Home  Library  Donate

2Corinthians 8

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 5, 2015


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3300 words

Paul had spent nearly three years in Ephesus, during which he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians.

Paul’s stay in Ephesus ended abruptly when a riot broke out in the city because of how the Christian revival was affecting the business of those who made idols.

After the riot, Paul headed up north to Macedonia.

The year is AD 56, almost a year after Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthians.

At this point in the letter, Paul is going to shift gears and talk about money. He is going to talk about money for the entire next two chapters.

Some of us don’t like to talk about money in the church.  We struggle because churches seem to be constantly pressuring people to give more and more money.


There were 2 men shipwrecked on this island. One started screaming and yelling, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! There’s no food! No water! We’re going to die!” The second man was propped up against a palm tree, so calm it drove the 1st man crazy. “Don’t you understand? We’re going to die”! The 2nd man replied,” You don’t understand, I make $100,000 a week” The 1st man looked at him quite dumbfounded & asked, “What difference does that make? We’re on an island with no food & no water. We’re going to DIE!!!” The second answered, “You just don’t get it, I make $100,000 a week & I tithe on that $100,000 a week. My pastor will find me!”

In our passage, Paul’s reason to talk to the Corinthians about money is not because he’s low on funds, and not because he wants to buy the latest chariot, but it’s to encourage them to give to his project of helping the people of Jerusalem, who were being ravaged by a famine.

8:1-7 Macedonian Giving

:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:

:1 the grace of God

gracecharis – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight; good will, loving-kindness, favor

This is going to be a key word for the next two chapters.

It occurs 7 times in chapter 8.
(2 Corinthians 8:1 NKJV) —1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:
(2 Corinthians 8:4 NKJV) —4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
(2 Corinthians 8:6 NKJV) —6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.
(2 Corinthians 8:7 NKJV) —7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV) —9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:16 NKJV) —16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.
(2 Corinthians 8:19 NKJV) —19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind,
It occurs 3 more times in chapter 9.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV) —8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
(2 Corinthians 9:14 NKJV) —14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV) —15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

It is usually translated “grace”, but it is also translated “gift” (8:4, 19) and “thanks” (9:15).

It’s important to remember that one of the root concepts behind the word for “grace” is the idea of a “gift”.
The grace of God is all about what God gives us, freely, without any conditions.

:1 the churches of Macedonia

Video:  Macedonia Churches map clip

This would include churches in the cities of Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi.  We believe Paul is probably writing from Philippi.
As Paul is sitting in Philippi about to depart for Corinth, he is going to use the Macedonians as an example of giving for the Corinthians to follow.

:2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.

:2 in a great trial of affliction

trialdokime – proving, trial

afflictionthlipsis – a pressing, pressing together, pressure; oppression, affliction

The churches in Macedonia were not having an easy time of it.

They were undergoing difficult times.

:2 the abundance of their joy

abundanceperisseia – abundance, superabundantly, superfluously

:2 the riches of their liberality

richesploutos – riches, wealth

liberalityhaplotes – simplicity, sincerity; not self seeking, openness of heart manifesting itself by generosity


Generosity is relative

I think you need to be careful how you quantify the Macedonian “generosity”.
Paul is careful not to specify a dollar amount.
Jesus and the widow’s mite
(Luke 21:1–4 NKJV) —1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

Some churches will name buildings after people who donate large dollar amounts.

Some churches will allow you to have your name put on a pew if you donate a particular dollar amount.

God is more concerned about how your gift relates to your overall wealth than He is with a specific dollar amount.

If you compared a billionaire who donates $100,000, with an elderly person living on Social Security who donates $50, which one is the bigger “giver”?

I don’t think the amount the Macedonians actually donated is necessarily greater than what the Corinthians would be giving.
The Macedonians were in a much more difficult place.


Conditions for giving

Paul describes three conditions that described the Macedonians when they were gathering their gifts for Jerusalem.
or, “great trials of affliction”
Sometimes when we are going through great difficulty, we can make it worse by becoming totally self-absorbed.
All we can think about is our own horrible condition.
The Macedonians learned to dedicate a little of their time/thinking to helping others.
or, “abundance of joy”
We will talk next week about how God loves a “cheerful” giver.

(2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

The Macedonians apparently had mastered giving with joy.

Teacher's Day

On a special Teachers’ Day, a kindergarten teacher was receiving gifts from her pupils. The florist’s son handed her a gift. She shook it, held it overhead, and said, “I bet I know what it is, some flowers.” “That’s right”, the boy said, “but how did you know?” “Oh, just a wild guess,” she said. The next pupil was the candy store owner’s daughter. The teacher held her gift overhead, shook it and said, “I bet I can guess what it is, a box of candy.” “That’s right, but how did you know?” asked the girl. “Oh, just a wild guess,” the teacher said. The next gift was from the son of the liquor store owner. The teacher held it overhead, but it was leaking. She touched a drop of the leakage with her finger and touched it to her tongue. Is it wine?” she asked. “No” the boy replied, obviously delighted that he was the first student to at least temporarily defy the teacher’s apparent insight. The teacher repeated the process, touching another drop of the leakage to her tongue. “Is it champagne?” she asked. “No,” the clearly delighted boy answered. Once again the teacher tasted the leakage and finally said, “I give up, what is it?” The boy enthusiastically replied, “It’s a puppy!”

The “joy” of giving…

or, “deep poverty”
Being a “giver” isn’t based on your 401k.
Sometimes we can tell ourselves that we will “give” after we’ve won the Lottery.
They gave when they were at their poorest.
It’s whether or not you are learning to be “other” centered.

:3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,

:3 abilitydunamis – strength, power, ability

This is the word used to describe what happens when a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said,

(Acts 1:8 NKJV) But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Some preachers like to emphasize that we get the word “dynamite” from this word.
For me, that sounds like images of lightning bolts coming out of a person.  It reminds me of Star Wars when the evil Emperor does in trying to convert Luke to the “dark side” …

Video:  Star Wars – Emperor Lightning

I have always like the word “ability” as a better idea.  Perhaps the word “dynamic” might be a better word than “dynamite”.
The Holy Spirit gives us the “ability” to be witnesses, not to be “destroyers” (like the Star Wars Emperor).

:4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

:4 imploring us with much urgency

These folks were begging to be allowed to give to the poor in Jerusalem.

:4 the fellowship of the ministering to the saints

fellowshipkoinonia – fellowship, association, community, joint participation

A “fellowship” is a special group, a group that is identified by having something in common.  This special group is the fellowship of all those who are giving to the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul had been reluctant to ask the Macedonians to help with the work in Jerusalem, but they begged to have their gifts included.

:5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

:5 they first gave … by the will of God


The first gift

One of the things that made Macedonian giving wonderful was their priorities.
They weren’t giving for attention.
They weren’t giving to impress others with their spirituality.
They were focused first on giving themselves to God.
This is one of the reasons we pray in church before we receive the offering.
We want to take the time to intentionally give ourselves to God before we give anything else.

:6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.

:6 complete this grace

The “grace” is all about the giving.

When Titus had arrived with the first letter to the Corinthians (ch. 16 on collections), he was supposed to be nudging the Corinthians along in learning how to give, to have the “grace” of giving.

:7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.

:7 abound in this grace

The Corinthians seemed to think that they were a notch above the other churches.

When Paul wrote the first letter, he said a bit sarcastically,
(1 Corinthians 1:5 NKJV) that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,

I think there was a hint of sarcasm involved here.

I think there was also a bit of sarcasm when he wrote,
(1 Corinthians 4:8 NKJV) You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

Now Paul challenges them that they have a little further to go, to learn to excel in the “grace” of giving.

A healthy Christian walk involves your wallet. A commitment to Christ involves a commitment of your money.
Martin Luther wrote, “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind and the purse.”

8:8-15 Jesus’ Example

:8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.

:8 I speak not by commandment

Paul is not even pretending that he has a word from God about the Corinthian giving.

He is not that preacher that says, “I believe there is someone here tonight who has a hundred dollar bill in his wallet and he’s going to give it!”

But he is pointing out that if the Corinthians are sincere in their gratitude to the church in Jerusalem and in how they have benefitted from their spiritual guidance, then they ought to show it in their gifts.

:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

:9 the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

There’s that word for grace (charis) again.  Think of it here as the “gift” of the Lord Jesus.  Paul is asking the Corinthians for a “gift” for Jerusalem.


The Greatest Giver

The greatest giver is God.
No one can be a greater giver than God.
We see this as a wonderful summary of what the “gospel” is all about.  This is how we were saved, because of God’s “gift” to us, because of God’s “grace”.
Jesus was rich

He dwelt in heaven with God.

He became poor

He emptied Himself and took on human flesh.

We became rich

Because He died on a cross, our sins were forgiven, and we gained the riches of heaven.

Earlier, Paul had expressed it this way:
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We often like to say,
He paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.
Paul now takes this example, the example of how we were saved, and uses it to remind the Corinthians that if God has given us so much, then we ought to learn to give to others.
In the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, a group of soldiers in WWII are sent out to bring a young Private Ryan (Matt Damon) home from the war because his brothers were all killed in battle, and he would be allowed to return so his mother wouldn’t lose all her sons in the war.
When the group of soldiers led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) find Ryan, he isn’t about to abandon his own band of brothers, and they all end up fighting with him in one last battle.
Captain Miller was killed in that battle.

Video:  Saving Private Ryan – Death of Captain John Miller

Miller’s last words to Ryan were “Earn this”.  Others gave their life so he could live.  He was encouraging Ryan to not make their sacrifice worthless.

Jesus gave everything for us.

We can never “earn” our salvation, but we ought to live in a way that brings honor to His sacrifice for us.

Part of that comes in how we learn to give like He gave.

:10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;

:11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.

:10 were desiring to do a year ago

When Paul wrote his first letter a year prior, they had started collecting funds for the church in Jerusalem.

(1 Corinthians 16:1–3 NKJV) —1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.

:11 you also must complete the doing of it


Finish what you start

I tend to be a guy with lots of projects laying around that I’ve started, but haven’t finished.
I have all sorts of excuses.
I get distracted.
But it’s a good feeling to take one of those projects off your “to do” list, and actually finish it.
Proper, serious giving ought to take much prayer, discussion (with your spouse), and calculation.
It’s not something you should arrive at impulsively.
When you’ve taken the time to know what you ought to be giving, then you have to learn how to follow through and finish what you start.

:12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

(2 Corinthians 8:12 NLT) Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.

:12 according to what one has


Not too much

Some people give too much.
They can even get themselves into debt because they give from what they “don’t have” instead of giving from what they “have”.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t be giving away your rent money, or your grocery money, of the money you need to pay your bills.
I say “as a general rule” because there may be a time when God is asking you to step out on faith.

:13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;

:14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.

Paul’s trying to say that this collection isn’t just so that some people back in Jerusalem can get fat while you go without dinner, it’s for the sake of evening things out.

(2 Corinthians 8:13 NLT) Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.

:14 your abundance may supply their lack

For now, the Corinthians have some funds to help out the folks in Jerusalem.

They ought to do it because they can.

Perhaps later the folks in Jerusalem can help the Corinthians in some way.

:14 that there may be equality



I know it isn’t politically to say this among fellow Republicans, but this sounds just a little teeny tiny bit like “wealth redistribution”.
Republicans criticize the Democrats for wanting to tax the wealthy and give it to the poor, and perhaps we shouldn’t take a Biblical principle and apply it to our secular government, but there is something for us as believers to be careful about.
Paul wrote to Timothy,
(1 Timothy 6:17–19 NKJV) —17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
And just a side note – the poorest folks in America are wealthier than the common folk in any other country.

:15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

:15 He who gathered much

This is a quote is from Ex.16, when the people were fed in the wilderness by going out each morning to collect that mysterious “manna”.

(Exodus 16:16–18 NLT) —16 These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.” 17 So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
God provided equally for each family’s needs. If it was a large family, the man gathered a lot, if a small family, he gathered less. But everybody’s needs were met.
Note:  Every man was out gathering.  This wasn’t some sort of welfare system where some people sat at home and watched Gilligan’s Island, while others worked hard and supported the free loaders.

8:16-24 Collection for Judea

:16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.

:16 thanks be to God

The word “thanks” is charis.  This could be literally, “But grace be to God …”

:17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.

:17 went to you of his own accord

Titus didn’t need to be asked. He went to Corinth because he wanted to go.

I like it when people see a need and seek to fill it without having to be asked.

He also went in a Honda.  An “Accord” …

:18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,

:18 the brother whose praise is…

There was a “famous” brother that would be travelling with Titus to Jerusalem.  Who?

Some think it was Luke.
The irony is that we don’t know who it was.  Fame might be important to us, but it apparently wasn’t to Paul.

:19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind,

:20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—

:19 chosen by the churches

The guy travelling with Titus was one who had been chosen by the church, not by Paul.

This adds a layer of accountability for Paul’s sake.

Paul wasn’t just going through the churches taking up offerings and then disappearing on a boat to Tahiti.

:21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

:22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you.

:23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.

:24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

:24 the proof of your love

Paul is hinting that if they love him, they ought to gather funds for Jerusalem.  Just a little arm twisting.

:21 providing honorable things

Paul is careful to avoid things that could lead to a scandal.

How you handle money is one of those areas.


Financial Accountability

In banking we called it “dual custody”
Paul is demonstrating financial accountability by entrusting the money to two people – to Titus as well as the other travelling companion.
We try to be very careful how we handle the money you give to the church.
The offerings are always handled with at least two people present.
It takes two individuals to unlock the Agape box.
Even though Deb does the church’s books (she is an accountant), everything is reviewed by the Treasurer and the elders.
I don’t know (and I really don’t want to know) what each individual gives.
We have policies over how funds can be spent.
Checks over $200 require two signatures.
I have a spending limit, and everything over that limit has to be approved by the board of directors (elders).
Every month the board reviews the income and expenses of the church.