2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2009-11-18 17:10.

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Paul did not deem it necessary to write more concerning the “service for the holy ones” (the contribution for needy believers in Jerusalem). He felt it was superfluous to do so because of knowing that the Corinthians (and also others in the Roman province of Achaia) were ready to share in the relief effort and had made preparations for it a year before he wrote this letter. The apostle had “boasted” to the Macedonians about the eagerness of believers in Achaia to make contributions for the needy ones and the preparations they had made for the relief effort. As a consequence, many believers in Macedonia had been stimulated to participate. (9:1, 2)

Paul desired to make sure that the confidence he had expressed regarding believers in Corinth and other parts of Achaia would not prove to be “empty” or unwarranted. For this reason, he sent the “brothers” (Titus and two others) to complete arrangements, assuring that the believers in Achaia would be ready with the donation as he had said they would be. (9:3)

In the event Paul came to Corinth with Macedonians, he wanted to be sure that the believers in Achaia would be ready with the contribution. If they were not, his boasting about them would be put to shame and so would they. It would have been an embarrassment both to Paul and to the believers in Achaia for the Macedonians to witness their failure to follow through on their initial eager intent. Especially would this have been the case because the believers in Achaia were better off materially than were those in Macedonia. (9:4; see the Notes section.)

To prevent any possible embarrassment, Paul called upon Titus and the two other brothers to precede him in going to Corinth, arranging for the previously promised “blessing [gift]” (the contribution for the needy believers in Jerusalem) to be ready. By having the contribution ready in advance of Paul’s arrival, the believers in Achaia would be making it available as a “blessing [gift]” (a voluntary contribution) and not as something than had been forced upon them or extorted from them. In the Greek text, the noun pleonexía, appears. This term means “covetousness” or an inordinate desire for more. According to the context, the term describes a gift that is grudgingly granted as if it had been extorted upon having become an object of covetousness. (9:5)

Encouraging a generous spirit, Paul focused on the principle that the one who sows little would also reap little, whereas the one who sows much (literally, “blessings”) would also reap much (literally, “blessings”). (9:6) In keeping with this principle, he admonished the believers in Achaia to give as they had individually determined in their “heart” (their inner self), not doing so out of “sorrow” (as if pained to give) nor out of a sense of pressure or compulsion to contribute. The apostle encouraged the kind of voluntary giving that brought joy to the giver when quoting words from Proverbs 22:8 (LXX), “For God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7; see the Notes section.)

Rightly motivated generous giving would not result in lack, for God can make his gracious favor abound to believers or bless them beyond their needs. Under the usual circumstances of life, they would also have enough for themselves and still be in a position to share generously in “every good work” (or in various ways to provide aid to those in need). (9:8)

With a quotation from Psalm 111:9 (LXX), Paul indicated that the generous giver would be richly blessed. “He has scattered; he has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever.” In the apostle’s use of this passage, the righteousness may be understood to relate to the doing of what is right for those in need. The record of this righteousness is enduring and does not escape God’s notice. This assures that God would continue to look approvingly upon the rightly motivated giver and grant him his blessing. (9:9)

Pointing to God as the source of generous giving, the apostle referred to him as the one who “provides seed to the sower and bread for food.” Paul then made an application to the believers in Achaia respecting their giving, telling them that God would “supply and multiply [their] seed and increase the products of [their] righteousness.” In this case, their “seed” would designate the means for their sustenance. With God’s blessing, they would have enough for themselves and sufficient to be able to share with those in need. Their generous contributions to aid others would prove to be the products of their righteousness or their right action prompted by genuine love. God’s blessing had made it possible for them to give, and so he is the one to whom Paul appropriately attributed the increase in the products of their righteousness. (9:10)

On account of God’s blessing, the believers in Achaia were “enriched in everything,” making it possible for them to participate in generous giving (literally “all generosity”). Commenting on the result of their generosity, Paul continued, “[This], through us, works out in thanksgiving to God.” The pronoun “us” may here denote the apostle and those who would be involved in getting the contributed funds to Jerusalem. The destitute believers would receive aid through Paul and those associated with him. Therefore, he could speak of the thanksgiving of the needy ones as being “through us.” (9:11) Numerous modern translations make this significance explicit. “Through our action such generosity will issue in thanksgiving to God.” (REB) “Then many people will thank God when we deliver your gift.” (CEV) “You will be rich enough in every way for every kind of generosity that makes people thank God for what we have done.” (NJB) “Your gifts, administered through us, will mean that many will thank God.” (J. B. Phillips)

The contribution for the needy ones (“the ministry of this service”) would accomplish more than just filling the lack of the “holy ones” (the poor believers in Jerusalem). It would also overflow with much thanksgiving to God, for the recipients would express their gratitude in prayer. (9:12)

Paul spoke of the ministry for the needy ones as a “proof” (“through [or ‘because of’] the proof of this service”). This may be understood to mean that the service for the poor revealed the givers’ genuine faith in God and Christ. The tangible evidence of a living faith would provide the basis for those who were helped to glorify or praise God. (Compare James 2:14-17.) The offering of praise would be because those who had been helped recognized that their fellow believers, through their generosity, revealed “subjection to [their] confession of the evangel of Christ.” Acceptance of the glad tidings about Christ called for displaying the self-sacrificing love that he had exemplified when surrendering his life. Accordingly, the giving that was an expression of love would reveal the givers to be persons who obeyed the confession they had made when putting their faith in the Son of God. The appreciative recipients of aid would also glorify God because of their fellow believers’ “generosity in sharing with them and with all.” These recipients would recognize that kindly assistance would not be limited to them but would be extended to all other believers who would come to be in difficult circumstances. (9:13; see the Notes section.)

Needy believers in Jerusalem would pray for their fellow believers in Achaia from whom they had received the contribution. They would “long” for them as persons having “the surpassing favor of God.” This may be understood to mean that, if they could, the recipients of aid would very much like to see those who had helped them (indicative of a close bond of affection). The loving aid would be the unmistakable evidence that the givers had been granted God’s gracious favor, which favor had prompted the generous giving. (9:14)

The “indescribable gift” of God for which Paul gave thanks doubtless means the gift of his Son, which priceless gift made possible liberation from sin and condemnation. By implication, this gift of love beyond compare should motivate believers to be loving and generous in giving. (9:15; compare John 3:16; 1 John 4:10, 11.)

Notes:

In verse 4, two forms of the word for “say” (“I say” or “we say”) are found in ancient manuscripts. There are also manuscripts that conclude with the words “of boasting.” The differences are indicated in the italicized portion of the literal rendering that follows, “If perhaps Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared, we should be shamed, so that I [we] may not be saying you [would be shamed], in this assurance [of boasting].” )

In verse 7, the extant Septuagint text of Proverbs 22:8 contains some of the words that Paul quoted. Part of this verse reads, “The cheerful and generous man God blesses, but the vanity of his works he will terminate.” These words are not found in the Masoretic Text.

In verse 13, the Greek text is not as explicit as would appear from the renderings of modern translations. The addition of words has at times resulted in representing Paul as expressing very different thoughts. “Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others.” (NRSV) “For with the proof which this aid affords, those who receive it will give honour to God when they see how humbly you obey him and how faithfully you confess the gospel of Christ; and they will thank him for your liberal contribution to their need and to the general good.” (REB) “Because when you have proved your quality by this help, they will give glory to God for the obedience which you show in professing the gospel of Christ, as well as for the generosity of your fellowship towards them and towards all.” (NJB) “The way in which you have proved yourselves by this service will bring honor and praise to God. You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else.” (CEV) “Moreover, your very giving proves the reality of your faith, and that means that men thank God that you practice the Gospel that you profess to believe in, as well as for the actual gifts you make to them and to others.” (J. B. Phillips)