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

November 24, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

 


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

               Lesson III.D:Faithfulness Directed. (9:6-15)

 

2nd Corinthians 9:6-15 (NKJV)

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever."

10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,

13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,

14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 

 

Introduction

This passage gives us an outline of generous giving

(i)   Paul insists that no man was ever the loser because he was generous.

  1. He will be rich in love.
  2. He will be rich in friends.
  3. He will be rich in help.
  4. He will be rich towards God.

(ii)Paul insists that it is the happy giver whom God loves.

(iii) Paul insists that God can give a man both the substance to give and the spirit in which to give it.

     

But in this passage Paul does more. If we read into its thought, we see that he holds that giving does wonderful things for three different persons.

(i)   It does something for others.

  1. It relieves their need.
  2. It restores their faith in their fellow men.
  3. It makes them thank God.

(ii)It does something for ourselves.

  1. It guarantees our Christian profession.
  2. It wins us both the prayer and the love of others.

(iii) It does something for God.

 

“Give and it shall be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. . .” was our Lord’s promise, and it still holds true (Luke 6:38). The “good measure” He gives back to us is not always money or material goods, but it is always more than we gave. Giving is not something we do, but something we are. Giving is a way of life for the Christian who understands the grace of God.

 

Finally, Paul turns the thoughts of the Corinthians to the gift of God in Jesus Christ, a gift whose wonder can never be exhausted and whose story can never be fully told; and, in so doing, he says to them, “Can you who have been so generously treated by God, be anything else than generous to your fellow men.

 

Commentary

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

 

The people of this time were intimately familiar with the principles of an agricultural economy. Planting, weeding, and harvesting were common, everyday tasks. Everyone would have known a foolish neighbor who had used too much of his grain instead of saving it as seed for his fields. Lavishly scattering seeds all over one’s fields was a risk. What if birds ate it up? What if the soil was inferior and wouldn’t produce a harvest? Keeping more seeds in storage might appear to be wise, a way to insure against future disasters. But the farmer who scattered his seed sparingly inevitably would have a small harvest. A farmer who refused to risk his grain on the next year’s harvest would lose. This piece of agricultural wisdom contains a profound truth about Christian giving (see Prov. 11:24-26; 22:8, 9 for similar sayings). Those who are like the foolish farmer who sowed sparingly—those who refuse to trust God with their future financial security—will inevitably lose out on God’s rich blessings. Those who sow generously will invest in an eternal harvest that will exceed their expectations, and the more they invest in the work of the Lord, the more “fruit” will abound to their account (see Phil. 4:10-20). Whenever we are tempted to forget this principle, we need to remind ourselves that God was unsparing in His giving. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32).

 

When Paul was talking to the Ephesian elders, he reminded them of this same thing. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " (Eph. 20:35). Apparently, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” was an expression which the Lord Jesus used constantly. I know that this has become a very commonplace platitude today. It is quoted a great deal and practiced very little. The word “blessed” actually means “happy.” It will make you more happy to give than to receive. How does it affect you when you give?

 

 

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Each Corinthian believer was to decide how much God wanted him or her to give. It wasn’t to be an impulsive decision but a deliberate one. They were to assess their own ability to give and plan accordingly. This was to be intentional, planned giving, for Paul had already told them to lay aside some money every week (1 Cor. 16:1-4). This was one reason for Paul sending Titus ahead. He wanted someone to organize the weekly collections so that no one would fall short of how much they had pledged the year before (9:5). It seems that although they had pledged the money, they had not given it yet.

 

Paul didn’t want to use urgent appeals or pressure tactics to coerce the Corinthians to give. Even though he was the one appealing for the money, he was careful to give the Corinthians enough time to think and to pray about how much God wanted them to give. Paul didn’t want anyone giving reluctantly or under compulsion. Paul knew that God weighs the heart and not the amount of money; He looks at the giver and not the gift. For the Christian, motive in giving (or in any other activity) is vitally important. Our giving must come from the heart, and the motive in the heart must please God. A cheerful giver, who gives out of a sincere gratitude for what God has done, is the type of giver God cherishes. God multiplied those gifts beyond measure (9:11).

 

How much should you give? What you feel right down in your heart is what you ought to give. But here is the test: “not grudgingly.” God does not want any grudging giving. What does that mean? God does not want one penny from you if you would rather keep it for yourself. Not only does God not want it, but I believe God doesn’t use it either.

 

Not only does it say God does not want you to give grudgingly, neither does he want you to give “of necessity.”He doesn’t want you to give at all unless you are giving willingly and gladly. Some folks say, “Well, I had better give because everybody else is giving, and it would look bad if I didn’t give something.” That is giving of necessity. God does not want that kind of giving. Certainly God can bless a gift that is given out of a sense of duty, but God cannot bless the giver unless his heart is right. “Grace” giving means that God blesses the giver as well as the gift, and that the giver is a blessing to others.

 

“God loveth a cheerful giver.” That should be the happiest part of the service. If you can’t give cheerfully, God doesn’t want you to give.

 

 

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

 

The greatest obstacle that people have to overcome in order to give is worry. What if I will not have enough money next year for my retirement? What if some emergency comes up? What if I lose my job? These verses reassure the Corinthians that God is able to meet all their needs. He is the Almighty! He owns all the world; moreover, He blesses those who give back to Him.

 

Paul emphasized everything in this verse. Christians who give back to God will lack nothing. God’s favor—His grace—will be showered on people who give. They will have everything they need in the various situations in which they find themselves. In the Old Testament, God even invited the Israelites “to test” Him in this. If they brought all the required tithes to Him, God promised to throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that [they] will not have room enough for it: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10).

 

The purpose of God’s overwhelming blessing is always to equip His people to do “every good work.” This text doesn’t imply that Christian giving is a contract with God, where the one who gives gets. Instead, it says that God will provide whatever a Christian needs to do good. Thus, in the end, a Christian’s good works will bring praise and glory to God: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:16).

 

I have never known anyone who has gone broke giving to the Lord’s work. There may be some who have, but I have never met them. I believe that God will bless you. This does not mean that God makes every Christian wealthy, and I don’t think the blessings He will give to you will always be material blessings; but it does mean that the Christian who practices “grace” giving will always have what he needs when he needs it. Furthermore, the grace of God enriches him morally and spiritually so that he grows in Christian character. In his walk and his work he depends wholly on the “sufficiency” of God. Some people think you can hold God to the promise of material blessings. I don’t think you can, even though many TV preachers say God will make you rich and cure you of any physical ailment if you will only send them “seed” money. He does promise to bless us with all spiritual blessings.

 

The word “sufficiency” means “adequate resources within” (see Phil. 4:11). God is indeed sufficient! His “every” grace abounds so that believers can abound “in every good work.” Through Jesus Christ, we can have the adequacy to meet the demands of life. As Christians, we do need to help and encourage one another; but we must not depend on one another. Our dependence must be on the Lord. He alone can give us that “well of water” in the heart that makes us sufficient for life (John 4:14). Regardless of how desperate one’s circumstances, a person who wants to give can do so in dependence on God (see Phil. 4:11-13; also, the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:9-16; and the Macedonians 2 Co. 8:1-3).

 

9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever."

 

Just as a farmer has to scatter seed on the ground in order to reap an abundant harvest, so Christians must scatter what they possess among the poor in order to reap God’s blessing. Paul already made it clear that God’s blessing doesn’t always include an increase of riches. All of God’s gifts, both spiritual and material, are intended to help a Christian do good works (9:8). This quote from Psalm 112:9 demonstrates this truth. Although the psalm does speak of material blessings for the righteous person (Ps. 112:3), Paul quotes a line that emphasizes the spiritual benefits of generosity to the poor. It calls the man blessed who fears the Lord and who gives to the poor. We are to share with those who do not have as much. I believe that in the church we ought to take care of our own. Those who are blessed by God with financial resources should give generously to help those with less. Memory of this righteousness will never be forgotten. Those who will receive this person’s gifts will remember their generosity for a long time, but, more importantly, God will never forget the person’s benevolence.

 

 

10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

 

There is always spiritual and material “bread” for the eating and spiritual and material “seed” for the sowing, because God supplies both the seed and the bread, both the surplus to invest and the resources to support one’s family every day. The resources that God gives Christians are not to be hoarded, foolishly devoured, or thrown away. God gives gifts to His people for their own use and for investing back into God’s work. Instead of squandering these gifts, Christians need to cultivate them in order to produce more good works (9:8).

 

The giving of money is just as spiritual an act as the singing of a hymn or the handing out of a Gospel tract. Money is seed. If we give it according to the principles of grace, it will be multiplied to the glory of God and meet many needs. If we use it in ways other than God desires, the harvest will be poor.

 

God does not limit Himself to merely giving more resources—in other words, more seed. He blesses what you sow. He showers the seed with gentle rain. He gives the seed that is sown everything it needs to grow into a healthy, thriving plant. Although the seed is small, it has great potential if it has the right conditions to grow (see Jesus’ parables on seeds in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, 31, 32).

 

In the same way God blesses believers’ feeble efforts at generosity so that they enlarge the harvest. This harvest does not consist of personal wealth and riches. It is a harvest of your righteousness. God will take inadequate efforts at good works and increase them so that they bless many people. All a person has to do is give.

 

I heard of a man who had been recently saved, and he was actually giving so much that he was not keeping enough for his own family. The Bible says that we are worse than heathens if we do not take care of our own family (see 1 Tim. 5:8). This was pointed out to him and he was told that he needed to take care of the necessities of his family, and after that he could give generously to the Lord. God does not want us to be extremists even in this matter of giving. We need to be balanced. We need to use good, sound, common sense and good, consecrated judgment.

 

 

11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,

 

Giving generously to those in need causes three good things to happen. First, through those gifts given to those who need them, God meets their needs (here, specifically, the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem). Second, the recipients of these generous gifts will break out in thanksgiving to God, joyfully expressing it! Their celebration over these gifts will lead to heartfelt praise to God, for they will know that it is God who enables the giver to give in the first place. Third, verse 11 teaches that God enriches us so that we may give even more abundantly.

 

Paul was careful to point out that giving does not bring credit to us; it brings thanksgiving to God. We are only channels through whom God works to meet the needs of others. So, in Paul’s eyes, giving is not a strategy for financial growth but another way to bring praise and glory to God, who supplies everyone’s needs. Christians shouldn’t give to others in order to receive personal rewards. They should give liberally to the poor in order to see God work.

 

“Grace” giving means that we should believe that God is the great giver, and we can use our spiritual and material resources accordingly. You simply cannot outgive God!

 

The emphasis in verse 12 is on the fact that their giving would meet the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem. When a Christian starts to think of excuses for not giving, he automatically moves out of the sphere of “grace” giving. Grace never looks for a reason; it only looks for an opportunity. If there is a need to be met, the grace-controlled Christian will do what he can to meet it.

 

Paul admonished the wealthy Christians “. . . to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:18). Most of us would not consider ourselves “wealthy,” but the rest of the world does.

 

Our giving ought to provide for necessities, not subsidize luxuries. There are needs to be met and our limited resources must not be squandered. It is true that the need itself is not the only reason for giving, for there are always more needs than any one Christian or church can meet; but the need is important. Some needs are greater than others, and some are more strategic than others. We need accurate information as well as spiritual illumination as we seek to meet the many needs that are pressing on us today.

 

 

13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,

 

In addition to the normal advantages that come through Christian giving (see 9:11, 12), Paul hoped that the Jerusalem collection would have extra benefits: He hoped that through this gift from Gentile Christians, Jewish and Gentile believers would be drawn closer together in Christian fellowship. Also, it has well been said that is difficult to preach the Gospel to a hungry man (see James 2:15, 16). “Let your light shine before men,” said our Lord, “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mat. 5:16).This is one of the beauties of church giving: no individual gets the glory that belongs only to God.

 

For what would the ancient Jewish believers give thanks? Of course, they would praise God for the generosity of the Gentile churches in meeting their physical and spiritual needs. But they would also praise God for the spiritual submission of the Gentiles, their obedience to the Spirit of God who gave them the desire to give. They would say, “Those Gentiles not only preach the Gospel, but they also practice it!”

 

During the early decades of the Christian church, Jewish Christians had grave doubts about whether the Gentiles’ faith was sincere. Even the Apostle Peter was surprised that God wanted him to break Jewish ceremonial law in order to preach the Gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile centurion (see Acts 10:1-33). But He did; Cornelius and his household not only came to faith in Christ but also received the Holy Spirit (10:34-46). This development wasn’t welcomed by some of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem: “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them" (Acts 11:3). Only after Peter had defended his actions did the believers in Jerusalem agree that salvation had been extended to the Gentiles also: “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of the controversy. Later, some Jewish believers from Judea went to Antioch to inform Gentile believers that they had to be circumcised: “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Even Peter quietly joined in the hypocrisy because he was afraid of what this group would say (see Gal. 2:11-13). The controversy that erupted out of this was resolved at a meeting in Jerusalem. There the leaders of the early church agreed that salvation was only through faith in Jesus, not through the Law (see Acts 15:6-19; Gal. 3:6, 7, 13, 14; Eph. 2:8). Even though the issue had been resolved, it kept coming up. Jewish legalists misled the Gentile believers in Galatia (Gal. 3:1-5); and apparently, decades after Peter’s first meeting with Cornelius, there were still Jewish believers in Jerusalem who doubted the genuineness of the Gentiles’ faith.

 

Paul viewed the collection for the destitute Jerusalem believers as concrete evidence that the Gentile believers were obedient to the good news of Christ. One of the directives of the Jerusalem council was that Gentile Christians shouldn’t forget the poor: “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10). The Gentiles’ generous gift to the Jerusalem poor was proof that they were obeying this directive. Paul never viewed the Jerusalem collection as a rite of initiation for the Gentiles. He was always perfectly clear that salvation came only through faith in Jesus: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). Giving back to God, however, is one of the many signs that a person’s faith is authentic (see also James 2:14-18)

 

 

14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

 

The collection for the Jewish believers would not only demonstrate the sincerity of the Corinthians’ faith, it would also tie the Christian community of faith closer together. Jewish believers would view the monetary gift as an indication of God’s wonderful grace working in the Corinthian’s lives. Why would any Gentile—whether a Galatian or a Greek—give generously to the Jews in Jerusalem? Many of the Jews were not even citizens of the Roman Empire. They were a poor, minority group within the empire, without much clout. Only God’s undeserved grace in their lives could motivate them to give: “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:8, 9).

 

Some Jewish Christians in the first century still found it difficult to accept Gentiles into the community of faith. This generous gift might be the one thing that would prompt these Jews to start praying for Corinthian believers for the first time. Just as the Corinthians’ prayers for Paul made them partners with him in sharing the Gospel (1:11), so these prayers of Jewish Christians would make them partners with Gentile believers. Through the Jerusalem collection, Jesus would begin to unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the church: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). They were all becoming part of Jesus’ body; each was dependent on the other. The Gentiles had relied on the Jews to tell them the wonderful Good News of Jesus, while the Jews were relying on the Gentiles to support them financially (see Paul’s explanation of the offering at Romans 15:26, 27). Through this, the entire community of faith—Jewish and Gentile Christians—would be built up in love.

 

Giving is a grace. We are not commanded to give a tithe. It is not something to be done under Law. It is a grace. God asks us to give as a grace according to our circumstances. Some Christians should be giving much more than a tithe. Other Christians are not able to give at all. We are to give as we “are able.” Now Paul caps the whole subject of giving by saying:

 

 

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 

Paul ended his appeal for giving with fervent praise to God. The source of all this—the ability to give, the desire to give, even the reconciliation that would occur between Jewish and Gentile believers—was solely from God’s hands. God is the ultimate giver. In Jesus Christ, all human distinctions are erased, and we no longer see each other as Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, givers or recipients. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

 

Regardless of how much you are giving, you cannot give like God gives. He has given an unspeakable gift. No man can approach the gift that God gave in giving His own Son to die. Think of this for a moment. We are back to what was said in chapter8, verse 9. Though He was rich, He left heaven, left all the glory, and came down as a missionary to the world. He came not only to live but to give His life in death for you. He came to die on a cross. He came to be brutally killed in order that you and I might have eternal life. He made His soul a sacrifice for you and me. We are told in Hebrews that He did this “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:3). Oh, my dear reader, He is the wonderful, glorious Savior! Don’t ever bring Him down to a low level. He is the Bright and Morning Star. He is the Son of God who has redeemed us. He is the unspeakable gift to you and me. That is the very apex of giving. No one can go beyond that kind of giving.

 

This verse may be saying that the whole process from giver to recipient is an indescribable gift from God, the gift of righteousness: “But the gift is

not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace

of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom. 5:15). Paul was certainly thanking God here for Jesus’ gift of salvation. That God freely saves all those who believe in Jesus is truly an “indescribable gift.” God’s indescribable gift of salvation should motivate you to give generously to others. A man first gives himself to the Lord (2 Co. 8:5) and then he gives what he has. His gift is a symbol, as it were, of the surrender of his heart. Spend time meditating on how much God has given you. Then evaluate your generosity in light of God’s generosity to you.


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