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2 Corinthians 9:1-15

L.             New Covenant Stewardship - 8:1-9:15

1.              the example of the Christians in Macedonia - 8:1-5

2.              the effect on the Christians in Corinth - 8:6-7

3.              the model for Christian giving - 8:8-9

4.              the consummation of Christian giving - 8:10-11

5.              the principles of Christian giving - 8:12-15

6.              the administration of Christian giving - 8:16-24

7.              the ministry of giving in Corinth - 9:1-5

a.              their initial commitment to give - vv. 1-2

Paul's comment that the Corinthians' initial zeal to give stirred up "most" of the Macedonians is a healthy dose of realism. In other words, not all the believers in Macedonia gave generously with joy in the midst of their affliction (cf. 8:1-5). It would be too much to expect that they would.

b.              Paul's purpose in sending Titus - vv. 3-5

Paul's initial excitement has been somewhat tempered. Titus has come from Corinth with the discouraging report that the collection had been put "on the back burner." His point in vv. 3-5 is that in light of his previous boasting about them this could now be a cause of some embarrassment to both him and them. Barnett summarizes:

"Although Paul has applied a degree of moral pressure on the Corinthians by (1) holding up the example of the Macedonians (8:1-5), (2) by urgently reminding them of their own initial 'desire' and 'willingness' in the previous year (8:10-12), and (3) by telling them he had used their example of 'willingness' and 'preparedness' in promoting the appeal to the Macedonians (8:24; 9:2-3), nonetheless, it was important that their response was 'voluntary' (8:3), as appropriate to the 'grace of God/Christ' (8:2,9). Paul's words are not 'command' but 'advice' (8:8,10). Thus Paul wants their response to be 'a free gift,' not 'an exaction'" (434).

8.              the principle of return in Christian giving - 9:6-11

a.              an illustration: to "sow" is to "reap" - v. 6

In farming, what may initially appear to be a loss ("sowing") is in fact a gain ("reaping). As one sows, so one reaps. Is Paul endorsing the view that if we give generously God will prosper us personally. See below . . .

What determines whether a gift is "sparing" or "bountiful"? It is not determined by the quantity of the gift considered in the abstract (cf. 8:1-2). It is determined by:

·          the means of the giver (giving is to be in proportion to wealth; cf. 8:3,11,12; 1 Cor. 16:2); and

·          the mind of the giver (it is possible to give much but to sow sparingly; cf. 8:1-5; 9:5b).

b.              the spirit of stewardship - v. 7

Giving is to be:

(1)           universal ("each one")

(2)           personal ("as he has purposed"; "how much?" is a question that each must answer for himself)

(3)           resolve ("as he has purposed"; the verb proaireomai, found only here in the NT, means to choose deliberately or to make up one's own mind about something)

"It is a well-known fact that telethons that play on people's emotions to solicit contributions often end up with donors who pledge impulsively but not deliberately enough to follow through on their pledge. Paul says that giving is to be based on a calculated decision. It is not a matter to be settled lightly or impulsively" (Belleville, 237).

(4)           without regret ("not grudgingly," lit., "not out of sorrow"; i.e., giving and then grieving over the fact that money is gone; thinking of all the things you could have purchased with the money)

(5)           not under pressure ("not under compulsion").

Paul's words here are adapted from Prov. 22:8 - "God blesses a cheerful and liberal man" (cf. Rom. 12:8). The word translated "cheerful" is hilaron, from which is derived the term "hilarious". However, one must be careful not to define the former by the latter. This would be to commit a fallacy known as semantic anachronism. This is when a late use of a word is read back into earlier literature. Semantic anachronism would be interpreting the meaning of the first century Greek word by an appeal to the meaning of the twentieth century English word. Another example is the Greek word dunamis, from which we derive our English term "dynamite."

Needless to say, if God loves a cheerful giver, He is displeased when people give but don't do it gladly, even if their giving is generous in terms of quantity. "When people don't find pleasure (Paul's word is 'cheer'!) in their acts of service, God doesn't find pleasure in them" (Piper, Desiring God, 104). Does that mean if we don't have joy we shouldn't give at all? No. "Though joyless love is not our aim, nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided there is a spirit of repentance for the deadness of our hearts" (248). So, if the cheerfulness of obedient giving is not there, do three things: "First, confess the sin of joylessness. Acknowledge the culpable coldness of your heart. Don't say it doesn't matter how you feel. Second, pray earnestly that God would restore the joy of obedience. Third, go ahead and do the outward dimension of your duty in the hope that the doing will rekindle the delight" (248-49).

c.              the promise of abundance - vv. 8-11

Clearly, God promises to supply abundantly those who give generously. Paul wants the Corinthians to be free from the fear that generous giving will leave them impoverished. But for what purpose or with what goal in mind does God cause the generous Christian steward to abound? Why does God promise financial abundance to those who cheerfully and freely give to others?

·          it is in order that "you may have an abundance for every good deed" (9:8b)

Note Paul's "string of universals" (Barnett, 439) in v. 8 - "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed."

·          it is in order that He might "multiply your seed for sowing" (9:10)

·          it is in order that you might be enriched in everything "for all liberality" (9:11).

God will never stir your heart to give and then fail to supply you with resources to do so. But the idea that we should give so that God will then enrich us personally with a view to increasing our comfort and convenience and purchasing power is foreign to Paul's teaching. Personal wealth is here viewed, not as an end in itself, but as a means to a yet higher goal: generosity to those in need.

One thing that will undermine the outworking of this principle is the lie that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. As Piper has said, "God has made us to be conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do" (173).

We should also note in v. 9 that Paul envisions God's faithfulness in giving to us so that we might give to others as an expression of His righteousness. In other words, the truth of the promise to us in v. 8 is a matter of divine integrity: if God were not to amply supply us for the good deed of giving, His reputation as righteous would be impugned. God's name is on the line. That is why we may confidently know that He will never fail to fulfill the assertions of v. 8. But it doesn't stop with God's righteousness. According to v. 10, when we give generously we display the reality of our faith by means of this deed of righteousness.

9.              the results of Christian giving - 9:12-15

a.              their ministry of giving is meeting the physical needs of the saints in Jerusalem - v. 12a

b.              their ministry of giving evokes gratitude to God, for all giving has its source in his grace - v. 12b

c.              their ministry of giving brings glory to God - v. 13a

d.              their ministry of giving functions as evidence or proof of the authenticity of faith - v. 13b

e.              their ministry of giving serves to increase and intensify affection and fellowship among Christians - v. 14

f.               their ministry of giving evokes gratitude for the grace of God in Christ - v. 15

What is God's "indescribable gift" for which Paul offers thanks? Is it "the surpassing grace of God" in the Corinthians, mentioned in v. 14 (cf. 8:1)? Or is it God's gracious gift of Jesus (8:9) who, though rich, impoverished himself to make us rich? The answer is both! As Tasker said, Jesus Christ is "the divine gift which inspires all gifts."

Summary of Principles

for Christian Stewardship

(1)           Giving is to be in proportion to wealth - 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:3,11,12; 9:8-11 (precisely what percentage that might be is never stated by Paul).

(2)           Giving is to be regarded as a privilege; indeed, it is an act of worship and praise - 2 Cor. 8:4; Phil. 4:15-18.

(3)           Giving is to be voluntary, not forced - 2 Cor. 8:3,11-12; 9:5,7.

(4)           Giving is to be preceded by the dedication of oneself to the Lord's work in whatever capacity possible - 2 Cor. 8:5.

(5)           Giving is to be characterized by a spirit of reciprocity - 2 Cor. 8:13-15.

(6)           The administration of Christian giving should take into consideration the principles that governed Paul's approach to the collection:

·          test and prove those who administer financial matters in the church

·          there is safety in numbers; in other words, never entrust the financial concerns of a church to only one person

·          financial administrators should have a good reputation in the community

·          financial administrators should have the confidence and trust of the Christian community (2 Cor. 8:16-24)

(7)           Giving is to be characterized by forethought and prayer - 2 Cor. 9:7.

(8)           Giving must never be characterized by sorrow over money lost or by covetousness - 2 Cor. 9:5,7.

(9)           Giving should always be cheerful and joyous - 2 Cor. 9:7.

(10)        Giving should not be undertaken with a view to personal enrichment; rather, one should give with the expectation that God will supply the giver with abundance for additional giving - 2 Cor. 9:8-11.

(11)        All giving is to be understood as finding its source, power, and pattern in the grace of God in Christ - 2 Cor. 8:1,9; 9:14-15.

(12)        Generous giving is a rebuke "to the Corinthians' [and our] myopic individualism and congregationalism (8:7). Paul's emphasis is upon 'equality' within the worldwide people of the new covenant and the mutual responsibility each member is to show to others, regardless of geographic separation or ethnic difference (8:13-15)" (Barnett, 449).