About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 8 and 9
starting with verse 1, we need to realize that both chapters 8 and 9 are a
unit. The subject of this unit
is giving, and inparticular, the giving
away I need to say that Paul does not use the word tithing here or
anywhere in his letters. As a
matter of fact, the word tithing is not used in the New Testament except
when it is used in a few places, and there, it is used in connection with
the Old Testament.
background to this chapter can be seen in the book of Acts when Paul
visited various churches to collect money for the poor saints in
makes a major shift in his train of thought at this point in his letter.
He was encouraging the Corinthians, building them up in the last
chapter, and now he's coming with them with a request to give to the poor
verse 1 Paul refers to the churches of
we need to understand grace, not as unmerited favour, but as the divine
ability to do the will of God. Grace is used in both ways in the New
Testament. We cannot do God's
will in our own strength. We
are too depraved to do so. Therefore,
God gives us grace, or, He gives us the ability to do what He wants us to
do. That is what is meant here
in verse 1.
next few verses that follow concerning the way in which the Macedonian
churches gave financially, in my opinion, clearly teaches how Christians
should view giving.
verse 2 we note that the Macedonian churches were going through many
trials. They were in fact
extremely poor. They were
poverty stricken. Yet, even in
their poverty they felt it a great joy to give what they could give.
Being in such a poor financial state makes it clear that they
needed God's grace to give.
need to note that these Christians were very poor, even though they were
Christians. I say this in
light of the teaching concerning “prosperity”.
Prosperity teaching teaches that Christians should not be poor but
wealthy. Those holding to this teaching say that if you have sufficient
faith, you should be able to expect material blessings and wealth from
God. None of us needs to be
poor, that is, if you have lots of faith.
I'm sure that these Macedonian
Christians had faith. This
only goes to prove that the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is not
New Testament thinking.
the joy these people had wasn't simply joy, it was "overflowing
joy". It was ecstatic
joy. It was a visible joy.
though these Christians were very poor, they gave with “rich
generosity”. As seen in
verse 3, they gave “as much as they were able and even beyond their
ability”. This says
lots about the dedication these people had to Jesus.
It reminds me of the poor widow that Jesus spoke about.
She gave her last penny away and Jesus commended her for it.
Again, this is New Testament thinking concerning giving.
here that the financial giving was to people, and especially brothers in
the Lord, who are in need. It
is my thinking that much of our giving in the modern church only goes to
serve ourselves, and not those who need it most.
Much of our money goes to our buildings and our organizations that
serve us more than those outside of our ranks.
I think we need to think about where we give.
We need to give responsibly. Also
note here that Paul is not talking about tithing. Paul says nothing about
tithing in his writings. If
you believe that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, that book does speak
about tithing, but it is in the context of the Old Testament.
Paul speaks about giving generously according to the ability you
have to give. I believe this
is New Testament thinking on giving. I
don't believe tithing is a New Testament concept.
I won't explain that because I've done that elsewhere.
thing to note here is that these Macedonian churches were Gentile
churches. They were
being encouraged to give to a Jewish church that often had reservations
about Gentile Christians.
The words "entirely on their own" tells us something else about New Testament thinking. We shouldn't have to be told to give. We should simply see the need and give accordingly. This is what the apostle John says in 1 John 3:17. He tells his readers not to give in word alone. Saying "I love you" is not good enough. Love is not love unless it is demonstrated in actions and according to the truth of the gospel.
Note the word "pleaded" in verse 4.
I can't be certain, but because of the Macedonian's poverty, these people
might have pleaded with Paul to give because he might have told him it was
okay. They didn't have to give any more.
says in verse 5 that these people ‘urgently pleaded with us to share”
in this giving. Paul may not
have even asked for a financial gift, or maybe he did but did not expect
their eager response. They
“pleaded’ with Paul in this matter of giving. I suppose most pastors
would like such a congregation. The
Macedonian churches viewed this giving as a “privilege”, something
they did not have to do, but really wanted to do.
It is hard for me to even imagine that people are so willing to
give that they plead with Paul to give.
As a youth I remember just the opposite.
I remember long drawn out appeals that could last a half our when
the offering was taken up in a Sunday morning service.
I also remember multiple offerings in some services.
The pastor was the one doing the pleading, not those in the pew.
verse 5 Paul says that they “did not do as he expected”, meaning,
these Christians went farther then what Paul anticipated.
“They first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us”, Paul
says. Part of the proof of
these people giving themselves to Jesus was seen in their giving to him
and their brothers in the Lord. As
Christians, we don't only relate to Jesus.
We relate to our brothers and sisters in Jesus as well.
The love we claim to have for Jesus should be seen in the love we
have for those who whom Jesus has joined us.
Again, the apostle John hammers this home throughout his first
letter. If we say we love God,
he says, and don't show that love to our brothers, we have no love for
way of saying what I just said is this.
To the degree we give ourselves to the Lord, will be the degree in
which we give ourselves to others from pure motives.
Our relationship with Jesus is primary in our lives, but if it is
not seen in how we relate to others, and especially our brothers in
Christ, then we can question the validity of the relationship with Jesus
that we claim.
verse 6 Paul alludes to the fact that Titus was involved somehow in the
encouragement of the Corinthian church in giving as well.
It appears that the Corinthian church might have promised Titus
that they would give. Now Paul
wanted to see that commitment come about.
verse 7 Paul recognized that the Corinthians were growing in “faith,
speech, knowledge and love", all the things he spoke concerning them
in the last chapter. Now he
wants them to also grow in their “grace of giving”.
This term that Paul uses, that is, “grace of giving” is
important. It takes God’s
grace to give to such a degree as the Macedonians gave.
Grace is inherently involved in giving.
We have received grace from God and therefore His grace should
encourage and enable us to give graciously as well.
Earlier Paul said that the Macedonians gave with “joy”.
Jesus tells us to give with joy.
The attitude in which we give is important.
If we do not give with joy, I am not sure that God is pleased with
our giving. Yes, the
recipients of our giving may be happy, but it will accomplish nothing for
us. God loves a cheerful giver.
think the term "grace of giving" is the simple way of describing
New Testament giving. We give,
but to give in accordance to what Jesus would have us give, requires His
grace, His divine ability to do as He wants.
verse 8 Paul tells us why he brought the Macedonians into the discussion
in his letter. He hopes by
comparing the Corinthians with the Macedonians, this will encourage the
Corinthians to give as well. Paul
tells his readers that he is not commanding them to give.
He is merely encouraging them to give.
As he puts it, “this is a test of your love”.
If we say we love, we will give in whatever way we can.
Love without practical giving is not love.
the word "test" in verse 8.
There are two Greek words in the New Testament that are translated
into English as "test". Both
words have to do with metallurgy, that is, the testing of metal.
One of these Greek words means "to test in order to
destroy", as the devil would test, or temp, people.
The other Greek word translated as "test is to "test in
order to make strong or purify".
This is the testing God does to his people.
This second use of the word test is what Paul uses here.
He in fact is testing the Corinthians for one reason only, and that
is to strengthen their love for Jesus and others.
This should not be interpreted as a test of obedience to him as
some more dictatorial types might think.
This is proved by the words" I am not commanding you"
that begins verse 8.
simple fact is this. We know
how much we love God by how we love others.
comparing the Corinthians to the Macedonians, Paul compares them to Jesus
Himself. In verse 9 he uses
Jesus as an example by saying, that Jesus “though He was rich, He became
poor for your sakes, so that you through His poverty might become rich”.
This is the example for us to follow.
This is where the "Prosperity Gospel" goes wrong.
does Paul mean when he says that Jesus became poor so that we might become
rich ? Prosperity people would use this verse in their defense.
Does this mean that we should all be rich due to the fact that we
are Christians? Should we
expect to be rich because Jesus became poor?
context I believe the riches that Jesus had included some kind of material
wealth, however that would look like in heaven.
I'm not sure we can even call what He had in heaven material
wealth. Beyond this, Jesus was
spiritually rich, especially in His relationship with His father.
Jesus left lots when He came to earth.
Be sure, Jesus was materially poor while living on earth.
Beyond this poverty, His relationship with His Father was not what
it was while in heaven. He
makes this clear in his prayer found in John 17.
The whole realm of angels were not at His disposal as they might
have been in heaven. Jesus
gave up lots when He came to earth. Jesus
did all this for our benefit.
of what Jesus gave up, we now can be rich, but does this simply mean
financial wealth? No.
Jesus gave up more than material wealth.
He gave up an abundance of spiritual wealth and I believe it is
this wealth that Paul is speaking of here.
We become wealthy in a spiritual sense.
believe the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John10 is not material life
in this age. The abundant life
that Jesus promises us is in fact spiritual life and the life to come once
we find ourselves in eternity.
all of the above, we need to understand what rich might mean in Paul's
mind. I'm not quite sure we
can know that for sure. Rich
for Paul might well be middle class for us.
the word "advice" in verse 10.
This is not a command but advice.
I think I can safely say, that because of my belief that the Bible
is God's inspired Word, Paul's advice, at least to us, is God's will.
verses 10 and 11 Paul offers the Corinthians some “advise”.
He says that “last year you were not only the first to give but
you had a desire to do so”. These
people were really willing to give of their money for the cause.
But now Paul wants them to finish what they have started, complete
what they have pledged to give, “according to your means”.
Note the use of the phrase, “according to your means”.
Even though the Macedonians gave “beyond their ability”, Paul
only expects people to give according to their ability.
If you want to go farther than that, that is your decision, but at
least give “according to your means”.
verses 11 and 12 Paul continues by saying that the “willingness” to
give is the important thing. If
you are willing to give according to your means and you do so, that is
what God desires. He
specifically says that we should give according to what we have, “not
according to what we don’t have”.
If you only have ten dollars, and would really like to give
twenty dollars, you should not feel bad about giving your ten dollars.
says that "if the willingness is there the gift is acceptable".
The simple point here is that even though the gift is given to
people, God accepts and recognizes it if it is given willingly, without
being constrained for forced to give.
Giving should never be forced on anyone.
Paul is not forcing the giving here. He is encouraging the
Corinthians to do as they said they'd do, and that is, to give.
all that Paul says here about giving, he never uses the word tithe, or a
tenth. He uses the phrases
“giving according to your means”, or ‘according to what you have,
not what you don’t have”. I
think that sometimes when I teach this aspect to giving, some use it as an
excuse to give less or not give at all.
That should not be the case. Like
with all Old Testament Laws, the New Testament thinking that corresponds
to these laws, tithing included, goes way beyond the laws.
verse 13 Paul states the reason why he wants people to give.
He says that he wants “equality” among the believers.
He does not want the Corinthians to become poor because of their
giving. He wants all
Christians to live by a median income, a type of equality.
over the years have seen this verse as a form of socialism, or even
communism, but that's not Paul's point.
The giving that leads to equality here is not forced giving.
It's giving based on our heart's desire to give, a heart that has
been blessed by Jesus. There
is no hint of socialism and communism here that is forced on you by one in
verse 14 Paul explains what he means by "equality".
At the moment the Corinthians plenty would supply what the poor
Christians need, and in turn their plenty would supply what you need.
Paul did believe in equality. Communists
would often quote Paul on this point, but Paul was not a dictatorial
communist. Yes, he
believed in equality, but he believed in the joyful and free exchange of
money and resources in order to bring everyone on the same level.
He did not use any dictatorial influence.
He only asked and encouraged such giving based on what Christians
had received from God.
Corinthians at the moment had extra. They
could afford to give to the poor saints in
verse 15 Paul backs up his point by quoting from Exodus 16:18 which says,
“he that gathered much did not have too much, and he that gathered
little did not have too little”. Whether
you worked hard and gathered little or lots, the end result in Paul’s
mind should be equality of material wealth and enough to get by.
verse 16 through 18 Paul relates to the Corinthians Titus’ concern that
he has for them.
This concern was not as a result of Paul’s influence, but a
genuine heart felt concern he had.
Paul was going to send Titus back to
the words, "God put into the heart of Timothy".
All that is necessary for us as Christians to do the will of God
must be put into our hearts.
Being the depraved people that we are, we are not capable on our
own to serve the Lord as we should.
Thus, what Paul says is one very important Biblical truth;
"God put into the heart of Timothy"; God puts into our hearts as
says that the collection of this money is meant to “honour the Lord
This is a Scriptural principle, that is, we honour the Lord by
verses 19 and 20 we see that it was the churches that chose this unnamed
man who would accompany Paul and those with him with such a large some of
seems that this man was specifically chosen to keep and eye on things to
see this money got to where it was supposed to go without any hint of
misappropriating these funds.
Clearly, this is an example for present day financial matters in
What Paul was saying here is what we call "transparity",
or, "accountability", these days.
the special gift of money, Paul says in verse 21 that he wants “to do
what is right”.
He also says in verse 20 that he wants to “avoid any
criticism”, thus the reason for this well respected person that was
chosen by the churches to accompany Paul on his journey.
Paul took his work seriously.
He knew well that he would encounter criticism if there was not an
outsider, well liked by all, to keep watch over him and his companions.
I am sure Paul would have handled the money properly, but in order
false criticism from without, he submitted himself to the watchful eye of
He said that he did not only want to do “right in the eyes of the
Lord, but also in the eyes of men”.
the words "we are taking pains" in verse 21.
Paul is saying that he is going beyond any reasonable means to make
sure nothing happens with this money, or, nothing can be perceived as
happening with the money.
The word "pain" is a strong word here.
Paul is going out of his way, causing himself undue trouble, so to
speak, in order not to be criticized.
was really concerned not to do anything that would bring disgrace to Jesus
or the gospel.
This was a very strong motivation in his life, and should be in
ours as well, but often is not.
verse 22 Paul says that he is sending a second man who is unnamed
along with Titus.
This second unnamed man has “proved himself in many ways”.
Who this man was, we just don't know.
verse 23 Paul calls Titus “a partner and fellow worker”, while he
calls the other unnamed men representatives of the churches.
Paul is making a clear distinction between Titus and these
You can see how these other men are less known by Paul. They're
not real close friends, not real close brothers who are used to serving
Jesus with Paul in ministry.
verse 24 Paul gives the Corinthians a bit of an admonishment.
He tells them to prove to these church representatives that what we
say about you is true, meaning, give to the cause as you said you would.
chapter 9, verse 1, Paul says that he doesn't have to remind them
concerning this "service to the saints".
It was an issue that had been well discussed.
The Corinthians had promised to give, and now it was time to do as
they said they would.
Notice how Paul puts it; "service to the saints".
I like that.
It is our Biblical responsibility to "serve the saints".
As a matter of fact, the way I see it, is that the New Testament
teaches Christians to first serve the saints over those in the world.
If a brother has need and one in the world has need, you try to
help both, but the brother in Christ comes first. Paul
confirms this in Galatians 6:10 with the words "especially to those
who belong to the family of believers".
verse 2 we see hints of what's going on here.
The Corinthians had promised to give a year ago.
The Macedonians had already given to the cause.
Paul was boasting to both the Macedonians and the Corinthians about
each other as a means to encourage each group to give.
It appears that the Corinthians were a bit slower in giving, thus
the reason for this part of the letter.
Some people would say it's not a good idea to compare one Christian
to another, or, to compare one church to another, and they might have a
point, but Paul seems to be doing that here, at least in my thinking.
the name "Achaia" in verse 2.
There is some debate why Paul is using "Achaia", which is
a Roman province, instead of
verse 2 Paul is sending the brothers to collect on the promised gift of
money the Corinthians said they would give.
In chapter 8 Paul was boasting of the Macedonians and their giving
to this project to encourage the Corinthians to give as they said they
in verse 2
it is the other way around.
Paul is boasting about the Corinthians in order to encourage the
The basic reason for Paul's boasting and comparison between the two
groups of believers was to be an encouragement to both groups.
verse 3 Paul tells the Corinthians that he is sending the brothers to them
for one reason, and that is to make sure his boasting about their pledge
to give won't be hollow.
In other words, He is going to make sure they give.
in verse 4,
is, at least in my thinking, twisting the arms of the Corinthians a
basically saying that if some Macedonians ever come with him to
I think their is another point to be made at this
point. Paul doesn't care about
him being shamed. What Paul is
doing here is encouraging these Corinthians to give, as they said they
would. If they didn't give,
then they would be the ones shamed. They'd
be the ones that would be embarrassed and look bad in the eyes of the
Macedonians, or anyone else were would come to collect this money.
5 might even be seen as more than arm twisting.
Paul clearly states that there are some brothers coming to visit
them "in advance" of his coming.
They'd make sure that the gift was all ready to go when Paul got
did not want to arrive in
this next section Paul continues on the theme of giving.
He says, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
whoever sows generously will also reap generously”.
The sowing analogy is an agricultural one.
The more seeds you plant, the more chances of reaping a big
This is a sales principle as well in business.
If you want to sell something, the more contacts you make. the more
chances you have in making a sale.
says that “each man should give according to what he had decided in his
heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
A couple things should be noted here.
There is no talk about giving in accordance to obeying the Law of
is o talk about tithing.
The individual should decide for himself how much he should give in
This is an individual matter of giving, that is decided in the
heart of men.
You might say that before the Lord you decide what to give. You
don’t give because someone is telling you to give.
You give because you want to give, and you do it cheerfully.
There is no undue pressure here.
who believe we should still be obedient to the Law of Moses, including the
tithing laws, might suggest that this giving that Paul is talking about
here is giving that is over and above the tithe.
They might suggest that these Christians were giving their tithe,
but when it came to this special one time need, this giving was extra
is no proof to support this thinking.
I would conclude that this giving might well be over and above
normal and regular giving, but I believe the normal regular giving was not
based on the Law of Moses but on the same principle that Paul is teaching
here, that is, give according to your ability; give generously and
Knowing what I believe is Paul's thinking concerning the Law of
Moses, I believe I can safely say he never taught these Gentiles to give
because they were forced to by the Law.
goes on to say in verse 8, “God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will
abound in every good work".
What is Paul saying here?
Is he saying that if you give cheerfully, God will bless you
This is partly true.
I believe Paul is saying that if you give from a cheerful heart God
will look after you, yet at the same time he will help you “abound in
every good work”.
This is important.
The emphases is not on the Lord blessing you because you give.
The emphases is on God giving you grace to do good works as you
continue to give.
Financial blessings are secondary.
Good works are the primary result of giving. Now
there's a thought for the "Prosperity Gospel" folk.
the words "all you need" in verse 8.
The Greek word this phrase is translated from means to "be
self content", that is to say, "to be content with what one
Paul is not saying that God will make everyone rich who gives.
He is saying that God can make you content with that which you
is a big difference between the two.
quotes from Psalm 112:9 to back up his point.
The quote reads, “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the
This is meant to be an encouragement to give to the poor that is
10 may be a bit hard to understand.
We'll take it in two parts.
It might well be an illusion to Isaiah 55:11.
The first half of the verse
speaks of "He", meaning God, is the One who supplies seed
for the sower and bread for the storehouse.
This is important.
This tells me that Paul understood all the he had, or even didn't
have, was because of God.
If all we have comes from God, then all we have belongs to God and
we are stewards of God's property.
If we see all that we have in this light, it should really make us
think about how we should look after what we have.
It should also make us understand that not just a tenth belongs to
God, suggesting ninety percent belongs to us, but rather, all one hundred
percent of what we have belongs to God.
We're simply looking after it for Him.
second half of verse 10 might well be an illusion to Hosea 10:12.
Paul speaks of "the harvest of righteousness".
The point here is that God will give even more to those who give
joyfully and generously in order to give more.
Paul is talking about a "harvest of righteousness" here.
He is not talking a harvest of wealth we can pile on for ourselves.
The point is made clear by his use of the word
verse 11 Paul says that “you will be made rich in every way so that you
can be generous”.
Note that being rich is more than just financially, although it
would include finances.
Yet the reason why you would be rich is in order to help the poor.
Can this verse be used as a “Prosperity Teaching” proof text?
Paul does seem to suggest that if the Corinthians give cheerfully
that God will reward them in order to do more good works, in order to give
must note then that if you are blessed by God, the blessing is meant to be
passed on to others.
Yet at the same time this blessing is to be given to poor people,
especially to poor brothers and sisters in Jesus, who are our first
Receiving blessings from the Lord for the sole
purpose to give away to the poor isn't necessarily what prosperity
teachers teach. Many of them
say in order to be a good witness for Jesus, in order to impress people
that you are a Christian, you must drive the up-to-date car, have a nice
house, and on it goes. This
thinking is far from Biblical. If
this were the case, then the apostle Paul impressed no one, and of course,
I don't think he was wanting to impress people anyway.
idea that there are poor Christians would suggest that God does not bless
It is His prerogative or choice to bless whom He wishes.
This may be hard to understand.
Paul suggests here that if you give, the Lord will look after you,
to the extent that you can give even more.
Yet at the same time there are poor Christians that need to be the
recipients of this giving.
Why are these Christians poor?
Is the giving of money to them part of God’s blessing towards
the case, as Paulstated before, is interested in equality, not riches.
suggest that you look around the next time you are in church, and see if
there is financial equality among those who are sitting in the pews with
guess is that there is not financial equality.
If that is the case, then your church is not following the Word of
the Lord on this point.
Your church is probably not spending it's money properly, because I
believe Paul would say that people come first.
to be clear: Paul says that if we give joyfully and generously, we will be
made rich in every way.
The words "every way" speaks more than just in a
Our responsibility to fellow believers is more than just sending
them a check in the mail.
It will often include us sacrificing time and effort in the process
of supporting them.
Too often these days it is easier for us to send the check, but
there's more to support than money.
verses 12 and 13 Paul says that there is a secondary result in being
Yes, the people to whom you give money to will be helped, yet they
will also thank God for the gift.
The thanking of God in Paul’s mind is just as important as the
equality that results in the giving. He says that “men will praise God
for your obedience”.
It is this expression of praise to God that is important in the
mind of Paul, possibly even more than the equality that comes from giving.
of verse 13 says that this “obedience that accompanies your confession
of the gospel of Christ …”
We should back up our confession with action.
If someone really has accepted the gospel of Christ, it should be
evident in his actions.
This is what Paul is saying here.
The Corinthians have a confession of faith, therefore they should
prove its validity by giving.
verse 14 Paul says that those who receive the gift and see the love in
action will not only give thanks to God but their hearts will go out to
the one giving.
This is relational, another thing that Paul is very interested in.
has used the term "hearts go out" earlier in this letter.
When someone's heart goes out, it is a personal thing.
It's actually the process by which one exposes his heart and his
life to another.
As I've said earlier, in part, this was one reason why Paul wrote
this letter in the first place.
For a while, the Corinthians would not respond to Paul opening his
heart and life to them.
He wanted the Corinthians to do as he did, that is, return the love
by them opening their hearts and lives to him.
The giving of this gift of money would help the opening of people's
hearts to each other.
I believe I can say I've experienced this.
when I needed money I didn’t have, and was blessed by someone who
gave me the needed money, our hearts were net even closer together.
need to remember at this point to whom this gift of money was being given
was being given to poor Jewish saints in
verse 15 Paul ends this chapter by saying, “thanks be to God for His
The gift that Paul is talking about here is the gift of Salvation,
and all that it encompasses.
This would include such things as Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit,
the present and future