Equality

Paul indicated in his second letter to the Corinthians that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to bring equality to the members of the body of Christ. Paul used the example of Jesus’ death on the cross to show how God’s riches are meant to be distributed to those in need. He said, ” For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NKJV). The Greek word translated grace, charis (khar’-ece) refers to the friendly disposition from which acts of kindness proceed (G5485). The objective of grace is to give away what others need more than we do. Paul wasn’t suggesting that Christians should go into debt in order to take care of the needs of others. He stated, “For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened, 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” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14).

The Greek word translated abundance in 2 Corinthians 8:14, perisseuma (per-is’-syoo-mah) means surplus or what is left over (G4051). In some ways, it could be thought of as that which might otherwise go to waste or what we might normally store up for a rainy day. The point I believe Paul was trying to make was that God’s provision doesn’t involve us storing things up for the future. We are to give away what we don’t need now so that when we are in need, God can provide for that need through someone else’s generosity. The Greek word translated equality, isotes (ee-sot’-ace) means likeness (G2471) and has to do with our circumstances being perceived to be similar. In other words, you’re not rich and I’m living in poverty, we both have a comfortable lifestyle.

The principle behind Paul’s lesson on Christian equality was sowing and reaping. He stated:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, ESV)

The Greek word translated sufficiency in 2 Corinthians 9:8, autarkeia (ow-tar’-ki-ah) means self satisfaction or contentedness (G841). Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to give to the church in Jerusalem where Jewish believers were suffering greatly for their faith in Jesus, not because they were being pressured to do it, but so that they wouldn’t feel ashamed because they were well off. Paul added that the Corinthians shouldn’t give grudgingly meaning because they felt sorry for the Jewish believers (G3077/GG1537) or out of necessity because they were afraid something bad might happen to them if they didn’t help (G318). The Corinthians’ motive for giving was supposed to be so that they would be equally blessed by God in their time of need.

Equality

Peter’s trip to Caesarea (Acts 10:24-48), the headquarters for the Roman forces of occupation, could be described as a life altering experience. Peter’s attitude toward non-Jewish people caused him to isolate himself from anyone that did not share his religious beliefs. After he heard a voice saying, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15), Peter was directed by the Holy Spirit to “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (Acts 10:20). The 30 miles distance between Joppa and Caesarea probably seemed like a great distance to a man that had likely never traveled outside of his hometown before he met Jesus. Peter was a fisherman and may have wondered what the beautiful port city of Caesarea was like, but he never would have traveled there if it hadn’t been for the Holy Spirit’s instruction to go with the men that sought his help.

Cornelius, the man that sent for Peter, was described by Luke as a centurion, “a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). A centurion was a Roman soldier that commanded a military unit of at least 100 men. Centurions were carefully selected; all of them mentioned in the NT (New Testament) appear to have had noble qualities (e.g. Luke 7:5). The Roman centurions provided necessary stability to the entire Roman system” (note on Acts 10:1). After Cornelius told Peter about his angelic visit, Luke recorded, “then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s statement was an amazing testament to the impartiality of God. The Greek word translated accepted, dektos means approved (G1184) and refers to the status of everyone that receives salvation by Jesus’ propitiation of sin.

According to Peter, the equality of the Gentiles with the Jews was demonstrated when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Peter asked, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). Later, in his explanation to the Jews in Jerusalem of what had happened in Caesarea, Peter referred to Jesus’ teaching about baptism. He said, “Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:16), and then he added for emphasis, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:16-17). Peter’s endorsement of Gentile believers resulted in them being viewed as equals by the Jews in Jerusalem. Luke stated, “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).