The Epistle of Second Corinthians
Lesson Number 37
TRANSLATION LEGEND: AMPLIFIED or AMP = Amplified Bible, (1965), ASV=American Standard Version (1901), BBE=Bible in Basic English (1949), DRA=Douay-Rheims (1899), ESV=English Stand Version (2001), IE = International English, ISV = International Standard Version (1967), JPS = Jewish Publicatrion Society (1917), KJV=King James Version (1611), LIVING = Living Bible (1971), MONTGOMERY = Montgomery’s New Testament (2001), MRD = Peshitta-James Murdock Translation (1852), NAB=New American Bible (2002), NASB=New American Standard Bible (1977), NAU=New American Standard Bible (1995), NIB=New International Bible, NIV=New International Version (1984), NJB=New Jerusalem Bible (1985), NKJV=New King James Version (1979), NLT=New Living Translation (1996), NRSV=New Revised Standard Version (1989), PHILLIPS = J B Phillips New Testament (1962), PNT = BISHOP’S New Testament (1595), RSV=Revised Standard Version (1952), TNK=JPS Tanakj (1985), Webster=The Webster Bible (1833),WEYMOUTH=Weymouth’s New Testament (1903), WILLIAMS = William’s New Testament (1937), TNK = JPS Tanakh (1985), TYNDALE= Tyndale’s Bible (1526), WYCLIFFE= Wycliffe New Testament (1382), YLT=Young’s Literal Translation (1862).
LEXICON LEGEND: FRIEBERG=Friberg Lexicon, UBS=UBS Lexicon, LOUW-NIDA=Louw-Nida Lexicon, LIDDELL SCOTT=Liddell Scott Lexicon, THAYER=Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
A NECESSARY EXHORTATION
“ 9:1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 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. 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: 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. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up before hand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” (2 Cor 9:1-5)
The collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem was a ministry to Christ’s own brethren. After all, the Savior had come from the stock of Abraham, being born out of the Jewish nation. As it is written of the Jews, “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom 9:4-5). This circumstance alone demands that we not despise this people. Jesus Himself affirmed, “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The salvational “riches of the world” are traced to the “fall” of the Jews, who rejected the Savior. It is their diminishment that has brought the riches of God to us. As it is written, “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” (Rom 11:12). Again it is written, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom 11:15). In both of these texts, Paul argues for the future restoration of the Jews. If, when they were cut off, great benefits were brought to the Gentile world, what marvelous blessings will result when they are converted – their “fulness,” and “the receiving of them!”
The covenant that is presently being administered by Jesus Christ was promised to the Jews, not the Gentiles. Of that covenant it is said, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb 8:10). The book of Hebrews powerfully presents the case that this is the very covenant through which salvation is now being realized – a covenant that belonged to Israel by promise, for it is said of them, “to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants . . . and the promises” NASB (Rom 9:4).
THE PROMISES WERE TO THE JEWS
With the exception of Genesis 3:15, all of the Messianic promises were given to Israel, as well as all the promises of moral and spiritual change. A brief rehearsal of some of them will serve to confirm this fact.
☛ “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3).
☛ “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen 49:10).
☛ “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deut 30:6).
☛ “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam 2:10).
☛ “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa 11:1).
☛ “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa 28:16).
☛ “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD” (Isa 59:20).
☛ “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jer 23:5).
☛ “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26).
☛ “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:7).
☛ “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech 13:1).
☛ “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Mal 4:2).
The Jewish Scriptures are the exclusive writings that foretold the coming of a Savior and the benefits that would be realized under His administration. Jesus used those Scriptures to confirm who He really was (Lk 24:27,32,45). The Apostles and informed disciples “reasoned” concerning Christ out of those Scriptures (Acts 3:24; 10:43; 17:2; 18:28; 26:22; 28:23). About this, there cannot be the slightest doubt! The Apostolic writings repeatedly make a point of this (Rom 3:21; 16:26; 1 Pet 1:10).
As confirmed by the “Apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42), believing Gentiles are now enjoying the benefits that actually were promised to, and belong to, the Jews – those whose blessings are now being enjoyed by the Gentiles. It is the “root and fatness” of their spiritual olive tree that are now being shared with the Gentiles. As it is written, “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee” (Rom 11:17-18). Those who tell us that the Jews have been utterly cut off, then, must account for this word. We are presently “among them,” and are partaking of the glorious promises “with them.” It is their “root” that supports us! We had to be removed from the tree that bore us, and grafted into their tree! All of that would be meaningless if their tree had been plucked up by the roots.
In our day we are being exposed to “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4) – one that is of Gentile origin. This fabricated Jesus does not conform to the promises found in the Jewish Scriptures. The salvation of this fictitious “Jesus” does not produce the results that were promised by the prophets – newness, willingness, zeal, faithfulness, etc. If a tree is known by its fruit, then a Savior who does not produce new creatures cannot be a real Savior!
THE RELEVANCE OF THIS
All of this is highly relevant to the matter with which Paul is dealing. The fact that the Corinthian believers were enjoying spiritual benefits that, by promise, belonged to the Jews, was a compelling reason for the Corinthians to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul used the same reasoning when speaking to the Roman brethren about this very same matter. “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things” NASB (Rom 15:26-27).
In addition to the promises being given to the Jews, the spread of the Gospel was owing to them as well. They were the ones who were “scattered abroad” and went everywhere “preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). All of the Apostles, including a specially commissioned one to the Gentile world, were Jews. Truly, “salvation is of the Jews!” An appreciation for these gracious circumstances could be expressed in a genuine care for the brethren in Jerusalem who had fallen on hard times.
All of this postulates a state of spiritual alertness and sensitivity. This is a condition in which, whether in individuals or a congregation, interests extend outside of the perimeter of a personal boundary. There is infinitely more to the salvation of God than our own personal needs or desires.
AN EXHIBIT OF BROTHERLY LOVE
The collection being gathered was also an exhibit of brotherly love, which is an evidence of genuine spiritual life. As it is written, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). Therefore, Paul did not allow a work of this magnitude to be governed by circumstance, or to rely wholly upon the frame of mind of the believers in Corinth. He stirred them up by exhortation, and did the same for the brethren whom he was sending to gather the offering – Titus and two brothers who had proved to be faithful and diligent.
We can learn much from the manner in which Paul approaches this subject. Spiritual perception, godly wisdom, and fervent desire are blended together in his word.
☛ Anything done in the name of the Lord is serious, and must involve the heart and spiritual discernment.
☛ While men have liberty in Christ Jesus, it is not to be used for personal gratification, nor are we free to neglect the people of God. As it is written, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).
☛ Because of the weakness of the flesh, spiritually worthy causes often require strong exhortation and spiritual reasoning. These are done within the domain of faith.
☛ Those involved in the work of the Lord are to be noted for their faithfulness and dependability, which are unwavering requirements for any valid work of God.
THE MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS
“ 9:1a For as touching the ministering to the saints . . . ”
Paul now focuses more particularly on the collection being gathered for the poor saints. He is extending himself on this matter because a certain carnality has been evidenced in the Corinthians that requires this approach. The “carnal mind” is, indeed, “enmity against God” (Rom 8:7). It causes one to become spiritually demented, so that the most obvious kingdom realities cannot be seen – such as loving the brethren and following through with commitments made in the name of the Lord. Now, Paul will move into strong spiritual persuasion.
“For as touching . . .” Other versions read, “Now concerning,” NKJV “About,” NASB “Now,” NRSV “Now about,” NAB “Of,” TNT “For, indeed,” YLT “As to,” WEYMOUTH “in regard,” MONTGOMERY and “about this matter.” PHILLIPS
The word “touching” comes from a Greek word that means, “that around which an act or state revolves; about, concerning, as touching,” THAYER “to denote the purpose, object, or person to which an action relates,” FRIBERG “with reference to,” UBS and “to denote the object about or for which one does something.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
Right here, we are introduced to an aspect of spiritual reasoning that is especially important. Behind every legitimate activity, there is a compelling cause. In fact, the activity is sanctified or unsanctified owing to its cause. If, for example, the cause for which a thing is done is to satisfy “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life” (1 John 2:16), the deed itself is wrong – regardless of what it us. That is precisely why even “the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Prov 21:4). It is done for the wrong reason, and thus is not accompanied with thanksgiving and the prospect of God-honoring uses.
Because of the distracting influences of “this present evil world” and our own “flesh,” it is often necessary to focus on critical causes to clarify the appropriateness of godly works. Godly teachers must not speak in vague generalities. There is a place for godly specificity – getting down to the real issue, or cause. There is, after all, a grand purpose that is driving salvation in all of its many aspects,
Ponder how often God referred to a “cause” (causes are underlined).
☛ Pharaoh was raised up for a cause. “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Ex 9:16).
☛ A cause is involved in marriage. “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt 19:4-5).
☛ There was a cause, or reason, for which Jesus came into the world. “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27).
☛ To bear witness of the truth was a cause for Christ entering the world. “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice” (John 18:37).
☛ There was a reason why the Gentile world descended into moral depravity. “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Rom 1:25-26).
☛ There is a reason why strong delusion has flooded the world. “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thess 2:10-11).
☛ There is a reason why Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:14-15).
☛ There was a cause for the Gospel being preached to those who were dead. “Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet 4:5-6).
Insightful and effective preaching and reasoning sheds light on godly causes, or purposes. If a correlation is not made in the minds of men between WHAT is required and WHY it is required, the deed will not be done acceptably. Faith and spiritual insight must accompany good works.
Thus Paul focuses on the collection Titus and the two accompanying brothers are going to gather. He will look at it as more than a collection. He does this because this is precisely how the Lord looks at this offering. In the end, what, how, and when the Corinthians gave will be viewed with the following thought in mind. It is imperative, therefore, that the Corinthians be brought to see this.
THE MINISTERING TO THE SAINTS
“ . . . the ministering to the saints . . . “ Other versions read, “this service to the saints,” NIV “the offering for the saints,” RSV “giving to the saints,” BBE “ministration which is for the saints,” DARBY “ministry that is done toward the saints,” DOUAY “the help to God’s holy people,” NJB “this gift for the Christians in Jerusalem,” NLT and “the services which are being rendered to God’s people.” WEYMOUTH
Some of the translations take too much liberty with this text, employing the word “offering,” RSV “giving,” BBE and “gift,” NLT instead of “ministering.” All of those words emphasis WHO was giving, and WHAT they were giving. Here, however, that is not the point Paul is making. He is going to view this collection from the standpoint of WHO is receiving it – “the saints.”
“The saints” are “the holy ones,” for that is what “saints” means. Some versions read “holy ones,” NAB or “God’s holy people.” NJB/IE These are people GOD has MADE holy, sanctifying them to Himself. They are described as those whom Jesus has “sanctified” (Heb 2:11). Pointedly we are told that we were “sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). It is said of that offering, “For by one offering He [Jesus] hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14). From the standpoint of our experience of that sanctification – the process by which we are made holy – we are “sanctified by faith” that is in Christ Jesus (Acts 26:18).
Being sanctified those in Christ are now referred to as a “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21). They are finally to be presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col 1:22). They are appropriately described as “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (Col 3:12), and “holy brethren” (1 Thess 5:27; Heb 3:1), a “holy priesthood” (1 Pet 2:5), and a “holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9).
Those who are in Christ Jesus are referred to as “saints” no less than sixty times in Acts through Revelation (Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; Rom 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25,26,31; 16:2,15; 1 Cor 1:2; 6:1,2; 14:33; 16:1,15; 2 Cor 1:1; 8:4; 9:1,12; 13:13; Eph 1:1,15,18,19; 2:19; 3:8,18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Phil 1:1; 4:22; Col 1:2,4, 12,26; 1 Thess 3:13; 2 Thess 1:10; 1 Tim 5:10; Phile 1:5,7; Heb 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3,14; Rev 5:8; 8:3,4l 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; ,17:6; 18:24; 19:8; 20:9).
Moses used the word “saints” only two times: once in reference to angels (Deut 33:2), and once in reference to God’s holy people (Deut 33:3). Samuel used the word once in reference to holy people (1 Sam 2:9). In his great dedicatory prayer for the Temple Solomon used “saints” to describe the holy people (2 Chron 6:41). The book of Job uses it in reference to holy angels (Job 5:1; 15:15). The Psalms spoke of holy people as “saints” (Psa 16:3; 30:4; 31:23; 34:9; 37:28; 50:5; 52:9; 79:2; 85:8; 89:5,7; 97:10; 116:15; 132:9,16; 145:10; 148:14; ; 149:1,5,9). “Saints” are mentioned once in the book of Proverbs (Prov 2:8). Daniel refers to them five times (Dan 7:18,21,22,25,27), and Hosea once (Hos 11:12).
In all of the uses of “saints” in Moses and the Prophets, the reference was exclusively to the Jews, whom God had chosen for Himself. In the Psalms there was a promissary sound in the words, as well as in the prophets. So far as Israel was concerned, the people themselves were not holy. They were holy in the sense of being chosen and protected by God in the prospect of the coming Savior. So far as their personal character was concerned, it is said of them, “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom 10:21). This was Paul’s reference to a lament God uttered through Isaiah: “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh Me to anger continually to My face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick” (Isa 65:2-3).
Even in this less-than-ideal circumstance, however, God judged people upon the basis of how they treated His people. This is why He said to Abraham, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3). He said to Moses, “But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries” (Ex 23:22). Through Balaam He said, “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee” (Num 24:9). Zechariah said, “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zec 2:8).
God has never allowed for the neglect or abuse of His people. He will personally take vengeance upon those who do ill to them. That is why it is written, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19). Let no person imagine that this is a vain threat, or mere rhetoric.
All of the things God has said about His people have become even more critical in Christ Jesus. Now the people have actually been “made righteous” (Rom 5:19), are “partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14), and are being “changed from glory to glory” by His own Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). God is governing the whole world with them in mind, working all things together for their good (Rom 8:28).
“The saints” are the most important people in all of the world. The attention of the entire Godhead and all of the holy angels is upon them. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry (1 Pet 3:12). The Lord Jesus is ever living to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25). The Holy Spirit bears witness with their spirit, confirming they are the children of God, and makes intercession for them (Rom 8:16,26-27). The holy angels are appointed to minister exclusively to them (Heb 1:13-14). How could anyone imagine another people to have preeminence over them? Ponder what is said of them.
☛ They are the only people that are acceptable to God (Eph 1:6; Rom 14:18; 1 Pet 2:5).
☛ They are the only people Jesus has “received” (Rom 15:7).
☛ They are the only people who have been given the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:15; 1 Cor 2:12; 2 Cor 5:5; 1 Thess 4:8).
☛ They are the only people that have their names written in heaven (Heb 12:23).
☛ They are the only people with whom Jesus meets (Matt 18:20; Heb 2:12).
☛ They are the only people who have access to God (Rom 5:2; Eph 3:12).
☛ They are the only people that are taught by the grace of God (Tit 2:11-12).
☛ They are the only people who are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Rom 4:7; Col 2:12).
☛ They are the only people who have an “eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15).
☛ They are the only people for whom God has prepared wondrous things (1 Cor 2:9).
☛ They are the only people to whom it is said, “For all things are yours” (1 Cor 3:21-23).
☛ They are the only people for whom Jesus will return (John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:14-16; Heb 9:28).
What could possibly justify the neglect of such a people? God does not neglect them! Jesus does not neglect them! The Holy Spirit does not neglect them! Holy angels do not neglect them! Who is the person who would dare to conduct his life as though these people did not exist? Who is fool who would choose not to gather with them, sing with them, pray with them, and hear the word of the Lord with them? Who would shut up his bowels of compassion against them, ignoring their need, and still have the audacity to say that he loved God (1 John 3:17; 4:20)?
What of preachers, teachers, and elders who do not feed the flock of God, as they are admonished to do (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2)? How will it go on the day of judgment for those who starved “the saints,” setting before them meager portions, nonsensical trivia, and nothing more than passing fads? Is there any person of sound mind that imagines all of this is being overlooked in heaven? Is not the state of the average American church a condemning commentary on the disobedience of many of its leaders?
Let no one imagine these words are too strong! Many of us have had to work around the professed church to make even the slightest progress in the faith. For many, the professed church was nothing more than a gigantic obstacle that made it more difficult to press toward the mark. We have sat under teachers who did not tell us what Jesus had done, or what belonged to us, or what was reserved for us. They did not feed us “the good knowledge of the Lord” 2 Chron 30:22), but buried the precious promises under the miserable rubble of religious tradition and movements that had only a former glory. Does it seem as though I ought to be moire charitable? Robbers are not proper objects of charity!
MINISTRY! MINISTRY! MINISTRY!
So, why is Paul making so much of this collection? It is because of those for whom, it is being gathered. They were God’s holy ones, whom He had “washed, sanctified, and justified” (1 Cor 6:11). They were even elite among that number, of the “natural” olive tree, to whom all of the promises and Divine commitments were made (Rom 11:24)! The one through whom the Law was given was a Jew (John 1:17). All of the holy prophets were Jews. All of the Apostles were Jews. Paul, the apostle the Gentiles, was a Jew. Those who first carried the Gospel through the world were Jews (Acts 8:1-4). The church who directed much of the early activity of the body of Christ was Jewish.
Now, some of their number had fallen on difficult times. The Corinthians once saw what was the proper thing to do, but had somehow been distracted from fulfilling their own commitment. This was not a minor thing, and Paul did not approach it as though it was. He saw this entire circumstance as being orchestrated by God so that He could receive glory – a circumstance which involved the poverty of Jewish brethren in Jerusalem, and the abundance of Gentile brethren in Corinth.
Thus he writes with wise words concerning their role in the ministry to God’s holy people.
IT IS SUPERFLUOUS
“ 1b . . . it is superfluous for me to write to you.” Other versions read, “There is no need for me to write to you,” NIV “It is not necessary for me to write to you,” NRSV “I realize I really don’t even have to mention this to you,” LIVING and “it is indeed unnecessary for me to write to you.” MONTGOMERY
The word “superfluous” is translated from the Greek perisso,n (per-is-sov) which has the following lexical meaning: “over and above, more than is necessary, superadded . . . somewhat more,” THAYER “of what exceeds usual expectation, extraordinary, remarkable, exceedingly, greatly,” FRIBERG “more, unnecessary,” UBS “pertaining to causing a decided or distinct advantage,” LOUW-NIDA and “more than sufficient, redundant, superfluous.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
The point Paul is making is that the purpose of his writing is not to enforce a law, or coerce them to do what was right. There is no need to further develop the appropriateness of gathering an offering for the needy people of God. The role of the love of the brethren does not need additional elaboration. He offers no stinging rebuke for their failure to gather this collection, as though shouting from Mount Sinai. Paul knew they already knew their obligation, and had, in fact, intended to fulfill it. This subject had, from an intellectual or informative point of view, been fully developed by both himself and Titus. Nothing remains now except to make a few charitable observations concerning how to go about this good work. None of these remarks will be purely personal. All of them will be solidly based upon the Word of God, the nature of newness of life, and the objective realized in salvation.
SOMETHING TO BE SEEN
In the world, it is often said that “repetition is the mother of learning.” The presupposed postulate is that repeating certain instructions over and over finally embed them in the mind, making their recollection and discernment more likely. In such a condition, the teaching being communicated is difficult for the hearer to grasp. Therefore, repetition is employed with the assumption that the more the matter is heard, the more likely it is to be remembered. Admittedly, there may be a place for this in acquiring worldly wisdom. It is also not unusual to find this technique employed in the instruction of little children.
However, when it comes to the things of God, and a personal orientation to the truth, faith is the mother of learning, not repetition. By saying it is “superfluous” to write more to the Corinthians on the subject being addressed, Paul has obviously renounced the worldly axiom to which I have referred. Repeating the requirements for Christian conduct will yield no further benefit – it would be “superfluous.” Elaborating further on the necessity of brother love will not make the Corinthians more willing – it would be “superfluous.” Showing from the Law, the Prophets, and the words of the Lord Jesus how serious it is to neglect the people of God will not clarify the whole subject for the Corinthians – it would be “superfluous.” Truth is not like a nail that is driven into the heart and mind by repeated blows. In spiritual life, there comes a time when enough has been said on a subject. Sometimes this is owing to the dullness of the people. Jesus once said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). Stating them over and over would not make the disciples “able.” They were too immature, and the Day Star had not yet risen in their hearts. Similarly, Paul said to the Hebrews, “ . . . Melchisedec . . . Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” (Heb 5:10-11). In this case, the people were spiritually retarded – “slow to learn.” NIV Repeating sundry facts and perspectives of the mysterious Melchisedec would bring no advantage to the people.
In the Kingdom of God, learning is not mechanical – that is, it is not accomplished by means of a procedure, or intellectual regimen. Admittedly, this puts a lot of religious professionals out of business; but they have not been helpful to the body of Christ. Take Abraham for example. How many times did God speak to him about the utterly impossible things that were going to be accomplished through him? – The birth of a miraculous son, the rising of a great nation, the begetting of a Seed through whom the entire world would be blessed. Over a period of twenty-five years, God referred to this matter three times (Gen 12:3 – 75 years old; 18:18 – 99 years old; 22:18 – when commanded to offer up Isaac). Over a period of more than twenty-five years, God spoke to Abraham of the coming Messiah three times – about once every eight years. It was a new thought, and a staggering one at that. Yet, Abraham took hold of it being “strong in faith” (Rom 4:20). He did not become convinced because of the repetition of the promise, but because of his belief of it.
I understand that something like this can be pushed too far, causing men to conclude erroneous things. It is enough to know that there comes a point where people become responsible for what they have heard – a time when their faith must rise into prominence dictating what they do. That point has been reached for the Corinthians. Now Paul will reason with them with their own understanding and inclinations in mind. He will attempt to move them to act on what they already know.
In my judgment, there is room for a lot of this type of reasoning within the body of Christ. This is the work of an exhorter – to move the people into action. Spiritual matters must not be left to sit on top of the mind. They must, through exhortation and sound reasoning, be brought to bear upon the heart. This will require holy zeal, but the Lord Jesus will support all such efforts.
FORWARDNESS OF MIND
“ 2a 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 . . .”
Here is a noble example of “forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4:2). It also sets before us a sterling example of “thinking no evil” (1 Cor 13:5), and “covering a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Here is “charity” at work, confirming that it will not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoking flax (Isa 42:3; Matt 12:20).
THE FORWARDNESS OF YOUR MIND
“For I know the forwardness of your mind . . .” Other versions read, “I know about your willingness,” NKJV “I know your readiness,” NASB “I know your eagerness,” NIV “your ready mind,” BBE “I am well aware of your enthusiasm,” NJB “I am well acquainted with your willingness (your readiness and your eagerness to promote it),” AMPLIFIED and “I know how willing you are.” PHILLIPS
Here Paul refers to their original intent, which appeared to be more characteristic of their manner than their present conduct. When he was among them, and when the need for this collection was first made known, the Corinthians led out in the endeavor. At that time they were leaders in the matter of doing good, “especially to the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). It was a quality, at the time, that they owned. It was very real, for it proved to be a means through which God moved others to holy activity also.
The phrase “the forwardness of your mind” describes an immediate, energetic, and willing state of mind. It is descriptive of a mind that had been “renewed” (Eph 4:23), and was therefore clearly the expression of the “new man.”
At the time when the Corinthians were aggressive in their response, they were, in fact, putting on the new man (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). In their determination they were putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and making no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:14). This is why Paul could speak so commendably of their response.
It is right to recall to the saint’s remembrance the good and holy things that they have done – even if they have, in some ways retrogressed. We have some examples of such recollections.
☛ “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom 6:17).
☛ “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:12-13).
☛ “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess 2:13).
☛ “And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Gal 4:14).
☛ “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb 10:34).
Real spiritual responses can be recalled with great benefit, and holy ambitions can be awakened to rise to prominence. The people of God do well to take advantage of this circumstance, recalling to the minds of those who are lacking in spiritual zeal the times when they displayed goodness of heart.
I BOAST OF YOU
“ . . . for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia . . .” Other versions read, “I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians,” NIV “which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia,” NRSV “I glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia,” ASV “I have before made clear to those of Macedonia my pride in your ready mind,” BBE and “I have proudly told about you to the people of Macedonia.” AMPLIFIED
As I have mentioned before, there is a line of fleshly reasoning that objects to making comparisons between people, or divulging the noble intentions of someone to others. Here, however, we see that it is the manner of the Kingdom to speak of good intentions and good deeds. They are a means of stirring up the saints to do good – provoking them to “love and to good works” (Heb 10:24).
If it is true that God has before “ordained” good works, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10), then it is right to have an attraction to them. Further, if good deeds are designed to cause thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 4:15), and provoke men to “glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 5:16), then it is right to speak of them.
This is more than a mere obligation. Newness of life involves the spreading of noble reports. That is precisely why the faith of the brethren in Rome was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8). It is why the faith of the Thessalonian saints was “spread abroad” (1 Thess 1:8), and the “obedience” of the saints in Rome was “come abroad unto all men” (Rom 16:19). It is why Paul “heard” of the Ephesians’ “faith in the Lord Jesus,” and their “love unto all the saints” (Eph 1:15).
It seems to me that one of the marks of a dead church is the lack of reports concerning its faith, love, and good deeds. When all that can be reported is the number attending their gatherings, a serious condition exists.
ACHAIA WAS READY A YEAR AGO
“ . . . that Achaia was ready a year ago . . .” Other versions read, “namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year,” NASB “since last year you in Achaia were ready to give,” NIV and “saying that Achaia (most of Greece) has been prepared since last year for this contribution.” AMPLIFIED
Achaia was a region of Greece that occupied the north-western portion of the Peloponnesus, including Corinth and its isthmus. When the Romans came into rule, displacing the Greeks, they divided Greece into two provinces, Macedonia and Achaia. It is this division that is recognized in the Scriptural references to “Achaia” (Acts 18:12,27; 19:21; Rom 15:26; 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15; 2 Cor 1:1; 9:2; 11:10; 1 Thess 1:7,8).
Corinth was in this region, as indicated by Paul’s salutation to the Corinthian believers: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (2 Cor 1:1). When Paul was in Corinth, spending “a year and sixth months” teaching there, he was helped by Gallio, who was “the deputy, (or proconsul NASB) of Achaia” (Acts 18:11-12).
Thus, “Achaia” refers to the Corinthians themselves. Paul had reminded the brethren there that they were “forward a year ago” to take up the offering to which he now refers (2 Cor 8:10). Now he tells them that he had shared this with the brethren in Macedonia, where he was presently ministering. Their ambitions were known. There is certainly a place for such reports among the saints of God.
YOUR ZEAL HAS PROVOKED MANY
“ 2b. . . and your zeal hath provoked very many.” Other versions read, “your zeal has stirred up the majority,” NKJV “your zeal has stirred up most of them,” NASB “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action,” NIV “a great number has been moved to do the same by your example,” BBE “the zeal reported of you has stimulated the mass of the brethren,” DARBY “your enthusiasm has been a spur to many others,” NJB “In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of them to begin helping,” NLT “Your excitement has made most of them start giving,” IE and “[consequently] your enthusiasm has stimulated the majority of them.” AMPLIFIED
The report of good works is often used by the Holy Spirit to stir up kindred believers. We see this taking place in our text. Here was a group of believers that engaged in a response that, when reported, moved a great number of believers into godly action.
Because of a distorted emphasis, Christ’s words concerning letting our light so shine before men are often confined to men of the world – even though there is nothing in the text that suggests his words were limited to that arena. He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:16). This admonition is based upon Christ’s words, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). We are not to imagine that “the world” and “before men” are limited to the generation of the ungodly. To begin with, they are not likely to glorify our Father which is in heaven – at least not intentionally. It is true that even if they reject the sight of our “good works,” and heap persecution upon us, that even this glorifies God, being a “savor of death unto death” (2 Cor 2:16).
It is good to include the redeemed of the Lord with those deriving benefit from the “light” of the saints. There is no apparent reason for excluding them from those in “the world” before whom we shine. In fact, this very text is an excellent example of men seeing the good works of the saints and glorifying God by means of an appropriate response.
It is not at all common to hear of the godly intentions of any group of believers. Spiritual Babylon, by virtue of its distorted emphasis, has caused this kind of report to become nearly extinct. The American church has led people to think of the local congregation much like an isolated island that has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the body of Christ. Therefore, few churches know anything at all about sister congregations in their own city, to say nothing of those throughout the world.
By way of contrast, behold what is being made known in our text. Corinth knows about the poor saints in Jerusalem – a thousand miles away. The brethren in Macedonia have knowledge of the intentions of the brethren in Corinth – nearly four hundred miles away. The brethren in Macedonia also know of the plight of the saints in Jerusalem – nearly 1,500 miles away. The brethren in Rome know of the poor saints in Jerusalem – nearly 1,800 miles away. These distances are as the crow would fly, and would were probably much further when using those ancient modes of travel.
It is difficult for me to conceive of such reports in our time – even though all manners of communication technologies are capable of accommodating good reports. This is a form of robbery. The saints have been deprived of hearing of the faith, love, and works of many of their brethren. Very rarely to we hear anything spiritually significant about another congregation. With the loss of an awareness of good deeds, we have also lost the incentives, encouragement, and edification they would bring to us. Our text is certainly conducive to deep introspection.
I SENT THE BRETHREN ANYWAY
“ 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.”
The kingdom of God is not in word only – that is, it is not just in talk, philosophizing, conjecturing, etc. As it is written, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” NIV (1 Cor 4:20). And again, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” NIV (1 John 3:18). Profitable kingdom ventures are not confined to mere semantics. They always include the merger of the power of God with the actions of men. This is involved in expressions like “laborers together with God” (1 Cor 3:9), “workers together with Him” (1 Cor 6:1), “fellowhelpers to the truth” (3 John 1:8), and “the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9). One of the great dangers of a scholastic-based religion is its tendency to overlook these critical associations. The more men rely upon human wisdom, the more non-essential Divine power appears. Such a religion tends to terminate in philosophy, with no practical outworking. It also is one of the major contributors to sectarianism.
I SENT BRETHREN ANYWAY
“Yet have I sent the brethren . . .” Other versions read, “But I am sending the brothers,” NIV “Now have I sent the brethren,” GENEVA “Nonetheless, I sent the brothers,” NAB “All the same, I have sent the brothers,” NJB “Nevertheless yet I have sent these brethren,” TNT and “Still I send the brethren” WEYMOUTH
Because the work of the Lord is being carried out in a hostile realm, and amidst a people who carry a heavenly treasure in earthen vessels, it is absolutely essential that we be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt 10:16). In all of our labors, as well as in our personal lives, we are to give no “place to the devil” (Eph 4:27), or “make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof” (Rom 13:14). Therefore, Paul takes precautions that will block the entrance of Satan, the assertion of the flesh, and the intrusion of the carnal mind. This did not reflect any distrust in the Corinthians, for he had already expressed his confidence in them (2 Cor 2:7; 7:16; 8:22). Rather, this confirms Paul’s understanding of the hostile and threatening arena in which men are working out their “own salvation with fear and trembling.” It also reveals a perception of how the Lord facilitates His will among His people.
The lack of practical wisdom has proved to be a great hindrance to the contemporary church. It has given rise to all manner of self-professed religious experts and “Christian” careers that have no basis in Scripture. Questions like “How do we avoid sin?” “How can we reach the young people?” “How can we raise adequate funds?” “How can we get the people to sing?” How can we recover fallen leaders?” “How can we marshal the strength of the older brethren?” “How can I prepare for the ministry?” “How can I deal with my own tendencies to sin?” “How can we deal with those addicted to pornography?” – and a thousand more, have caused the church to become short on preachers of the Word and long on problem solvers. What has caused this dreadful situation?
The inability of men to handle “accurately the Word of God” NASB (2 Tim 2:15), is the mother of this dilemma. To put it another way, those who are leading the church are “unskillful in the word of righteousness,” and do not have their “senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:13-14). Religious schools have graduated a flood of novices with little or no acquaintance with God, His purpose, and His great salvation. That flood has rushed over the churches with defiling influence. The result has been a prevalence of spiritual ignorance and the consequent increase of sin. This new breed of “minister” is more acquainted with the world than with heaven, and is better read in the books of men than in the Scripture in general, and “the record God has given of His Son” in particular.
Just as Israel did, the church is now consorting with the worldly wise to address the mounting internal problems that it is facing. It now explains sin in psychiatric terms, and moves like a mindless robot among the deceived and hurting. It has the Word of God, but is unacquainted with its thrust, and consequently cannot use it effectively. In the hands of these ministers, the Word of God is like a large chainsaw in the hands of a two year old toddler. Or, if one chooses to think of it in a less destructive way, it is like a technical auto manual in the hands of a six year old attempting to repair the family car.
It is a general rule that when the conversation of a person drifts toward life in this world, they are not well acquainted with the Word or purpose of God. This is so because God’s Person and purpose are so marvelous, and so engaging, that when they are seen, it dominates both heart and mind. Further, this is the only way in which a person can “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7), have “fellowship” with Christ (1 Cor 1:9), and enjoy the “communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14). It is not possible to be godly without having a godly mind. A person cannot walk acceptably before God without knowing “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).
The absence of these conditions is what has moved men to consult with the wise men of the world. Further, this is so because the religion of the day has not moved people to conclude that deficiency is associated with a lack of faith and a consequent distance from God. Therefore, instead of seeking wisdom from the Lord, as they are enjoined to do (James 1:5), they seek the more convenient method of solutions that have already been worked out by other persons.
From another perspective we have a condition within the American churches in which men cannot think on their spiritual feet. That is why they are resorting to workshops, “how-to” books, religious specialists, and the likes.
Take Paul himself as an example. When he was called to be an Apostle, a whole new world opened to him. He was familiar with Scripture, but only in an academic way. When Jesus told Paul he was being sent to preach Him “among the heathen,” Paul confessed, “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me” (Gal 1:16-17). What moved him to think in such a manner? For one thing, he saw that the magnitude of what he was called to do demanded more than any man could give him. It was not that he despised the other apostles, for he did consult with them later, comparing what they had received with what he had obtained (Gal 2:6). The comparison confirmed that he had been given to know the truth.
At the present time, there is a sort of Deism that dominates much of the church. “Deism” advocates a natural religion, emphasizes morality, but denying the intervention of Deity in the affairs of men. It perceives God as having withdrawn from human affairs, leaving men to work on their own. While many religious men have not formally adopted this heresy, they are living as though it is the truth. That is why they seek solutions from men, and that is why they cannot handle the truth in an acceptable practical manner. Such men should not be leading any facet of spiritual life.
Paul’s Discernment Confirmed
Thus, our text confirms the discernment of Paul. He knew the nature of spiritual life. He was therefore aware of the cause of the Corinthian’s tardy responses to Kingdom activities. He was acquainted with the aggressiveness of our adversary and the distracting influences of this world. He also was familiar with the nature of both the “new man” and the “old man” – the “new creation” and “the flesh.” Those perceptions, coupled with his understanding of the purpose of God as revealed in Christ Jesus, enabled him to handle a delicate situation with godly wisdom.
LEST BOASTING BE IN VAIN
“ . . . lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf . . . ” Other versions read, “that our boasting about you may not be empty,” NASB “in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow,” NIV “that our glorying on your behalf may not be made void in this respect,” ASV “so that the good things we said about you may be seen to be true,” BBE and “lest our pride in you should be made an empty boast in this particular case.” AMPLIFIED
It is important that good reports and testimonies of the people of God be found true. People should never get the impression that such reports are either exaggerated or false. Many times I have met people concerning whom I have heard good things, yet their presence did not measure up to the assessment I had heard. Jesus is everything God has said He is. He is everything the apostles declared Him to be. He fulfills all that the holy prophets said of Him. No word concerning Him is an overstatement, misrepresentation, or falsehood.
How is it that such a Savior could produce a people who come short of what was said of them? Is it really possible that He would move a people to make a commitment to do His will, then fail to empower them to do it? Can a cause be perceived as coming from Him that lays a foundation, yet does not build upon it? Is Jesus glorified by a people that cannot measure up to men’s testimony of them, to say nothing of a Divine assessment? Men may speculate about such possibilities, but noone will boldly say that God and His Son are honored by such circumstances.
It is to be understood that the noble ambitions of the saints will be confronted by the diabolical intentions of the devil and the assertion of “another law” that is resident in their members (Rom 7:23). The battle is set in array as soon as the saints of God intend to do good! As it is written, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom 7:21).
The knowledge of this situation did not move Paul to be quiet about the noble ambition of the Corinthians. Being apprised of this circumstance, the novice would not say anything about Corinth’s resolve, not wanting to be found untrue in his report. But Paul does not think in this way. He saw that God had moved the Corinthian brethren to make a resolve, and therefore spoke freely of it. Now, after the fact, he takes measures to ensure the report would not be false. He first exhorted the Corinthians, reasoning with them about the rightness of their aggressiveness to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. He exhorts Titus to become involved in the whole matter, to ensure that the collection of reference was gathered as the Corinthians themselves had determined. He also sends a holy entourage of three saints to help the work along, and to actually carry the funds to the Jerusalem brethren.
And why did Paul do this? In order that his testimony of the Corinthians would not be in vain! He wanted them to be seen as the work of God, not as failures. Therefore, he did everything he could to ensure that this perception was carried forward.
THAT YE MAY BE READY
“ . . . that, as I said, ye may be ready.” Other versions read, “that, as I was saying, you may be prepared,” NASB “but that you would be ready, as I said you would be,” NIV and “that you really are ready . . . with you money all collected,” NLT
When Paul wrote his first letter, to the Corinthians, he said he did not want them to have to gather funds when he came – i.e. at the last minute: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor 16:2). Their original desire was timely, and it was appropriate that their collection also be done in a timely manner.
To be “ready” involves a consciousness of the real situation, a zealousness to be prepared, a willingness to do what is right, and the expectation of Divine approval. A strong faith is fully adequate to produce all of these traits. Any distraction to the world or purely self-interests causes all of them to wane, and finally disappear. In such a case, the person can no longer be used by the Lord, for they are then not “prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim 2:21).
The presence of an adversary, the flesh, and this present evil world requires that Kingdom work be approached with zeal, diligence, and wisdom. There is no room for a lack of preparedness or the lethargy that has come to be so common in the professed church. Today, there is a call for insightful laborers! The work of God requires the involvement of such men.
BEING FOUND UNPREPARED
“ 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 continues to reason on this matter. This kind of effort is required because of the nature of the flesh. The more dominant it is, the more aggressive men must labor to break through the crust it brings upon the souls of men. This is not the manner in which Paul had to reason with Titus, no with the brethren that he sent with him. An “earnest care” had been put into the heart of Titus by God (2 Cor 8:16). He had not only accepted Paul’s brief exhortation, but was “more forward,” going to the Corinthians “of his own accord” (2 Cor 8;17). The other brethren were described as men who had been “proved diligent,” and had even become “more diligent” in the matter of working on this project (2 Cor 8:22). Such souls do not require extended exhortations, reasoning, and explanations.
When, however, lethargy has taken hold of a people, making them forget about their spiritual resolves, so that they place the responsibilities they once embraced heartily into the background, it has a certain debilitating effect upon the soul. The condition is one that requires stronger exhortations, more extensive reasoning, and additional explanation. That is the reason for this rather lengthy treatise.
Men do not recover from a lethargic state instantly. I suppose it is theoretically possible for a person to suddenly recover the fervor that has been lost in a tide of carnality. However, in the kingdom of God souls are strengthened by “edification,” or building up. That process is, to some extent, associated with time. That is why the Hebrew believers were told, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb 5:12). The length of this time is determined by one’s faith, which must be accompanied with godly resolve and hope.
“Lest haply . . .” Other versions read, “otherwise,” NRSV “For fear that,” BBE “so that if by chance,” NJB “lest peradventure,” TNT and “What if.” IE
The word “haply” comes from a word meaning “of one about to controvert another, and emphatically deny that the thing inquired about has happened or has been done,” THAYER “somehow, in some way, perhaps,” FRIBERG “somehow, in some way,” UBS and “in some way, in any way, at all, by any means, somehow so.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
The idea is that Paul is laboring this subject so that what men see in the Corinthians will not contradict what they have heard of them. Among the carnal, this is not an issue, for all manner of explanation has been contrived by “the flesh” to explain such a contradiction. In the Spirit, however, there is no place for contradiction between what is said and heard, and what is visible or seen.
John reminds us that a person may say that he loves and knows God. Yet, if his conduct conflicts with that profession, the profession is not true.
☛ “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
☛ “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
☛ “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
Paul also spoke of the matter of inconsistency between profession and conduct. “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God?” (Rom 2:21-23).
This is why Paul is laboring in the Spirit to bring the actions of the Corinthians into harmony with the good that has been said about them. Those who have good reputations are to see to it that God is not dishonored by finding contradicting appearances in themselves.
THAT THERE BE NO SHAME
“ . . . 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.”
It was quite possible that some of the Macedonians, upon hearing of the generosity of the Corinthians, might come with Paul to Corinth. It was not unusual for members of various churches to travel with him (Acts 20:4; 21:16; 27:2). How would it appear to them if the Corinthians were still “unprepared” to gather this offering when such travelers arrived? Paul says he himself would be “ashamed,” and any sensitive Corinthians would also be “ashamed.”
It is possible for a soul to become so calloused they can no longer “blush” with shame. This was a condition into which the ancient Jews fell. Jeremiah said of them, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD” (Jer 6:15). The result of their lack of shame was most serious. The decree went out from the heavenly throne, “therefore they shall fall . . . at the time that I visit them.”
It is most unfortunate that we are living in a hedonistic society, where pleasure is primary. Such a condition blunts the human emotions, so that no shame is felt when wrong is done. It is bad enough to live in a culture like that – much like Lot living in Sodom. However, when that kind of thing creeps into the church, its light goes out, and it at once merges with the world from which it was once delivered (Gal 1:4). When men can do what is wrong without a twinge of convicting conscience, they are descending into “the sleep of death,” from from which recovery may not be possible (Psa 13:3). Jeremiah referred to this condition as “perpetual sleep” (Jer 51:39,57). Paul solemnly exhorted some in Ephesus, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph 5:14). Their spiritual condition was bad, even though they were maintaining a religious shell. But that condition is not acceptable. It is a source of shame, and must therefore be eliminated from the church.
It is no wonder that Paul is so zealous to bring the conduct and good reputation of the Corinthians into harmony. These things are also to instruct us that salvations makes no allowance for a conflict between our profession and our conduct. If what is said of the saints is not true, their light has been put out, and they become those who must themselves be rescued. In that state, their lives are an influence for darkness, and they become vassals of the devil himself.
“ 5a Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren . . . ”
In view of his concern about the Corinthians, and himself being ashamed by any lack of preparedness on their part, Paul has taken a certain course of action. Ultimately, his purpose is to remove any possibility or reproach being brought upon the Lord, His work, or His people.
WE THOUGHT IS NECESSARY
“Therefore I thought it necessary . . .” Other versions read, “It seemed to me wise,” BBE “So I thought I should,” NLT “Therefore I thought I must ask,” IE and “I have thought it absolutely necessary.” WEYMOUTH
Some of the more modern versions are extremely weak in their translation of this phrase. They leave the impression that Paul’s action as purely a thought of his own, with regard only for the matter at hand. However, he was thinking within a larger context, as is characteristic of anyone who has fellowship with Christ in their thoughts.
The word “necessary” is an unusually strong one, coming from the Greek word avnagkai/on (anag-kai-on), which lexically means, “necessary; what one cannot do without, indispensable; connected by the bonds of nature or friendship; what ought according to the law of duty to be done, what is required by the condition of things,” THAYER “of what compels or makes needful, necessary, indispensable, pressing,” FRIBERG “necessary, urgent pressing,” UBS “pertaining to being necessary and indispensable to the occurrence of some event,” LOUW-NIDA and “necessarily requiring, absolutely necessary, indispensable.” LIDDELL-SCOTT
The “necessity” of something can be viewed from several differing perspectives. It is necessary to comment briefly on these because of man’s inveterate tendency to a system of law – that is, a system where things are imposed upon those who would not otherwise do them. This, of course, was the manner of “First,” or “Old Covenant.” The activities that it required were “imposed on” on the people – a people whose nature differed significantly from the nature of the commands given to them. This circumstance changes through Christ Jesus. The New Covenant is one in which there is not an imposition of law upon those possessing a recalcitrant nature. Now, by the grace of God, and because of the remission of sins, the laws of God are “put” into the hearts of the people, and “written” in “their minds” (Heb 10:16). In that context, “necessity” is viewed entirely differently than it was at Mount Sinai.
Allow me to briefly review these perspectives of “necessity” – perspectives that are inherent in the very meaning of the word itself. I will proceed from the higher meaning to the lower.
Necessary By Nature
An example of this kind of necessity is found in the human body, used by Paul to illustrate the functions within Christ’s body, the church. “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Cor 12:22). In this case, there are members of the body that appear to be weak and uncomely – like an eye lid, a fingernail, a valve of the heart, or a small tendon. Yet, because of the nature of the body, they are essential to its proper functioning. They are “necessary” because of the very nature of things. Further, their function cannot be facilitated by a law or a commandment.
Necessary to Occurrence
There are other things that are necessary if an objective is going to be realized. If, for example, the Philippians were going to be helped by Paul, it was “needful ,” or “necessary” NASB for him to “abide in the flesh” (Phil 1:24). For genuine spiritual profit to be experienced through Paul’s ministry, something more was required than a “commandment” for him to “stay alive!” This was better accomplished through the willingness that comes in the day of Christ’s power (Psa 110:3).
Necessary by Condition
Still other things are “necessary” because of a particular condition. Take, for example, our tenure in this world. Because of our frame, and the nature of life “in the body,” men must engage in certain activities that will provide for their condition. Thus Paul wrote, “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). When a person has the proper understanding of these “necessary uses,” he will not become unduly attached to this “present evil world,” nor will he neglect the matters that are required to sustain life in this world. It is possible to force a person into this kind of activity, by forbidding those who will not work to eat (2 Thess 3:10). That, however, is certainly not the best way to provoke diligent work, even though it is sometimes required because of the sluggardly nature of certain people.
Necessary By Duty
There are also things that are necessary because it is our duty to do them. Such things may not appear to have any other reason to be done than that we are told to do so. Thus, on one occasion, God told Isaiah, “Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (Isa 20:2). God did graciously tell Isaiah why this was done, even though He was under no obligation to do so (Isa 20:3-5). However, it was Isaiah’s duty to do this whether he understood the nature of the commandment or not.
There are moral commandments that are necessary, and are bound upon those who may see no sense in them. “Flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). “Flee fornication” (1 Cor 6:18). “Flee youthful lusts” (1 Tim 2:22). “Love not the world” (1 John 2:15).
The brethren in Rome were told of their “duty” to the saints in Jerusalem. “It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Rom 15:27).
Getting the Picture
The closer a person is to the Lord, or the more intimate one’s fellowship with the Son, the more “necessity” is perceived as required by the nature of things. The farther a person is from God, choosing to dwell in “the uttermost parts” (Psa 65:8), the more “necessity” is seen as mere duty.
Take, for example, the matter of giving, which is being addressed in this passage. When giving to the work of the Lord, Paul admonished that it be done “not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). There is no indication that God will receive such a gift, for He loves a “cheerful giver,” which is the antithesis of a reluctant giver who gives only out of a sense of outward compulsion. Too, if the person is foolish enough to reason that it is better NOT to give because he cannot do it cheerfully, he purposely “shut up his bowels of compassion,” confirming God’s love does not dwell in him (1 John 3:17).
What Paul Is Saying
The necessity of which Paul speaks is driven primarily by the nature of kingdom work, the purpose of God, and the way the body of Christ functions. He was not operating by a spirit of compulsion that went against his own nature. Rather, he was so wrapped up in the will of the Lord that he constantly thought of the glory of God and the fulfillment of His purpose.
While the Corinthians had given him a good reason to be suspicious of their responses, he chose to think on a higher plain. He thought more in terms of how their failure would reflect upon the work of the Lord, and cause disappointment in the hearts of many.
It also ought to be said that this kind of “necessity” will not fit into an institutional agenda. This is a “necessity” that requires willingness, spiritual insight, and godly commitment. Paul is leading the Corinthians so they will be more inclined to think in this manner.
TO EXHORT THE BRETHREN
“ . . . to exhort the brethren . . . ” Other versions read, “to urge the brethren,” NASB “to entreat the brethren,” ASV “to beg the brethren,” DARBY “to desire the brethren,” DOUAY “to encourage the brothers,” “I have asked these other brothers,” LIVING and “to request these brethren.” WEYMOUTH
Notice the gentle manner in which Paul implemented this holy work. He did not speak to them as an authoritative Apostle, but as a compassionate brother. This was not because the work was not important, but is rather because of the nature in which interpersonal matters are addressed in Christ Jesus.
This kind of approach was not taken to the matter of idolatry (1 Cor 10:14), fornication (1 Cor 6:18), or the eating of blood and strangled things (Acts 15:20). The love of the world was not approached with such gentleness (2 Cor 6:15-18; 1 John 2:15). The resistence of the devil and drawing near to God were not approached in this way (James 4:8). Putting on the new man and putting off the old man were accompanied with firm and uncompromising language (Eph 4:24; Col 3:9-10). Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ was also addressed in a totally uncompromising manner (Rom 13:12).
There is a reason for this. It is not that things such as loving the brethren, being kind to one another, gathering together, etc are optional matters concerning which provision is made for a lack of involvement – and woe to that person who imagines that is the case. Rather, such matters spring from the individual’s faith and insight. Without faith, it is not possible to please God – even if His will is served with a slavish and meticulous spirit.
But the Spirit does not say, “He that does not contribute to the collection for the saints cannot please God.” Paul does not tell Titus if he does not go to Corinth he cannot please God. Neither of these statements presume that it makes no difference whether or not Corinth gave to the poor saints in Jerusalem, or Titus refused to go to Corinth to facilitate the gathering of the offering.
It is important that our motives be right, for “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure” (Tit 1:15). Paul is laboring to bring forth proper motives by speaking to the “new man” – reasoning after a godly sort so that the Corinthians will walk “in the newness of life” (Rom 6:4), rather than simply fulfilling a requirement.
Now Paul exhorts the brethren who are being sent to Corinth. He does not exhort them because they are unwilling. He does not do so because they are not diligent. They have already proved to be faithful, diligent, and full of eagerness and zeal for the work of the Lord. They do not need to be prodded to with the goad of law to do their work.
The exhortation delivered to the men coming to Corinth was because of the ones to whom he was sending them, and not because of themselves. He knew that the Corinthians had the capacity to discourage and cast down the brethren through their often unpredictable responses. He himself had been impacted by their past conduct. Earlier he wrote to them, “But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness” (2 Cor 2:1). Another time he wrote, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Again he wrote, “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2 Cor 12:20). In this very passage Paul voices a profound concern about the Corinthians being found “unprepared,” in spite of his extensive reasoning and pleading, as well as the need for their involvement (v 4).
Therefore, Paul considered it “necessary” to exhort the brethren, preparing them for possible disappointment, and enabling them to be all the more determined to finish the work for the glory of God.
Common, But Not Pleasant
It is not at all uncommon to face professing believers who are a constant source of concern. They are too inconsistent in their labors, and too tardy in their responses. One is never quite sure about their commitment to the cause of Christ, or their determination to obtain the prize. The fact that this is a common condition does not make it any more palatable. These are the kind of people who cause the affliction of “care” to come upon the servants of the Lord (2 Cor 11:28).
It is staggering to consider the amount of toil, sorrow, and extended effort that is required because of deficiencies within the church. All of this seems quite innocent to those who walk on truth like a spider walks on water. You will even hear people affirm that the fundamental work of the church is to help people with their problems, and assist them in dealing with their deficiencies. A significant amount of professional religious training approaches the work of the church as though this was the case. In fact, if professed believers were to avail themselves of the things that are fully accessible to them in Christ Jesus, much of the work of professionals would no longer be required, and many churches themselves would no longer have their place in their communities.
If anyone imagines that the way Paul is dealing with the Corinthians was his preferred way of ministering, the matter needs to be rethought. It may have been in order for Moses to be an arbiter among the people (Ex 18:13), but that is not in order under the New Covenant.
The Lord Jesus certainly did not conduct His ministry in such a fashion, getting involved with all of the personal problems of the people. The two such requests that He received were summarily denounced by Him. Once Martha asked Jesus to speak to her sister Mary about helping her. Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). On another occasion, a young man asked Jesus to speak to his brother about the proper distribution of the inheritance. Jesus replied, “Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” (Luke 12:14). Jesus then turned to the people and said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
God has much more for His people than the resolution to their personal, social and domestic difficulties! That did not require an atonement, reconciliation to God, or the expiation of sin. If counselors are really what humanity needed, God would have multiplied the Moses’, Samuels’, and Solomons. However, as gifted and wise as those men were, they did not have what humanity needed.
The situation with which Paul is dealing was, in a sense, a diversion from his real ministry. Jesus did not call him to gather collections for the needy, or to spend endless hours dissipating ignorance and a lack interest within the body of Christ! As needful as such things are, they are not the fundamental activity of the Kingdom. Those engaged in such works ought not to be vaunted as though they were the most interested and industrious people in the body of Christ.
Jesus’ commission to Paul was this: “open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26:18). The tardy response of the Corinthians had confirmed to Paul that their eyesight had dimmed, there was too much darkness among them, Satan was too active within them, and the “eternal inheritance” had become obscure to them. Those are the qualities he sought to restore, and their response in the matter of the offering for the “poor saints” would confirm whether they were spiritually on target again or not.
As simplistic as this line of reasoning may appear, it is almost unknown in the average American church. Actually, Corinth was far more advanced than the churches we confront, even though Paul said they were “carnal.”
YOU HAD NOTICE BEFORE
“ 5b . . . that they would go before unto you, and make up before hand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before. . .”
Other versions read, “to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised,” NKJV “to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised,” NIV and “to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours.” AMPLIFIED
Keep in mind, Paul had not initiated this offering – the Corinthians themselves did so. He had not urged them to become involved – they had volunteered to do so. Now, a year has passed, and their promises no longer had any significance. They had to be stirred up to do what they themselves said they would do.
Now, Paul is going to be coming to them personally. However, before he arrives, he is sending three godly men ahead, to see to it that the promised offering is taken – an offering he refers to as “your bounty.” The AMPLIFIED reads, “this bountiful promised gift.” The text reads literally, “your afore-promised bounty.” ROBERTSON In a sense, he is pressing this matter of them being belated in gathering this offering. Ponder the many references he has made to this.
☛ He urged Titus to go to Corinth and “finish the same grace also” (8:6).
☛ He refers to what they had “begun before” (8:10a).
☛ He reminds them that they were forward to do this “a year ago” (8:10b).
☛ He urged them to show the “proof of your love” by completing this project (8:24).
☛ He refers to the original “forwardness” of their mind (9:2a).
☛ He mentions that the Macedonian saints had heard of their original intentions “a year ago” (9:2b).
☛ He poses the possibility of them still not being ready when Titus and the brethren arrived (9:3).
☛ He states he still is concerned about them being “unprepared” (9:4).
The Corinthians had made an original commitment. Paul had reminded them in his first epistle to begin gathering the offering in an orderly manner (1 Cor 16:1-2). Titus had delivered the first Epistle to them and got the work under way. Now Titus is returning with two other brethren to complete the work. Indeed, it almost seems like an understatement to say, “ye had notice before.”
A LESSON TO BE LEARNED
If it is true that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50), then it is also true that the growing prominence of flesh and blood diminishes the possibility of inheriting the kingdom of God. Do not miss the significance of this! The Corinthians had made a resolve in the energy of the Spirit. That resolve had grown weak because of their own carnality.
But something was also happening. Their grip on eternal life was loosening! There is a reason why we are admonished, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called” (1 Tim 6:12). Do you suppose it is really possible to dwell forever with the Lord without engaging in “the good fight of faith?” Can you really maintain an acceptable status with the Lord without “laying hold on eternal life?” Has everything really been finalized for the individual so that we have no need to fight against the intrusion of unbelief, resist the devil, or strive to obtain the prize?
There is a deplorable absence within the professed church of the kind of quest I have just described – fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life. Judging from the activities among professing Christians, one might actually conclude this was not even necessary.
As for the Corinthians, their carnality was evidenced by division (1 Cor 3:3), a lack of consideration of their brethren (1 Cor 8:11), a quest for personal gain at the expense of their brethren (1 Cor 6:1 Cor 6:6-8), improper conduct at the Lord’s table (1 Cor 11:20,29), and even fornication (1 Cor 5:1-5). Add to that the fact that some did not even believe there was a resurrection (1 Cor 15:12), and they even questioned Paul’s apostleship (1 Cor 9:1-8).
The failure of the Corinthians to complete the offering they had promised was not owing to mere forgetfulness. It was rather the result of their carnality. The “fleshly mind” (Col 2:18) depletes spiritual resources and dries up godly resolves. The establishment of the cause of, or what gave rise to, that carnal mind is not Paul’s objective. Rather, it is the removal of the “carnal mind” (Rom 8:7), for it is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).
BOUNTY, NOT COVETOUSNESS
“ 5c . . . that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.”
Paul is pressing for the offering to be ready when the workers arrive. Yet, there is more to it than that. As he has already indicated, it is not his purpose, nor is it the Kingdom manner, for the good of one to result in the deprivation of another: “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened” (2 Cor 8:13). Both the giver and the receiver must be left with some ultimate advantage. Even in the case of our salvation, Jesus “became poor” that we, “through His poverty might be made rich” (2 Cor 8:9). But Jesus was not left poor! He has been highly exalted, received glory, and honor, and a kingdom, and was given a bride that included the heathen for His inheritance (Phil 2:9; Dan 7:14; John 3:29; Rev 21:9; Psa 2:8; Isa 49:6).
Even so, Paul desires that the Corinthians realize some very real spiritual advantages in the gathering of this offering. He also desires that everyone involved – including those who had heard of the Corinthians determination, and the saints for which the collection was gathered – realize the benefits of God. His longing is that nothing of the flesh be in this offering – that it does not become an opportunity for carnality to assert itself, for that is always a defiling element. This desire is being carried out by sending Titus and the two other brethren to see to it that the offering is completed.
THAT THE SAME MIGHT BE READY
“ . . . that the same might be ready . . .” Other versions read, “and prepare your generous gift beforehand,” NKJV “and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift,” NASB “finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised,” NIV “makeup beforehand your aforepromised bounty,” ASV “ and see that the amount that was undertaken to give was ready,” BBE and “to complete your afore-announced blessing.” DARBY
“The same” refers to the gift the Corinthians had promised. Before he personally arrives, he is sending Titus and the brethren to ensure that the offering is ready when he comes. This is precisely the directive he gave to the Corinthians in his first epistle – to have the work completed before he arrived. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor 16:1-2). The “gatherings” refers to collections, not to the saints assembling together.
The Sin of Procrastination
Although Paul does not approach this matter as though he was dealing with sin, he knew the manner of spiritual life, and was reasoning with that in mind. Under the Law, Israel was to offer to God the firstfruits of their harvest. The Divine directive was clear: “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me” (Ex 22:29). The Law was teaching men that things done in the name of the Lord – which, for the believer, is everything (Col 3:17) – are to be done without delay.
You may remember there were two young men who desired to follow Jesus, but asked that some time be allowed for them to complete some other tasks. Luke gives the dialog that took place between the Master and these two potential followers. “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-62).
While it is not in order to approach giving from the standpoint of mere rules, it is proper to reason on the matter with a keen awareness of the Divine nature. It is not possible to please God while going about His “business” in a manner that He has declared to be unpleasing to Him. Divinely ordered causes cannot be implemented in a disorderly manner. From the very beginning of time, God worked in such a way as to acquaint us with timeliness and orderliness. We see it in the creation. We see it in the flood and God’s direction of Noah. It is seen in the choosing and direction of Abraham. His calling, direction, and blessing of Israel also confirmed these things to be true. The entrance of Jesus into the world was marked by timeliness and orderliness. His ministry was characterized by these qualities. The church was initiated in this way also. The coming of the Lord and the gathering of the elect will also be within the perimeter of these Divine traits – timeliness and orderliness.
When we read phrases like “in the fulness of the time” (Gal 4:4), “the selfsame day” (Gen 7:13; Ex 12:41), “appointed time” (Gen 18:14; Hab 2:3), and “at this time” (Rom 3:26; 9:9), we are being exposed to the way in which the Lord works. It is right that men should labor to have these qualities in their lives. It seems to me that it is foolish to imagine that God could be honored by endeavors that were marked by traits that were in conflict with His revealed nature. In my judgment, Paul knew the Corinthians were not able to reason in this manner, so he reasoned with them on a lower level – one that was in strict harmony with a higher level of thought.
AS A MATTER OF BOUNTY
“ . . . as a matter of bounty . . .” Other versions read, “as a matter of generosity,” NKJV “as a bountiful gift,” NASB “a generous gift,” NIV “as a voluntary gift,” NRSV “a willing gift,” RSV “that it might be a cause for praise,” BBE “and come of benevolence,” GENEVA “a gift of love,” MONTGOMERY “a real love-offering” and “a generous and willing gift.” AMPLIFIED
Not only is WHAT is given important, but the MANNER in which it is given is also significant.
The word “bounty” comes from a word meaning, “a (concrete) blessing, benefit,” THAYER and “bountifully, liberally.” FRIBERG The idea is that the offering was in keeping with the salvation enjoyed by the Corinthians – abundant, free, and willing.
Jesus once described spiritual life as rivers of living water flowing out from the individual. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Another version reads, “from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” NASB John, in recording these words, provided an inspired explanation of them: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” NKJV (John 7:39). That is, the Holy Spirit within a believer is intended to show Himself through the expressions of the one in whom He dwells – like the river that flowed out of the rock in the wilderness (Psa 78:16). This is a vivid picture of abundance and generosity. In other words, an abundant salvation cannot produce a meager life. The Spirit, who is poured out upon us copiously (Tit 3:5-6) cannot result in meager and paltry deeds – like an tardy and small offering from the Corinthians for poor saints in Jerusalem.
“Bountiful” is the trait of all true giving, whether it is a poor widow who gives two mites (Mk 12:42-44), a poor widow who, from an extremely small supply, prepares a cake for a prophet (1 Kgs 17:13), holy women of means who ministered to Jesus of their substance (Lk 8:3), or Barnabas who sold a parcel of land and laid the total proceeds at the feet of the Apostles (Acts 4:36-37). This is why Paul admonished the Corinthians to “abound in this grace” (of giving) also (2 Cor 8:7). It is why he chose to refer to this offering as “this abundance” (2 Cor 8:20), and in this verse as a “bounty.”
I must labor this point, for our society has taught people to be meager in their gifts for the cause of the Lord. By the grace of God, there are some who have been able to correlate what they give to godly causes with the abundant salvation God has given to them. But such souls are few and far between. For this reason, I draw to your attention to the nature of what we have been given in Christ Jesus. This is how GOD gives!
☛ “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5).
☛ “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20).
☛ “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:14).”Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
☛ “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Heb 6:17).
☛ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).
Now, how is it possible to fit hesitant and meager giving into the framework of that salvation? Or, who is the person that imagines giving is not intended to fit into that framework?
Paul knows that abundant giving cannot be acceptably accomplished by the unwillingly. He also knows that, when it comes to doing good unto all men, especially those of the household of faith (Gal 6:10), willingness comes from spiritual understanding and discernment. A lack of willingness is actually an indication of faulty spiritual vision – one in which the individual “cannot see afar off.” He is therefore laboring to expand the vision of the Corinthians, bringing them to a point where they can see this matter as it really is. Then, their offering will be a bountiful one, prompted by a full and discerning heart.
I am sure the matter of “giving” was as sensitive to the Corinthians as it is to people in this time. Yet, in order for the people of God to themselves be “a praise” to God (Isa 62:7; Jer 13:11; 33:9; Zeph 3:20), these things had to be said. Far better to become acquainted with God’s consideration of these things now, than to first learn of it on the day of judgment.
AND NOT AS OF COVETOUSNESS
“ . . . and not as of covetousness.” Other versions read, “not as a grudging obligation,” NKJV “not affected by covetousness,” NASB “not as one grudgingly given,” NIV “ not as an extortion,” NRSV “not as an extraction,” RSV “and not as of niggardliness,” GENEVA”not one given under pressure,” NLT and “not as an extortion [wrung out of you].” AMPLIFIED
Here Paul deals with the source of a reluctance to give – the tendency to niggardliness, tightfistedness, and stinginess. The English word for this trait is “parsimony,” meaning the quality or state of being stingy. MERRIAM-WEBSTER In our text, this has particular regard to the use of money for godly causes.
There are people who think nothing of viewing their resources as being only for themselves. It is the nature of the flesh to think in this manner. Paul has already said that the Kingdom is so orchestrated by God as to allow some to have periodic abundance in order that they may supply the occasional needs of their brethren: “But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor 8:14-15). How is it, then, that one who wears the name of Jesus could contradict this purpose by not coming to the aid of his brethren when he was able to do so?
Paul affirms that the reason is “covetousness.” Where a reluctance to give to godly causes is found, this is the reason – “covetousness.” Where able men must be exhorted again and again to come to the aid of needy brethren, this is the reason – “covetousness.” Men may reason that they are being frugal, or planning for the future, or allowing for some crisis. Paul says it is “covetousness.”
Admittedly, this is straightforward, and even jarring to the flesh. However, Corinth had made their noble desire known, and it had even provoked many others to give to their needy Jewish brethren. Now, a year has passed and their promise has not been fulfilled. Paul has not asked them why this is the case, for he already knows the reason for such actions – “covetousness.”
The Experience of Haggai
This is a situation similar to one the prophet Haggai faced. He was living in a time when the house of God had been laid waste. A building project was under way to restore the house – a project that God Himself had initiated. God had raised up men to do the work, and yet the work was too slow. It was hardly moving forward at all, and the heart of the leader of the project, Zerubbabel, was discouraged. The people did not seem concerned about the matter at all. In fact, they said the whole Temple project was not timed properly. It would be better, they reasoned, to build it some other time. It was then that God sent a scathing word to them. “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Hag 1:2-5).
The Israelites had continued improving their own houses, seeing that such a work was necessary to maintain their families, comforts, etc. In fact, they had being doing some extra work on their dwellings – “ceiled,” or paneled, houses. God had noticed their priorities and asked them, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” NKJV (Hag 1:4). How does a person answer that question? Will they put their time table up against the times established by the Lord?
In our text, Paul is reasoning in much the same manner. Was this a time for the Corinthians to be living in luxury when the Jewish brethren, into whose tree they had been grafted, were stricken with poverty? The fact that God had poured out an abundance upon them, so that they had more than they needed, was to be considered properly. Was it because God wanted them to have more things? Or was He providing a means for His people to be assisted by other members of Christ’s body? The answer ought to be obvious. However, because the flesh robs a person of sound judgment, Paul is leading them by the hand through the field of holy thought.
The Case of Jesus
There is more to be considered in this matter – something that will, when seen properly, tend to sanctify the way we think. In order for men to be saved, Jesus had to make a certain forfeiture. Early, Paul said He had “become poor,” that we “through His poverty,” might be made rich (2 Cor 8:9). Elsewhere, Paul explained something of what was involved in Jesus becoming “poor.”
The matter of Christ’s “poverty” was opened up in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It involved Him humbly putting aside the rights of Deity, so that He entered into the world as a man, together with all of the weaknesses that entailed. He had to, so to speak, put His Deity like a sword into its sheath. Here is how Paul stated this remarkable condescension. “But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!” AMPLIFIED (Phil 2:7-8).
And how did the Lord Jesus view this remarkable humiliation? Did He view it as being robbed, as though God took from Him something that really belonged to Him? Was He covetous – desiring to maintain His position with God, and being unwilling to enter the defiled realm with unspeakable hindrances? Again, the resounding answer is given by the Holy Spirit through Paul. This is something Paul could not possibly have known if it was not revealed to him. “Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained.” AMPLIFIED (Phil 2:6). That is, He did not consider Himself to have been robbed in this forfeiture. He did not see “equality with God” as something to be held on to at the expense of the souls of men!
How will anyone be able to stand before the exalted Christ on the day of judgment and explain why they considered their own pleasures above the needs of their brethren – particularly when the resources to help had been given to them by God Himself?
Let it be clear that here we are not speaking strictly of amount, but of proportion. The point has been made that God expects people to give in proportion to what He has given them. He has also taught us that a proper beginning portion is one tenth, for “the tithe is the Lord’s” (Lev 27:30). He has also told us that Christ is still receiving “tithes” (Heb 7:8). Only covetousness can keep a person from honoring the Lord with his substance, and God has gone on record concerning the proper view of “the covetous man” (1 Cor 5:5; Eph 5:5).
A Final Word
A word also ought to be said about the modern view of giving in order to obtain. There are men who teach God’s people that “giving” is the God-ordained way to prosperity. This is taught in such a manner as to make “receiving” the cause for giving. Nothing could be further from the truth, and those who teach such folly have only unveiled their corrupt hearts. The underlying cause for giving is spelled out for us, and there is no need for human speculation on the subject. “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:15). Whether it is the preaching of the Gospel, as in above text, or the assistance of the poor saints, as in the passage we have considered, the point of it all is that God will receive glory. Those, therefore, who fail to properly use their resources for the glory of God have, in fact, robbed Him of His own glory, in deference to their own will.
Texts like the one we have just expounded can be easily overlooked, or even neglected. They can be viewed through the lense of history, and thus be considered irrelevant. They can also be viewed through the lense of Law, and therefore place a great burden upon the people. They can even be viewed through an institutional lense, making them appear as a Divine revelation on how to support an organization or institution. Or, they can be viewed through the lense of grace, causing them to be seen as a means of God providing for His people and His cause. In such a view, opportunities sent to you by God are a means through which you can prove your love, just as Paul said this occasion was for the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:24). Failure to respond causes one’s profession o faith to come into question.