Statement of Faith
The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell
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"A Fellowship of Ministry"
2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Wednesday AM Bible Study
October 1, 2008
This morning, we begin a new section of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. In this section—found in chapters 8-9—we're offered the most complete doctrinal and practical theology of Christian giving that can be found in the Bible. It begins by showing us how giving is inspired by example (8:1-9), how to deal with the follow-through of an intent to give (8:10-15), how to avoid blame in the matter of giving (8:16-24), how necessary it is that a cheerful attitude be expressed in giving (9:1-7), and finally the blessed benefits of faithful giving (9:8-15).
Paul had written to the Corinthians about their desire to help support their Jewish brethren in a time of need (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; see also Romans 15:22-28; Acts 24:17; Galatians 2:10)—an act of love that had apparently been encouraged originally by Titus (v. 6). The original intention of the Corinthians to support the needs of the Jewish believers even inspired others (2 Corinthians 9:1-2). But their bad feelings toward Paul over the past year (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:10) had caused the collections to cease. Paul was now sending Titus to help them renew their effort.
This morning, we come to the first main point of this new section on Christian giving. It deals with motivation. Rather than order the Corinthians to resume what they had originally intended to do, he seeks to inspire them by the notable examples of others.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF THE MACEDONIANS (vv. 1-7).
A. Paul lets the Corinthians know that the Macedonians gave (vv. 1-2). He says that he "makes known" to the Corinthians the news of what the Macedonians had done. The Thessalonians were extremely generous people (Philippians 4:10-18); and it seems that Paul sometimes had to restrain them. But he was glad to engage in "godly gossip" with the Corinthians about the generosity of their Thessalonian brethren.
1. The Thessalonians' giving was a grace from God (v. 1). Note that Paul doesn't say that their action was a grace "to" God. It was a grace "from" God. Genuine giving is something that come from God—because He is the original generous Giver (Psalm 145:15-16; James 1:17-18).
2. The Thessalonians displayed God's grace in that they gave out of their own poverty (v. 2). The Roman empire had largely stripped the Macedonian people groups of their gold and silver mines. They were heavily taxed; and so, they didn't have much to give from. But from what they had, they gave all they could. In this sense, they were like the widow who gave her mite (Luke 21:1-4). Note the stretch of directions that their giving took them. From deep poverty, they abounded in the riches of their liberality (i.e., "simplicity", that is, purity of motives). In affliction, they abounded in joy.
B. Paul explains the way in which the Macedonians gave (vv. 3-5).
1. They gave beyond their ability (v. 3). They were "freely willing", though scarcely able. There was no compulsion applied to make them give.
2. They urged Paul and his co-workers to allow them to give (v. 4). Paul may have sought to dissuade them from giving so much; but they insisted. They urged Paul to receive the gift for the saints in Jerusalem; and allow them to enter into the "fellowship of ministry" with others. They wanted to be partners in this effort to meet the needs of the saints. This is a natural impulse in someone in whom Christ dwells (see Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35)
3. They gave things in a proper order (v. 5). They didn't give as Paul expected. They first gave themselves to God; and then, in accordance with God's will, they gave themselves to Paul and his co-workers. When we receive good things from someone who has yielded themselves to God, we are receiving from God (see 9:12-15).
C. Paul offers his response to the remarkable grace displayed in the Macedonians (vv. 6-7).
1. Paul urged Titus to complete this same grace in the Corinthians (v. 6). He sent Titus back to Corinth to resume this great work that he had begun in them. He wanted to see the Corinthians "complete" what had begun. The intention to begin something is good; but it must be completed (see 9:3-5).
2. Paul urged the Corinthians to abound in this as they do in all thing (v. 7). They already abounded in faith, speech (more literally, "word"—speaking here of true doctrine), knowledge, diligence, and love for Paul and his co-workers. He urges them, then, to also abound in this gracious act as well.
II. THE EXAMPLE OF OUR LORD (vv. 8-9).
A. Paul makes it clear that he isn't commanding them to give; but rather inspiring them by the diligence exemplified in others (v. 8). He could have commanded them to give; but this would rob them of joy—and God loves a cheerful giver (9:7). Rather, he tested the sincerity of their love by revealing to them the diligence of the Macedonians in this matter.
B. But he points to the greatest example of giving that could ever be found—the Lord Jesus (v. 9). They could not imitate Jesus in the fullest sense—because His sacrifice was a redeeming one. But they could see how He left His glory in heaven and took frail humanity to Himself (never losing His divinity; but not using His rights as the Son of God), in order to become poor (on the cross; see Philippians 2:5-11), so that we, through His poverty may become rich with Him and share in His glory.
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The Scriptures command us , "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). His "law" is that we love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35). He Himself has set the example. May we, by His grace, rise up and follow it in the practical matter of giving.
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