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

October 18, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

 


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

               Lesson III.B:Faithfulness Exhorted. (8:6-15)

                       Part-1: The example of the Macedonian Churches. (Verses 6-8)

Faithfulness Exhorted.

      Part-1: The example of the Macedonian Churches. (Verses 6-8)

            Part-2: Follow Christ’s example. (Verse 9)

            Part-3: Paul challenges the Corinthian believers. (Verses 10-12)

            Part-4: Paul tells them to give to set a precedent. (Verses 13-15)

 

2nd Corinthians 8:6-8 (NKJV)

6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.

7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also.

8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.

 

 

Introduction

In 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 Paul recommends to the Corinthians that they follow the example of the Macedonian Churches when they make a contribution for the poor and needy brethren in Judea, as well as in other graces.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.

 

Jerusalem had been impoverished through the famines in Judea in the 40’s. Paul was led by the Spirit to take up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem, who were suffering hardships and needed help. The collection was both an act of charity as well as a symbol of unity between the Gentiles and the Jews in the church (Acts 11:27-30; Gal. 2:10). Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:5 that the Macedonian believers gave themselves to God. And, dear reader, if God doesn’t have you, He doesn’t want anything from you. If God doesn’t have the hand, He doesn’t want the gift that is in the hand. But, if we give ourselves to God, we will have little problem giving to God, we will also give of ourselves for others. Paul says that the grace that motivated the Macedonians should be the same grace that would motivate the Corinthians. The real test of any person lies in what he gives. Someone has said there are three books that are essential for a worship service: the first book is the Bible, the second is the hymn book, and the third is the pocket book. Giving is a part of our worship of God. If we do not have the grace of giving, we should pray to God and ask Him to give us a generous, sharing spirit.

 

Paul would send Titus back to Corinth to encourage the believers to complete their share in this ministry of giving for relief of the poor and needy in Judea—in other words, to finish the collection there. Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 that this collection has been in progress for some months at least; so we must conclude that Titus began the collection in Corinth before he went there with the “stern letter” from Paul. He must have begun the collection there either when he carried 1 Corinthians to them, or at an even earlier time. Such an earlier time seems indicated by 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. The Macedonian gift was complete and ready, so he wants the Corinthian collection (1 Corinthians 16:1) to be speedily completed and added to the Macedonian gift.

 

On his previous visit, at least one year earlier (or possibly a visit sometime before the one in which Titus delivered the “severe letter”), Titus had encouraged the Corinthians to continue collecting sums of money every week for the Jerusalem church, for Paul had instructed the Corinthians to do just that in an earlier letter (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Apparently, the Corinthian’s giving had dwindled, perhaps due to some of the criticism about Paul and his authority (see Paul’s defense of himself throughout this letter: 7:2; 11:7-9; 12:14-17).

 

 

7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.

 

Paul’s approach is full of tact; he is commending them, and at the same time appealing to the Corinthian’s competitive spirit. He does not condemn their lack of liberality. He could have commanded them to give, and their attachment to him now would have led them to obey. But he will not impose his will on them. Instead, he mentions all their strong points and then suggests that they add this one more. They had striven to excel in so many ways and God had responded to their enthusiasm by giving them an abundance of spiritual gifts—I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4).They abounded in faith (sanctified trust in the Lord); they were able to witness (with sound doctrine); they had knowledge (the application of doctrine) and diligence (eagerness and spiritual passion); and they had love for Paul and the other apostles. John declares that love of the brethren is the test by which we know that we have passed from death to life (1 John 3:14). They are a gifted church; they “abound in everything,” that is, everything else except in giving. Now he asks them to abound in this grace also; the grace of giving. (One of the greatest examples of genuine self-giving love is, as you know, the Lord Himself.)

 

Knowing that the Corinthians had a great amount of enthusiasm for spiritual gifts, Paul placed giving alongside other gifts. Paul wanted the Corinthians also to excel in this gracious ministry of giving, in being concerned for other people’s welfare. If they could compete at giving to others, their energies might be directed away from the spiritual gifts that were causing quarrels in the church—for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

 

When it comes to giving, enthusiasm is the important thing—not the amount, for that is dictated by your income. The apostle was not asking them to enable the Jerusalem Christians to live in luxury at their expense, but to insure an equitable distribution of goods (it may prove beneficial to them one day!), which after all is a biblical principle.

 

 

8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.

 

Paul is saying here that giving today is not by Law, by habit, or by ritual. I know that there are good Bible expositors who say we are to give the tithe. Obviously, the tithe was basic back in the Old Testament. However, if you examine it carefully, you will find that the people gave three tithes. One was actually for the support of the government, which would be what we call taxes today. So, the tithe is not the basis on which Christians are to give. When Paul says, “I speak not by commandment,” he does not mean that it is not inspired and He is not asking the Corinthians to give because it is a commandment, for love and liberality (which is an expression of love) must be spontaneous and it must come from a willing heart (for God loves a cheerful giver), but he is giving them the example ofthe diligence of others” (the Macedonians) as a bench mark to test their love for him; if their expressions of love are as genuine as the Macedonians’, they will give as generously as they did. The Macedonians giving was, like Christ’s motivated by love. What a rebuke to the Corinthians who were so enriched with spiritual blessings (1 Corinthians 1:4, 5). They were so wrapped up in the gifts of the Spirit that they had neglected the graces of the Spirit, including the grace of giving. The Macedonian churches had an “abundance of deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2), and yet they abounded in their liberality. The Corinthians had an abundance of spiritual gifts, yet they were lax in keeping their promise and sharing in the collection. We must never argue that the ministry of our spiritual gifts is a substitute for generous giving. “I teach a Sunday School class, so I don’t have to give!” is not an explanation—it’s an excuse. The Christian who remembers that his gifts are gifts will be motivated to give to others and not hide behind his ministry for the Lord.

 

Paul gives two reasons why he is asking them to give. The first is to test “the sincerity of your love.”  Giving is a natural response of Christian love. Though Paul did not order the Corinthians to give; he encouraged them to prove the sincerity of their love for Christ by comparing it with the earnestness of others (Do they want to be outdone by the liberality of the poor Macedonians?). When you love someone, you want to help that person. You want to give your time, your attention, and your possessions to enrich that person. If you refuse to help, your love is not as sincere as you say it is. It is still true today that the pocketbook is really the test of a man’s love. It is the most sensitive area of a Christian. The second reason is “the diligence of others,” which would be the example which the Macedonians had given. Paul taught that believers should give sacrificially and spontaneously, with spiritual motives, and that they should give freely, for God values the eagerness to give, not necessarily the value of the gift. A good deed is always willingly done, and the Corinthians must make the decision for themselves.

 

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