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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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