A. Be ready to give.
1. (1-2) The willingness of the Corinthian Christians to give.
Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.
a. Concerning the ministering to the saints: The specific ministering Paul has in mind is the financial support of the Jerusalem saints. Paul will be in Corinth to pick up this collection for the Jerusalem saints, which he wrote of in 2 Corinthians 8 and in other previous passages (such as 1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
i. In Acts 11:29, a previous collection for the Jerusalem saints is described: Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. The ancient Greek word translated ministering (diakonia) is the same word translated relief in Acts 11:29.
ii. The same ancient Greek work for ministering is used in a spiritual sense in passages like 2 Corinthians 3:8-9 and is used in a practical sense in passages like 2 Corinthians 9:1.
b. It is superfluous for me to write to you; for I know your willingness: Here, Paul may be showing his sarcasm again. The basic idea is, "I don't even need to write this, reminding you about the collection, because you are already ready and willing to give." Of course, if the Corinthian Christians were really as ready and willing as Paul seems to indicate, he really wouldn't need to write this at all.
i. At the same time, this is a signal that Paul is done trying to persuade the Corinthian regarding giving, as he did in 2 Corinthians 8, showing the example of the Macedonian Christians and the example of Jesus. Now Paul is encouraging them in their manner of giving.
c. About which I boast of you to the Macedonians: In the previous chapter, Paul spoke of the Macedonians as wonderful examples of giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-8). Now, Paul (sarcastically?) informs the Corinthian Christians that he has boasted to the Macedonians about the Corinthian willingness to give.
i. This may be a "playful" way of encouraging the Corinthian Christians to really be ready and willing to give. Paul may be saying, "Come now, you really can be ready to give. After all, I've already bragged about your willingness to others!"
ii. Macedonians . . . Achaia: Macedonia and Achaia were regions on the Greek peninsula. Macedonia was to the north, and Achaia was to the south. Corinth was the leading city of the region of Achaia. The region of Macedonia had churches in cities such as Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.
d. Your zeal has stirred up the majority: Again, Paul seems to be sarcastic - or at least playful - here. He is saying that the Corinthian Christians were so zealous in their willingness to give that they were an example to the majority of other Christians. He says that essentially, the good example of the Macedonians (as related in 2 Corinthians 8:1-8) is just a reflection of the good example the Corinthian Christians presented to the Macedonians first.
i. We think Paul is being sarcastic here because if the Corinthians really were such great examples in giving, and if their giving prompted others to give, then Paul would never have to give them as much instruction and encouragement as he does in 2 Corinthians.
2. (3-5) Paul is sending Titus and the others to pick up the collection.
Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
a. Yet I have sent the brethren: Paul again is giving a little sarcastic twist. It is as if he says, "You all are so ready and willing to give that I'm sure you would bring the collection to me. But in any regard, I'll send the brethren to come pick it up. After all, I don't want all my boasting about you to have been in vain."
b. Lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared: The playful sarcasm continues. "After all, Corinthians, you don't want the Macedonians to see that you were unwilling to give. We don't want a case where we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting."
c. Therefore I thought it necessary . . . that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation: Paul wanted the whole business of the collection completed before he arrived so that there would be nothing even remotely manipulative in his receiving the collection.
i. Paul was very concerned that giving be a matter of generosity and not a matter of grudging obligation. God Himself never gives out of an attitude of grudging obligation, and neither should we. To be generous, in the Biblical idea of the word, has more to do with our attitude in giving than with the amount that we give, so God wants a willing attitude from givers.
ii. "When God gives grace, He does not reluctantly open a little finger and maintain a clenched fist full of gifts. I would tell you today that God's hands are nail-pierced hands and they are wide open. This fountain of grace is always pouring itself out with no limitation on heaven's side at all." (Redpath)
B. The reward of giving and the right heart in giving.
1. (6) Our giving should be bountiful, if we would be rewarded bountifully.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
a. He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly: A farmer sowing seed may feel he loses seed as it falls from his hand to the ground, and we may feel we are losing when we give. But just as the farmer gives the seed it in anticipation of a future harvest, we should give with the same heart.
i. If a farmer planted only a few seeds because he wanted to "hold on" to as much seed as he could, he would have more seed in his barn after sowing time. But at the harvest, the one who planted more seed would have much more grain in his barn.
b. Will also reap bountifully: What do we reap when we give? We reap blessings that are both material and spiritual.
i. Materially, we can trust that God will provide for the giving heart. The promise of Philippians 4:19 (my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus) is made in the context of the generous hearts of the Philippians (Philippians 4:15-18). If we give to God, He will give to us materially.
ii. Spiritually, we can trust that God will reward the giving heart both now and in eternity. Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 19:29: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. Jesus obviously did not mean that we would receive a hundred houses if we gave up our house for Him any more than He meant we would receive a hundred wives if we gave one up for Him! But He did mean that we are never the losers when we give to God. The Lord can never be in debt to any man, and we should never be afraid of giving God "too much." Spiritually or materially, you can't out-give God.
iii. "This harvest should be understood both in terms of the spiritual reward of eternal life and also referring to the earthly blessings with which God honours the beneficent. Not only in heaven does God reward the well-doing of the godly, but in this world as well." (Calvin)
2. (7) Giving should come from a right heart.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
a. So let each one give: Giving is for each one. Every Christian should be a giver. Because of small resources some cannot give much but it is still important that they give, and that they give with the right kind of heart.
b. As he purposes in his own heart: Giving should be motivated by the purposes of our own heart. It should never be coerced or manipulated. We should give because we want to give and because God has put it in our own heart to give.
i. This can also be said in the sense that our giving reveals the purposes in [our] own heart. If we say we love the Lord more than surfing, but spend all our money on surfboards and do not give as we should to the Lord's work, then the way we spend our money shows the purposes of our own heart more accurately than our words do. Jesus said it simply: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
c. Not grudging or of necessity: God does not want our giving to be grudging (reluctantly, regretfully given with plenty of complaining) or of necessity (given because someone has made us or manipulated us into giving). This is more the spirit behind taxation, not Biblical giving.
i. "The Jews had in the temple two chests for alms; the one was of what was necessary, i.e. what the law required, the other was of the free-will offerings. To escape perdition some would grudgingly, give what necessity obliged them; others would give cheerfully, for the love of God, and through pity to the poor. Of the first, nothing is said; they simply did what the law required. Of the second, much is said; God loves them . . . To these two sorts of alms in the temple the apostle most evidently alludes." (Clarke)
d. For God loves a cheerful giver: Instead of giving in a grudging way or out of necessity, God wants us to give cheerfully. The ancient Greek word for cheerful (hilaros, used only here in the New Testament) is the root for our English word hilarious. God wants us to give happily because that is how God Himself gives.
i. True giving comes from a happy heart, and it also gives us a happy heart. The English poet Carlyle said that when he was a boy, a beggar came to the door when his parents were gone. On a youthful impulse he rushed to his room, broke his piggy bank, and gave the beggar all the money. He said that never before or since had he known such sheer happiness as came to him in that moment of giving.
ii. Not all giving is cheerful giving. "Many gifts are thus given sorrowfully, where the giver is induced to give by a regard to public opinion, or by stress of conscience." (Hodge) In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira stand as examples of giving for the wrong reasons, not out of a cheerful heart.
iii. "It must be hilarious giving, giving out of the heart, because you love to give, not because you are bound to give." (Morgan)
iv. God is the ultimate cheerful giver. He delights to give to us. "It is not difficult to suggest why God delights in the cheerful giver. He himself is such a giver and desires to see this characteristic restored among those who were created in his image." (Kruse)
3. (8-9) The right kind of giving is always blessed.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever."
a. God is able to make all grace abound toward you: As we give, we must be persuaded that God is able to reward our giving. Just as God is able to make the sowing of seed abound to a great harvest, so God is able to bless our giving.
i. Jesus taught that even the smallest gift, if given with the right heart, would not go without a reward: And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)
ii. In rewarding our giving, God does it with all grace. Our giving is rewarded in many different ways, materially and spiritually. Materially, God may bless our giving by promotions with better pay, unexpected gifts of money, or by making things last so we don't suffer the cost of replacing them. Spiritually, God may bless our giving by freeing our hearts from the tyranny of greed and materialism, by giving us a sense of blessing and happiness, or by storing up rich reward in heaven. There is no end to the ways we can be blessed when God is able to make all grace abound toward us.
b. Always having all sufficiency in all things: The ancient Greek word for sufficiency (autarkeia) may also be translated contentment. This is how the same word is used in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. God gives a special gift to the giving heart: always . . . all contentment in all things. That is a lot of all!
i. Materially speaking, how can someone always have all contentment in all things? By receiving this contentment God blesses the giving heart with.
ii. It's easy for many Christians to say they have this contentment; but whether they have it or not is often more truthfully known by their spending and shopping habits. How much of a place does shopping and buying have in your life? How does material loss affect your happiness? How happy do you get from having some material thing?
iii. When we live and act without contentment, we are trying to fill needs in our lives. It might be the need to be "somebody," the need to feel secure or cared for, or the need to have excitement and newness in our lives. Most people try to fulfill these needs with material things, but they can only really be met by a spiritual relationship with the God who made us.
iv. Barclay says of this ancient Greek word autarkeia: "By it they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things." "The apostle useth many 'alls' on purpose to cross and confute our covetousness, who are apt to think we have never enough." (Trapp)
v. With this contentment, we can be the richest people in the world. A man might have the wealth of the richest man in the world, yet lack contentment. But if we have this contentment, it really does make us better off than the wealthiest people who don't have it.
c. May have an abundance for every good work: God blesses us materially and spiritually so that we will have an abundance for every good work. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God wants us to be channels of blessing, not reservoirs of blessing.
d. His righteousness remains forever: In the quotation from Psalm 112:9, Paul is not trying to say that generous giving makes us righteous but gives evidence of a right standing with God.
4. (10-11) Paul prays for blessing for the giving Corinthian Christians.
Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.
a. May He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food: Paul recognizes God as the great supplier. Whatever we have to give was first given to us by God.
i. "Our translators render it in the form of a prayer; which yet being the prayer of the apostle, put up in faith, doth virtually contain a promise both of a temporal and a spiritual increase." (Poole)
b. Supply and multiply the seed you have sown: Paul prays that God would supply resources to the Corinthian Christians so that they may give, and at the same time multiply what they give.
c. Increase the fruits of your righteousness: The giving of the Corinthian Christians (represented by the seed you have sown) will give a harvest, the fruits of your righteousness. Paul prays that God would increase these fruits that grow from their giving.
d. While you are enriched in everything: Paul prayed that the Corinthian Christians would be enriched by their giving, both materially and spiritually.
e. For all liberality: This is the reason why the Corinthian Christians should be enriched in everything. Not for their own riches or lavish lifestyles but for all liberality - that is, for all generous giving.
i. "No man ought to live to himself; the two great ends of every Christian's life ought to be, the glory of God, and the good of others, especially such as belong to the household of faith." (Poole)
f. Which causes thanksgiving through us to God: After all the giving is done, and all liberality is shown by the Corinthian Christians, the thanksgiving is directed to God.
i. In his translation of the New Testament, J. B. Phillips carries the sense of this prayer: "He who gives the seed to the sower and turns that seed into bread to eat, will give you the seed of generosity to sow and, for harvest, the satisfying bread of good deeds done. The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God."
5. (12-14) Four benefits of the giving from the Corinthian Christians.
For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.
a. Not only supplies the needs of the saints: First, on the most practical level, the giving of the Corinthian Christians will supply the needs of the saints. This is a good thing in and of itself, but their giving did far more than that.
b. Many thanksgivings to God: Secondly, their gifts also caused thanksgiving to God . They were giving more than money for food; they were giving people a reason to thank God.
c. The obedience of your confession: Third, the giving of the Corinthian Christians was evidence of God's work in them. When those in need received the gift, they would glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing. The thanksgiving coming from the gift of the Corinthian Christians would be for more than the gift itself. They would also glorify God as they understood the gift meant the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and it meant the Corinthian Christians had hearts of liberal sharing.
i. Paul puts it boldly. Giving among the Corinthian Christians was evidence of their obedience to their confession to the gospel of Christ. If a person does not have a generous heart, there is a sense in which they are not obedient to the confession of the gospel of Christ.
ii. Others would also thank God because the gift from the Corinthian Christians will show that they have hearts of liberal sharing. This meant God was really doing a work in the hearts of the Corinthian Christians, and that was something worth thanking God for.
iii. Liberal sharing: The ancient Greek word translated sharing is koinania. This is the same word used for the ideas of fellowship and communion - it means the sharing of things in common.
· When we share our lives, koinania is called fellowship
· When we share remembrance of Jesus' work for us through the Lord's Supper, koinania is called communion
· When we share our resources so none would be destitute, koinania is called sharing
d. And by their prayer for you: The fourth benefit from the gift of the Corinthian Christians was that it would prompt the Jerusalem Christians to pray for them. Paul expected that the Jerusalem Christians would pray for the Corinthian Christians. This is something that we can do when others give to us, and when we need their gifts. We can pray for them.
6. (15) Praise to God for the greatest gift.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
a. What is His indescribable gift? Some think it is the gift of salvation; others think it is the gift of Jesus Christ. Why not both? Salvation is given to us in Jesus Christ.
i. Paul wants to leave the discussion of giving by reminding us again that God is the greatest giver. He gives the gift beyond description: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
b. Indescribable gift: This means that Jesus is a gift and salvation is a gift. We do not earn it. We receive Jesus and we receive salvation exactly as we would receive a gift. If we earn it, it is not a gift.
c. Indescribable gift: This means that Jesus is an indescribable gift, and salvation is an indescribable gift. The glory of the gift of Jesus and the greatness of the gift of salvation cannot be adequately described.
i. Paul isn't saying that we shouldn't describe the gift of Jesus or the gift of salvation. He is simply saying that it is impossible to adequately describe the gift. It is beyond full description.
ii. "Jesus Christ, the gift of God's love to mankind, is an unspeakable blessing; no man can conceive, much less declare, how great this gift is; for these things the angels desire to look into. Therefore he may be well called the unspeakable gift, as he is the highest God ever gave or can give to man." (Clarke)
iii. "Ah, how many times have I, for one, spoken upon this gift during the last forty years! I have spoken of little else. I heard one who said, 'I suppose Spurgeon is preaching that old story over again.' Yes, that is what he is doing; and if he lives another twenty years, and you come here, it will be 'the old, old story' still, for there is nothing like it." (Spurgeon)
iv. "If you preach Christ, you will never run short. If you have preached ten thousand sermons about Christ, you have not left the shore; you are not out in the deep sea yet. Dive, my brother! With splendour of thought, plunge into the great mystery of free grace and dying love; and when you have dived the farthest, you will perceive that you are as far off the bottom as when you first touched the surface." (Spurgeon)
v. In fact, when Paul writes His indescribable gift, the ancient Greek word he uses for indescribable (anekdiegetos) is not found in any ancient writing before this time. Apparently, Paul made up the word to describe the indescribable.
d. Thanks be to God: This means God's indescribable gift should fill us with gratitude. If we really understand and appreciate the indescribable gift God gives us, our lives will be saturated with gratitude.
i. "Our affliction we scarcely ever forget; our mercies we scarcely ever remember! Our hearts are alive to complaint, but dead to gratitude. We have had ten thousand mercies for one judgment, and yet our complaints to our thanksgivings have been ten thousand to one! How is it that God endures this, and bears with us?" (Clarke)
e. His indescribable gift: How fitting for Paul to conclude these two chapters about giving with a focus on this! The best motivation for giving is always gratitude for the indescribable gift of God to us. God's indescribable gift is what inspires all true giving.
i. "The apostle concludeth this whole discourse about contributing to the relief of these poor members of Christ, who is the Author and Finisher of all grace . . . that without the influence of his grace they would, they could do nothing." (Poole)
©2013 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission