Lesson 49: "Ministering to the Saints. . .See That Ye Abound in This Grace Also." (II Corinthians 8:4,7)
II Corinthians 8:1--9:15
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #49. Welcome again! Turn quickly to ch. 8. We're going to try to cram both ch. 8 and ch. 9 into this lesson; a total of 39 verses. It seems only natural to me that after Paul exhorted the Corinthians to remember the gospel as he and his co-workers had taught them, and after he had sternly warned them at the end of ch. 6 to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers because they were the temple of the living God, and after he had discussed with them (very intimately) what Titus had reported about their sorrowing after a godly sort, and that they had repented and were on their way to salvation in ch. 7; it seems only natural to me, that Paul would encourage them in a program of work and suggest appropriate activity and worship that would continue to strengthen their faith and lead to greater spiritual heights and unity in Christ Jesus. What greater project and what greater activity could Paul have urged upon them than to help break down the middle wall of partition, that great gulf, that seemed to separate the Jews and the Gentiles in Christian fellowship? this was not something totally new. It would appear the Corinthians had started this project a year or more before; possibly before the congregational crisis of preacheritis and splinteritis had reached chronic proportions. So, this was like saying: go back to where you were, pick up where you left off and finish the work you started. A very natural therapy that even the Judiazing teachers surely did not oppose. Paul had commanded the procedural arrangement for making such a collection back near the end of his former letter, you will recall (I'm talking about I Cor. 16:1-4). The Corinthians were to lay by in store on the first day of the week in the same way Paul had instructed the churches of Galatia to do it. Every member, rich or poor, was to participate according to the way they were prospered. At the time we covered that passage; you will recall we discussed at some length the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem and in Judea. This was a benevolent project that apparently Paul encouraged in all the gentile churches. Although Paul used the phrase "the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" at the end of v.4 here in II Cor. ch. 8; there is hardly enough description in these two chapters to put this in perspective, relative to the bigger picture, i.e., several local congregations cooperating together. It's only when you relate this to Acts 19:21; I Cor. ch. 16; Rom. 15:25-28; Acts 20:4-5-6; Acts ch. 21:17ff; Paul's speech before Felix (Acts 24:11-17) and perhaps a half dozen other places in the N.T. that this all begins to take shape. Although Paul had commanded or ordered that all these churches use a uniform procedure for laying by in store (as Paul had first ordered the churches of Galatia, I Cor. 16:1) or what we call the contribution; you must realize, that Paul did not command this project (as such) of the Corinthians for the poor saints of Judea. Paul was very cautious in that he encouraged the Corinthians to carry through with what they had planned and what they had started; nevertheless, it had to be their project and their program of work Each congregation was autonomous in such matters. There is no earthly headquarters for churches of Christ. The head is Christ! His quarters are now in heaven. So far as earthly matters are concerned, we as Christians, Christ's servants, must "occupy till [he] come." (Luke 19:13). So, the denominational concept of each congregation sending their money off to some big headquarters in another state that oversees spending and re-distribution of funds is not a Bible concept. Check me out! Local congregations do local work However, local congregations may cooperate together to do a bigger project than any one alone could do. That is evident from the fact that Paul was encouraging the churches of Achaia, the churches of Macedonia and the churches of Asia and Galatia to cooperate in this very project we are discussing. Acts 20:4 establishes clearly that congregations from all these places participated in ministering to the poor saints at Jerusalem and in Judea; of which we are considering the Corinthian phase here in ch. 8 & 9. With that much said; let's read ch. 8 & 9 of II Corinthians. Are you ready?
"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he could also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to usjee that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, duty by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it: that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For / mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 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 But thanks be to God, which put die same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is hi the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only hi the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which / have in you. Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf. For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was read a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 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: Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed hi this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this / say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness:) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; While by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."
O.K., back at the beginning of ch. 8; Paul introduced this subject by relating how the churches of Macedonia had excelled in this project (that's relating how the churches of Macedonia had excelled in this project (that's v. 1-2-3-4-5). The Macedonians had given beyond their power and had exceeded Paul's wildest expectations. They did it in an humble way - they "first gave their own selves to the Lord" (v.5). There is undoubtedly a hint or suggestion in that; that was the right way, both for the Corinthians and for us. So, please take the hint. Then beginning in v.6, Paul said that after hearing Titus' report of the Corinthians; Paul and others of his co-workers urged Titus to return to Corinth and to encourage them to continue with their former plans of benevolence for sending help to the poverty stricken Jews in Jerusalem and in Judea. Although Paul used the remainder of ch. 8 to urge that church to continue what they had earlier planned; Paul makes it clear he is not commanding this (v.8). There seems to be an implication that the Corinthians may well have been better off materially than the Macedonians to undertake and complete such a project. Paul says it would "prove the sincerity of your love" (v.8). The important thing was to have a willing mind (v. 12). Conditions very well could be reversed at some future time and the Jews may be in a position to supply the Corinthians (v.14). Paul's quote in v.15 comes from Ex. 16:18 and had to do with the way God instructed the Israelites to gather manna back in the wilderness; showing God's principle of equality had been used before. Then in v. 16 & 17, Paul indicated that Titus had willingly and of his own volition accepted the challenge to return to Corinth. Of course, this letter of Second Corinthians was undoubtedly delivered to the Corinthian brethren by Titus at that time. Also, in v. 18-24 we learn that Paul and his co-workers (that were with him in Macedonia) sent two other brothers with Titus on that expedition. Possibly Luke and Timothy; thafs only a guess! The names of these two messengers are not given. But, Paul gave all three men a very strong recommendation and urged the Corinthians to show them the proof of their love (v.24). It's obvious, Paul himself stayed in Macedonia for a time. This could have been for health reasons; it could have been because Paul needed to help resolve some of the problems in the Macedonian churches; it could have been simply that Paul thought Titus and the other two brothers in Christ may very well deal with the Judiazing teachers and other conditions at Corinth best in Paul's absence. We simply don't know the basis for Paul's decision to stay hi Macedonia. It may have been (as so many times is the case) a combination of these factors and more. Since they seem to be making progress on their own, Paul probably wanted to give them a little more space as we talked about back hi II Cor. 1:23; allowing them time to work on the Judiazing problem before Paul arrived on the scene.
Then In ch. 9, Paul feared he was being too repetitive, he says; but, the apostle wanted the Corinthians to know he had boasted of their benevolent project to others; using the Corinthians as an example to motivate action in other places. Notice in v.2, Paul had stated that Achaia was ready a year ago. This does not mean that the collection had been completed a year before; the idea is that they were ready to take part hi this program a year before. However, hi the interim, during the congregational preacheritis problem the benevolent project had apparently bogged down. Paul feared his boasting of the Corinthians to others could turn out to be a source of embarrassment both to Paul and to the Corinthians themselves (9:3-4). This concern may partly explain why Paul in v.4-5, sent three of his co-workers to help the Corinthians move as fast as they could hi repairing any damage the benevolent program might have sustained and therefore preventing any embarrassment on the part of the Corinthians, if possible. However, by moving swiftly (v.6-7) Paul apparently believed from Titus' report that the Corinthians' benevolent program could be salvaged with little damage. Nevertheless, Paul insisted that they adhere strictly to the commands Paul gave in his previous letter as to the scriptural rules for laying by hi store. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful give." that statement is more or less a summary of I Cor. 16:2. They must not cajole or coerce any one hi giving. On the other hand, if they worked, prayed and purposed hi a genuine way; God would likely prosper them beyond what they might imagine (v.8-9-10). For the Corinthians to just get things back on track and start working and planning together on spiritual things would yield great benefits. These benefits would not only accrue to the Corinthians; but, to Paul and his associates, as well as the poor saints hi Judea. It would result hi thanksgiving and glory to God from all these sources and that alone would be a great contrast with conditions only a few weeks or a few months before. Thafs probably the thought hi v. 11-12-13-14-15, the rest of the chapter. In the meantime, a lot of teaching could be done by Titus and the other two men. If things went well, it might even help correct the Judiazing problem before Paul arrived at a later time.
Alright now, I want you to look again at that phrase "ministering to the saints" back hi v.l. You need to realize here that neither Paul nor the Corinthians thought of this collection as a mere setting of some abstract goal and then giving or contributing because that's what their budget called for. Their giving had more purpose to it than that. It was more personal than that. In giving of their means they were hi effect "ministering," you see. The word "ministering" means to serve, or to do service. Thus, hi our giving, if we do it scripturally, it's not just attaining some indiscriminate goal or meeting some present quota. Giving is ministering, i.e., doing service. It should not be the only service we do; but, we should think of it as doing service to God and to our fellow man, i.e., doing our part. When we think of it as ministering, it becomes more meaningful. Have a good day.