Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 Corinthians 9
"Some consider 2 Cor. 9 a separate note written by Paul earlier than chapter 8," F1 but such a notion is merely the knee-jerk reflex of critical minds seeking to destroy the unity of this epistle; and no solid logic of any kind supports it. "These verses are not a misplaced fragment, for the connection in thought is close with the preceding verses." F2 These verses are an intensification of Paul's appeal to the Corinthians to make good on their promises of a year ago and to make up a bountiful contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem. As the careful student of the New Testament soon learns, this type of objection is groundless, contrived and absolutely unreliable. As Hughes said, "We are confronted with a hypothesis which is entirely without support of external evidence or of any tradition." F3 Besides that, "There is a very close connection between chapter 8 and the opening verses of chapter 9." F4
An outline of this chapter has two divisions: (1) Paul's reasons for sending the brethren instead of coming himself (2 Corinthians 9:1-5), and (2) the blessings of Christian giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).
For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you.
"This word indicates a logical link with the immediately preceding matter." F5 Also, in this same connection, Tasker pointed out that "to write" as used here indicates the same thing. "The present tense of the infinitive `to write' signifies `to go on writing.'" F6
Ministering to the saints ...
Wesley's quaint comment on this was, "Anything that conveyed God's good gifts from one member of the church to another was, in the apostle's eye, `a ministry.'" F7
For I know your readiness, of which I glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia, that Achaia hath been prepared for a year past; and your zeal hath stirred up very many of them.
Your readiness ...
does not mean that the promised contribution had actually been prepared, but that they had been prompt to promise their full cooperation. Furthermore, as Plumptre observed:
The urgency of Paul's present appeal
indicates a latent misgiving whether
he had unconsciously overstated the
fact, and had mistaken the "will" that
had showed itself for an actual
readiness to send the money when it
was called for. F8
It would have been a permanent disgrace to the Corinthians if, after being held up as an example to others, they themselves should have fallen short.
But I have sent the brethren, that our glorying on your behalf may not be made void in this respect; that, even as I said, ye may be prepared.
I have sent ...
in this place "has the meaning of `I am sending.'" F9 This is another example of the "epistolary aorist," as used in 2 Cor. 8:17.
"Paul's glorying here is neither in men nor in human achievements as such." F10 His glorying is in the grace of God as manifested in the beauty of lives which had been touched with the knowledge of Jesus the Lord.
Lest by any means, if there come with me any of Macedonia and find you unprepared, we (that we say not ye) should be put to shame in this confidence.
Lest by any means ...
does not have any meaning of uncertainty. "It is not hypothetical, but = `when,' as in 2 Cor. 13:2." F11
We should be put to shame ...
This is a marvelous example of Paul's use of "we" in order more fully to identify himself with his readers for the purpose of making a more delicate and forceful appeal. All commentators are compelled to recognize the device here, where Paul spelled it out; and it is a shame that so many have failed to recognize exactly the same use of it in Heb. 2:3. In this place, there could have been no shame whatever upon Paul through any default of the Corinthians. It was not his own face which Paul sought to save by this admonition, but the reputation of the Corinthians.
I thought necessary therefore to entreat the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your aforepromised bounty, that the same might be ready as a matter of bounty, and not of extortion.
Before ... beforehand ... aforepromised ...
This repeated emphasis on the fact that they had already promised this collection more than a year ago had an element of sternness in it that should not be overlooked. The allegation that Paul was, in these first nine chapters, expressing his absolute and unreserved satisfaction with everyone at Corinth is founded upon a gross misinterpretation of a great many things contained in them, including the sharp dissatisfaction inherent in such a sentence as this.
Bounty ... not of extortion ...
It is remarkable to read the comments designed to soften the force of the word "extortion." which by implication is here applied to all radical and high-pressure methods of fund raising. Such methods are here called by their true name. Paul was saying that, more than anything else, and certainly more than the money, he wanted the Corinthians to DESIRE the fulfillment of their promise.
Filson correctly read the implied criticism of Paul's words here, as indicating that "There had already been too much delay." F12 Macknight's paraphrase of this verse is:
For that reason I thought it necessary
to entreat the brethren, that they
would go before me to you, and excite
you to complete, before my arrival,
your formerly announced gift, that the
same might be thus prepared at my
coming to Corinth, as a gift willingly
bestowed, and not as a thing extorted
from you by my importunity, as from
persons of a covetous disposition. F13
Having thus disposed of the explanation of why he was sending messengers on ahead for the purpose of raising the collection, Paul devoted the balance of this chapter to extolling the joys and benefits of Christian giving.
But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Other scriptures which carry this same implication are found in Prov. 11:24; 19:17 and Luke 6:38; and strong disagreement is felt with regard to downgrading the motivation appealed to here. Clines' view that "This is not a very exalted motive for giving" F14 should not be accepted. Giving as an exhibition of trust in God's promise to bless the giver is as exalted as any other motive taught in the word of God.
Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
The importance of consecrated Christian giving is so great, that the following studies with reference to it are included.
GOD OWNS THE WORLD AND EVERYTHING IN IT. Underlying the entire structure of the word of God is a ledge-rock principle of divine ownership. God owns the earth, by right of creation; and when man was introduced, he appeared, not as an owner, but as a gardener in Eden. Every beast of the forest, every bird of the mountains, and every beast of the field, even "the world and its fullness" belong to God (Psalms 50:10-12). Society's permission to certain people to occupy God's earth, or to hold its estates, does not contravene the divine ownership. Title deeds and legal grants always have regard to social custom, not divine authority. No man "owns" any of the earth; it belongs to God by the dual right of creation and constant maintenance.
ALL PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY CHRISTIANS, ARE THEMSELVES THE PROPERTY OF GOD. Paul had warned these Corinthians already that they were not their own, having been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). People are called God's "own servants ... his goods" (Matthew 25:14; Luke 19:13). Paul loved to speak of himself as the "bondslave" of Christ (Romans 1:1); and, in light of the life he lived, it was no pious pretense. Even in the dim light of the Old Testament, there is profound recognition of this great truth so frequently overlooked by the professed followers of Christ today. David said:
But who am I, and what is my people,
that we should be able to offer so
willingly after this sort, for all
things come of thee; and of thine own
have we given thee (1 Chronicles 29:14)?
ALL PEOPLE ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD AS STEWARDS OF HIS WEALTH. In very much the same sense that Joseph was the slave of Potiphar yet had control of all of Potiphar's possessions, the Christian is the slave of Christ and answerable to the Master for his handling of the Lord's goods, a day of reckoning being clearly revealed in the New Testament. "And after a long time, the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoned with them" (Matthew 25:19). The parables both of the talents and of the pounds likewise teach the same thing; and, when people's possessions are treated as Jesus' property, it will be the end of the problem of how much to give. The solution will be not in the decision of what to give to the work of the Lord, but in the decision of how much of the Lord's own possessions should be diverted to the selfish ends of the steward.
THE PROPER MOTIVATION IN GIVING IS DETERMINATIVE. The great gift of Ananias and Sapphira was rejected because it was motivated by selfishness; and the gift of the widow's mites, though exceedingly small, was praised by Jesus because of her true devotion. Some pretend to be giving "all I can," whereas everyone knows that their "all" is merely the leftovers from a gluttonous feast of selfishness. God will judge the hearts of people.
It is obvious that impure and unworthy motives in giving cause the loss to the giver of any divine approval. Any motive that is based upon pride, vain glory or selfishness is wrong and should be put far away from every Christian. The incentives that should impel people to give are revealed in God's word; and among those which are high and holy are the following:
GOD HIMSELF IS A MOTIVE. The Father in heaven is the first and greatest of motives. He so loved the world that "he gave" (John 3:16), and for one to be like the great King of heaven and earth, he should give. Let people teach their hearts to give; and, if they do this, their hands will not need teaching. God has proposed to win back to himself a big, lost and sinful world, putting all of the resources of heaven itself into the effort. He has called up his reserves and is doing all that even God could do to save humanity. Yet, despite all that has been done through many thousands of years, entire nations lie in rebellion and darkness; millions know not his mercy; the blessed Father needs our help; and what a privilege it is to help God himself by giving toward the realization of the Creator's plans.
CHRIST IS A MOTIVE. It was to this that Paul appealed in 2 Cor. 9:15, below, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." Christ redeemed people; and it is a strangely perverse and hardened heart that cannot find in this unspeakable truth the key that will unlock the springs of liberality.
Illustration: At a slave-auction long ago, the tears of a slave-girl arrested the attention of a traveler, her obvious agony being so unlike the indifference of the rest who were being sold. He paid a great price for her redemption, yet no joy came to her face when told that she was free. She had been born a slave and did not know what it meant; but at last, when the traveler was ready to depart, and as he told her what she must do after he was gone, it finally dawned in her heart what had happened; and, with her first breath, she said, "I will follow him! I will serve him all the days of my life!" Despite every reason against it, that is exactly what she did. Ever afterward, when her unselfish service drew the remarks of people who noticed it, she had only one word of response: "He redeemed me; he redeemed me!" Should it be any different for us who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ? May that attitude perish which views participation in the body of Christ as merely a kind of insurance against all of the hereafter, for which a premium, the lowest possible, is paid. May we serve Jesus Christ as sinners bought with blood should serve him; and, when people notice the joy of our service, our pure happiness, and our free and liberal giving, let the answer ring out, "He redeemed me!"
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS A MOTIVE. The church is truly the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9), the spiritual body of the Redeemer himself (Ephesians 1:22,23); and what is done to the church is done to Christ. For further discussion of this, see my Commentary on Acts, pp. 180-181. Any man who would spend his money more lavishly upon himself alone, neglecting to provide the barest necessities for his wife, boasting all the while of how he loved her, would deserve the reputation of a criminal hypocrite. So also does the man who spends all that he can get his hands upon for his own selfish indulgements and then casts some trifling gift into the treasury of the Lord. How beautiful was Jesus' entrusting the care of his beloved mother to the apostle John; but the care of his bride the church has been entrusted to us! The needs of the church the body of Christ are a basic motivation for giving that is truly Christian.
THE WORLD IS ANOTHER MOTIVE. There are four thousand millions of reasons why people should give liberally to God's work. All of the sin, pain and sorrow; all of the defeat, doubt and despair; and all of the sad groanings of miserable humanity are reasons why people should give. Let people give so that broken hearts can be healed by the love of Jesus and quickened with the gospel of salvation. Unloose the strings, therefore, not of the purse, but of the heart. When Jesus saw the multitudes, "He had compassion on them." That same compassion inspires the Christian giver.
I MYSELF AM A MOTIVE. Back in 2 Cor. 8:14, Paul warned the Corinthians that there could come a time when their "want" might require the generous help of others; and every Christian should take this possibility seriously. At some future time, the Christian may find himself in the agony of doubt, or of some blinding sorrow; and, if such should come to pass, it will be the church that helps him to ride out the period of distress. Then, may those who are able to do so build the sacred walls of the church a little higher by their faithfulness and liberality.
Illustration: This writer held the funeral for a ragged old man who sought refuge from bitter weather in an old wagon yard one dark night and died of neglect before day dawned. It turned out that he had once been prosperous and a nominal Christian who gave nothing to the church IN THAT VERY CITY. In his hour of need, a false pride refused to utter the plea that would have saved his life; and his neglect of the church became at last the neglect of himself.
Contrast that with the case of David, who in the hour of his extremity, was handed the sword of Goliath, which long previously his own hands had deposited in the temple. It is no wonder, then, that a son of David said, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days!" A legitimate application of this is found in the life of a person who gives and gives to God's church, and one day finds the church to be his own exceedingly great reward.
GIFTS TO CHRIST ARE SAVED; ALL ELSE IS LOST. Earth has no safe deposit boxes; "Moth ... rust ... thieves, etc." corrupt and corrode all human treasures, as the Saviour warned (Matthew 6:19,20). Joaquin Miller's poetic eulogy of Peter Cooper stressed the impressive truth that "All you can hold in your cold, dead hand is what you have given away!" This is particularly true of what is given to Christ, that is, to his church. People need to be reminded that giving to the church is giving to Christ. The glory and praise of men can be received by giving to other things, but the New Testament commands people to "give glory to God in the church" (Ephesians 3:21). Some who give vast sums to civic and social organizations and to political and fraternal orders, while neglecting the church, should lay this to heart.
PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD, A MOTIVE. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21) was the accolade given by Jesus to the faithful steward; or, as Goodspeed translated it, "Come, share your Master's enjoyment." F15 Is not this a partnership with the Lord? Christ is not in business for himself alone, but for the benefit of his slaves; and no man can afford to hinder what Christ would do for him by a rebellious refusal to handle as Christ commanded those few goods (or many) that were entrusted to his care and stewardship by the Lord.
God gave many marvelous opportunities to angels, who kept watch over the cradle of the infant Jesus, who helped the Lord in the wilderness of temptation, who supported him in Gethsemane, who rolled the stone from his grave, who escorted him to glory to receive the kingdom from the Father; but to mortal man, like ourselves, God reserved the priceless opportunity of becoming his partners!
PEOPLE LOVE CHEERFUL GIVERS. In this very verse, Paul made the fact of God's loving a cheerful giver a means of motivating the Corinthians. Well, that is no mystery. People do too! There is no more certain way into the hearts of people than by the practice of a sincere and honest liberality. Stinginess is universally despised; and it was no accident that the ancient drawings of the fabled King Midas always decorated him with ass's ears! He was justly hated for his selfish greed.
A generous man or woman, on the other hand, is given a welcome in the heart of mankind. This is a worthy motive for giving, because it is certainly a mark of the highest character when one desires the love of people. However, it is the love of men, not their praises, which is the true motive.
"GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER." Has there ever been a human being who could decide that he does not wish to be loved of God? For any thoughtful person, this must be the greatest motive of all. That the eternal and omnipotent God should love a mortal man is a concept so wonderful that it surpasses the powers of human imagination to understand it; but here Paul bluntly stated it. No human liberality, therefore, could be too great; for the love of God to man is beyond any comparison with the feeble and insufficient means of any man, or of all people, to merit it. But this glorious promise! Who is there who can fail to find a mighty inspiration in it?
If God loves a man, it is better than his being loved by the richest and most powerful man on earth. If God loves a man, no matter how much he gives, God will not let him suffer for doing so. When God loves a person, the special providence of the Almighty will follow him all the days of his earthly pilgrimage. May God help every Christian to take these things into account.
And God is able to make grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work.
Generous giving, as Tasker said, "seems very hazardous"; F16 but Paul here stated the truth that where the generous spirit is, God will provide the means of expressing it. The amount of any man's giving is inevitably influenced by his trust, or mistrust, of the promise here.
As it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; His righteousness abideth forever.
As it is written ...
"This exact construction occurs twelve times in Romans, twice in 1 Corinthians, and twice in this epistle (2 Corinthians 8:15; 8:15 and ). Nowhere else does Paul use it." F17
The Psalm Paul here quoted is Psa. 112:9, a passage which describes the blessedness of the man who fears God. As Hughes said, "The words read like the epitaph of a philanthropist." F18 Paul appealed to the passage here as additional motivation for giving.
And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.
Here is further inducement for giving liberally. Paul had already said in 2 Cor. 9:6 that the man who sowed sparingly should reap sparingly, and that the bountiful sower should also reap bountifully. The whole thrust of this chapter concerns how people should give. A collation of New Testament teaching on how people should give is as follows:
HOW TO GIVE
God is deeply concerned about how people give, for it is not enough that one merely turn a part of his wealth or income to holy uses. It is of primary importance that such be done in a manner approved of God. Note the following on how not to give:
NOT FOR VAIN-GLORY. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that giving should not be done "to be seen of men" (Matthew 6:1-4).
NOT GRUDGINGLY (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is a positive violation of God's law for any man to permit himself to be high-pressured into giving to the church, or anything else. Giving should mark a Christian's character, because of what he is, not because of a good sales talk. As Paul suggested to Philemon, "Without thy mind, I would do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were, of necessity, but willingly" (Philemon 1:14).
NOT DECEITFULLY. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1ff) are the New Testament examples of this error; but it may well be feared that even now there are many who pretend a liberality they do not have.
NOT WITHOUT LOVE. The gift of all one's earthly goods "without love" profits the giver "nothing" at all (1 Corinthians 13:3). Nothing big, or good, or beautiful can come out of a loveless gift. True giving cannot be practiced without feeling, as for example, when a man might throw food to a stray dog.
NOT WHILE ESTRANGED FROM A BROTHER. "First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23,24) - that is Christ's command; and it may not be violated with impunity.
What then are the guidelines for proper giving?
IT SHOULD BE DONE WITH SIMPLICITY. See Romans 12:8. Simplicity oils the rough usages of charity in such a manner that the recipient is not wounded. On the contrary, an ostentatious giver is an offense: (1) to the observer because of his vulgarity, (2) to the recipient of alms because of his pride and lovelessness, and (3) to the heavenly Father because of his vanity and conceit.
IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. "For whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward" (Mark 9:41). All that a Christian does should be done in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17). In a practical sense, this generally means doing it through the church, which is the spiritual body of Christ.
SYSTEMATICALLY. "Upon the first day of the week" (1 Corinthians 16:2). The meaning of the New Testament is that giving should be done regularly on the first day of every week. Systematic and continual giving is far better than great gifts poured out after long neglect of this duty. Systematic giving creates and sustains the habit of giving, keeping the springs of the Christian heart open.
LIBERALLY. Liberal giving means just that. Christ described it in this command: "Give, and it shall be given you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, etc." (Luke 6:38).
SACRIFICIALLY. A Christian's body is "a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). It is not enough that people give merely crumbs that fall from the table where self is feasted. The writer of Hebrews, in speaking of giving, said, "For with such sacrifices, God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). This means that people should give enough to God that it requires sacrifice to do it.
CHEERFULLY. This noble chapter requires this quality (2 Corinthians 9:7). A man said he could give a dollar much more cheerfully than he could give a hundred dollars; but that is not what Paul meant. The cheerful giver is the one who derives joy from obeying the Lord and imitating the Giver of all things by his own obedience. Under every divine commandment is the great principle of benefit to the one who obeys it. Only the givers are happy people. The miser is so-called because he is miserable.
PURPOSEFULLY. This is another quality stressed in this chapter (2 Corinthians 9:7). This shows that giving should be in accordance with the inward purpose and intention of the giver; and it does no justice to this principle when a man merely thrusts a hand into his pocket and casts whatever might be handy into the collection.
SECRETLY. "That thine alms may be in secret" (Matthew 6:3,4). This principle applies especially to person-to-person giving, a grace in which every Christian must share; but it does not mean that every man's giving is his business alone. On the contrary, Paul commanded the church to withdraw from the covetous man (1 Corinthians 5:11); and thus the elders of the church surely have the right to know of one's giving, yes, the amount of it, and to discipline the covetous.
UPON A BASIS OF EQUALITY. Again, from this chapter (2 Corinthians 8:13,14), there is apostolic instruction on how to give. It was never God's plan that 20 percent of the church should give 90 percent of the church budget, allowing all of the religious hitch-hikers to take a free ride. God's way is a way of equality. This cannot mean equal amounts, for that would be manifestly unfair. If the total amount needed is divided by the membership total, and each man "gives his part," it would be only a trifle for some and utterly impossible for others. The only method of finding an equality is for all to give a certain percentage of their income; and the ancient principle of giving a tithe to God (which is 10 percent) is a good place to start. The tithe was recognized as the duty of all people to Almighty God, long before there was any such thing as Judaism upon this earth. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:7), a priest of God Most High, at a time when the Jewish dispensation was merely an unfulfilled prophecy. For full discussion of this see my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 143-146.
ONESELF TO BE GIVEN FIRST (2 Corinthians 8:5). When one gives his heart to the Lord, in his conversion to Christ, the problem of giving is already solved. For the person who finds difficulty in becoming a liberal giver, it would be well for him to ask himself, "Have I really given myself to the Lord?"
Ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God.
Being enriched in everything ...
This is a promise that Christians who give as they should will "in everything" be enriched, meaning, not merely in their financial ability, but in countless other ways also. This heavenly promise is the pledge of God himself that giving pays rich dividends to the giver. We have seen how some decry the motive of this promise in people's hearts (2 Corinthians 9:6); but the inspired apostle did not hesitate to place it in his appeal here; and this is far more than enough authority for respecting it. As Plumptre said, "The context points primarily to temporal abundance"; F19 but it is quite evident that many other blessings are likewise included.
DIVIDENDS RECEIVED FROM GIVING
Underlying every sacred commandment is the purpose of God to achieve the utmost happiness and benefit for the obedient child of God; and obedience to the commandment to give, in the normal progress of human life on earth, is inevitably rewarded with the richest possible dividends.
The classical example of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16ff) is a startling demonstration of this principle. When he knelt at the feet of Jesus and asked how to inherit eternal life, the Lord commanded him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and to come and "follow" the Lord Jesus (Mark 10:21). The Lord's command to this rich young ruler was for the man's own benefit, not the benefit of Jesus. The Lord did not need his money; Judas was already stealing what little the Lord had; and, in a short time, the Lord intended to die upon the cross. Furthermore, there was no special crisis among the poor, and the distribution of one man's estate could hardly have benefited any of them permanently. Would this rich young ruler have benefited from full and complete compliance with Jesus' command? The answer is affirmative.
Forty years after this young man knelt at Jesus' feet, God poured out the accumulated wrath of centuries upon Jerusalem. The young man was old when that happened, and there is no reason to doubt that he stood with his countrymen against Rome. All of his wealth and posterity were swept away in an hour by the soldiers of Vespasian and Titus. If he perished, along with over a million others, or if through some chance his life was spared to see the Holy City forever humbled under the feet of the Gentile, there was for him, in either case, no joy, no consolation, no hope. Did he remember what Jesus said about selling it all and giving it away? What if he had obeyed? If he had been a member of the Christian community, he would have believed Jesus' prophecy, and with all believers would have fled to Pella until the storm was passed. It is clear enough that this young man's best earthly interests would have been served by doing exactly what Jesus commanded. But so would every man's! There were special circumstances involved in Jesus' words to "sell all" in his case; and this is not a requirement of being a true Christian; but the command for liberal giving is applicable to all who obey the gospel; and, for ourselves, no less than for him, Jesus commanded that which will benefit his followers, not only in the eternal world, but NOW and HERE. (See full discussion of the rich young ruler in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 295-296.)
SATISFACTION. Giving as the holy Scriptures command pays a one thousand per cent dividend in satisfaction. This is precisely the thing that all men are seeking; and, in their efforts to procure it, they leave home and friends, travel over continents and oceans, climb mountains and cross deserts, build skyscrapers, torture their bodies, sear their consciences, and deaden their souls - all they want is satisfaction! However, the deepest needs of the soul can never be satisfied by any such activity. The true satisfaction is available only in Christ. He said, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39).
It is in giving that the great satisfaction is discovered. The smile of an orphan child given to a benefactor over a glass of milk is worth more than the fickle praise of a multitude. The joy of seeing one soul turn to the holy Christ is sweeter than all the pleasures of earth. Giving provides benefits to the needy, glory to God and satisfaction for the giver. Souls having not the courage to give are missing the most wholesome satisfaction life affords.
A HIGHER STANDARD OF LIVING. What is the mystery of two families from the same neighborhood with approximately the same income, same number of children, same health, same obligations, etc., but one of which has a standard of living dramatically higher than the other? The mystery is even more perplexing when it is discovered that the family with the higher standard gives liberally to the church, whereas the other never gives anything.
What is the explanation of this family which gives and gives and yet has more? It is found in the influence of Christianity in their lives. The other family pays a heavy liquor bill, indulges in gambling, wastes time and money on all kinds of questionable entertainment, involves itself with immoral and unprincipled associates. A son takes up with bad company, incurs a heavy fine, gets drunk and wrecks the family car, etc., etc. The wisest investment any man can make is a regular and faithful contribution to the church. In actual money it will save him many times over what he gives, closing sources of waste, extravagance and sin that would otherwise be open. He will actually find a higher standard of living by faithful giving to the work of the Lord.
THE TERRIBLE COST OF NOT GIVING. A man grew very rich and had no time for the church. "All the church wants is my money," was his reply to every invitation. His only son grew up in a Christless home, became a libertine and a squanderer. One day, he quarreled bitterly with his father, while drinking heavily, and in an angry fit shot and killed his father. Something like this, or worse, will happen to every home where the teaching of Christ is refused. It probably never occurred to that unfortunate man that what the church really wanted was not his money at all, but the true salvation of himself and his family. Sure, faithfulness would have cost him part of his money; but Satan took all of it, and his life and soul along with it! One makes his choice and pays the penalty if he chooses wrong.
But there are some who are determined to beat God's system. They will go to church and bring up a Christian family without giving, or at least without giving very much. If such is attempted, the children will see through the sham and hypocrisy of it. One cannot love the Lord and the church without giving to it; and, if one is not a giver, his religion is worthless; and all people will know instinctively that he does not love the Lord or his church and that his pretensions are false. The unchristian life is far more expensive than the Christian life.
INCREASED PROSPERITY. In this chapter, Paul declared that the bountiful sower will reap a bountiful harvest; and that is a pledge of increased prosperity. Some people are almost afraid to hope for prosperity, fearing that it might be wrong to do so; but one of the apostles prayed for a friend, "that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 1:2). It is not the apostle's intention, however, that prosperity should exceed spiritual growth, but keep pace with it.
The principle of increased prosperity for true Christians is not a mere inference from some ambiguous text, but an imperial decree from on high. The Son of God said:
Verily, I say unto you, there is no
man that hath left house, or brethren,
or sisters, or father or mother, or
wife or children or land, for my sake
and the gospel's, but he shall receive
an hundred fold now in this time,
houses and brethren and sisters, and
mothers, and children, and lands, with
persecutions, and in the world to come
eternal life (Mark 10:29).
Some profess not to believe this; but no one who ever tried it disbelieves it. God's hand is still visible in the affairs of men. "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Here is the explanation of the mystery as old as Solomon, that "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty" (Proverbs 11:24,25).
A BETTER PERSONALITY. All the world is divided into two classes, the givers and the hoarders. One class is continually becoming more and more selfish and unlovable; and the other class is forever increasing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and are "changed from glory to glory" by his gracious Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). The ancient allegory of the two seas, Galilee and the Dead Sea, is true. For the Galilee people, life's blessings flow in, but also outward to bless and benefit others; and for the Dead Sea people, life's blessings flow in but never out. The giver becomes a Galilee person, full of sweetness and love; but the Dead Sea person becomes an old salt, crusted over with selfishness and cynicism, full of hatred and apprehension. A Christian who gives as the Lord commanded invariably becomes a Galilee person. This is exactly the type of personality that commands the highest honor and respect in any community on earth.
FRIENDS OUT OF THE MAMMON. Jesus was speaking of the use of wealth when he commanded his follows to:
Use mammon, dishonest as it is, to
make friends for yourselves, so that
when you die, they may welcome you to
the eternal abodes (Luke 16:9). F20
See exegesis of this passage in my Commentary on Luke, pp. 349-351. The friends to be made by the wise use of money are the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the angels of God. The eternal abodes are the mansions of the blessed, the "many mansions" of the Fathers' house (John 14:1ff). This is the eternal dividend for those who honor the Saviour's command to give; and, in this passage, Jesus did not fail to connect the stewardship of money with the welcome of the redeemed eternally. Christians who are lame in the giving department have simply overlooked the fact that an unbelievable percentage of the whole New Testament is devoted to this subject.
A MEMORIAL BEFORE GOD. It was written of Cornelius that an angel of heaven stood in his house and said, "Cornelius, thy prayers and thy alms have come up as a memorial before God" (Acts 10:4). The deep, eternal longing of human souls to be remembered after death is realized only by faithful Christian givers. Not only will they be remembered on earth, but in heaven. God will take account of the gifts tendered by his children; and this is the most glorious thought of all. Also, there is the lavish gift of Mary of Bethany who poured out the priceless nard upon the feet of Jesus. The Master said, "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this which this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her" (Matthew 26:13). Faithful giving creates a memorial of the giver before God in heaven.
THE RETURN OF THE PRINCIPAL. Bob Hope once said that he was more interested in the return of his money than the return on it! The super-colossal climax of dividends received from Christian giving is the ultimate return to the giver of all that he gave. Jesus said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, etc." (Matthew 6:19-21). This is proof that the Master will repay at the last day the full account with all accrued dividends. When Christ gave this teaching, he also called attention to the doubtful and insecure investments that people make on earth, where moth, rust, thieves, and all kinds of dangers threaten not merely the dividends, but the principal also. "Riches make themselves wings and fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:5). If any man doubts this, let him ask the man who has seen his life's savings swept away in a fire, a robbery, a revolution, an epidemic, a flood, a drought, an earthquake, a tornado, a broken trust, a wreck, an accident, an unjust law, or by means of any one of a thousand unpredictable disasters which may strike like lightning at any time and at any place.
Nobody ever gave Jesus anything, whether a grave, as did Joseph; or a basket lunch, as did the lad; or anything else, without receiving more than he gave. Joseph received his grave again; and the little lad was the lawful owner of the twelve basketfuls taken up after the feast! Let people try giving it to Jesus. No investment can compare with that.
These studies on the subject of giving have been included in this commentary because of the near-universal need for Christians to be taught and to understand the truth about the central duty of the Christian life.
For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many thanksgivings unto God.
The wants of the saints ...
refers to the necessities which they lacked, and not to things which they merely wanted. Desirable as the relief of the saints was, this was by no means the whole benefit of the collection. As Wesley said, "Its chief value consisted in the spiritual results." F21
Many thanksgivings unto God ...
The Lord's name would be glorified, souls convinced of the truth of the gospel, and converts won for Christ; but, beyond all these objective achievements of their liberality, there would be the multiplication of grace within the hearts of the givers themselves.
Seeing that by the proving of you by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all.
By the proving of you ...
Giving is the divine test of Christianity. Non-givers are non-Christian.
The obedience of your confession ...
By virtue of one's conversion, he is already pledged as a giver to support God's work. That he shall, in fact, do so is inherently demanded by his confession.
While they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, long after you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you.
Paul here continued to elaborate the spiritual benefits that would come from the contribution at Corinth. The recipients would remember them with thanksgiving in their prayers, "supplications on your behalf."
Long after you ...
The reputation and honor of the Corinthians would be enhanced and magnified.
The exceeding grace of God in you ...
shows that Paul was projecting a very liberal and bountiful contribution and that he was not looking for a merely token response to his appeal. In regard to the question of how much money they might have given, Carver has this:
The apostle's appeal proved
successful, for a few months later he
wrote from Corinth to the Romans that
"Macedonia and Achaia have been
pleased to make a contribution for the
poor among the saints in Jerusalem"
(Romans 15:26; 15:26 ). F22
Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.
Scholarly opinion of what the gift is in this verse is sharply divided; but the view which appears most reasonable is that which understands the gift to be the Lord Jesus Christ himself who is THE gift of God.
is hardly the word that Paul would have chosen for any lesser gift than the Saviour; and, while it is true that the working of the grace of God through Christ in the hearts of the Corinthians is in view here, it is not such a work of Christ but Christ himself who is meant. Plumptre spoke of some who believe the gift here to be the Holy Spirit, on the basis of Acts 2:38f; but it is that word "unspeakable" which, more than anything else, compels one to see in the gift "none other than Jesus Christ himself."
Footnotes for 2 Corinthians 9
1: Norman Hillyer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1083.
2: Frank G. Carver, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1968), Vol. 8, p. 584.
3: Philip E. Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 321.
6: R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958), p. 123.
7: John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
8: E. H. Plumptre, Ellicott's Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 394.
9: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 124.
10: Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 323.
11: David J. A. Clines, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 433.
12: Floyd V. Filson, The Interpreter's Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1953), Vol. X, p. 375.
13: James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles with Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), Vol. II, p. 411.
14: David J. A. Clines, op. cit., p. 433.
15: Edgar J. Goodspeed, The New Testament, an American Translation (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1923), in loco.
16: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 126.
17: Wick Broomall, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 679.
18: Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 332.
19: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 396.
20: James Moffatt, The Bible, A New Translation (New York: Harpers), in loco.
21: John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.
22: Frank G. Carver, op. cit., p. 584.
23: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 51.
24: Floyd V. Filson, op. cit., p. 372.
25: F. W. Farrar, op. cit., p. 197.
26: E. H. Plumptre, Ellicott's Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), Vol. VII, p. 393.
27: Norman Hillyer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1082.
28: David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 118.
29: John McKay, God's Order (New York: Macmillan Company, 1953), p. 67.
30: Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 208.
31: John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.
32: David J. A. Clines, op. cit., p. 427.
33: David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 83.
34: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 36.
35: Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 210.
36: Floyd V. Filson, op. cit, p. 322.
37: G. Campbell Morgan, The Corinthian Letters of Paul (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1946), p. 239.
38: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 359.
39: E. H. Plumptre, op. cit., p. 378.