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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


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Friday, April 28, 2017

2 Corinthians (9:1-10) (Lesson 20)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

2 Corinthians (9:1-10)                                                      (Lesson 20)

Welcome to HBS.

After I read this chapter the second time the thought that human nature hasn’t changed   since Paul wrote this letter crossed my mind.  The Corinthians didn’t get “it” and people today still don’t understand they can’t out give God and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about giving away their money, talents, or time to those who are in need.  Why else would Paul write:  Now this I say, he (or she) who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he (or she) who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully?

The word bountiful reminds me of something God said to our Apostle Paul and I believe it’s something we all should remember in times of need and in times of plenty:  My grace is sufficient for you.”  This one word, grace, encompasses all the riches the true Believer possesses in Christ Jesus.  Paul calls it the abundance of grace (Romans 5:17); the riches of (God’s) grace (Ephesians 2:7); and the surpassing grace of God (2 Corinthians 9:14).  Most people are familiar with the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but as for the meaning of the word grace I find it to be one of the most misunderstood and unappreciated words in the Bible.

Another thing that hasn’t changed much over the centuries is church tradition.  If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about think back to the time when you joined the church you’re currently associated with.  The fact that you’re a Believer and you had a Bible wasn’t adequate.  Didn’t you have to agree to sign up and attend a “beginner’s class” before you became a member of your church?  These classes were designed to indoctrinate you or teach you what your church believes.  They also provided you with information re: the programs they offer for families, etc., the community outreach programs they currently have in operation, and if the church has a building program underway you were informed of its progress.

Each church is different but they are all the same in that they all have their own traditions.  I’ve partnered with several churches over the years that preached on the subject of stewardship annually; it was their tradition.  There’s nothing wrong with reminding people of their responsibility to give regularly, in fact some people need more reminding than others, so please don’t misinterpret my message.  These stewardship sermons usually began in January and ran for a month or so.  The pastor would preach on certain sections of the Bible, mostly Old Testament, and he used the word “tithe” frequently.  The word tithe first appears in Genesis 14:17-24, however, the long and the short of it is this it has nothing to do with the Body of Christ, in the Dispensation of Grace.  The tithe was required under the Mosaic Law.  We’re not under Law; we’re under Grace, which is why Paul never used the word but he did write:  Each one must do just as he (or she) has purposed in his (or her) heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Do you honestly believe the same God who created the world by speaking it into existence is incapable of supplying an individual’s needs without you and me getting involved (Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:3)?  It’s generally understood if God made it, He owns it Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1-2).  This means we’re not the owners, we’re merely stewards of the things we possess and God has clear instructions for stewards; be trustworthy (1 Corinthians 4:2).  In effect Paul’s saying God’s not interested in your money; what’s money to God?  Instead:  Have a heart for God and for others in need” because God’s interested in your heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Mark 7:6; Galatians 6:2).

If you want to give 10% (or more) of your income, time, or talent to the church, then please do.  But when you give your gift away do this freely not because someone commanded you to tithe on a certain amount.  Give graciously because you and God are o.k. with the amount of your gift.  As a matter of fact, giving it away plants a smile on your face which is reflected in your heart.

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Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 9:1-5.

God Gives Most

2 Corinthians 9

For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since (when) last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.  But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we – not to speak of you – will be put to shame by this confidence.  So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness (1-5).

*I want to remind the group chapters 8 & 9 are addressed to the Corinthian Church re: their contribution to the Jerusalem saints, which was late in coming.  It could be said these Believers received two sermons from Paul on the subject of generous giving. 

For it is superfluous (it goes without saying) for me to write to you (anymore re: the urgency) about this ministry to the saints (in Jerusalem) for I know of your readiness, I boast about it (to the other churches).   Some people say Paul is being sarcastic here, i.e. he’s writing this tongue-in-cheek.  The idea being, “I don’t even need to write to y’all because I know you’ve got this and you’re ready to give.”  But if that’s true why is he writing this?  Ask yourself, do you think people are going to donate money to a charitable cause if you’re sarcastic, if you belittle them, while your hand is out; and let’s not forget we’re talking about the proud Corinthians?  I don’t think so.
  
When I read this I see Paul encouraging these Believers in Corinth to give liberally and in a timely fashion, since they initially had the desire to do it and they most certainly had the means.  I say this because not only was this the largest gentile church planted by Paul, it was also the wealthiest.  It’s difficult to say for certain how many members attended services regularly this far down the road, historically speaking, but I’ve read it ranges from 40 to 150 people.  The congregation was made up of some Jews (1 Corinthians 7:18-19), but it was mainly composed of gentile converts (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 8:7, 12:2).  Some of these folks were slaves (1 Corinthians 7:21-23).  Some of these people were powerful men of noble birth from the privileged class (1 Corinthians 1:26). 

Of which I boast about you to the Macedonians – In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul used the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians; now here in chapter 9 Paul uses the Achaians to encourage the Macedonians and it’s all good (Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12).  Achaia was the Roman province along the south coast of Greece; we find it mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:1b… To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:  All of Paul’s letters were meant to be passed around and read in the churches. As for Paul’s boasting, he had so much confidence in the Corinthian’s ability to fulfill their promise (now one year old) he boasted about it to all the saints in the other churches in Macedonia and throughout Achaia.

Namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them (v2) – the Corinthians were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it (8:10), however the only thing Paul received from Corinth since then was their empty promises.  The phrase has been prepared means the other churches’ collections were ready and waiting. 

Your zeal has stirred up most of them – as a younger brother looks to his older brother striving to emulate him in just about everything he does, these smaller, country churches looked to this large, city church in Corinth as an example to follow largely due to Paul’s boasting. 

But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case – the brethren are those two unnamed individuals of 2 Corinthians 8:18, 22-23.  Without a doubt these two men were ministry heavy-weights; (I call them Paul’s Untouchables) they were mighty men in the faith.  But what was there to boast about in Corinth?  Paul boasted not only of their initial zeal to do this but in their eventual completion of the collection as well (v3). 

Otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we – not to speak of you – will be put to shame by this confidence (v4) – Paul’s not saying they will but if any Macedonians should accompany him to Corinth he didn’t want them to learn “the coffers were empty;” the saints in Corinth gave nothing at all or were stingy.  If this were so, Paul’s character and his ministry would have suffered a setback.  He had been boasting about them, you see.  Lest we overlook another important fact, the character of the Corinthian church was also at stake.  They had purposed to make a collection.  They had left little doubt in Paul’s mind this would be done.  If after a year’s time this desire and effort fell short of its goal, not only would their characters suffer greatly, they would bring great embarrassment upon themselves and their church. 

So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness (v5).  According to the text, there was an urgent need to send Titus and the brethren to Corinth to assist them with “the doing” of this collection so that the same would be ready when they arrived, and to ensure no one’s feelings were hurt in the process, or their bountiful gift was not affected by covetousness.  Here we have Paul donning the hat of an ambassador.  He wanted to make sure everyone understood this collection was going to the poor Jews in Jerusalem.  It was not being used for anything else, i.e. it was not being collected just because other people wanted to spend their hard-earned money. 

The Corinthian’s gift was not ready to be picked up yet this is why Paul makes this statement in verse 6:  Now this I say, he (or she) who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he (or she) who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Paul uses an agricultural metaphor in reference to charitable giving because he knows many of the folks who’ll hear it come from farming communities and can relate to it.   He may have gotten the idea for this comment from Proverbs 11:24-25:  There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet results only in want.  The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.  He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it (Proverbs 19:17, 22:9). 

Here’s Paul’s point – the harvest is in proportion to the planting.  I was born and raised in a farming community so I know exactly what Paul means to say.  If a farmer expects to harvest a full crop of corn, soybeans, or wheat, then he knows from the get-go he needs to begin by planting the appropriate amount of seeds.  Withholding seeds will not produce a bountiful harvest. 

As this relates to charitable giving, it could be said, “We receive, as good as we give.” But there are a lot of cynical people sitting in the pews today and that’s a fact.  It really doesn’t matter if it’s when the offering basket is headed their way or after they hear the words “fund raising,” the first thought that flashes across many people’s minds is, “They just want my money.”  Then other people are thinking, “If I give as Paul is asking me to give, there may not be enough left over for me and my family’s needs,” so these people hold back on their giving.  There’s another group that drops $5 or $10 in the basket, or nothing at all, when it passes by no matter what it’s automatic.  No sermon conceived by man will change their mind.    

But in using the agriculture metaphor Paul assures every Believer God’s way is not man’s way (Isaiah 55:8).  In verse 6, Paul is saying for the one who gives generously, God can and will cause all sorts of blessings to abound.  Why did Paul use the word generously (bountifully)?  Scripture has the answer and I’ll direct your attention to a few verses:    

Please turn to Romans 8:32:  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for (who) us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Flip over to Romans 8:17:  …heirs of God and fellows heirs with Christ…

Now turn to Ephesians 1:3b:  …who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

The verses above (and others) explain why Believers shouldn’t pinch pennies when giving to God.  We should give freely and generously to God because God has given so much to us through His Son and the glories of Jesus Christ are indescribable.  The value of His substitutionary sacrifice is priceless or incomparable, per Paul:  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

But let’s be clear, God is not a heavenly ATM waiting to make any man or woman wealthy.  People preaching the “name it and claim it gospel,” a.k.a. the prosperity gospel, tell people their faith is the key to a better life, good health, and riches.  People like the sound of that so they fall for it.  Of course if it’s not happening for them, these same preachers say they need more faith to kick-start the program. 

Do not be deceived.  Paul’s saying an individual who sows bountifully will be rewarded in some way in this life or the next.  In this life you might experience good health, success at work, and a loving, marital relationship, perhaps your car will last a few more years, your new business may enjoy prosperity.  Your reward may be realized at the Bema Seat Judgment in the next life.  God’s blessings can come in many forms but the thing to remember is God promises to bless the generous giver and God is Faithful; His accounting is not faulty (Proverbs 11:18; 1 Corinthians 1:9). 

Let’s go to verse 7.

2 Corinthians 9

7: Each one must do just as he has purposed in his (or her) heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I don’t know about you but when I read this verse I see the Corinthians, holding onto their money, thinking, who needs this more than I…  As I said previously, God’s not interested in their cash; he’s interested in their heart attitude.  But why does God love cheerful givers?  The phrase, “Let go, and Let God” comes to mind.  God can do mighty works through us Believers, but we have to let go of our inhibitions and our pride before those good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would we would walk in them can actually be realized (Ephesians 2:1-10; Philippians 4:17). 

Let’s all understand what Paul is not saying here.  Looking back at his initial instructions (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), Paul never puts Believers back under the Law by saying; “Y’all need to tithe.”  Instead, he emphasizes systematic giving:  On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save… he also teaches proportionate giving:  as he (or she) may prosper or according to their ability.  Don’t overlook the word ability.  God doesn’t want you taking food out of your children’s mouths and He doesn’t want you skipping a car payment to help others in need.  He does say, put aside and save a little bit every week.  Americans aren’t known for their ability to save, but we need to turn that around – so that the needs of others may be met. 

Paul is saying the amount of money, talent, or time you decide to give away is entirely up to you.  If a person feels obligated to give, if they resent having to give, then they give grudgingly or under compulsion which makes them less than generous; bitterness tends to creep in.  True generosity reflects an attitude of the heart.  This is what God looks for and this is what He rewards for it fulfills the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).

We’re not called to be tithers but we are called to be generous givers, so Paul points out a couple of things we should bear in mind as each one of us considers just how generous we should be.

Verse 8:

2 Corinthians 9

8: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything (you need), you may have an abundance for every good deed;

And God is able - here Paul is saying it’s all about God and His grace.  Please turn to Ephesians 3:20 where Paul elaborates on the meaning of this phrase:  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us God makes all grace abound to you. 

We Love, Honor, Trust, and Serve a God Who Acts

Scripture teaches us it’s God’s nature to provide.  Some of you may know where I’m headed with this and are already turning in your Bible to the book of beginnings, but for the rest of you, please turn to Genesis 22:1-19.  This is where the LORD God tests Abraham.  He does this by commanding him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:1-2).  Abraham did as the LORD commanded believing the LORD would keep His earlier promise that Isaac will be heir to the Abrahamic Covenant and he will have descendants of his own (Genesis 12:1-3).  Abraham believed even if the LORD took Isaac’s life he could and would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). 

Scripture teaches us Abraham was a righteous man; a man of faith, and that he was.  But this account on Mt. Moriah is more than a dramatic illustration of faith and obedience.  Looking beyond the drama for the moment, it becomes possible to see the LORD’s grace and His provision in the gracious substitute of the ram for Isaac (Genesis 22:13).  Abraham named the place Jehovah-Jireh, which means, “The LORD Will Provide” or “Jehovah-Yireh,” my Provider. 

There was a song circulating some time back based on this text that went like this:

Jehovah Jireh, my Provider,
Whose grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh, my Provider,
Whose grace is sufficient for me
My God cares for me
According to His riches in glory
Jehovah Jireh, my Provider,
Whose grace is sufficient for me

There are many Bible passages that speak of God providing for us.  Philippians 4:19 comes to mind:  And my God will supply (what) all your needs (both physical and spiritual) according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

There are several Bible passages that relate to God providing for the body’s daily, physical needs, i.e. clothing, food, and shelter.  Others refer to the needs of the soul and the spirit of the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).  God provides us with peace (John 14:27); comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4); and power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).  God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
 
God is generous indeed, supplying all we need so that in the abundance there will be plenty to share for every good deed.  Some people tend to put their needs in the same column with their wants and they should be kept separate and I’ll tell you why.  You see, in verse 9:8 and Ephesians 3:20 God promises to supply all we need so that we may have an abundance for every good deed.  So His focus is on ensuring we have life’s basic needs.  God’s not interested in whether or not you and I have the latest i-Phone, the fastest and lightest laptop computer, the latest sportswear, sunglasses, tennis shoes, etc.  These are all examples of wants and this is Satan’s department.  Believe me when I say Satan is focused on your wants and intends to keep you busy lusting after them, so be careful.

Verse 9:

9: as it is written, “HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.”

Paul borrowed this quote from Psalm 112:9 and it’s meant to describe the generosity of God assuring the Corinthians (and us) that God’s righteousness endures forever and so do His blessings.  Paul makes the promises of God even clearer by building on it in verse 10. 

2 Corinthians 9

10: Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;

Again, Paul is using seed as a metaphor.  He’s writing to a church in a large, metropolitan city but churches in farming communities throughout Macedonia and Achaia will read this letter.  His point is God is the source of all blessings.  Whether our gift is money, talent, or time to the Body of Christ, or those people outside the walls of the church in our communities, for the poor will always be with you; God causes the source of the gift to prosper, so that in time we will receive His blessing.  God is involved throughout the entire process from the sowing of the initial seed to the making of the bread.  Paul is saying, if we are generous, God will increase the harvest, i.e. bless our gift (the source) and its results (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). 

Paul wasn’t shy when it came to raising funds, but it’s also clear he only does this as it relates to the poor Jews in Jerusalem and for no other reason.  He could have asked the churches to support him and his co-workers, but he didn’t because he thought this would hinder the gospel.  Paul wrote this to the Philippians:  You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.  Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.  But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice well-pleasing to God. 

In case you missed it, Paul wasn’t interested in the Philippians’ money; he was interested in their heart attitude:  Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.  Paul’s saying there is a connection between one’s heart attitude and their seed.  Whatever the Corinthians decided to sow Paul wanted them to do so graciously, not grudgingly or under compulsion.
 
This wasn’t about keeping up with the Jones’ or putting on airs.  Instead, it was about purposing in their heart what they are going to give and then doing it.  The Corinthians were struggling with the latter half of their promise.  The verb Proaireomai (pronounced: pro-ahee-reh’-om—ahee), Strong’s Greek # 4255, is found only here in the N.T. and means:  to choose deliberately, to make up one’s own mind about something.  Some people gave liberally – beyond their means, while others gave according to their ability; they gave of their own accord (8:3), which means all these gifts were righteous in the sight of God. 

I don’t know if you remember the Jerry Lewis Telethon.  It used to be held on Labor Day weekend each year for Muscular Dystrophy.  They would solicit donor contributions by playing on the emotions of a national T.V. audience.  People were moved by what they saw or heard on their T.V. screen, so they would phone in with a pledge, but that emotion waned after so many hours.  When it came time to mail in the check fulfilling their pledge, many failed to do so.  In some ways, this resembles the Corinthian Church.  Paul’s saying the amount you arrive at re: charitable giving is a personal decision.  No one should tell you how much you should give or how often.  But it is not a matter to be taken lightly or impulsively for God loves a cheerful giver.  The next two verses explain why.  Let’s take a look at verses 11-12.

2 Corinthians 9

You will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.

I thank the pastor that showed me using this book we are not saved to sit!  This book says:  We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (not to earn salvation) which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (to help others - Ephesians 2:10).  It’s these good works performed in the Lord’s service (unto others) that bring about many thanksgivings to God (v12). 

Verse 13:

13: Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all - whether we give away our money, talent, or time to assist others in need, like a pebble hitting the surface of a pond causes outgoing ripples, our initial seed causes many people to pause and give thanks to God for His goodness, bringing glory to God (v13).

Let’s look at verse 14.

14: while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.

Read through this verse again and then tell me what do you think Paul is saying?  Permit me to answer the question with another question.  Have you ever been an answer to someone’s prayer?  Maybe you husbands and wives out there can answer with a “Yes” after having prayed for a helpmeet (Genesis 2:18).  Paul’s saying the poor Jews in Jerusalem were fervently praying for the Corinthians to respond to their prayers – that the grace of God might abound in them. 

Let’s go to verse 15.

15: Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

The word His is capitalized so Paul’s referring to deity in this verse.  He’s talking about God’s gift to all mankind; he’s referring to His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). 
 
It goes without saying people in the church do not fully understand Paul’s teachings on Grace Age giving and a lot of church leaders are not practicing this Church Doctrine today.  However every Believer in this dispensation should understand that grateful praise and thanksgiving go daily to God and His only Son who willingly died so that those who choose to believe can be justified and glorified in “the ages to come” (Romans 5:1-11, 8:17; Ephesians 2:7).  This is what Paul is saying here. 

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, April 21, 2017

2 Corinthians (8:1-24) (Lesson 19)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

2 Corinthians (8:1-24)                                                      (Lesson 19)

Welcome to HBS.

Introduction to Chapter 8

In chapters 8 and 9 Paul addresses the Corinthian’s part in the Gentile churches contribution for the poor Jews living in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).  Although this church was the first to begin a year ago  not only to do this but also had expressed the desire to do it, they had not fulfilled their promise (8:10-11). In contrast, the other Gentile Churches in Macedonia and Achaia not only gave liberally and of their own accord, but some gave beyond their means despite being afflicted and persecuted (8:1-5).

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Please open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 8:1-2.

Great Generosity

2 Corinthians 8

Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their (what) deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of the liberality.

The churches of Macedonia – the northern portion of Greece was called Macedonia.  The southern part was called Achaia.  The churches of Macedonia included Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (See Acts 16-17; Romans 15:26). 

That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their (what) deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberalityhere Paul gives the Corinthian Church the example of Macedonian Believers, who although in a great ordeal of affliction, meaning they were facing opposition from the Jewish legalizers, suffering persecution, and deep poverty (Acts 16:20, 17:5), and from the look of things it would appear they were in need of assistance themselves, yet they gave generously.   

The Greek word for liberality is Haplotes (pronounced: hap-lot’-ace), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #572, meaning:  simplicity, sincerity, purity, graciousness.  The sense of this word is, their liberality was much greater than could be expected from people so poor; from Believers enduring affliction and Paul encourages the Corinthian Church to follow their example. 

Verses 3-5:

For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints (in Judea), and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 

Paul’s talking about the Gentile churches in Macedonia giving according to the ability, and beyond their ability and begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the (Judean) saints.  Let it be said, Paul and Titus did not expect such an overwhelming, positive response from these poor churches.  

But they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God - here Paul means to say these folks gave voluntarily, of their own accord.  They didn’t need to be prodded, provoked, or shamed to give.  Having first trusted in the Lord, accepting His free offer of grace by responding to the gospel, for this truly is the will of God,  now they rejoiced, i.e. experienced great happiness in actually doing it (2 Corinthians 9:7). 

It’s one thing to talk about wanting to do the will of God but when the rubber meets the road, as they say, there aren’t that many people following the Lord nowadays. 

I try not to preach while I explain these lessons to y’all because that’s not my role in the Body of Christ.  But I’m also quick to point out there’s a fine line that separates a Bible teacher from a preacher and sometimes I cross that line willingly, if I think it will help the group.  It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that no two churches are alike.   This is the running theme in the first five verses of chapter 8.  There are some similarities, to be sure, but there are marked differences that stand out.  That’s why there are more than 5,000 churches in the USA alone calling themselves Christians but I ask you, are they all the same?  Not so much.

Paul’s sorrowful/stern letter had a positive impact on many of the Believers in Corinth for they repented or had a change of heart (2 Corinthians 7:5-13).  But there was a lot of room for spiritual growth in the Corinthian Church.  They were an arrogant, self-centered group stubbornly holding fast to their worldly ways.  So in verse 5b Paul is urging them to fulfill their pledge, now one-year old (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  He doesn’t do this by comparing them to the other gentile churches in the region; that’s not Paul’s style, and to be honest I don’t think that tactic would have motivated the Corinthians to surrender one denarius or drachma to the cause.  Instead, he said:  but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.  He wasn’t referring to the Believer’s in Corinth; he was speaking of the saints in Macedonia.  Why were the Macedonians such good examples of giving?  The answer is in the verse.

They gave themselves first to God.  These Believers realized all they possessed belonged to God, including themselves.  They understood something else equally as important:  little is much, if God is it (Matthew 14:13-21; John 6:1-14).  Consequently, if a Believer’s heart belongs to God, the right kind of giving naturally follows. 

But they also gave themselves to us.  Paul’s saying they were willing to take direction from us regarding this collection of funds by the will of God.  Paul means to say God led them to do this:  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (and daughters) of God (Romans 8:14).    
 
Let’s move on to verses 6-9.

2 Corinthians 8

So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.  But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.  I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Most people fail to notice Paul introduced a list in verse 7 which includes:  faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and love and none of these things have anything to do with material possessions?  The world’s standard of giving is driven on getting something in return.  The best example I can think of is the Christmas holiday season.  People, and I’m including myself in this illustration, feel terrible if they show up at a holiday party, receive a gift but have no gift to give in exchange.  Everyone walks away from that experience feeling like a social misfit.  We’ve all been trained/brain-washed by “Big Business” not to let that happen; we’re to give as good as we receive.  Please name a “Hallmark” holiday where gifts aren’t purchased, gifts exchanged, or money isn’t spent?  However, the Believer in the Dispensation of Grace should be in tune with God’s view of unconditional, charitable giving (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).   We aren’t to give to get something in return because we already abound in everything, in Christ.  Paul’s asking that these Corinthians abound in this gracious work also. 

The word abound is used twice by Paul.  Since they abounded in the blessings of the gospel, and the benefits of the New Covenant; they should abound in the everyday tasks as well; one of these presently is the great need of the poor, unfortunate saints in Jerusalem.  These people sold all their possessions and laid the proceeds at the feet of the twelve, for the all things common program (Acts 4:32-35).  This had been in preparation for the arrival of the King and the promised kingdom, but that didn’t happen, so eventually the common funds dwindled to nothing and the Jews were left without financial means.  The situation grew worse because of the severe crop failure in Egypt in 45-46 AD that caused a mass people migration up and out of Egypt too.  The Judean famine of 46-47 AD predicted by Agabus added to their misery (Acts 11:28). 

I am not speaking this as a command – this doesn’t mean Paul doesn’t have the God-given authority to command (1 Corinthians 14:37) because he does.  What it does mean is in respect to voluntary giving, commands are inappropriate and often ineffective.  Paul didn’t want to tell people what they should give.  Instead, Paul’s looking to inspire the proper motivation in regard to stewardship, not by commands, but by encouraging them.  He does this by showing the Corinthians what the other churches gave, even though they had less to give and they and fewer advantages than they had.  How do we know this, look at the comment that follows - but as proving through the earnestness of others -  Paul’s using the Macedonia churches as an example to encourage these Believers to give liberally. 

The sincerity of your love also – this book does not explain what Paul meant by this comment, so it’s open to discussion as long as you keep that discussion within the confines of the text.  Let’s dig deeper.  Was Paul talking about the churches love toward God, Jesus Christ, himself, the other churches, or the Jews in Jerusalem?  Was he using the word love in a general sense as you and I would to denote any good thing? 

I will, of course, add my two-cents to this discussion and you can do with it as you may, but in my opinion, the key to Paul’s meaning is the word sincerity.   Now we’re looking at the motivation driving the activity love.  Another term for sincere love is “genuine love” (7:6).  Now we’re talking about agape love.  The spirit of agape love is compassion, goodwill; it’s a delight in the act of loving.  This is one of the reasons Paul urges Believers to be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in (what) love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us… Ephesians 5:1-2a.  (See 1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1) 

Here’s another truth to consider:  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 

When Paul said the Lord Jesus Christ was rich he means to say by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible… all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things and in Him all things (do what) hold together (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17).

King David wrote:  The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1).  Paul is showing the churches in Macedonia the LORD gives liberally.  He became poor in order to become a blessing to all:  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.    

God’s love is sincere towards all, especially those who express a desire to do His will, and our love for others is to be genuine.  You can’t mouth the words, “I care” and then stand by and watch people suffer and die from lack of potable water, food and shelter.

Verses 10-11:

I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first (among the churches) to begin (this fundraising) a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.  But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.

Even though Paul says, I give my opinion in this matter (of taking up a collection for the Judean saints before I arrive there, so there’s no last minute hustle and bustle, and no one feels obligated to give just because I’m there and feeling pressured to give), he’s God’s apostle folks.  When he speaks, it is as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy (1 Corinthians 7:25, 40); this is to your advantage.

The first to begin a year ago – this comment harkens back to Paul’s statement in 8:6.  They were one of the first churches to express the desire to help the poor Jews in Jerusalem.  This project began with the idea of success (most of them do) but the collection process had been interrupted, i.e. hindered, and it’s not too difficult to ascertain why based on what we already know about the Corinthian church.  Some of the road-blocks hindering its progress probably were:  arrogance, general worldliness, and self-centeredness, or all the above.      

But now finish doing itthe word it here refers to finishing what they started one year ago.  I find it remarkable human nature hasn’t changed over the centuries.  Some people are quick to express the willingness to give but when it comes to writing the check or opening their purse or wallet, their reaction time slows down to a crawl.  Paul has been talking about getting this collection ready for a year (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  Some of the churches have fulfilled their responsibility and did more than was asked of them.  But the Corinthian’s response has been sluggish.  Paul’s saying; finish doing it so there may be also the completion of it by your ability; to manage this not by compulsion or a sense of being pressured.
 
I pray it hasn’t escaped your notice Paul has not used the word “tithe” here once and you won’t find the word in any of his letters.   The other thing, while we’re on this subject, is Paul never brings up taking up collections and/or giving except in relation to this gift to the church in Jerusalem.  He does say that workers laboring for the Lord are worthy of his hire and that churches should help traveling missionaries but try as you might you’ll not find any further guidelines on giving.  What you will encounter is proof-texting O.T. teachings into the New Covenant Believer’s setting such as Malachi 3:10a: 

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts… 

When was the last time you put a loaf of bread or a quart of milk in the collection basket?  That’s what this verse is saying?  Under the Mosaic Law Israelites who owned land were commanded to give a tenth of their crops, flocks, herds, and the fruit of their orchards to support the Levites, who had no inheritance of their own.  God was their inheritance (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21-24).  The Levites, in turn, gave a tenth of their receipts to the priests working in the LORD’s temple (Numbers 18: 25-29).  

The first thing every Bible student needs to do is to check and see who is writing the letter or book in the Bible they are reading/studying, and then look to see who the writer is writing to.  That being the case, let’s go to Malachi 1:1:  The oracle of the word of the LORD to (who) Israel through Malachi.  The book of Malachi was written to the nation of Israel and not to the gentile nations (Ephesians 2:11-13).  To proof-text this verse, or any other O.T. verse on the subject of tithing, putting it into the Grace Age, gives it a meaning that is entirely different than what the original writer intended.  This leads to wrong conclusions regarding what the truth of God actually is.   

But before y’all get the idea you have extra money to put into your vacation fund, even though Paul does not mention giving a specific amount (the tithe), he does offer Believers guidelines on giving.  Let’s begin by reviewing verses 12-15 first:

For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.  For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality – at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.”  (Exodus 16:18)

Your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality. 

Paul’s not planting the seed of socialism with this statement, he’s saying at this present time your abundance, i.e. the Corinthian church had more than they needed, whereas the other churches did not.  The idea is simple, on paper anyway.  The Corinthians could give liberally, but the other churches in the region were struggling financially, and they were afflicted and suffering persecution.  But one day, the situation might be reversed.  Corinth could find itself it great need and dependent on the benevolence of others; stranger things have happened in this world. 

Paul never mentions fund raising in support of the apostles or those who labor for the Lord.  He doesn’t say churches should put aside money for missionary work, or for church building.  However, here it can be said he is making a statement for contributing liberally when churches have the means to support those in need because you never know when you or your neighbor will have a great need. 

As Paul said, that there may be equality that’s the key word and the key concept we draw from this is reciprocity, i.e. relationships involving mutual exchange.  God’s family should pitch-in and help one another when there’s a need for we are one, church; one body in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27).

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he (or she) who loves his (or her) neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he (or she) must labor, performing with his (or her) own hands what is good, so that he (or she) will have something to share with one who has a need (Ephesians 4:28).

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

The Guidelines for Giving in the Grace Age

According to the rule of first mention, the guidelines for giving in the Age of Grace were established at Antioch.  If you turn in your Bible to Acts 11:29-30, we’ll take a look at that now:  And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.  And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.  (See also 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 12-14). 

Paul instructs Believers to give everyone as God has prospered them, according to their ability. 

God doesn’t expect us to take out a bank loan in order to give, in other words.  It’s according to what we have; it’s proportionate giving.  So, if a wealthy individual is making thousands of dollars per week and drops a twenty dollar bill in the basket when it circles around, is that proportionate giving?  That’s not for me or you to say, but God knows the answer to that question and will deal with the individual at the Bema Seat Judgment.  All I’m saying is God knows all about our finances and He accepts our “gifts” in light of what they really cost us (Luke 21:1-4).  Remember, God gave the world His best, when He gave His one and only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of all.  Suddenly, that $20 gift looks small, considering the amount of money they’re pulling in weekly. 

As I said last week, the people with less money have a better understanding of this teaching, like the Macedonians, not only do they see the need more quickly than the wealthier people, they respond to that need much faster despite their own circumstances.

2 Corinthians 8

But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness (sincerely zealous) on your behalf in the heart of Titus.  For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.  We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness -

Where to begin?  I may as well start with the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches because that’s a thrilling introduction.  But the Bible does not say who this individual is.  Commentators have a few opinions.  Some say it’s Apollos or Luke.  Others believe its Barnabas, Silas, or Timothy and there are other candidates as well, but no one can name this brother for certain and that is the thing.  What we can say is it doesn’t really matter, if God wanted us to know the identity of this individual his name would have appeared in the text. 

What we do know is this brother (whoever he was) accepted our appeal, but went to them of his own accord (v17).  This consecrated brother, along with Titus, had been appointed by all the churches to travel in this gracious work with all the other chosen church delegates to watch over and deliver this substantial gift to Jerusalem. 

That wasn’t the only reason for all these delegates.  Paul was aware of the rumors and accusations from both the Corinthian Believers and Jewish legalizers who were saying he mishandled money (2 Corinthians 8:20, 11:9, 12).  Therefore these delegates from the different gentile churches added credibility to this fund raising service while protecting Paul’s integrity simultaneously.   We pick up on this truth in the next verse.

Verses 20-24:

Taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.  We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.  Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.

Paul wasn’t only a masterful teacher and preacher of God’s truths he proved to be a judicious accountant too.  He couldn’t stop the false accusations and rumors that were being leveled against him and his ministry, but he certainly did all he could to prevent blame from being cast upon him regarding the management of these funds.   He insisted on having someone associated with him on this project who had the confidence of all the gentile churches, and who would be appointed by them, almost certainly guaranteeing him to be free from any blame. 

For we have regard for what is honorablethis may be a quote taken from Proverbs 3:4:  So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.  But if would, please turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:22 where Paul writes:  abstain from every form of evil.  Paul’s talking about doing the right thing always and not just when people are watching.  The word honorable in the Greek is Kalos (pronounced:  kal-os’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek# 2570, meaning: beautiful, good, useful, excellent, just, honorable, distinguished, moral excellence, worthy, virtuous, propriety.  Paul’s goal was to live his life in this manner, in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men (Romans 14:18; Philippians 2:15, 4:8; 1 Timothy 3:7). 

We have sent with them our brotherthe Bible does not identify this person either.  He appears to be a second unknown companion of Paul’s, which means this text is referring to three people:  Titus, the brother (2 Corinthians 8:18), and our brother (2 Corinthians 8:22). 

We have often tested and found diligent in many things – this comment speaks of their faithfulness in many things which probably means whoever it was they worked with Paul.   But now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you – meaning, in the doing of this gracious work he will undoubtedly prove even more diligent because of his great confidence in the Corinthians desire to give liberally, fulfilling their original pledge and desire to help the needy in Jerusalem. 

Verse 23:

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you – If you’re using the KJV Bible, please note the words any do inquire are in italics which means they are not in the original manuscript, which means these may not be the proper words to introduce here.  Considering the Greek language, it may mean either, “if any do inquire about Titus,” or it may mean, “if anything is said about Titus.”  The sense of the passage is some of the Corinthian factions might stand in opposition to the authority of Titus engaging in this charitable work.  This is why Paul found it necessary to say something favorable about Titus, i.e. he is my partner and fellow worker among you - he shares with me in preaching the gospel and in establishing and organizing churches. 

Please turn to Titus 1:5 and I’ll show you that Titus was more than a “go-for” as Paul’s co-worker in the ministry of righteousness (2 Corinthians 3:7-10).  For this cause I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you

As for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ – should any inquiry be made of the church delegates, by the suspicious, Paul said they are a glory to God.  The word messengers is derived from the Greek word apostolos which means agent or official church representative.  These men have the complete confidence of the churches that sent them, having been selected and appointed by them. 

Verse 24:

Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you – the proper way for the Corinthians to show them the proof of their love was through a liberal contribution to the cause at hand.  Love is a verb.  A generous contribution would demonstrate the sincerity of their love also towards God, the apostles, and the gentile churches (2 Corinthians 8:8). 

(To be continued)

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