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OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST   # 25

The Blessings of Giving – Thanksgiving to God and His Glory

2 Corinthians 9: 1- 15

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

Paul returns anew to the pending burden he has carried for years, a love for his brethren according to the flesh. The financial poverty of the mother church in Jerusalem had become his burden. The proud Pharisee, now humbled and blessed of God as Apostle to the Gentiles, wanted to minister in grace to his own.

On his second missionary journey he had promoted to the wealthier Corinthian church the urgent need of a ministry of grace to Jerusalem from which they had received the gospel. Corinth had responded in initial interest to his appeal for a collection to be taken by designated brethren upon Paul's imminent return to Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:16-24).

He had been the motivator and principal agent of this noble ministry of grace. In one sense Paul sees the Gentile church in Corinth as the Good Samaritan that in a time of need, when priest and Levite passed on the other side, to show grace and mercy by doing the unexpected. It is true that there had been a measure of cultural resistance to the inclusion of the Gentile, but that, in no way, was reason to not show mercy as the Good Samaritan had shown to the one who had fallen by the wayside. God's grace would triumph over the carnal resistance of culture.

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul had tactfully reminded Corinth of its earlier enthusiasm to supply the need of the mother church. A year had passed and he was about to conclude his journey toward Jerusalem. He had sent on ahead designated worthy men to receive the final collection. 

Paul, as was customary, turns this practical ministry, a collection, into what is and must be -- an expression of a deeper work of God's grace in their heart. Seven times in chapter 8 the word "grace" appears. The first powerful example of this response had been the abundance of the liberality of the Macedonia church in its own deep poverty, a powerful incentive to encourage a wealthier Corinthian church (8:1-6).

But the ultimate motivation for Corinth and for us would be the grace of God in the gift of his own son: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet He your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (8:9).

Paul Re states his Burden of Love for His Corinthian Brethren   2 Corinthians 9:1-5

These five verses may seem to us to be redundant, but they are an expression of Paul's sincere pastoral love for his Corinthians, some of whom as judaizers hated him as 2 Corinthians 10-12 will shortly show. Paul re states his burden and confident hope in the Corinthian church. In his reminder phrased so carefully, he balances his love for them as well as his measured anxiety that not everything may be in order and in hand when he arrives soon en route to Jerusalem. 

In walking a very fine line led by the Spirit's inspiration, Paul never impugns their love for God or him and their commitment to a timely generosity. But he realistically faced the possibility of the Macedonian believers who might accompany him to Corinth not being able to see his boasting of his love for them as truly justified in fact. Such a reality would leave both the Macedonian brethren and Paul himself in a precarious position.

With this in mind Paul writes: I quote Bishop Handley C G. Moule's paraphrase: "So I felt it my  duty to appeal to these brethren to go in advance to you, and to make up beforehand this already promised largess of yours, to be prepared thus, as a largess indeed and not as it were a confiscation" [1] Webster defines "largess": the giving of a bounty by a superior to an inferior, generosity on a big scale."

Bishop Moule references in this regard the encounter of Jacob and Esau who was coming with four hundred men to settle the score with Jacob because of his earlier deceit, a fateful encounter that God turned into a life changing encounter. Jacob says: "'Please, take my blessing (largess) that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough' and he urged him (Esau) and he took it" (Genesis 33:1-11).

Another Old Testament example of the same, Caleb gave to his daughter, Achsah, her request: "What do you wish? So she said to him, ‘give me a blessing (largess); since you have given me land in the South, give me the springs of water.' Then Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs" (Judges 1:15). Once again the Old Testament witnesses to the grace of giving, in fact, becoming a blessing. True love and faith give and in return God is pleased to add his unique blessing as the superior to the inferior.

Gracious Principles of Giving   2 Corinthians 9: 6, 7

Paul once again turns a mundane collection into a profound scriptural truth. Again he quotes for the ever present Old Testament that re enforces the grace of the New Testament. As our Lord buttressed his truths with the lily of the valley, the shepherd and the sheep, language highly intelligible to his hearers, Moule paraphrases: "Now take note here – the man who sows sparingly, sparingly too shall reap, and the man who sows on terms of largess, on terms of largess too shall reap."[2] 

God has established principles of sowing and reaping that are inexorable. We break them at our peril because there are no exceptions. We don't break them; they break us. Whether it be in the matter of money or the conduct to life: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to this flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7,8).

There is an inevitability of logic to this principle that we cannot deny. All of creation witnesses to sowing and reaping. We sow every day whether in the most menial task or in our conduct, thought and choice. There are only the two options open to us – sow to the flesh or to the Holy Spirit. The Judgment Seat of Christ will yield the ultimate resolution of whether we inherit: gold, silver or precious stones or contrary wise wood hay or stubble. (1 Corinthians 3: 2-15)

Now Paul moves to the heart of the issue whether it be giving or living for Christ. Life must proceed from the heart, never under constraint or merit seeking. The issue never is credit, fame, influence or power, much less a niggardly or covetous spirit. Adding to the seven mentions of "grace" in chapter 8, Paul adds three more for a total of ten, the number of completion.

God who knows the heart is the ultimate judge; we deceive ourselves if we think we can with our hypocrisy impress him. Ananias and Sapphira appeared to have given the full proceeds of their land sale to the early Jerusalem church. But they, in fact, had callously pledged to retain for themselves what they wanted.  They coveted a "supposed spirituality." Barnabas had just given the full proceeds of his land sale to the needy church and was so recognized.  Peter's direct accusation exposed the lie: "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? . . . You have no lied to men but to God. Then Ananias hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things" (Acts. 5: 3, 4, 5).

The Gracious Promise of Giving    2 Corinthians 9: 8

It is almost sacrilegious to attempt to make a commentary on two verses in chapters 8 and 9 that stand out like Mount Everest of the Himalayans.  Notice the assured consequence to sowing to the Spirit from the heart knowing that God loves a "hilarious" giver. Now the topic of the collection has faded far into the background and the eternal principle and blessing, a divine largess, appears front and center. God guarantees blessings in every area of life based on the principle of heart obedience in response to his grace.

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work" (9:8).  Five times God promises the absolute fullness of grace in every circumstance, and not only fullness but the abounding of the same. I defy anyone to place a limitation on what God's grace offers us on his terms.

An earlier verse in context stands out with this consummate truth: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that through His poverty might become rich" (8:9).

As if the gracious principle needs any support, Paul returns in part to the topic of sowing and reaping. "He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid . . . He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever" (Psalm 112: 7-9).

If you allow a personal note of testimony, these were precisely the verses God gave to me as I waited two weeks for a possible life threatening throat cancer operation in 1960. I walked literally through the "valley of the shadow of death;" but I experienced the fullness of his grace. An earlier direct encounter in my first pastorate (1952) with Romans 6: 6 - this time a definite death to self and life in Christ - was the truth that sustained me and does to this day.

The Gracious Provision of Dependency and the Mutuality of Grace   2 Corinthians 9:10-15

Paul now turns to apply to the Corinthian situation that it is the very same God who supplies in a timely fashion the provision of the seed to be sown that in turn multiplies the seed sown into  bread to be eaten. Whatever God touches, he multiplies – even the five loaves and two fish. Benefits flow to the sower and to those who reap and eat. The Corinthians's sowing will result in great benefit to the Jewish brethren. Corinth's giving from the heart will be the surest evidence of "the fruits of your (their) righteousness" (9:11).

Paul traces the full extension of the largess of grace, the blessings that flow from giving. "While you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God, for the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God" (9:11,12). What greater good can there possibly be than thanksgivings to God!

The Corinthian's dependency on God to supply the seed they sow is proof positive to the Jewish brethren of their "obedience to the gospel of Christ" (9:13). As God has provided for the brethren in Corinth, so he will provide for the brethren in Jerusalem, a dependency on God and a mutuality or equality that  grace brings."By an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack -  that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack'"(8: 14, 15). Paul has now come full cycle.

One further bounty or largess remains.  The Corinthians will reap the blessings of the prayers of the Jerusalem saints. What they give in the collection will be theirs to reap in the efficacy of prayers in their own behalf. 

Paul has established our dependency on God to give. As we give from the heart, we will sow in blessing to others and reap in grace and finally all will redound to the thanksgivings of many to God, the ultimate giver beyond measure.

Paul concludes with the concise greatest gift of all time and eternity: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" (15)!  Nothing can be added to that greatest gift!

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

G. E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Edinburg, TX 78539  

My only e mail address: gejohnson1928@gmail.com 

www.kneillfoster.com for all studies in both languages. Just click on my name.



[1] Handley C. J. Moule, the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (London; Pickering & Inglis), 1962, p. 91. As always I am indebted to the expertise of Bishop Moule, the Cambridge Greek scholar who has written extensively and devotionally on Paul’s epistles.

[2] Ibid  p. 92.