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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
2 Corinthians 9

 

 

Verses 1-4

Paul's Final instructions concerning the Collection.

The example set by the readiness of the Corinthians:

v. 1. For as touching the ministering of the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you.

v. 2. For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

v. 3. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf, that, as I said, ye may be ready,

v. 4. lest haply, if they of Macedonia come with me and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

Paul's kind diplomacy and pastoral tact is evident in every line of this admonition. In an almost apologetic manner he writes: For so far as the ministry which is intended for the saints is concerned, it is superfluous for me to be writing to you. Of the need of the brethren in Judea and of the necessity of the collection for them the Corinthians had been convinced long ago, aside from the fact that they were fully aware of their Christian duty to help all such as were suffering. That fact, therefore, the apostle did not feel called upon to stress; on that point they needed no further instruction. His suggestions concerned only the time and the manner of making the offering.

The apostle takes this opportunity of acknowledging with proper praise their stand in the matter of this collection: For I know your willingness, which I praise of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was fully prepared a year ago; and your zeal has provoked the majority. It was a source of the greatest pleasure and gratification to Paul whenever he could make a favorable report concerning any person, particularly when such information would tend to encourage and incite others to make progress in sanctification. And here was a splendid opportunity, since, as he had stated above, chap. 8:10-11, the Christians of Corinth had accepted the obligation and stated their readiness to take part in the proposed collection for the poor at Jerusalem when he first laid the matter before them. The Corinthian congregation, as we here learn, had not been alone in passing favorable resolutions with regard to the project, but the other congregations of the province had declared their willingness to join them in their charitable undertaking, and Paul could make his boast accordingly. The result had been that the churches of Macedonia and the majority of their members had been inspired to a like zeal; they had come to the front all the more promptly and liberally, as Paul had written above, chap. 8:1-4; they had even, in turn, proved an example to the Corinthians by forging ahead of them in the actual execution of the ministry.

For that reason Paul, feeling that the Corinthians only needed encouragement to complete the work as soon as possible, tells them: At the same time I have sent the brethren, that our glorying about you might not be rendered void in this respect, in order that, even as I said, you may be fully prepared, lest, if any Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared, be brought to shame we (that we say not, you) in this confidence. As the apostle had said, the Corinthian Christians indeed knew their duty and had declared their willingness to perform the same, but he was anxious for them to carry out their intention soon. That was the reason why he sent Titus and his two companions with this letter, to remind them of their promise, and to urge them to have their collection finished by the time he himself could come. For it was probable that some of the brethren of Macedonia might make the journey to Corinth with him. If it appeared then, upon his arrival with these brethren, who knew of his confident boasting concerning the Corinthians, that the collection had not yet been completed, the situation would be most embarrassing. It would bring shame upon the apostle, who had spoken so confidently of their eagerness to help in this emergency; but still more would it redound to the shame of the Corinthians, not only because they had not lived up to his expectations, but also because they would stand before the Macedonian brethren as negligent in their Christian duty. Paul felt sure, incidentally, that their love for him was stronger than their solicitude for their own honor. Note: Though the love of Christ should always be the supreme motive of a Christian congregation with regard to all works of holiness, the fact that their pastor, too, may suffer in his good name on account of their remissness may also be urged under circumstances.


Verses 5-7

The gifts of Christians should be measured by the greatness of their love toward God:

v. 5. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren that they would go before unto you and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

v. 6. But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

v. 7. Every man according as he purposes in his he art, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.

The apostle here states the exact business of the deputies whom he was sending: Therefore, namely, to obviate the danger spoken of in v. 4, he had believed it necessary to entreat the brethren, the companions of Titus, that they should precede him to Corinth, should get there some time before he himself could make the journey. By this arrangement it would be possible for the three men to prepare in advance the gift previously promised by the Corinthians. It was a gift, literally, a blessing, which they had promised, because they themselves had received it as a blessing out of the hand of God, and because by the mercy of God active through them it would become a blessing to the needy brethren. By complying with the request of Paul, the Corinthians would thus have their contribution ready as a true gift, or bounty, a matter of free love on their part, and not as a matter of extortion, drawn from unwilling hearts and hands by the apostle's covetous grasping.

That only the gifts of free love have any value in the sight of God, Paul now emphasizes in the form of a proverbial saying: But this I say, He that sows sparingly, sparingly also shall reap, and he that sows bountifully, bountifully also shall reap. See Pro_11:24-25. It is a common experience that the return, the reward, is commensurate with the amount and work invested. If a farmer saves on seed and sows too thin, his harvest will be meager in proportion, but if he sows in accordance with the fertility of the soil, he will have a rich return for his labors. The application to the spiritual field is not difficult. If a person is chary of works of love, if he can be persuaded only with difficulty to participate in charitable enterprises, his reward will be proportionately small, his will be an inferior reward of grace. On the other hand, he that sows abundantly, with a blessing, as a gift of bountiful love, will have a reward of mercy that will mean more than a full compensation. See Luk_6:38. "For the blessed will have reward, one higher than the other. " Let every Christian remember that, especially when he is called upon to give a practical proof of that fellowship of faith and love which unites all believers. In all our earthly possessions we are only stewards of God, under obligation to administer the money entrusted to us according to His will.

That such giving must be done without the slightest shade of annoyance follows from the fact that it flows from love: Every man as he has intended in his heart, not with a grudge or of necessity; for a cheerful giver God loves. Practically everything depends upon the state of mind with which a person participates in the works of mercy which have been given us by the Lord to perform. If a person is in a morose, gloomy frame of mind, if he is filled with sadness at the idea of parting with what he does give, or if he considers himself under compulsion, because he cannot very well avoid it, then his gift will not meet with the approval of the Lord. Every Christian should make up his mind to attend to his share of the Lord's business without permitting such thoughts to enter or rule his heart. "For such specious [hypocritical] works God does not want [does not approve], but the people of the New Testament are to be a willing people, Psa_110:3, and sacrifice freely, Psa_54:6. " The proper state of mind is that which measures its willingness by its love toward God, and is cheerful, prompt, and eager in accordance with the saying which the Greek translators of the Old Testament added as an explanation of Pro_22:9. See Deu_15:10. On the one hand, there will be no undue compulsion in the matter of charitable collections, but, on the other hand, there will be sincere pleasure in doing for the Lord what each giver can possibly afford to give Note: It is most interesting to see in these two chapters how many different terms the apostle uses to denote the collection. With reference to its source, it is grace; in its relations to the Church's life, it is fellowship, communication: in its relation to public servants, it is ministry: in its beneficial purposes, it is blessing; as a public act of piety, it is service or worship.


Verses 8-11

God blesses liberal giving:

v. 8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,

v. 9. (as it is written, he hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth forever.

v. 10. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness,)

v. 11. being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanks giving to God.

The apostle is so full of his subject that his words gush forth in an overwhelming stream of praise for the manifold manifestations of God's grace in and through the Corinthians: God has power to make all grace abound toward you. The might and power of God is such as to make it an easy matter for Him to bless them with every gift, both temporal and spiritual, in rich measure. And the result will naturally be that they, having always all sufficiency, would abound unto every good work. The richness of God's goodness and mercy toward them is the supreme motive to incite the Christians to perform all good works cheerfully and freely. They have the riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus; God gives them enough and more than enough of worldly goods and gifts: what more natural than that they show their appreciation and gratitude in accordance with His will? This verse should he heeded far more by the Christians of our country, in which the great majority of them have been so richly blessed; for they certainly are living under conditions which warrant their being perfectly contented, since they possess a sufficient subsistence not only for comforts of the body, but even for actual luxuries.

Paul illustrates his meaning and applies it from an Old Testament passage: He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor, his righteousness abides forever, Psa_112:9. The truly charitable person, every Christian in the performance of the good works that fall to his lot, scatters abroad, as a farmer that sows broadcast: he distributes abundantly on every side. As Luther says, St. Paul chose this word with care, admonishing the Christians to give richly, and that it may be a real blessing. As though he would say: Do not be so over careful with the nickels and pennies. If you want to give, give cheerfully, as though you wanted to scatter it abroad. As the poor and needy will be benefited by our assistance, in the same measure should it be offered. And the result is that, as a reward of grace, the donor's good works are held in remembrance before God, his good conduct is laid up as a treasure in the sight of the Lord. The application of the passage is comprehensive: But he that bountifully offers seed to the sower and bread for food shall also increase your seed and multiply the fruits of your righteousness. As God gives seed to the farmer and blesses him with the results of his labors in the form of bread and all other supplies for sustaining life, so he extends the hand of His blessings also in the spiritual field. He Himself, as the owner of all the silver and gold in the world, bestows upon each steward of His such a measure of His bounty as is necessary in the particular field in which this Christian is to apply these blessings, in the case of the Corinthians that of the collection then in progress. It is by the bounty and mercy of God, therefore, that the fruits of righteousness in every Christian are multiplied and increased. Surely, then, God has a right to require that the gifts entrusted to us by Him be dispensed in the way which He judges best, for such charitable purposes as He directs our attention to.

Since the Corinthians and all believers are able to abound in every good work, it also follows: Being enriched in everything to all benevolence, which through us works thanksgiving to God. Rich the believers become, not in proportion to the money which they have saved and gained, but in the measure of their charity shown to others; not rich in hoarding, but rich in benevolence, in liberality, that is God's way of estimating values. Only in that way, moreover, does the benevolent performance of the Christians redound to the glory of God, since on its account the thanksgiving of many will rise to God in a hymn of gratitude. Purr benevolence, together with perfect simplicity or singleness of heart, knows nothing of selfish interests or painful forebodings, but manifests itself in a free and ample supplying of the wants of others, thus producing in them a spirit of thanksgiving to God.


Verses 12-15

Liberal giving brings the blessings of the recipients:

v. 12. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God,

v. 13. whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them and unto all men,

v. 14. and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

v. 15. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift!

Paul here adds a final motive for their cheerful contribution, namely, that of the material and moral benefits which the brethren at Jerusalem would derive there from. The word which the apostle uses for service is that which is otherwise used for the forms of Christian worship. By taking part in this collection according to the manner as outlined by him, the Corinthians would actually be active in the public worship of God, in their ministration for the Christian community at Jerusalem. They would not only be supplying or filling up the needs of the saints by giving them what they needed for their sustenance, but their service would also abound through many thanksgivings to God. The poor at Jerusalem would have reasons for a twofold thanksgiving to God: for the material aid which they would receive, and for the spirit which would thereby be manifested by the brethren at a distance. The latter point is emphasized by the apostle: Inasmuch as they glorify God through the proof afforded by this ministry of the obedience which flows from your confession of the Gospel of Christ. The receipt of this most welcome aid from the brethren at a distance would necessarily convince the Christians at Jerusalem of the fact that the former had in truth become obedient to the Gospel, that their faith in Jesus Christ was working in them the true fruits of love, of which fact their act of charity was a confession. It was a real obedience to the Gospel which the members of the Asian, Macedonian, and Achaian congregations professed by their act of charity, by the liberality of their contribution toward the poor in Jerusalem and to all; it showed the existence of a real communion of faith and spiritual interests, which was active in such a splendid manner, wherever the need of help became known. In other words: "They who receive such a proof as this ministration gives, will give glory to God for your obedience to the confession you have made with respect to the Gospel of Christ, and for the common fellowship with them and with all Christians which your single-hearted liberality displays."

That the sense of fellowship would be strengthened by the presentation of this collection is a fact which Paul also does not overlook: While they also, with prayers for you, in your behalf, long after you on account of the surpassing grace of God upon you. The thankfulness of the Christians at Jerusalem would cause them to ask God's blessings upon these friends in the distant countries, of whose love they had such abundant evidence. And, incidentally, they would yearn with an affection intensified by this display of love for those benefactors in whom the rich working of God's grace had shown such extraordinary results. It is ever thus: When Christians send the free gifts of their love for the alleviation of the hardships and troubles of fellow-believers at a distance, the latter will be united with them in spirit more closely than before, mutual affection will be strengthened, mutual prayers will become more fervent. Continents and oceans may separate Christians, but the consciousness of the same faith, the same lore, as evidenced by some token of fellowship, will unite their hearts more closely than by the closest earthly relationship.

As Paul contemplates this wonderful result of the divine grace in the congregation at Corinth, there arises from the depth of his soul an outburst of holy thankfulness: Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift! If it had not been for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemption, such a result would not have been possible in this congregation, which, a few short years before, had not even heard of the poor believers in Judea. But the miraculous gift of Christ Himself, Joh_3:16; Isa_9:6, and of salvation in Him had worked this transformation in the hearts of the Corinthian Christians, had wrought this thankful appreciation which bore such rich fruit in their lives, which made them so willing to give evidence of their faith by the gifts of their hands. The same power is at work in the Christian Church today and should at all times be duly acknowledged in adoring gratefulness.

Summary

Paul reminds the Corinthians of their willingness to contribute their share of the collection, which has acted as a stimulus to others; he urges them to have their contribution ready by the time of his arrival in Corinth; he reminds them of the fact that liberal giving is blessed, and calls forth the blessing of the recipients.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/2-corinthians-9.html. 1921-23.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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