Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 2 Corinthians Studies|
Chs. 8 & 9
Chapters 8 & 9
It is important, as we start this next set of studies, that we remember that they are a continuation, the second half of this letter, and we need therefore to look back to the Introduction in the first half.
In the early chapters of the letter Paul defended his ministry and the reason he changed in plans. In the closing chapters of the letter (10-12) he again defends his ministry at great length, in his urgent desire to regain credibility in the eyes of the Corinthians. In chapter 2 he explained why he had put off his previous visit. In chapter 13 he warns that he will come and yet again pleads for them to put things right. In chapter 6 he spoke about the hardships he had suffered. In chapter 11 he elaborates on his life of suffering for the Gospel. At the beginning of chapter 3 he hints at the presence and attitudes of others. In chapter 10 (v.12) he again hints at this people, but in chapter 11 he comes right out into the open and denounces these people who had come in from outside and caused upset.
The Structure of these Studies
The second half of the letter falls into 2 or possibly 3 parts:
Because it is not an easy letter to take hold of, we will take chapters 10,11 and 12 separately, seeing the different ways Paul “boasts” about his ministry. We need to understand that what he means by “boasting” is really revealing his ministry in such a way that the Christians in Corinth will regain their credibility in his ministry. The outsiders had come in and spoken against Paul, and so it was now necessary for him to defend his ministry in the eyes of his spiritual children in Corinth . That is what this letter is all about.
Part 1: " A Question of Giving"
In chapters 8 & 9 we will see Paul speaking about the collection that was being made for the saints in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor 16:1-4). See the means he uses to encourage giving in these chapters. Again and again he cites their previous attitude of generosity that had helped start off the whole idea of supporting the mother church back in Jerusalem . There are some basic principles of giving in these chapters. Watch for them.
Chapter: 2 Cor 8
Passage: 2 Cor 8:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. Who does Paul start talking about now? v.1
2. What has been recently seen? v.2
3. What had they done? v.3
4. How had they approached Paul? v.4
5. What does he say they did? v.5
To get to Corinth by land you had to travel down through Macedonia . The churches there (and we know Paul went to Neapolis, Philippi , Thessalonica and Berea - see Acts 16:6 on) had often suffered severe opposition and persecution. They were not well off and indeed they were often very poor. That much Paul tells us in this passage.
Now comes the amazing thing: these churches gave financially in the most sacrificial way. Paul describes their giving as “rich generosity” and giving “even beyond their ability”. They had pleaded to be allowed to give to the needs of the people of God in other places. That was an incredible example for us. These people who had virtually nothing gave everything! This was quite unexpected. You would not have expected resources to have come from the poorest part of the Christian church, but it did. How was such a thing possible? By the grace of God (v.1)!
When people give like this it is by the enabling of God. We need to understand this: you can't give like this except by the grace of God - but you can ask Him for it! When we see a need do we rationalise how much we have and how big are our outgoings? Or do we go to God and ask for His grace to be able to give? When it comes to giving, if we use our intellect we'll always come up with reasons why we can't give. Giving is an act of grace where we need God's help to give generously.
A. Find Out:
1. What had he urged Titus to do? v.6
2. What did he say they excelled in? v.7a,b
3. So what did he now exhort them to do? v.7c
4. Why had Paul been speaking thus? v.8
5. What does Paul say Jesus had done? v.9a
6. So that what might happen? v.9b
As we'll see when we read on, Paul is now encouraging the Corinthians to give to the general collection that was being made. Titus had gone to them and Paul had encouraged him, in turn, to encourage the Corinthians in their part of the giving. Paul uses three forms of encouragement for them to give.
The first form of encouragement was PRAISE. They had been excellent at so many other things and now he wants them to excel in this as well. He praises them for what they have done well and encourages them to continue to do well in giving.
The second form of encouragement of COMPARISON WITH OTHERS. The churches in the north, in Macedonia , had given wonderfully and he doesn't want them to be outdone.
The third form of encouragement is REMEMBRANCE of Jesus. We are always to imitate Jesus and he gave up everything for the good of all others. Jesus left all the glory of heaven to come and live in a single human form. What an example.
In each of these ways Paul is provoking the Corinthians to be givers. How do we fit in this? Do we excel in giving or is it a weak area of our Christian lives? Do others outdo us in giving? Are we imitating Jesus in our willingness to give so others can be blessed?
A. Find Out:
1. What had happened last year? v.10
2. So now what does Paul encourage them to do? v.11
3. How is the gift acceptable? v.12
4. What does Paul want to achieve? v.13
5. How will that be achieved? v.14
6. What did he quote? v.15
Paul continues his encouraging the Corinthians to give to the collection that is being gathered. The previous year they had been in the forefront of giving and, indeed, they had been the first to desire to give having seen the need and wanting to meet it. Paul encourages them to maintain their position among the churches of being up front.
In passing, note that willingness or, as it is in this context, eager desire that comes from care and concern, is the first element of giving. Not the thoughtless giving because it is expected of you. No, seeing a need and feeling for the people is the Christian's starting point.
Once you have that, says Paul, your giving is acceptable because you have a right motive and it's acceptable on the basis of what you have to give, not according to the size of the need. The need may be massive but if you only have a little yourself you are not to feel guilty about only contributing a small amount to meet the need (let others contribute the rest!).
Look, he goes on, the idea is not that you get into financial trouble yourself trying to help others out; that isn't helpful. No, we simply want to bring balance or equality so if you are rich you help raise up the poor, and for others to do the same when you are poor.
A. Find Out:
1. What did Titus feel? v.16
2. So what was he going to do? v.17
3. Who else was going with him? v.18
4. What more was said about him? v.19
5. What did Paul want to avoid? v.20
6. So what were they doing? v.21
Paul has been encouraging the Corinthians to give to the general offering for the needy church at Jerusalem . Now he seeks to overcome any criticism there may be that might put people off giving. So often people say, “There's no point me giving. Most of it will never reach the needy”. Things haven't changed!
No, Paul explains that Titus, who he has already mentioned a number of times and who has a real heart concern for the Corinthians will be coming to them to collect and carry the offering himself. In other words they can trust the messenger who will carry the money! But not only that, he will not be alone. he will be accompanied by another who is well known by the churches, who is of high reputation, and who the churches have put forward for the task. We don't know who this was, but it may have been Luke or Barnabus.
The point that Paul was making was that they didn't want there to be any stumbling blocks to the giving by the Corinthians, so he hoped he had fully explained how the gift would be taken so that it would be seen to be done in a right way, both before God and before men. It is important that when it comes to financial dealings in the church, they are seen to be open and above board, with no room for criticism.
A. Find Out:
1. Who else were they sending? v.22
2. How did he describe Titus? v.23a
3. Why were the others going? v.23b
4. What did Paul exhort them to do? v.24
These verses may not seem very significant when measured against some of the other key verses of the Bible, but they do, nevertheless, say a lot to us. Remember we said that Paul was giving credibility to the men who were coming to collect the offering. Let's consider each of these men who were going to Corinth , three now, one by one.
First there was Titus who is to lead this delegation. Paul has already said much about him, how he had been blessed by them (7:7,13), how strongly he felt for them ( 7:15 , 8:16 ). Now he adds that he, Paul, considers Titus to be his partner. He can't think more highly of him. The leader has the highest commendation.
Then there was the other helper mentioned in v.18, a man highly esteemed by the churches for his work in sharing the Gospel. He had been chosen by the churches to go along. Now he mentions yet another man who is declared zealous and who has a strong feeling of confidence in the Corinthians. He's obviously someone who had been there and knew them well. He also seems to have been commended for the job by the churches. These are men who are well known and who each have a good reputation. Although unnamed they challenge us. Are we known by all the churches for our service in the Gospel, for our zeal, for our loving relationships. Unnamed they may be but these men stand out like beacons in the kingdom of God . May we do likewise!
A. Find Out:
1. For what did Paul say there wasn't a need? v.1
2. For what did he know and had been doing? v.2
3. Why was he sending these men? v.3
4. What could happen otherwise? v.4
5. So what was the purpose of their visit? v.5
Throughout this whole part Paul is exhorting, encouraging, provoking and challenging the Corinthians in respect of their giving. We might wonder that he feared that, because they were annoyed with him for correcting them over various issues, they might opt out of giving to the offering for the Jerusalem church.
What he starts out saying here is, “Well I really don't need to write to you about this giving”, but then he carries on and writes. He first of all seeks to stir them by a bit of healthy competition. I've told the Macedonians all about you, what leaders you are in giving. You don't want them to outdo you, do you? (implied). If you don't complete what you started, when the Macedonians hear about it, we're all going to be a bit embarrassed if you aren't seen to be as good at giving as I've told them you are. Underlying this is a form of esteeming them. He's really saying, you are really great at this, don't let me down now by changing.
When we encourage people it's good to remind them how good they've been with Christ's help, and to go on to provoke them to even greater things. To finally confirm this whole thing, Paul goes on to say that that is why he's sending a team of men to them, simply to help them bring through to completion the collection for this gift. These men, as we've seen, are all respected, so be ready for them.
A. Find Out:
1. What happens to the man who sows sparingly? v.6a
2. What happens to the man who sows generously? v.6b
3. How should each person give? v.7a
4. How should they not give and why? v.7b
5. What is God able to do? v.8a
6. With what effect? v.8b
In this world there are givers and there are takers. Takers are always looking to get and rationalise why they can't give. In these three verses Paul lays down some incredibly important helps for us, living as we do as Christians at the start of the twenty first century.
First, in the spiritual kingdom of God the same rules apply as in the natural world that God created. If you sow many seeds in your garden many plants will come up. If you give (for that is what Paul is talking about here) generously then you will find that you will get back generously.
Now, second, note in God's kingdom we don't give with the selfish intention of getting back. We give because we see need or we are prompted by God, and we give without any thought for return. This is where so-called “prosperity theology” goes wrong. Our giving is to be completely without strings as we have decided in our hearts (v.7), not in our cunning intellects! God loves a person who is free in their hearts who can give generously without contemplating the return.
Third, when we give like this we can leave it to God to provide all we need. Note that he doesn't promise affluence but he does promise abundance of grace in all things. He will meet every need . These verses bring an axe to the roots of self-centred giving!
A. Find Out:
1. What has God given to whom? v.9
2. How is God first described? v.10a
3. What things will God do? v.10b,c
4. What will happen to them? v.11a
5. So what can they do? v.11b
6. With what result? v.11c
Our tendency in these chapters when we read them on our own might be to skim over them, but when we take them few verses at a time we find much spiritual wealth.
Paul, in these verses, first quotes psalm 112:9 where God is described first as a giving God and then, because of that, as righteous. In other words God's practical caring for people is described as righteousness.
In verse 10 Paul sees God as the one who provides our food, whether it be by the seed that comes from every plant, or by the food (bread) we make from the plants. In a day when most of our food comes pre-packed it is easy to forget that God is THE provider. Because He is this, Paul promises the Corinthians that the Lord will provide physically for them if they give, and their giving will be an act of righteousness.
In verse 11 he goes on to promise them that they will be made rich in every way. This is when they are a giving people, a people who give out of the abundance of their hearts. Not only will God provide for them materially, but there will be a spiritual reward as well. In their abundance they will then be able to give more and more and that giving which is to be both material and spiritual will result in praise and thanksgiving to God. Does praise go to God because of the way we give?
A. Find Out:
1. What 2 things was their giving doing? v.12
2. What is the first outcome of their service? v.13a,b
3. What is the second outcome? v.13c
4. What will happen in prayer and why? v.14
5. How does Paul conclude? v.15
As Paul comes to the end of this section on giving, he highlights some of the outcomes or fruits of giving. Before we note them we should perhaps just note the more obvious outcomes of giving to the needs of others.
The first outcome is that the needs of the other are met and that is a relief to them.
The second outcome is that you are blessed in the knowledge that you have been able to help someone else.
The third outcome is that God will have been blessed as well by your loving others in a practical way. Now onto Paul's additional outcomes.
Fourth then, others will praise God because of you. They will praise God that your salvation is being worked out in very practical ways, that you are being obedient to the word of God and to the prompting of the Spirit. There is always praise when there is generosity, and that is by the onlookers who realise that this is a working of God's grace in you.
The fifth outcome is that it will bond you more closely to the recipient of your gift because their hearts will be knit with yours in love and when they pray they will pray for you and about you, in response to the good you have brought to them. Giving generously is a very real means of creating unity!
In this first group of 9 studies we have seen Paul :
These two chapters are all about the arrangements being made for a collection to be gathered from the churches in that part of the world to be taken to the church in need in Jerusalem . Paul encourages their giving by reminding them that they were some of the first to suggest giving, and so provokes them to follow it through and make sure the gift is forthcoming and that generously. To help that happen he is sending Titus and two other men to ensure everything is seen to be done well.
1. It's easy to start something, but we also need to finish it.
2. Giving in church needs to be open and above board.
3. God delights in those who give generously.
4. God will provide so that we may give generously.
5. When we give generously, it releases praise to God.
Thank the Lord that you are in the top fifteen percent of the world's population as far as affluence is concerned. Ask Him to help you become a generous giver.
PART 2 : "Boasting (1)"
In this next Part observe how Paul goes about refuting the criticism that there had obviously been about his ministry. He's in a warfare situation and needs great wisdom to win over these Corinthian critics. He will “boast” to obtain credibility in their eyes.