1. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave the apostles a specific plan for carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). 2. As Luke showed how this plan was implemented in Acts, he also wrote about a number of conversions that occurred. 3. Studying these conversions helps us understand how we become Christians today. 4. In conjunction with these conversions, Luke wrote about a number of important activities that relate to Christianity, including "benevolence."
I. PRIOR TO THE EVENTS RECORDED IN ACTS, JESUS TAUGHT HIS FOLLOWERS TO PRACTICE BENEVOLENCE
A. The second great commandment implies benevolence. 1. This commandment is to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). 2. Jesus showed that this includes caring for the needy in "the parable of the Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:29-37). B. The benevolent care of others is one standard by which we will be judged (Matthew 25:31-46).
II. IN ACTS, LUKE WROTE ABOUT A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS WHEN THE EARLY CHRISTIANS PRACTICED BENEVOLENCE
A. The members of the Jerusalem congregation made great sacrifices to provide the needs of their fellow Christians. 1. Acts 2:44-45 2. Acts 4:32, 34-37 B. The widows of the Jerusalem congregation received benevolent care (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8, 16). C. Dorcas showed how individual Christians practiced benevolence (Acts 9:36, 39). D. The Christians in Antioch sent relief to the Christians in Judea (Acts 11:27-30; 12:25). E. Paul taught the elders of the church in Ephesus to practice benevolence (Acts 20:35).
III. BENEVOLENCE WAS ALSO ADDRESSED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT EPISTLES
A. Benevolence is included with many other Christian responsibilities (Romans 12:13). B. Benevolence must be practiced with the proper attitude (1 Corinthians 13:3). C. The Lord's plan for collecting funds is revealed in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. D. Christians are to take advantage of opportunities to practice benevolence (Galatians 6:9-10). E. Christians are to work so the needy may be assisted (Ephesians 4:28). F. Those who will not work are not entitled to benevolent care (2 Thessalonians 3:10). G. Wealthy Christians are especially admonished to practice benevolence (1 Timothy 6:17-19). H. Christians are "to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8, 14). I. God is "well pleased" when His children practice benevolence (Hebrews 13:16). J. John used benevolence to illustrate how Christian love must be active (1 John 3:17-19).