A Bountiful Gift
I. Paul’s motivating preparation to receive the offering from the Corinthians (Verse 1, 2).
A. Paul does not write to suggest this gift but in recognition of their initial response to the idea. Their determination, in fact, had been so firm and initiatory that his writing, as far the idea itself is concerned, is a superfluity. His motive, therefore, is to firm up their resolve with a set of interrelated ideas by which they may view their giving in deeply theological terms. They have “readiness,” a readiness about which he has boasted, and he wants them to see this readiness as indicative of a divine encounter and as a promise of true spiritual growth. To this point he had spoken in 8:7, “But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.” Just as surely as the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are freely bestowed, and as the discipline of diligence is a grace that engages human energy, and as love is the foundational grace for all other evidences of the work of God’s Spirit, so is giving in all of its rightly-conceived attendant circumstances a true mark of grace.
B. Their zeal was instrumental in producing generosity in other Gentile churches. He boasted to those in Macedonia about this and they had responded with exuberant giving. He told of this in 8:1-5. In addition, the church in Philippi had responded earlier to Paul’s personal need for support and sent a generous gift. See Paul’s description of this in Philippians 4:10-20. Note also the deep spiritual and doctrinal inferences Paul draws from that act of material support.
C. He explains his strategy in completing the collection. (Verse 3-5)
- He is sending an advance team of trusted brethren to get the gift complete and set for delivery (see 5a).
- He wants the words that he has been spreading about the generosity of the Christians in Corinth to prove true and not be empty words. If they failed to be diligent in this matter of the collection, not only would Paul’s words be empty and his exuberance about the spiritual life of the churches be consigned to bluster, but their profession would be tarnished. Paul reminds them of the “previously promised bountiful gift” (5). If Paul were to go to collect the gift, and brethren from Macedonia accompanied him in order to meet and fellowship with some fellow Gentile believers, and the promised gift were not ready, then both Paul and the Corinthians would be “put to shame” by his having expressed such confidence in their generosity and sense of unity with other believers.
- Paul indicates that the longer the lapse of time between a resolution to give and the actual giving, the greater is the opportunity for covetousness to intervene. The longer one waits between a generous impulse built on observation of need and the spiritual intuition of love for the brethren and the actual execution of the impulse, then the more will be the tendency to reconsider in terms of personal need or desire. If such delay is extended, the impulse to give contracts, and when done becomes a matter of exaction or a “grudging obligation.”
II. Their giving will be a recognition of God’s grace to them. (Verses 6-11)
A. Note that he emphasizes this section as a deepened explanation of the previous section by the words, “Now the point is this,” or “this is the thing.” Paul notes that his urging them in this matter is that they might ponder a rich biblical principle in their resolution to give.
B. He supports his argument as expansions of Old Testament principles.
- Proverbs 22:8 says, “They that sow injustice shall reap calamity.” On the other hand, Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.” Though the word for sowis not used in Proverbs 11:24, the principle of giving is prominent, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
- In Galatians 6:7, 8, Paul establishes this principle strongly in saying, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
- In giving for the construction of the Tabernacle, God instructed the people, “From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall make my offering” (Exodus 25:2).
- In giving to the poor, the instruction is, “You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand” (Deuteronomy 15: 10).
- In this way of handling the situation, we observe that Paul approached his ministry, even as an apostle who received divinely revealed truth and instruction, as an application and extension of previously given revelation.
C. He shows the seamless connection between our perception of the blessings of the material world and the grace of salvation. He discusses the grace of giving in light of the pervasive action of divine grace in the giving of all the gifts of salvation—“all grace abound to you . . . you may have an abundance for every good deed” (8); “his righteousness endures forever” (9); “increase the harvest of your righteousness” (10); “producing thanksgiving to God” (11). This act of giving is embedded within a context of grace, good works, God’s righteousness and our righteousness, and thanksgiving.
D. His language indicates that God’s superintendency of our lives is not isolated to any one sphere but omits nothing.
- In verse 8, Paul uses the word “overflow” twice. Once he speaks of overflowing grace, a purposeful pleonasm, as if grace itself is not a sufficient superabundance. He mentions then, as a corresponding fruit in their lives that they will “overflow” in every good work.
- Also, in this one verse he uses five different forms for the word “all,” three of them bunched together in the middle of the sentence: “all grace” ( giving a doubly pleonastic rhetorical emphasis to overflowing grace), all ways (one word), all times (one word), all sufficiency, every good work. He moves in this progression from the foundation of everything in grace, to its invasion of all our actions, without ceasing, consistently giving the fitting sufficiency required for all works that reflect God’s goodness.
III. Their giving will result in thanksgiving to God. (Verse 12-15)
A. He introduced this in verse 11 as an extension of the recognition of God’s purpose and wisdom in everything.
B. As real material needs are met, more profoundly do we see the goodness of God in every area and so that it results in “many thanksgivings to God.”
- The contribution is intensely practical; the saints in Jerusalem are hard pressed for several reasons and are seeking to maintain care for a large number of brothers and sisters in the faith who are struggling from day to day to maintain necessary sustenance in life. The occasion, therefore, for this contribution is to supply “the needs of the saints.”
- In doing that, this supply will be received as a gift of God’s grace and will result in many thanksgivings to God. Fundamental to reconciliation is that pervasive recognition of our absolute dependence on God for all blessings, both natural and spiritual.
- One of the leading marks of sinful perversity is lack of thanksgiving (Romans 1:21).
- Our gift of speech should not be used for “coarse jesting, . . . but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4).
- Being filled with the Spirit involves “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
- Instead of anxiety over one’s conditions in life, each of us should “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
- In the contemplation of all that is involved in a sinner’s redemption we should be “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:12).
- The key for a steadily advancing life of knowledge of God, knowledge of revealed truth and conformity to Christ is thanksgiving: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
- Both trials and periods of exultation arise from the wise counsel of God toward us and both should evoke a sense of thanksgiving to God: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- The gift will produce great spiritual connection between the Corinthians and the saints in Jerusalem (verses 13, 14).
- Their giving gives proof to the Jewish Christians of the grace of God that has come to the Gentiles. Their faith has been tested and found to be genuine.
- God will be glorified for his grace manifest in their obedience to the faith they have confessed. They have confessed their dependence on Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation and that he is their Lord and Master. Now their faith has issued the fruit of obedience in love for brother.
- The gift is not stinted (“the liberality of your contribution”), but abounding, showing the depth, sincerity, and abundance of their love for the Jewish believers. Out of the stores of the Jewish canon, the Jewish ceremonies, and the Jewish tribe of Judah has come the Messiah, Savior of sinners, Lord of hosts, Reconciler, Redeemer, Propitiation, Advocate; the gift reflects their esteem of the value of what God did through this elect nation.
- The prayers ascending to the Father for blessings on the Corinthians will more than repay any material sacrifice made.
- The expansion of family and fellowship to a world-wide scale is seen in their “yearning for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.” It is impossible to estimate too highly the nature of the joy, love and fellowship of believers in Christ on a universal scale. Already in place are common interests—a common source of authority, a common direction for worship, a common commitment to gratitude, a common object of love, a common foundation for faith, and a common hope. It is understood by all in this fellowship that in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ all of these benefits and eternal blessings have been granted.
- Paul ends the discussion with the ultimate manifestation of the foundation of both thanksgiving and giving.
- In the final impulse of the heart, in the most ultimate perception of our source of eternal well-being, we look to the triune God in the eternal covenant of redemption as the one to whom all thanks is due.
- Out of this agreement of gracious redemption has come the ultimate gift, the infinitely worthy, glorious, excellent Son of God who took our flesh and took our place that we might be sons of God.