The Stewardship of Giving: 2 Corinthians 8-9

Paul visited Corinth, the capital of Achaia (Acts 18), on his second missionary journey and remained there for 18 months. From there, he went to Ephesus where he wrote his first letter. It is likely that the second letter was written from Macedonia soon after the first, quite possibly in the Spring and Autumn of 57A.D.

Objectives in writing the second epistle:

  • The Reassurance of Paul’s interest in the saints at Corinth
  • His Rejoicing at their reaction to his first letter
  • His Recommendation in relation to their gift
  • The Reaffirmation of his desire to visit them again

Unlike the first epistle, and indeed other Church epistles, there is no easily seen structure in the presentation of truth. In his helpful commentary, Mr. Albert McShane uses an interesting word – the “telescopic” development of truth, where one aspect of truth blends into the other following it.

The Issues of his feelings for the Corinthians (ch 1-7)

  • The Importance of feelings for others (ch 8-9)
  • The Innermost feelings of his own heart (ch 10-13)

Broadly speaking, the chapters before us (8 and 9) have to do with the subject of giving.

Chapter 8

  • Exercise in giving (vv1-8)
  • Example of giving (v9)
  • Exhortation to giving (vv11-14)
  • Executives of giving (vv15-24)

Chapter 9

  • The Expense of giving (vv1-7)
  • The Expanse of giving (vv8-12)
  • The Experience of giving (vv13-14)
  • The Extent of giving (v15)

In chapter 8, grace was seen in their salvation, and was now to be seen in their service. Examples are provided in the case of the Macedonian Christians and of the Lord Himself. They had enjoyed liberality in all things, therefore it was incumbent upon them to demonstrate this to others (v7).  It was not Paul’s intention to enforce this collection on them, for they were free to do as they wished (v8). Genuine love which demonstrates itself in liberality cannot be the product of pressure. As an apostle, he could have commanded, but he refrained and spoke, instead with affectionate diplomacy.

Nothing can gainsay the example of the Lord Jesus (v9). His gracious act of impoverishment was supreme. It was as personal as it was powerful, thus the repetition of “For your sakes … that ye.” He became poor when he was rich. His deity was hidden in His riches; His manhood was apparent in His poverty. He lost nothing of His infinite riches when He assumed poverty. His pre-existence is clearly taught here. Giving is not a command (even from an apostle); it is a response from the heart. It is evidence of depth and sincerity of love – not just the depth of the desire, but the (forwardness) diligence in fulfilling the desire; not just the attitude but also the action.

If in verses 7 and 8 we have the Exhortation to practical giving, in verse 9 we have the Example of perfect giving. In verses 10-11, Expediency in priority to giving;  in verses 12-15, Equality in the proportion of giving and in verses 16-23, an Emphasis on proper administrators when giving.

They abounded in faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence and love. Now they were to abound in this grace also.

We have to pause at verse 9 – what a verse! “For ye know” – historically (1Cor 15:3), personally (1Cor 1:24), but now practically “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (KJV). Notice some of His riches:

Romans 2:4 – Riches of His goodness – materially, patiently.

Ephesians 1 and 2 – Riches of His grace – our position. “In whom we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7, KJV) and our prospect: “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us” (Eph 2:7, KJV).

Romans 9:23 – Riches of His glory – Eternally, Creatorially, Bodily, Sacrificially, Rightfully (King of Israel), Judicially (Son of man).

“Yet for your sakes He became poor” – Riches of His deity to the poverty of His humanity; Author of life to the taster of death (Heb 2:9, KJV).

His and Ye – His poverty and our riches. Note the contrasts.

Swaddling Bands and Robes of righteousness

No Room and A Prepared Place

Cattleshed and Mansion of Glory

Show Me a penny and An Inheritance Incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away

Crown of Thorns and Crown of Diadems

Lesson – The supreme example of giving (Christ) should be what motivates us to give. My giving shouldn’t be measured as a percentage of my income or my relative wealth, or my giving compared to my brethren. It should be regulated by my appreciation of His poverty that I might be rich.

In verses 10-11 he urges them to be diligent – to be forward – in their giving: Desire with Diligence; Attitude accompanied by Action; Purpose becoming Performance.

”Out of that which he hath,” not what I might hope to have through my own efforts or wisdom in investment.

In verse 12, he emphasizes that we should have a “willing mind.” It is an echo of verse 7 where he is emphasizing that it is not a command, but a compulsion out of worship. “It is accepted according as a man hath” (his or her ability, KJV). Here it relates to giving, but the principle should be applied to time and talents.

An interesting picture is introduced in verse 15 with the manna. Here was something that was not a luxury but a basic necessity of life (food). They gathered every day – no hoarding or it smelled.  Everyone gathered – some more, some less – and yet it was meted out, an homer for every soul. Surely there are lessons in this picture.

In verse 16, Paul gives thanks to God for having put care in the heart of Titus – the diligence of Titus (more forward, same word). I take it there were two brethren as well as Titus (vv18-24). The first brother is described by: “Whose praise is in the gospel,” and, “and not only that,” he had the confidence of others, (note “churches” KJV). Is the grace spoken of here that of giving or of distribution of gifts? It underlines for us that honesty is of utmost importance, both before God and men!“Again often times diligent and now much more diligent (KJV)” describes the second brother. They are called messengers (or apostles?) of the churches and the glory of Christ.