Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

November 19, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

 


III. Appeal of Paul’s Ministry. (8:1–9:15.)                        

               Lesson III.C:Faithfulness Delegated. (8:16-9:5)

                             Part-2: Your giving will provoke others (9:1-5).

 

  1. Faithfulness Delegated.

      Part-1: When We Give By Faith. (8:16-24)

      Part-2: Your giving will provoke others. (9:1-5)

 

2nd Corinthians 9:1-5 (NKJV)

Part-2

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you;

2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.

3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready;

4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

 

 

Introduction

 

This chapter continues with the same subject that we had in chapter 8. There it was the grace of giving; now we have before us what Christian giving is.

 

This passage reminds the Corinthians of their initial enthusiasm for the Jerusalem collection; they were delighted that God could use them to help other believers. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The Macedonians had heard of their eagerness and how they so eagerly responded to the appeal for money. As Paul was preparing the last of the contributions, however, the Corinthians’ enthusiasm had faded. The collection had ground to a halt. Paul was worried that when he came to Corinth the Corinthians would give grudgingly. Paul was worried they had forgotten what a privilege it was to be involved in God’s work. God wants cheerful givers and enthusiastic team players. He can do without discontented and disgruntled givers.

 

 

Commentary

 

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you;

 

The duty of “ministering to the saints” is so apparent, that there would seem no need to urge Christians to do it; nevertheless self-love contends so powerfully against the love of Christ, that it is often necessary to stir up their minds through remembrance.

 

Paul was not sending Titus and his representatives to Corinth (8:16-24) in order to explain the collection and how it would benefit the Jerusalem Christians. A year before, they were one of the first to begin giving to this cause: “And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so” (8:10).

 

While Christians must not compete with each other in their service for Christ, they ought to “…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).  When we see what God is doing in and through others, we ought to strive to serve Him better ourselves.

 

 

2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia[1] was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.

 

Paul had been boasting to the Christians in Macedonia about the eagerness of the Corinthians to help. It was word of the Corinthians’ eagerness that stirred the Macedonians to want to give so generously (see Paul’s description of their giving in 8:1-5). By describing how their own enthusiasm had incited the Macedonians to give, Paul was, in effect, prodding the Corinthians to rekindle their initial enthusiasm for giving. Paul wasn’t naïve about human behavior. The start and end of a marathon are much more thrilling than the miles in between. It takes stubborn determination and perseverance to keep on running—to run in spite of the blisters, sore muscles and exhaustion.

 

Paul also knew that it took a community to persevere. Just as teammates will cheer their runner on in a race, so Paul was sending Titus and two other believers to the Corinthians to cheer them on. The efforts at collecting the funds in Corinth had been sidetracked by greedy, traveling preachers, who were consolidating their power in the church by criticizing Paul. Paul hoped that his description of how the Macedonians had given out of there extreme poverty (see 8:2, 3) would also stir the Corinthians to action, just as the word of the Corinthians eagerness had stirred the Macedonians. To insure this, Paul was sending Titus and two others to oversee the collection efforts (see 9:4, 5). There is a fine line between fleshly imitation and spiritual emulation, and we must be careful in this regard. But a zealous Christian can be the means stirring up a church and motivating people to pray, work, witness and give. Liberal giving is a real test of any church and a pretty good barometer of its spiritual condition.

 

In 9:1-5, Paul told the Corinthians exactly what he had been boasting about; their eagerness to give since last year which was due to the apostles former exhortation: “Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Co. 16:1, 2). Moreover, Paul explained that they could avoid embarrassment by giving the generous gift  they had promised last year: “but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have” (8:11).

 

You will discover from the study of any of the apostles letters that he never criticizes one church to another; he praised one to another.

 

In verses 3-5 Paul explains why he sends the three brethren; Titus and the two others (see 8:16-24).

 

 

3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready;

 

A year before, the Corinthians had enthusiastically boasted that they would share in the offering, but then they had done nothing. The Macedonians had followed through on their promise, and Paul was afraid that his “boasting” would “be in vain.” Paul didn’t want his boasts about the Corinthians to be proven wrong. That is why Paul decided to send Titus with two other representatives (“brethren”).Far more important than the money itself was the spiritual benefit that would come to the church as they shared in response to God’s grace in their lives. Paul had written to the church before to tell them how to take up the contributions (1 Co. 16:1-4), so there was no excuse for their delay. Apparently, Paul did not see anything wrong or unspiritual about asking people to promise to give. He did not tell them how much they had to promise, but he did expect them to keep their promise. May I say here that any pledge that a Christian makes is between that person and the Lord. It is a pledge to the Lord that you will do something or that you will give something. In several months, Paul would return to Jerusalem with the money: “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation” (Acts 24:17; also see Acts 20:1-5; 22-24); therefore, the final contribution had to be “ready” when he came to Corinth (9:4). Titus’s job was to inspire the Corinthians to diligently set aside money as Paul had instructed them in his earlier letter (see 1 Co. 16:1-4). The representatives who accompanied Titus, on the other hand, were to make sure that all the money was collected. In sharp contrast to the false teachers who had infiltrated the Corinthian church, no underhanded methods would be used (2:17). When Paul says here that he has “sent the brethren” he really means he is sending them. The past tense views it from the perspective of the readers rather than the writer. “The brethren” wererespected and trustworthy representatives from the churches who would witness the entire process: “avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us” (2 Co. 8:20).

 

 

4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.

 

Paul accompanied by delegates from the Macedonian churches, would follow Titus. The Macedonian church representatives would exert a little friendly peer pressure on the Corinthians. They would certainly compare the generosity of their own churches to that of the Corinthians. Paul had told the “Macedonians” how the Corinthians had eagerly wanted to give from the beginning (about a year ago). But since then, much had changed. Paul was taking precautions just in case the Corinthians were to challenge his apostolic authority on this visit (see 13:1-4). These Macedonian Christians would act as witnesses to how Paul had handled any confrontation that might occur. Paul was giving the Corinthians plenty of warning about his coming. He knew that his soon coming would be another stimulus for the Corinthians to act. In this passage, he skillfully warned the Corinthians of how he would be humiliated if the Corinthians were “unprepared” for his visit. But they would naturally feel more “ashamed” of themselves than Paul (who boasted of them) would feel for them. On the surface, Paul was speaking about the Jerusalem collection, but he certainly may have been warning the Corinthians of his other concerns. The Corinthian’s generosity is not in doubt, only their ability to be ready with the collection in time. Paul was hoping that the Macedonians would not find the Corinthian church in spiritual disorder. That would be even more embarrassing. The end of this letter will state it more bluntly, where Paul would sternly warn the Corinthians to prepare themselves for his visit by examining their hearts before God. When he came, he would mediate their disputes and even discipline those who were sinning (see 13:1-5). If they doubted his authority, he would give them convincing proof of his authority from God: “since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (2 Co. 13:3, 4).

 

Of course, Paul hoped for the better, that the presence of so many representatives from the churches would silence his critics. He hoped that this letter (2 Corinthians) delivered by Titus himself would prompt the Corinthians to make the necessary changes in the way they lived out their faith. Paul also knew human nature, however, so he took the necessary precautions, sending Titus to prod them on—not only in collecting the funds but also in their spiritual maturity. Paul’s reference in this verse to being humiliated was a gentle goad to the Corinthians.

 

 

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

 

Evidentially, the Corinthians had pledged a great deal of money a year ago, for Paul called the gift a “generous” one, which is the evidence of the grace of God working in the heart. Paul wasn’t asking for more money; he was merely reminding the Corinthians to fulfill the commitment they had already made: “And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Co. 8:10-12).

 

Paul, however, didn’t want this substantial amount of money collected under pressure or in a short time period—high pressure offering appeals do not belong to grace giving. Otherwise, his appearance at Corinth would be associated with frenzied collection efforts. Instead, Paul wanted the money to be given voluntarily, not coerced in any way (see Philemon 1:8, 9). If the money was raised in a short time, it might give the appearance of some type of scam. Paul wanted the Corinthians to remember that they were giving to God. This required some advance planning. Titus and the two traveling brothers would go to Corinth before Paul’s visit to arrange in advance the collection of funds. Proper preparation could insure that the people would give cheerfully. Paul himself will soon be arriving with some Macedonians to receive the Corinthians’ contribution and convey it to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25).

 

Our greatest encouragement for giving is that it pleases the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with practicing the kind of giving that provokes others to give. This does not mean that we should advertise what we do as individuals, because that kind of practice would violate one of the basic principles of giving: give secretly to the Lord (Mat. 6:1-4). However, Paul was writing to churches; and it is not wrong for churches to announce what they have given collectively. If our motive is to boast, then we are not practicing grace giving. But if our desire is to provoke others to share, then God’s grace can work through us to help others.

 

The finest gifts are those given before they are requested. It was while we were yet enemies that Christ died for us. God hears our prayers even before we say them. And we should be to our fellow men as God has been to us; we should give, because He gave the best He had to us. There are at least four ways in which a man may give a gift:

(i)   He may give as a duty. It may be done as a grim duty and with such a bad grace that it would be almost better not to give at all.

(ii)He may give simply to find satisfaction. There are people who will give a dollar to a homeless person because of the glow of satisfaction they get rather than from any real desire to help. Such giving is in essence selfish; people who give like that give to themselves rather than to the recipient.

(iii)         He may give for the prestige. The real source of such giving is not love but pride. The gift is given not to help but to glorify the giver.

(iv)           None of these ways of giving are totally bad, for at least the gift is given. But the real way to give is under the compulsion of love, to give because one cannot help giving, to give because the sight of a soul in need wakens a desire that cannot be stilled. This is in fact giving God’s way; it was because He so loved the world that he gave His Son.

 


[1] Achaia, the Roman province including all of Greece south of Macedonia, had Corinth as its capitol, and the most important Christian church in Achaia was in Corinth.

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