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

October 30, 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-3: Paul challenges the Corinthian believers. (Verses 10-12)

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 8:10-12 (NKJV)

 

10 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;

11 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.

12 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.

 

 

Introduction

 

Good beginnings are fine, but we lose the benefit, unless there is perseverance. When men desire to do that which is good, and endeavor, according to their ability, to perform it also, God will not reject them for what is not in their power to do. But the Scripture will not justify those who think good meanings are enough, or that good purposes are enough, and the mere profession of a willing mind, are enough to save. Providence gives to some more of the good things of this world, and to some less, so that those who have abundance might supply others who are in want.

 

 

Commentary

 

10 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;

 

There is a great difference between promise and performance. The Corinthians had boasted to Titus “a year ago” that they would share in the special collection (2 Corinthians 8:6), but they did not keep their promise—So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part” (2 Corinthians 8:6). Note that in this section Paul emphasized willingness, but this doesn’t tie him to the doctrine that the only thing necessary is a good will. Grace giving must come from a willing heart; it cannot be forced or coerced. We must be careful here not to confuse willing with doing, because the two must go together. If the willing is sincere and in the will of God, then there must be a performance also (2 Corinthians 8:11; Philippians 2:12, 13). If our giving is motivated by grace, we will give willingly, and not because we have been forced to give. Paul was careful not to command the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:8); he only gave “advice.” He was not commanding the Corinthians to give any specific amount. They willingly undertook the collection; it was not forced upon them. They should now complete what they had begun to do and what they at one time intended to do. It was his opinion, however, that it was to their advantage to give generously, because it would prove their sincerity and consistency, and so they might receive abundantly more from God in either material blessings, spiritual blessings, or eternal reward—“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6; also Luke 6:38). God sees the “heart gift,” and not the “hand gift.” If the heart wanted to give more, but was unable to do so, God sees it and records it accordingly. But if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God records what is in the heart, no matter how big the offering in the hand might be.

 

This passage also appeals to the Corinthian’s competitive spirit (see also 2 Corinthians 8:1, 2; 6-8). They had been the first in two ways! They had started the fund for the relief of the Jerusalem Christians a year ago,” and were the first to contribute substantially to the fund; therefore they were deserving of praise on both points. At this point, Paul asked the Corinthians to finish the work and complete their commitments so that their eager willingness at the beginning would be matched by their completion of the task (see also 2 Corinthians 9:5). He challenged the Corinthians to act on their plans and give according to their means (2 Corinthians 8:14). Unfinished things are nothing. They are a burden on the mind, and a barrier to progress.

 

“A year ago” is a vague term; it can mean any time in the past year. Since the Roman year began in January, the Jewish religious year in spring (in the month Nisan), the Athenian year in midsummer, and the Jewish civil year, like the Macedonian-Syrian year, in the fall, the possibilities were many. Paul wrote this letter from Macedonia in late summer or early fall; in any case, it is clear that months before he wrote, the Corinthians had voluntarily undertaken a collection for the Jerusalem Christians. 

 

 

11 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.

 

The little word “must” makes the “advice” of verse 10, a command. The Corinthians’ earlier readiness to take up a collection was a decision they freely made. But now you also must complete the doing of it” is a reminder that the excitement of starting must be matched by the determination to complete the obligation. It is easy to make promises when making them enhances a person’s image. When the spotlight leaves and the cost of the vow seems to compound daily, enthusiasm wanes. It becomes easy to forfeit honor by forgetting what was promised.

 

The Corinthians needed to finish what they had started by completing the collection—

  • But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)
  • On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians16:2)

They needed this reminder since they likely stopped the process due to the influence of the false teachers, who probably accused Paul of being a huckster who would keep the money for himself (2 Corinthians 2:17).

 

God had a plan for helping the poor in the Old Testament; He told His people that when they harvested grain to always leave some for the poor. In the New Testament, Jesus emphasized helping the poor and the needy. When you help others, you are, in essence, being obedient to God. The reward is that fresh insight into God’s will grows only through obedience to insight already given. It is generally at some point of disobedience that spiritual development is halted.

 

Four principles of giving emerge in the following verses:

(1)  Your willingness to give cheerfully is more important than the amount you give (v. 12; 9:5). “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).God accepts the will for the deed, as He did with David (1 Kings 8:18). He judges not according to what a man has the opportunity to do, but according to what he would do if he had the opportunity. This is something very important to note—each should give according “to what one has,” and he is to do it with a willing mind. No one is to give according to what he does not have.

(2)You should strive to fulfill your financial commitments (9:5). Paul is saying to the Corinthians that they should carry through with their pledge. They should put their money where their mouth is. However, remember that this is not a commandment. We are not commanded to make a pledge. However verse 11 does tell us that if we do make a pledge, then we are to carry it through and perform it. The tithes were a basic measurement in the Old Testament, and I cannot believe that any Christian today who has a good income should give less than a tenth. In this time of great abundance Christians should be giving more than a tenth.

(3)If you give to others in need, they will, in turn, help you when you are in need (8:14).

(4)You should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it (8:9; 9:13). No more is asked or expected from anyone than to give what they can afford; in the words of verse 3, it is to be “according to their means.”

 

How you give reflects your devotion to Christ. Don’t rush into a commitment to give. Evaluate your finances, so that you will be able to keep your promise.

 

 

12 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.

 

Paul wasn’t concerned about the amount the Corinthians would raise, but he wanted them to be eager to give. When he spoke of the Macedonians’ giving, he did not tell the Corinthians how much the Macedonians had given, but how they had given. They gave with great joy, out of their devotion to Christ (8:2, 3, 5).  The principal thing is the voluntary willingness. Their own decision to complete the giving comes first; Paul was confident that once they renew that earlier decision, they will finish the work. Paul was more concerned about the Corinthians’ attitude than whether he reached a certain goal in his fund-raising.

 

Although what the Corinthians possessed was a gift from God in the first place (1 Corinthians 4:7), Paul asked them to give of what they had, not what they didn’t have. God judges our liberality in relation to the means we possess, not by the amount we actually give. (Perhaps the Corinthians had made promises larger than they can now fulfill.) The widow who put two mites into the temple treasury was commended by Jesus as an example of liberality, because though the amount was infinitesimal it was all she had (Mark 12:42-44). In this light what looks in one case like a princely sum may only be a mite; while in another case a mite may be generous. Liberality is always relative. Sacrificial giving must be responsible. He spoke of a readiness and willingness to give. Best wishes—desire and eager willingness—are no substitute for good deeds—Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15, 16).God is most concerned with the heart attitude of the giver, not the amount he gives—So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7; also see Mark 12:41-44). Paul believed a person should give “according to what one has.” Whatever one has is the resource out of which he should give. That is why there are no set amounts or percentages stated anywhere in the New Testament. The implication is that if one has much, he can give much, if he has little he can only give a little (2 Corinthians 9:6), and not according to what he does not have.” God does not see the portion, but the proportion. If we could have given more and did not, God notes it. If we wanted to give more, and could not, God notes that too. When we give willingly, according to what we have, we are practicing grace giving. Believers do not need to go into debt to give, nor lower themselves to the poverty level. God never asks believers to impoverish themselves. By that standard the Macedonian gift, like the poor widow’s offering, might in one sense be easy to equal, but in another sense be hard to exceed. The Macedonians received a special blessing from God for giving the way they did.

 


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