Exhortations on Giving
2 Corinthians 8 – 9
 
The Collection. One of the most basic Christian privileges is giving. We have a giving God (John 3:16), and we ought to reflect His character. Throughout the New Testament we have instructions and patterns set forward for the assembly to have collections where funds can be gathered and used in the service of the Lord. Following on 1 Cor. 16:1-4, the most extensive inspired treatment of the issue of Christian generosity is found in 2 Corinthians 8 – 9. It fits in with the broader subject of 2 Corinthians because one of the ways Christian ministry is supported is through Christian giving. What was being given? We can give our time, energy, and love to the Lord, but money is what is spoken of in connection with the collection. Why is money to be collected? Money is a useful way to transfer substance. Yet money is something we naturally cling to very tightly. Christian giving is really a test for us, whether we love others, or whether we love ourselves… whether we consider our possessions to be our own, or the Lord’s. Money is not evil… but the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Hebrews 13:16 shows us that God is “well pleased” with the sacrifice of our substance. In his epistles, Paul clearly separates giving to the ministering for personal needs and giving to the poor. These are the primary uses of the collection in scripture.
  • Supporting the one that ministers (1 Cor. 9). Wherever he traveled, Paul worked with his own hands as a tent maker for his personal needs (Acts 20:33-34). On occasion, Paul would receive support from individuals and assemblies, such as the Philippians. When Paul was imprisoned he did accept money from the Philippians, who “sent once and again unto my necessity” (Phil. 4:17). Paul had never taken money from the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:13-14), who were relatively wealthy. He speaks of “robbing other churches” (2 Cor. 11:8-9). In 1 Cor. 9 we have a little light on why Paul chose not to receive financial support from the Corinthians: because it left him free to preach and teach whatever the Lord asked him, without any possibility of corruption. There was a worldly spirit among the Corinthians, and Paul felt it might compromise his ministry to take what was rightfully his from the Corinthians. Paul also wouldn’t receive from the Thessalonians because there was a problem with laziness there, and he wanted to set a good example (1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). Nevertheless, scripture is clear that it is right and proper for believers to financially support those that serve them (1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6).
  • Sending aid to the poor (1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor. 8-9). Giving to the poor is an important part of Christianity. As individuals, we are to be very forward in giving to the poor of this world, feeding the hungry, etc. as we have in our Lord’s own ministry, and displayed in His own habits (Matt. 6:3; Matt. 19:21; Matt. 26:11; Luke 12:33; John 13:29). See also Acts 10:2 and 1 Cor. 13:3. But concerning the collection, its primary use is for the saints, hence it is called “the collection for the saints” (1 Cor. 6:1). The assembly ought to take care of the poor within the Christian company first. This could take place at a local level, and also at a global level. We have instructions for the assembly to give to the widows indeed (1 Tim. 5) and even perhaps the fatherless (James 1:27). But Paul, on his missionary journeys, was seeking to stir up the wealthy Gentile believers to send a collection to the poor saints in Jerusalem. It was fitting that the apostle to the uncircumcision be the one to round-up these funds. Paul and Barnabas had delivered an earlier collection to relieve the needs of the brethren there in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30), and he had arranged with Peter to do so again before leaving on his second journey (Gal. 2:10). Then, upon returning from his third journey, Paul delivered it (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25-26). The brethren in Judea were is a state of continual poverty since the very earliest days of the Church, as a result of three things: first, they had sold their possessions in unselfish love to have all things common (Acts 4:32); second, there arose a great famine in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:27-30); and third, they suffered the spoiling of their goods by those who opposed and persecuted them (Heb. 10:34). The collection was gathered by the assemblies in Macedonia or northern Greece, and Achaia or southern Greece (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25-26).  The Macedonians were relatively poor, and yet had given more readily (2 Cor. 8:2). The Corinthians were quite wealthy, but having started to pull the funds together, and hearing that Paul’s visit was delayed for one year, had not finished the collection. Paul wrote to them encouraging them to finish, just as they had intended. Rom. 15:25 shows us that they did eventually finish the collection, and Paul carried it with him to Jerusalem!
The two passages, 1 Cor. 16 and 2 Cor. 8-9, give us a composite sketch of how the collection should be gathered, handled, and used for the Lord.
 
Tithing. It is not mentioned once in this section. If it was a scriptural practice, it would be found here if anywhere in the New Testament. The assembly collection is not the Christian version of tithing. Jews had an obligation to give 10%… Christians are free to voluntarily give much more. All of it belongs to the Lord. To implement the collection as a Christian “tithe” is to put ourselves in practice under law.
 
 

An Example of Giving: The Poor Macedonian Saints (8:1-5)

vv.1-5 In this section, Paul puts forward the saints of Macedonia as an example to stir up the Corinthians. He was not playing on the flesh, hoping to stir up competition. Rather, he was allowing the example of the Macedonian saints to illuminate the Corinthians’ state, and encourage them to give.
 
CHAPTER 8
But we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God bestowed in the assemblies of Macedonia; 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty has abounded to the riches of their free-hearted liberality. vv.1-2 The Giving Heart. Who were the assemblies of Macedonia? Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, and Berea were all cities of Macedonia. We know there were assemblies in at least Philippi and Thessalonica, and believers in Berea. If anyone had an excuse not to give it would be the Macedonians, because they were in “a great trial of affliction” and “deep poverty”. They gave out of the riches of their liberality, not out of the greatness of their resources. They offered of their own “free-hearted liberality”. It isn’t so much the amount we give, but whether our heart is in it (Mark 12:43). What God wants is a giving heart. Notice that Paul was not drawing attention to the greatness of the Macedonian assemblies, but to “the grace of God bestowed” on them. The grace of God can change a person from being cold-hearted and stingy to being free-hearted and liberal! The very fact that the collection began with the poor saints, and not the wealthy saints, proved that this was a work of grace, not of worldly wisdom.
 
3 For according to their power, I bear witness, and beyond their power, they were willing of their own accord, 4 begging of us with much entreaty to give effect to the grace and fellowship of the service which was to be rendered to the saints. vv.3-4 The Willing Heart. The Macedonian saints were “willing of their own accord”. What we see in Christianity today is unhealthy pressure put upon the givers. Callbacks, lists, shame-tactics, incentives, fleshly rivalry, etc. are used unabashedly in Christendom for fundraising. The desire of false Christianity down through the centuries has often been to take money from the masses. We need to be careful about that. In fact, the begging going on in this chapter is the Macedonians “begging with much entreaty” for Paul to take their gift! Paul begged Titus to got to the Corinthians, but he did not beg the Corinthians. Any sacrifice a believer makes, whether of praise, or service, or of money (Heb. 13:15-16) should be done voluntarily. It is a priestly function. The willingness of the Macedonian assemblies was remarkable. Paul bore witness (because he visited them), that they gave “beyond their power”, meaning that they impoverished themselves to relieve the poverty of others. They wanted to have a part, to really make an impact, in “the grace and fellowship of the service”. It isn’t enough to add your signature to the card without really making a sacrifice. The Macedonians were straining in the harness, so to speak, to get involved practically in the fellowship. God wants a willing heart (Exodus 36:5).
 
5 And not according as we hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and to us by God’s will. v.5 The Prioritized Heart. The Macedonian saints had given after the model of Christ Himself. Christ offered Himself “for us” and “to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Eph. 5:2). Christ was devoted “to” the pleasure of His God first, and laid down His life “for” us according to the will of God. The Macedonian saints had the Lord first in their hearts, going beyond the desire of the apostle (“not according as we hoped”). The order is important. First, they gave themselves “to the Lord”, as if to say, ‘Lord, we belong to You… what shall we do?’ The practical outworking of their God-ward devotion (“by God’s will”) was that they should give themselves, their time, energy, and limited resources, to the apostle and his companions to support the broader ministry. How important to have the Lord as our first priority!
 

Four Reasons for Giving (8:6-15)

6 So that we begged Titus that, according as he had before begun, so he would also complete as to you this grace also; 7 but even as ye abound in every way, in faith, and word, and knowledge [‘gnosis’], and all diligence, and in love [‘agape’] from you to us, that ye may abound in this grace also. vv.6-7 Generosity is a Fundamental Christian Grace. Paul sent both the first and second epistle by the hand of Titus. It was fitting that, what Titus had “before begun” (the collection started, 1 Cor. 16:1-4), that he would be the messenger to see it completed. It is interesting that Paul classes giving in with the other Christian “graces” or qualities. Several Christian graces are enumerated:
  1. Faith. The most basic quality that accompanies Divine life… confidence in God (1 Cor. 13:2).
  2. Word. The ability to communication about spiritual things (1 Cor. 1:5).
  3. Knowledge. The objective knowledge of what the scriptures mean (1 Cor. 1:5).
  4. Diligence. A carefulness in the things of God, which was a result of repentance (2 Cor. 7:11).
  5. Love. The settled disposition of favor to others, specifically to the apostles.
  6. Generosity (“this grace also”). The quality of large-heartedness that is accompanied by giving.
None of these graces can be truly said to be possessed by the believer unless they are practiced. Paul’s desire was, that as the other Christian graces were manifest in the lives of the Corinthians, that they would “abound” in generosity also.
 
8 I do not speak as commanding it, but through the zeal of others, and proving the genuineness of your love. 9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he, being rich, became poor, in order that “ye” by “his” poverty might be enriched. vv.8-9 Giving Proves the Sincerity of Our Love. Giving is not something that should be done by compulsion, and Paul would not issue an apostolic command. There are apostolic commands (2 Thess. 3:14), but Paul would not use his authority for this purpose. Instead he provoked them to good works (Heb. 10:24) by the example of the Macedonians… this is a great lesson in shepherding. You can help individuals more by pointing to a good example (or by setting one yourself) than by commanding. By putting this before the Corinthians, Paul was proving the sincerity of their love. We can say we love someone, but ‘the proof is in the pudding’, so to speak. Love is not true love if there is no action. The ultimate example of proving love is what our Lord Jesus Christ did, when He – the rich One – became poor that we might be made rich! The stoop is incalculable, but to give us a sense, the Spirit contrasts the glory of heaven with the depths of Christ’s ignominy, shame, and suffering (Psa. 22). The Son of God left the heights of the Father’s side, descended down to manhood, took a bondman’s form, and went on to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). I believe this “poverty” would take in even the atoning sufferings of Christ, in which He was made sin for us, and abandoned by His God. Why did He do it? Because He loved us. He proved the sincerity of His love by what He was willing to give up. How rich have we been made? In resurrection and in glory, the Son surrounds Himself with the trophies of His grace.We have been given the Son’s place, the Son’s relationships, the Son’s inheritance, and the Son’s destiny! Richer, we could not be! Truly, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:8). By putting your money where your mouth is, you prove where your heart is. The sacrifice of Christ is not only a pattern for us, but a powerful motivator. When we think of what Christ has given for us, we are motivated to lay down our lives for others.
 
Rich in glory, Thou didst stoop,
Thence is all Thy people’s hope;
Thou wast poor, that we might be
Rich in glory, Lord, with Thee.
 
Thou in heav’n—the glorious One!
Thou on earth—the outcast Man!
Though this suffering Thou didst know,
Love would come to bear our woe.1
 
10 And I give my opinion in this, for this is profitable for you who began before, not only to do, but also to be willing, a year ago. 11 But now also complete the doing of it; so that as there was the readiness to be willing, so also to complete out of what ye have. 12 For if the readiness be there, a man is accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he has not. vv.10-12 Giving Proves That We Are Committed to a Cause. Paul’s opinion was that it would be good for the Corinthians to complete in fact what had begun a year ago in thought. How often good intentions are never followed through! It wouldn’t be enough to say when Titus arrived “we intended to collect the funds”. No, our commitment is proven by following through in fact; “a man is accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he has not”. Words alone are not enough (James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:18). Satan is busy, working on our flesh to distract us from our good intentions. It takes dedication, purpose of heart, self-sacrifice, and setting priorities to follow through on our good intentions (e.g. 2 Kings 12:1-16; Judges 5:15-16). Following through with the collection would make the Corinthians consistent with their original purpose.
 
13 For it is not in order that there may be ease for others, and for you distress, 14 but on the principle of equality; in the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance may be for your lack, so that there should be equality. 15 According as it is written, “He who gathered much had no excess, and he who gathered little was nothing short.” [Exodus 16:18] vv.13-15 God’s Mind Is for Economic Equality Among Believers. It was not the mind of God for the Corinthians to be impoverished while the Judaean believers took their ease. God wants no one to be impoverished while others are rich. In the body of Christ, there ought to be a mutual care one for the other (1 Cor. 12:25), which Paul calls here “the principle of equality”. If the tables were turned, God’s minds would be for the Judaean believers to minister out of their abundance to the impoverished Corinthians. He quotes from Exodus 16 to illustrate the principle of equality. God oversaw the feeding of Israel in the wilderness, and He made His desire for equality clear when the manna was gathered, because “he who gathered much had no excess, and he who gathered little was nothing short”. We should seek to send financial support to those brethren living in poverty. Note that Paul isn’t exhorting us to solve world hunger… that won’t happen until the Millennium. But we should do what we can to relieve the distress of our poor brethren.
 

The Handling of the Collection (8:16 – 9:5)

The Handling of the Collection. In the next section the apostle takes up how the collection was to be handled. The themes are transparency, reputability, and orderliness. It isn’t good enough to have a good motive… the way we carry out collections (and every other godly exercise) should be in keeping with the character of God. All must be beyond suspicion. Paul would take the collection to Jerusalem, but he refused to handle the money himself. He wanted the money to be in the hands of other brothers, two of which were “chosen by the assemblies”.

Transparency: Funds to be Handled by Two or Three Trusted Deputies (vv.16-24)

16 But thanks be to God, who gives the same diligent zeal for you in the heart of Titus. 17 For he received indeed the entreaty, but, being full of zeal, he went of his own accord to you; vv.16-17 Titus. Paul had begged Titus to go, but God had simultaneously put the very thing into the heart of Titus! God can do, and often does, that very thing. Titus was an apostolic delegate, but more than that, he had a deep care for the Corinthians. However, it would put Titus in a suspicious position to send him alone, and so Paul sent others with Titus.
 
18 but we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the glad tidings through all the assemblies; 19 and not only so, but is also chosen by the assemblies as our fellow-traveller with this grace, ministered by us to the glory of the Lord himself, and a witness of our readiness; 20 avoiding this, that any one should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us; 21 for we provide for things honest, not only before the Lord, but also before men. vv.18-21 A Second Brother. This second brother was well known, and was praised for his work in the gospel. Paul doesn’t name him, perhaps because it would be best not to make any provision for the flesh. He was chosen “by the assemblies”, not by Paul. That is because carrying of funds is a deacon’s role, and Paul would not presume – though he was an apostle – to appoint deacons. In scripture, apostles (and delegates) appointed elders, but the assembly did not; however, the assembly appointed deacons, but apostles did not! We get the appointment of deacons in Acts 6:1-6, where the assembly chose “seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”. Honesty is especially important when dealing with funds. Further requirements for deacons are given in 1 Tim. 3. The point here is that the assembly made the choice about these men; “And when I am arrived, whomsoever ye shall approve, these I will send with letters to carry your bounty to Jerusalem” (1 Cor. 16:3). The money was collected by the assembly, and it is orderly that the assembly should choose those responsible to carry the funds. A great error arises when the assembly tries to appoint men to positions of preaching and teaching. Those are gifts given from the Lord to the church. We are not to meddle in that which is the prerogative of Christ alone. Office and gift are not to be confused. It was important that there be a second brother chosen by the assemblies to avoid any blame that might be leveled at them. It is good to have at least two deacons involved with the handling of assembly funds. The great lesson is this, we need to “provide for things honest, not only before the Lord, but also before men”. This is a key to understanding this portion. If Satan couldn’t distract the saints from gathering the collection, he would be content with raising doubts as to the way it was handled. In Christianity, not only do was need to take care that our motives are pure (“before the Lord”) but also that our outward conduct is pure (“before men”).
 
22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved to be of diligent zeal in many things, and now more diligently zealous through the great confidence he has as to you. v.22 A Third Brother. A third brother was sent. This was not necessary, because two witnesses are enough to establish any assembly matter (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). However, it would be an abundant testimony to have a third brother along, who was also “of diligent zeal in many things”. The important qualification for these messengers was that they were known for their trustworthiness. Additionally, this brother had “great confidence” toward the Corinthians, obviously sharing the sentiments of Paul and Titus.
 
23 Whether as regards Titus, he is my companion and fellow-labourer in your behalf; or our brethren, they are deputed messengers of assemblies, Christ’s glory. v.23 Paul’s Commendation of the Three Messengers. Paul gives his commendation of the three messengers. If there were any question as to the credibility of these three, Paul’s commendation would answer it. Regarding Titus, he was Paul’s special “companion and fellow-labourer”, especially in things connected with Corinth. As Timothy was to Philippi, so Titus was to Corinth. Concerning the other two brothers, their commendation was twofold: (1) they had the confidence of the assemblies as “deputed messengers”, and (2) they were living reflections of “Christ’s glory”. To be a reflection of Christ’s glory means to have the excellencies of Christ reflected in our walk and ways. No higher commendation could be given!
 
24 Shew therefore to them, before the assemblies, the proof of your love, and of our boasting about you. v.24 The Expected Reception. The Corinthians were expected to receive the three messengers with love and trust. It was an important display of the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3), because this was being done “before the assemblies”; i.e. they were watching. By warmly receiving the three messengers, the Corinthians would prove their love to the other assemblies which had contributed to the collection, and prove that Paul’s confidence in the Corinthians was correctly placed. I believe the same is true today, when a brother or sister comes with a letter of commendation. By receiving them warmly, we prove our love to other assemblies, and thereby display the unity of the Spirit. Read more…

Orderliness: Collections to be Prepared Beforehand (vv.1-5)

CHAPTER 9
For concerning the ministration which is for the saints, it is superfluous my writing to you. 2 For I know your readiness, which I boast of as respects you to Macedonians, that Achaia is prepared since a year ago, and the zeal reported of you has stimulated the mass of the brethren. vv.1-2 It was “superfluous” for Paul to write in that they were already of a willing mind, but it was still “necessary” (v.5) to write to confirm the completion of what they had started. They had started out very well, so much so that the reports of the Corinthians’ zeal was used by God to “stimulate the mass of the brethren”. What can we learn from this? The exercise of faith on our part can stimulate others into their own exercise of faith! It is nice to see that Paul spoke well of the Macedonians to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:1-5), and also well of the Corinthians to the Macedonians! What a lesson. Are we found speaking well of our brethren both far and near?
 
3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made void in this respect, in order that, as I have said, ye may be prepared; 4 lest haply, if Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, “we”, that we say not “ye”, may be put to shame in this confidence. vv.3-4 The boasting of the apostle with regard to the Corinthians was in danger of being “made void”. If the brethren from Macedonia came to Corinth and found that they were not prepared, Paul would be put to shame, as would the Corinthians, and perhaps the Macedonians would be disheartened. What can we learn from this? If we have the potential to simulate our brethren by beginning a work of faith (vv.1-2), then we also have the potential to discourage them by giving up or slacking off in that work.
 
5 I thought it necessary therefore to beg the brethren that they would come to you, and complete beforehand your fore-announced blessing, that this may be ready thus as blessing, and not as got out of you. v.5 Paul saw that it was necessary to stir the saints up to complete their gift (called a “blessing” here, see Gen. 33:11, Jud. 1:15, 2 Kings 5:15) and have it ready “beforehand”; i.e. before the brethren arrived. The timing was important. If the Corinthians were found prepared, it would be “as blessing”, or a happy thing for all. But if they were found unprepared, there would be a last minute scramble, a campaign launched, when the brethren arrived. This would change the whole tone of the work, and make the collection as something “got out of you”, rather than given willingly. This is consistent with what Paul wrote in the first epistle; “that there may be no collections when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). Christian giving should never be in the spirit of extracting money from believers. Modern evangelical methods of raising funds often stoop to tactics on that level, and it is a real shame. We need to keep this principle in mind concerning the collection.
 

Five Results of Giving (9:6-15)

Results of Giving. Paul next speaks of the results of giving. The first thing he mentions seems very unlikely; the blessing of the giver. Naturally, we often think of the results of giving as primarily practical (needs being met), but Paul brings out other results that we may not be aware of!

(1) The Giver is Blessed, if Giving in the Right Spirit (vv.6-9)

6 But this is true, he that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that sows in the spirit of blessing shall reap also in blessing: 7 each according as he is purposed in his heart; not grievingly, or of necessity; for “God loves a cheerful giver.” [Prov. 22:8, LXX Version] vv.6-7 Paul explains that the government of God is involved in Christian giving. As in Galatians 6, Paul uses the illustration of farming (sowing and reaping) to explain the government of God. Read more… God will reward the giver, just as He rewards the planter with a harvest. Here we find that we will reap according to the measure of what we have sown. If we give “sparingly”, we will also reap “sparingly”. What kind of things will we reap? It is possible that we could reap material things, but it may also be spiritual things (“life eternal”, Gal. 6:8). In fact, vv.8-9 seem to confirm that the thought is (primarily) that we will reap in a spiritual sense. In the Old Testament reaping was primarily material because their blessings were earthly. Our blessings are spiritual and heavenly. It definitely doesn’t say we will get rich. Some have thought to get rich through Christian giving, but God warns us about the folly of desiring to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Also, we find that God’s government takes into account our attitude and motives. There are three attitudes we can have in giving: we can give “grievingly” (grudgingly), or “of necessity” (by compulsion), or we can give “cheerfully”. To give grudgingly is to give with your heart opposed to the action; i.e. when it is painful to give because your heart covets what you are giving. To give by compulsion is to give because you have no other options; i.e. when you are forced to give. In neither case is the person giving in “the spirit of blessing”. The only right attitude for us to have in giving is a “cheerful” attitude. To support this, Paul quotes from Proverbs. In Proverbs 22, there is another verse after v.8 in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible that is left out in the Masoretic Text (Hebrew Rabbinic Bible). The verse is: “God loves a cheerful and liberal man; but a man shall fully prove the folly of his works.” Interestingly, the first clause of this verse is quoted by the apostle Paul in our chapter. The point is that God loves those who have a cheerful attitude in giving. God Himself is a cheerful giver (v.15; John 3:16). Like God, we are to give with love towards others, and no thought of ourselves.
 
8 But God is able to make every gracious gift abound towards you, that, having in every way always all-sufficiency, ye may abound to every good work: 9 according as it is written, “He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor, his righteousness remains for ever.” [Psa. 112:9] vv.8-9 I must admit that I find it very difficult to follow the thought of the apostle exactly in these verses. I think Paul is explaining how and what we reap. God takes our gracious gift, and causes it to “abound” towards us, leading us to “abound to every good work”. God is able to take one small act of sacrifice and use that one act to transform us into full-time givers! See Proverbs 11:24-25. To support this, Paul quotes from Psa. 112:9, where we have a description of a godly Israelite in the Millennial kingdom, who begins by giving to the poor, and goes on throughout the whole Millennium (“remains forever”) in a pathway of practical righteousness. Certainly, if the principle applied to Israel in the Old Testament, it applies to us as well.

(2) Needs are Met, and (3) God is Glorified by the Recipients (vv.10-13)

10 Now he that supplies “seed to the sower and bread for eating” [Isa. 55:10] shall supply and make abundant your sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: v.10 Paul adapts Isaiah 55:10 to show that, since God is the One that had given “seed to the sower”, or allowed the Corinthians to have money in the first place, then He would also provide “bread for eating”, or would cause the generosity of the Corinthians to bear fruit in others as well! Blessing in a limited sphere, when received in faith, increases to blessing in a broader sphere. And if there is increase in any work for God, the credit goes to Him; “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor. 3:7).
 
11 enriched in every way unto all free-hearted liberality, which works through us thanksgiving to God. 12 Because the ministration of this service is not only filling up the measure of what is lacking to the saints, but also abounding by many thanksgivings to God; 13 they glorifying God through the proof of this ministration, by reason of your subjection, by profession, to the glad tidings of the Christ, and your free-hearted liberality in communicating towards them and towards all; vv.11-13 Christian giving not only benefits the person giving, but it results in much thankfulness toward God in the hearts of the recipients! The “filling up the measure of what is lacking to the saints” is only mentioned in passing! How interesting. We would naturally think that meeting temporal needs is the single greatest result of Christian giving. Certainly, financial aid is a result of Christian giving, but there are other results which go far beyond that! Not so much the collection itself, but what the gift meant in a spiritual way, would cause “many thanksgivings to God”. When the collection arrived, it would be proof to the whole church that the Gentiles had obeyed the gospel; “your subjection… to the glad tidings”. They would rejoice the Gentiles were being saved, and the proof of it was in their “free-hearted liberality”, not only toward the poor Jewish brethren, but “towards all”! Paul beautifully connects himself with this thanksgiving; he says “which works through us thanksgiving to God”. The labors of the apostle Paul and his companions had played a huge role in is. After all, the “the gospel of the uncircumcision” was committed to Paul (Gal. 2:7), and he was certainly a driving force behind this collection, as we have seen. The completion of this work was really the proof in the hearts of Jewish believers that God was at work among the Gentiles, and that Paul’s ministry was fully vindicated.

(4) The Hearts of Believers are Drawn Together (v.14)

14 and in their supplication for you, full of ardent desire for you, on account of the exceeding grace of God which is upon you. v.14 Additionally, this matter of the Judaean poverty and the Gentile collection was the cause of the hearts of many being drawn together. It would actually be a tremendous boost to the unity of the early Church. By their poverty, the Jewish believers were thus cast upon the generosity of the Gentile believers, and the bond that would unite them and help to overcome natural prejudices that might exist. Together their hearts would be lifted up in thanksgiving to God (v.12), and the Jewish believers would pray for the Gentile believers, and earnestly desire their blessing. This same bond is felt between those who give and receive in Christianity today.

(5) God is Thanked for the Gift of the Son (v.15)

15 Thanks be to God for his unspeakable free gift. v.15 Finally, Paul concludes with a doxology, or a burst of praise. He is reviewing the whole subject of Christian giving, from the end (glory going to God), all the way to the beginning (Christian hearts motivated by the sacrifice of Christ). It causes him to burst out in thanksgiving for the ultimate gift: God’s gift of the Son! It all comes back to that. Some have erroneously taught that the “undescribable” gift is the sending of the Holy Spirit. No, the God so loved the world that He gave “His only-begotten Son”. If mere money, collected and sent by the assemblies of Greece and Macedonia could results in such blessing, how much more the gift of the Son!
 
Behold, what wondrous love and grace!
When we were wretched and undone,

To save a ruined, helpless race,

The Father gave His only Son!

Of twice ten thousand gifts divine,

No gift like this could ever shine.2
 

Footnotes

  1. Kelly, Thomas. Lord, Accept our Feeble Song. Little Flock Hymnbook #198. 1769-1855.
  2. Saunders, W. Behold, what wondrous Love and Grace! Little Flock Hymnbook #336. 1881.

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