Is There Determination in our Giving?

Title: Is There Determination in our Giving?

Bible Book: Acts 11 : 19-30

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Giving; Stewardship; Determination



How many of you have determination about certain things in your life? Now I’m not talking about stubbornness; I’m talking about determination.

Usually when the New Year rolls around, we make an attempt at determination. We say “I will” do certain things differently, or “I will” do better in certain areas. Too often, those attempts are short-lived.

But the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “determination” as “the act of deciding definitely and firmly; a firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end.”

That great philosopher Tommy Lasorda said, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.”

It is on my heart this morning to begin a series of messages on the subject of “Determination.” And specifically, we’re going to be talking about Determination with regard to various aspects of our spiritual experience.

Today, using Acts chapter 11 as our text, I want to ask the question, “Is There A Determination In Our Giving?”

In his Bible Handbook, Harold Wilmington gives us this summary of the passage that we are looking at this morning…

When a new church was formed in Antioch, Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to help it. He in turn brought Saul from Tarsus (11:25-26) to help him. It was here in Antioch that believers were first called Christians — one of only three times this term occurs in the Bible (see 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Having been told by the prophet Agabus that there would be a famine in Jerusalem (in verse 28), the Christians in Antioch sent gifts with Barnabas and Saul to those in Jerusalem

The Bible says that after the disciples at Antioch heard the ominous prediction of Agabus…

(Acts 11:29-30) Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: {30} Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

This word “determined” that Luke uses is the Greek word horizo from which we derive our word “horizon.” It has the idea of looking to the horizon so as to mark out the boundaries of something. In this case, the disciples were looking at the boundaries and horizon of their ability to give. They were looking at the far limits of what each person’s financial situation would allow in giving this offering.

determined – Greek 3724. horizo, hor-id'-zo; from G3725; to mark out or bound ("horizon"), i.e. (fig.) to appoint, decree, specify:--declare, determine, limit, ordain.

Are we doing that? Are we looking to the far limits of what we can do financially in giving to the work of God’s kingdom? Or are we trying to see how little we can get by with? I believe that God’s work is financed through the faithful and sacrificial giving of God’s people through tithes and offerings. God asked a question through the prophet Malachi. He said…

(Malachi 3:8) Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

And within two verses, God promised to bless those that are faithful in the area of giving…

(Malachi 3:10) Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

You know, I’ve heard it said that we have too many tippers in our churches and not enough tithers. But anymore, you will give 15 to 20% as a tip. God is only asking for 10% in the tithe. There are too many who are neither tippers not tithers. If more people would be more obedient and faithful in their giving, we could do more for God’s kingdom at Piney Grove Baptist Church.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Almsgiving harms no living; yet; charity is a rarity.” But as J. Hudson Taylor said, “When God’s work is done in God’s way for God’s glory, it will never lack God’s supply.”

Of course, we don’t always know what the specific needs are when we give. For example, some years ago, in a story contributed to Readers Digest, a lady named Mary McNeil wrote…

“My church group meets every Tuesday and Thursday in the winter to make quilts. Recently Eileen, one of the members, brought in a large box of used sheets and asked us to help her tear them into strip bandages to send to missionaries. After several hours of work, the sheets were all torn into two-inch strips, rolled into neat coils and packed off to the missions. A few weeks later, Eileen received a letter of thanks for the bandages. Due to a severe shortage of bed linen, the note said, the bandages were being sewn together to make sheets.”

Well, the disciples at Antioch knew what they were giving to when they collected the relief offering here in Acts 11. As we look at this passage, let’s notice first of all this morning that…

I. We Have The Record Of A Beginning Origin At The Antioch Church

(Acts 11:19–26)

A. There Is A Turning Element In The Establishing Of This Church – There Was Evangelism

(Acts 11:20-21) And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. {21} And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

(Acts 11:24) For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

preaching – Greek 2097. euaggelizo, yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo ); from G2095 and G32; to announce good news ("evangelize") espec. the gospel:--declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).

great – Greek 4183. polus, pol-oos'; includ. the forms from the alt. pollos; (sing.) much (in any respect) or (plur.) many; neut. (sing.) as adv. largely; neut. (plur.) as adv. or noun often, mostly, largely:--abundant, + altogether, common, + far (passed, spent), (+ be of a) great (age, deal, -ly, while), long, many, much, oft (-en [-times]), plenteous, sore, straitly.

number – Greek 706. arithmos, ar-ith-mos'; from G142; a number (as reckoned up):--number.

believed – Greek 4100. pisteuo, pist-yoo'-o; from G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by impl. to entrust (espec. one's spiritual well-being to Christ):--believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

turned – Greek 1994. epistrepho, ep-ee-stref'-o; from G1909 and G4762; to revert (lit., fig. or mor.):--come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again).

added (vs. 24) – Greek 4369. prostithemi, pros-tith'-ay-mee; from G4314 and G5087; to place additionally, i.e. lay beside, annex, repeat:--add, again, give more, increase, lay unto, proceed further, speak to any more.

‎Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that this word “turned” (NT:1994 – epistrepho) is used “of Gentiles passing over to the religion of Christ.”

Warren Wiersbe said…

When the saints were scattered abroad during Saul’s persecution of the church (Acts 8:1), some of them ended up in Antioch, the capital of Syria, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. … With a population of half a million, Antioch ranked as the third largest city in the Roman Empire, following Rome and Alexandria. Its magnificent buildings helped give it the name “Antioch the Golden, Queen of the East.” The main street was more than four miles long, paved with marble, and lined on both sides by marble colonnades. It was the only city in the ancient world at that time that had its streets lighted at night. … Antioch was a wicked city, perhaps second only to Corinth. Though all the Greek, Roman, and Syrian deities were honored, the local shrine was dedicated to Daphne, whose worship included immoral practices. (But) When the persecuted believers arrived in Antioch, they did not at all feel intimidated by the magnificence of the buildings or the pride of the citizens. The Word of God was on their lips and the hand of God was on their witness, and “a great number” of sinners repented and believed. It was a thrilling work of God’s wonderful grace.

B. There Is A Thrilling Element In The Establishing Of This Church – There Was Excitement

(Acts 11:22-23) Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. {23} Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

grace – Greek 5485. charis, khar'-ece; from G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstr. or concr.; lit., fig. or spiritual; espec. the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude):--acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

glad – Greek 5463. chairo, khah'ee-ro; a prim. verb; to be "cheer"ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impers. espec. as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well:--farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

The Greek word that is translated “grace” is derived from the Greek word that is translated “glad.” But as A. T. Robertson noted, “Grace brings gladness.”

John MacArthur wrote…

Neither the salvation of the Ethiopian eunuch nor that of Cornelius and his household prepared the Jerusalem believers for the widespread Gentile conversions in Antioch. When the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, they decided to send a representative to investigate. … The grace of God may be invisible, but its effects are readily seen. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch and witnessed the grace of God by which they were saved, he rejoiced. Other Jews may have been upset at the conversion of Gentiles, but not Barnabas. To see lost Gentile souls added to the kingdom brought him immeasurable joy. He then began to encourage them all with resolute heart determination to remain true to the Lord. That exhortation reflects the concern that every pastor feels for new converts, that they continue in the faith.

Matthew Henry said…

We must be glad to see the grace of God in others, and the more when we see it where we did not expect it.

Barnabas, the son of Consolation and encouragement (Acts 4:36) encouraged these new believers to glue themselves to their relationship with the Lord. (And it is exciting when new Christians get “plugged in” to the Christian life!)

exhorted – Greek 3870. parakaleo, par-ak-al-eh'-o; from G3844 and G2564; to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation):--beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray.

cleave – Greek 4347. proskollao, pros-kol-lah'-o; from G4314 and G2853; to glue to, i.e. (fig.) to adhere:--cleave, join (self).

C. There Is A Teaching Element In The Establishing Of This Church – There Was Edification

(Acts 11:25-26) Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: {26} And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

‎MacArthur said…

The harvest was too vast for Barnabas to handle alone, so he went for help. He immediately thought of the best possible man for the job, so he left for Tarsus to look for Saul. Finding him was no easy task, however. Several years had passed since Saul fled Jerusalem for his home in Tarsus (Acts 9:30). He had apparently been disinherited for his Christian beliefs and forced to move from his home. Anazēteō (to seek; to look for) suggests a laborious search on Barnabas’s part. … They knew the most urgent need of those new Christians was to be taught the Word of God. In mass meetings of the Antioch believers, Barnabas and Saul did just that.

Albert Barnes said…

Barnabas and Saul convened with the Christian assembly at proper times, through the space of a year, for the purposes of public worship. (As the ASV says, they did this “even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church.)

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that the word “taught” (NT:1321 – didaxai) means…

To teach; to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses; to be a teacher; to discharge the office of teacher, conduct oneself as a teacher.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says…

For the teaching committed by the ascending Lord of the Church to His servants (Matthew 28:19-20) was of two kinds, for which two different words are used-first, “making disciples” [‎matheeteuein‎], and next, instructing the disciples so made [‎didaskein‎]. And since it is the latter of these departments of ministerial work which is here intended, it is the second of the two words which is here employed [‎didaxai‎]. At the same time, it is clear, from the sequel of this history, that they were no less successful in adding to the church at Antioch than in building it up.

According to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28, there is teaching that makes disciples and there is teaching that matures disciples. And both types was taking place at Antioch.

II. We Have The Revelation Of A Bad Omen At The Antioch Church

(Acts 11:27–28)

(Acts 11:28) And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

A. Notice The Timing That Was Involved In This Message

(Acts 11:26-27) And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. {27} And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

MacArthur said…

Luke … adds the historical footnote that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. The term means “of the party of Christ” and was used in derision. Peter encouraged those who suffered “as a Christian,” to “not feel ashamed, but in that name [to] glorify God” (1 Peter 4:16). What was a term of derision, though, soon became a badge of honor to the early church.

What was taking place when this ominous message of portent was delivered? These were days of discipleship, and these were days of disrespect for the church at Antioch. They were experienced both the blessings and burdens, the victories and vexations, of church experience. The church was doing what it was supposed to be doing. But God had more in mind for them. Just as the persecution of former days had caused the church to spread (vs. 19), the problems of future days would cause the church to share.

Does our obedience preclude difficulty? Just because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, does that mean that bad stuff won’t happen to us or that we won’t go through tough times? Christianity is not an insurance policy that prevents the tough stuff. Our relationship with Christ is more of an assurance that He will help us and strengthen us when the tough stuff happens.

B. Notice The Team That Was Involved In This Message

(Acts 11:27-28) And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. {28} And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

MacArthur said…

The term prophet refers not to an Old Testament figure such as Isaiah or John the Baptist but to the preachers of the New Testament.

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says of Agabus that he was…

A prophet, supposed to have been one of the seventy disciples of Christ. He came with others from Jerusalem to Antioch while Paul and Barnabas were there and predicted an approaching famine, which actually occurred the following year. … Many years after, this same Agabus met Paul at Caesarea and warned him of the sufferings that awaited him if he continued his journey to Jerusalem (21:10-12).

There are varying ideas about the meaning of the name Agabus. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says that it comes “from the Hebrew aagab (meaning), “he loved.” Nelson’s Bible Dictionary says that it means desire. Roswell Hitchcock’s Dictionary of Bible Names says that it means “a locust (or) the father’s feast or joy.”

Now what does the varying meanings of his name have to do with Agabus and the prediction and message that he shared with the church at Antioch? Though the message of Agabus came like a locust plague, nevertheless it was the Father’s joy for His people that caused him to come, and it was Agabus’ love for the Lord and desire for good for the Lord’s people that caused him to deliver this message.

Concerning the fact that this message was “signified by the Spirit,” The United Bible Societies New Testament Handbook Series explains that…

“Through the Spirit” is taken … to mean by the power of the Spirit. This reference to “through the Spirit” may be expressed in many languages as type of causative “it was the Spirit (or the Holy Spirit) which caused him to predict.” In still other languages one may say “he predicted, the Holy Spirit told him to.” This would indicate the causative force as well as the source of such divine revelation. Predicated is literally “to indicate” or “to signify” (the word in Greek is related to the root meaning “sign”).

The Holy Spirit was the force and the source behind this predictive message. Agabus signaled the church by the power of the Spirit of God that this was going to happen.

signified – Greek 4591. semaino, say-mah'-ee-no; from sema (a mark; of uncert. der.); to indicate:--signify.

C. Notice The Truth That Was Involved In This Message

(Acts 11:28) And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

dearth – Greek 3042. limos, lee-mos'; prob. from G3007 (through the idea of destitution); a scarcity of food:--dearth, famine, hunger.

If Agabus would have wanted a catchy sermon title, it would have been “The Dearth In The Earth.”

The Pulpit Commentary says that…

“The world” (means) the inhabited earth, the common expression for the whole Roman empire. … In point of fact, the predicted famine, which began in the fourth year of Claudius Caesar (A.D. 44) and lasted till A.D. 48 A.D., fell upon Judea exclusively, as far as appears from Josephus, and was very severe there.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that the phrase “Throughout all the world” (refers to) “the whole Roman empire (just as “all the world” does in Luke 2:1).

Warren Wiersbe said…

The Spirit told Agabus that a great famine was soon to come, and it did come during the reign of Claudius Caesar (A.D. 41 A.D. - 54 A.D.) when crops were poor for many years. Ancient writers mention at least four famines: two in Rome, one in Greece, and one in Judea. The famine in Judea was especially severe.

III. We Have The Report Of A Benevolence Offering At The Antioch Church

(Acts 11:29–30)

A. There Was A Preparatory Aspect To This Offering

(Acts 11:28) And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

This prediction was probably made in 41 A.D. in the first year of Claudius’ reign. Matthew Henry said …

There should be great dearth throughout all the world, by unseasonable weather, that corn should be scarce and dear, so that many of the poor should perish for want of bread. … It began in the second year of (Claudius’) reign, and continued to the fourth, if not longer. Several of the Roman historians make mention of it, as does also Josephus. God sent them the bread of life, and they rejected it, loathed the plenty of that manna; and therefore God justly broke the staff of bread, and punished them with famine; and herein he was righteous.

John MacArthur also said that “several ancient writers attest to that fact” that…

The prophecy of Agabus came to pass in the reign of Claudius (a.d. 41–54). The years a.d. 45–46 saw great famines in Israel.

And again, as Wiersbe said…

The Spirit told Agabus that a great famine was soon to come, and it did come during the reign of Claudius Caesar when crops were poor for many years. Ancient writers mention at least four famines: two in Rome, one in Greece, and one in Judea. The famine in Judea was especially severe, and the Jewish historian Josephus records that many people died for lack of money to buy what little food was available.

So essentially, they were giving in anticipation of what was coming; they were giving in advance of the need, which was money to buy the available food for the Judean believers.

B. There Was A Particular Aspect To This Offering

(Acts 11:29-30) Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: {30} Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

The particular aspect of this offering is in the fact that it was relief for the brethren. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says of the word “relief” (NT:1248 – diakonia) that…

In the NT this first means “waiting at table,” “providing for physical sustenance,” or “supervising meals.” A wider meaning is “the discharge of a loving service.” … (And) The collection is a ‎diakonía, … a true act of Christian love.

Matthew Henry pointed out…

The good use they made of this prediction. When they were told of a famine at hand, they did not do as the Egyptians, hoard up corn for themselves; but, as became Christians, laid by for charity to relieve others, which is the best preparative for our own sufferings and want. … The persons that were recommended to them as objects for charity were the brethren that dwelt in Judea. Though we must, as we have opportunity, do good to all men, yet we must have a special regard to the household of faith, Galatians 6:10.

Cf. (Galatians 6:10) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

The UBS New Testament Handbook Series says…

The gift sent to Jerusalem by the disciples in Antioch (most of whom were probably Gentiles) indicates at least two things: (1) their gratitude to the Jerusalem church from which the Christian message had come and (2) their sense of unity with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.

Though one church consisted of mainly Jews (the brethren in Judaea) and one consisted of mainly Gentiles, yet they were called “brethren.”

C. There Was A Personal Aspect To This Offering

(Acts 11:29) Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

Notice some of the personal and distinctive things about the statement that is made in verse 29. They were “disciples.” A person that is not saved is usually not going to get involved in giving in the local church. Secondly, it was an all-encompassing action that was taken. We use the terminology “each and every one.” Well, that’s who determined to give … “each and every one.” And they did it “according to his (or her) ability” or according to their means.

disciples – Greek 3101. mathetes, math-ay-tes'; from G3129; a learner, i.e. pupil:--disciple.

every – Greek 1538. hekastos, hek'-as-tos; as if a superlative of hekas (afar); each or every:--any, both, each (one), every (man, one, woman), particularly.

ability – Greek 2141. euporeo, yoo-por-eh'-o; from a comp. of G2090 and the base of G4197; (intrans.) to be good for passing through, i.e. (fig.) have pecuniary means:--ability.

Listen to what Paul said about the principle that he first learned at Antioch…

(2 Corinthians 8:12-14) For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. {13} For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: {14} But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

Why should a few carry all the load? Many hands make light work, and many wallets make for more effective kingdom work. How much should you give when it comes to offerings? I like what C.S. Lewis said. He said…

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.

I like what Paul said even better…

(2 Corinthians 9:7) Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Are you tithing? Are you giving regularly to the work of God through this church? Are you giving sacrificially? Paul indicated that a person who gives of their finances has first given themselves…

(2 Corinthians 8:1-5) Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; {2} How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. {3} For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; {4} Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. {5} 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.

What about you?


Joe McKeever wrote…

Somewhere I read—wish I could remember where—of a friend who accompanied Abraham Lincoln to church. Afterwards, the friend asked how he had liked the sermon. The future president’s answer was something like: “He may be a good man, but he’s not a good preacher. A good preacher would have asked us to do something great, and he didn’t.” (

Phillips Brooks was a preacher in the mid to late 1800’s, and he is probably best known for authoring the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Warren Wiersbe said…

Phillips Brooks was asked what he would do to revive a dead church, and he replied, “I would take up a missionary offering!”

Let’s be determined in our giving!


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