial enthusiasm. Further, itinerant missionaries had come to Corinth over the years and among other problems they created, had questioned Paul's authority and perhaps the legitimacy of the collection itself. In any event, the giving had stopped even though Paul had previously instructed as to the method the church could follow (regular, systematic giving out of one's regular income. cf. I Corinthians 16:1-4) to accumulate funds. It was thus time for Paul to speak to the issue in his letter and teach them (again) that God wants us to give generously out of our trust in Him for our provision and as an example of our not trusting in money and self-provision. The act of giving, therefore, is a result of and an application of God's grace. As one commentator put it, “... generosity stands alongside faith, speech, knowledge, and love as an expression of divine grace in man.” In short, we give because God gave; our giving is therefore at first an offering to Him and really an act of worship and in that way stands quite apart from the intended effect the giving will have.

                              Paul goes about his reminder not by hitting the issue head on, but instead by calling their attention to a wonderful model of giving, namely the Macedonian churches which gave joyfully, willingly and despite their own poverty (II Corinthians 8:1 & 2). The churches in Macedonia were in a state of constant persecution for their faith, which among other ways, took the form of economic difficulties. Notwithstanding their situation, these Macedonian believers saw their giving as a privilege (II Corinthians 8:4) and as sharing in the needs of others as a part of their service to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:4). They didn't wait to be asked, but volunteered to give, and then gave beyond expectations and even ability (II Corinthians 8:3 & 4). On the basis of this example, Paul urged the Corinthians to complete what they had started and “excel in this act of grace” just as they excelled in other things spiritual (II Corinthians 8:6 & 7).

                              Further, giving is not to be out of coercion (II Corinthians 8:8), but rather from sincerity of heart and love, and in keeping with Christ's gift of Himself for us to save us (II Corinthians 8:8 & 9). Who are we to withhold some of what God has entrusted to us in terms of possessions and resources when Jesus gave everything, having laid aside His “wealth” as it were to make an offering of Himself in fulfillment of God's will. Moreover, the Corinthians had already made a voluntary commitment, and Paul is not asking for new pledges, but that the church fulfill its own promise (II Corinthians 8:11) and thus in effect prove their willingness and eagerness to give, and to give out of their means (which they should feel challenged to do in light of the example of the Macedonian churches having given beyond their means!). The principle, then, is that we are to give willingly out of the means given to us, and to follow through with commitments to do such (II Corinthians 8:11 & 12).

                              Paul goes another step further and tells the Corinthians that there is a responsibility to share burdens through giving. The burden in this instance is the church at Jerusalem which was in dire need, especially in light of the relative financial blessings the Corinthians enjoyed. Paul terms this a “matter of fairness.” (II Corinthians 8:13; another translation says, “that there might be equality.”) This notion seems to harken back to the beginning period of the church in Jerusalem where there was a common pot which provided to all in terms of their needs (Acts 2:44 & 45; 4:34 & 35), but also to the manna God supplied to the Jewish people as they wandered in the desert (Exodus 16:16-36). The notion includes mutuality: when I have plenty, I will help you in your need; when you have plenty, you will help in my need. It all belongs to God in any case, so our call is to share a part of what we have been given as our part in God's promise to provide for His children. Nevertheless, such sharing is not intended to create need on the part of the giver (II Corinthians 8:13). So, Paul says to the church in Corinth, when the brothers come, including Titus whom they know, the church is to honor them in participating in the offering, even as these men and the gift itself honor Christ. (II Corinthians 8:16-24) And oh, by the way, by so doing, the Corinthian church will prove out the boasting Paul has made about them to the men! (II Corinthians 8:24)

                              The matter could have been left there, it would seem; but Paul goes on to elucidate the matter of the boasting of the Corinthian church as an “incentive” to the church to follow through on its commitment to give (II Corinthians 9:1-5). Paul does not want the Corinthians to be embarrassed when the representatives from the Macedonian churches arrive and potentially find the Corinthians unprepared (II Corinthians 9:3 & 4). Again, the underlying principle is that the giving should be voluntary and not forced or seen as “an exaction.” (II Corinthians 9:5) And even more, giving should be cheerfully done based on what what one has determined in his or her heart to give (II Corinthians 9:7). And beyond that, one's giving, whether “sparingly” or “bountifully” has a direct relationship to one's spiritual blessing from God (II Corinthians 9:6). In other words, the more you give, the more God will bless spiritually. This is not a promise to make one rich; rather, it is a promise that God will provide bountifully as one givemore and more of what God provides for giving! He is able to make “grace abound” and provide sufficiently all the time so that we can give aboundingly. (II Corinthians 9:8 & 9). God will provide, and multiply our giving by His increased provision for giving, which results in a “harvest of righteousness” (II Corinthians 9:10), being “enriched in every way to be generous in every way'” (II Corinthians 9:11), and producing “thanksgiving to God.” (II Corinthians 9:11) The gift of the Corinthians to the Jerusalem church is a ministry of service to God and it will overflow in thanksgiving and glory given to God as others see the “generosity” of contribution, and a response of prayer for and thanks to the Corinthians (and the other churches) from the Jerusalem believers (II Corinthians 9:14). What a wonderful result which leads to an exclamation of thanks to God for His gift of Jesus Christ which makes all of our giving possible in the first place.

                              What wonderful truths in these verses! Giving is possible because of God's great gift to us of salvation in Jesus Christ! We are saved into a body of believers and are part one of another, and in partnership, so to speak with each other in the joy of giving to provide for needs. Such giving comes from God's material provision to us and is an expression of grace born out of God's grace. Thus, as we trust in God for our provision, we are called to and can give out of our provision as an act of love, in honor to Jesus, as a picture of unity within the body, and with the outcome of thanks to God in all of it. So, be a giver ... a cheerful giver, and so increase your harvest of righteousness. Allow God to multiply your effectiveness in giving by giving more, and then watching God provide for you to enable you to give even more again. And then keep the cycle going, all to God's glory. Indeed, in all of this, “thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15)