Let’s take a deep dive into the section of Scripture that “provides the richest, most detailed model of giving in the NT.” We’ll do so by following the outline and notes for 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15 in the MacArthur Bible Commentary.

Paul’s Collection (8:1-9:15)

8:1–9:15 | While this section specifically deals with Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians about a particular collection for the saints in Jerusalem, it also provides the richest, most detailed model of Christian giving in the NT.

The Patterns of Giving (8:1-7)

“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.”

2 Corinthians 8:1

8:1 | The generosity of the churches of Macedonia was motivated by God’s grace. Paul did not merely commend those churches for a noble human work, but instead gave the credit to God for what He did through them. Macedonia was the northern Roman province of Greece. Paul’s reference was to the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (cf. Acts 17:11). This was basically an impoverished province that had been ravaged by many wars and, even then, was being plundered by Roman authority and commerce.

“That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”

2 Corinthians 8:2

8:2 | Abundance means “surplus.” In spite of their difficult circumstances, the churches’ joy rose above their pain because of their devotion to the Lord and the causes of His kingdom. Deep means “according to the depth,” or “extremely deep.” Poverty refers to the most severe type of economic deprivation, the kind that caused a person to become a beggar. The Greek word for liberality can be translated “generosity” or “sincerity.” It is the opposite of duplicity or being double-minded. The Macedonian believers were rich in their single-minded, selfless generosity to God and to others.

“For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.”

2 Corinthians 8:3

8:3 | Paul highlighted three elements of the Macedonians’ giving which summed up the concept of freewill giving: (1) “According to their ability.” Giving is proportionate—God sets no fixed amount or percentage and expects His people to give based on what they have (Luke 6:38; 1 Cor. 16:2); (2) “beyond their ability.” Giving is sacrificial. God’s people are to give according to what they have; yet, it must be in proportions that are sacrificial (cf. Matt. 6:25–34; Mark 12:41–44; Phil. 4:19); and (3) “freely willing”—lit. “one who chooses his own course of action.” Giving is voluntary—God’s people are not to give out of compulsion, manipulation, or intimidation.

Jesus Christ (8:8-9)

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9

8:9 | A reference to the eternality and preexistence of Christ. As the second person of the Trinity, Christ is as rich as God is rich. He owns everything, and possesses all power, authority, sovereignty, glory, honor, and majesty (cf. Is. 9:6; Mic. 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 17:5; Col. 1:15–18; 2:9; Heb. 1:3). A reference to Christ’s incarnation (cf. John 1:14; Rom. 1:3; 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:7). He laid aside the independent exercise of all His divine prerogatives, left His place with God, took on human form, and died on a cross like a common criminal (Phil. 2:5–8). Believers become spiritually rich through the sacrifice and impoverishment of Christ (Phil. 2:5–8). They become rich in salvation, forgiveness, joy, peace, glory, honor, and majesty (cf. 1 Cor. 1:4, 5; 3:22; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3, 4). They become joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

The Purpose of Giving (8:10-15)

“I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.”

2 Corinthians 8:10

8:10 | Paul was not commanding the Corinthians to give any specific amount. It was his opinion, however, that it was to their advantage to give generously so they might receive abundantly more from God in either material blessings, spiritual blessings, or eternal reward (cf. 9:6; Luke 6:38).

“For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12

8:12 | Paul spoke of a readiness and eagerness to give. God is most concerned with the heart attitude of the giver, not the amount he gives (cf. 9:7; Mark 12:41–44). Whatever one has is the resource out of which he should give (see note on v. 3). That is why there are no set amounts or percentages for giving anywhere stated in the NT. The implication is that if one has much, he can give much; if he has little, he can give only little (cf. 9:6). Believers do not need to go into debt to give, nor lower themselves to a poverty level. God never asks believers to impoverish themselves. The Macedonians received a special blessing of grace from God to give the way they did.

“At this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.”

2 Corinthians 8:14

8:14 | This Greek word gives us the English word “isostasy,” which refers to a condition of equilibrium. Thus, the term could also be translated “balance” or “equilibrium.” The idea is that in the body of Christ some believers who have more than they need should help those who have far less than they need (cf. 1 Tim. 6:17, 18). This is not, however, a scheme of Paul’s to redistribute wealth within the church, but rather to meet basic needs.

The Procedures of Giving (8:16-9:5)

“And not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness.”

2 Corinthians 8:19

8:19 | To protect Paul and Titus from false accusations regarding the mishandling of the money, the churches picked the unbiased brother (v. 18) as their representative to lend accountability to the enterprise. Paul wanted careful scrutiny as protection against bringing dishonor to Christ for any misappropriation of the money. He wanted to avoid any offenses worthy of justifiable criticisms or accusations.

“For we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”

2 Corinthians 8:21

8:21 | A better rendering is “have regard for what is honorable,” or “take into consideration what is honorable.” Paul cared greatly about what people thought of his actions, especially considering the size of the gift.

“For I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.”

2 Corinthians 9:2

9:2 | Paul was simply calling the Corinthians back to their original eagerness and readiness to participate in the offering project. The confusion and lies spread by the false teachers (i.e., Paul was a deceiver ministering only for the money) had sidetracked the believers on this issue. Believers in the churches in the province of Macedonia, which was the northern part of Greece (see notes on 8:1–5; Acts 16:9; see Introduction to 1 Thessalonians: Background and Setting). Achaia is a province in southern Greece, where Corinth was located (see Introduction to 1 Corinthians: Background and Setting).

“So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.”

2 Corinthians 9:5

9:5 | On first hearing of the need, the Corinthians had undoubtedly promised Paul that they would raise a large amount. grudging obligation. More clearly translated “covetousness,” or “greed,” it denotes a grasping to get more and keep it at the expense of others. This attitude emphasizes selfishness and pride, which can have a detrimental effect on giving, and is natural for unbelievers, but should not be for professed believers (cf. Ps. 10:3; Eccl. 5:10; Mic. 2:2; Mark 7:22; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9, 10; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:14).

The Promise of Giving (9:6-15)

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

2 Corinthians 9:6

9:6 | The simple, self-evident agrarian principle—which Paul applied to Christian giving—that the harvest is directly proportionate to the amount of seed sown (cf. Prov. 11:24, 25; 19:17; Luke 6:38; Gal. 6:7). The word bountifully is derived from the Greek word which gives us the word eulogy (“blessing”). When a generous believer gives by faith and trust in God, with a desire to produce the greatest possible blessing, that person will receive that kind of a harvest of blessing (cf. Prov. 3:9, 10; 28:27; Mal. 3:10). God gives a return on the amount one invests with Him. Invest a little, receive a little, and vice versa (cf. Luke 6:38).

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7

9:7 | The term translated “purposes” occurs only here in the NT and indicates a premeditated, predetermined plan of action that is done from the heart voluntarily, but not impulsively. This is an age-old biblical principle of giving (see note on 8:3; cf. Ex. 25:2). “Grudgingly” indicates an attitude of depression, regret, and reluctance that accompanies something done strictly out of a sense of duty and obligation, but not joy. “Compulsion” refers to external pressure and coercion, quite possibly accompanied by legalism. Believers are not to give based on the demands of others, or according to any arbitrary standards or set amounts. God has a unique, special love for those who are happily committed to generous giving. The Greek word for cheerful is the word from which we get hilarious, which suggests that God loves a heart that is enthusiastically thrilled with the pleasure of giving.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

2 Corinthians 9:8

9:8 | God possesses an infinite amount of grace, and He gives it lavishly, without holding back (cf. 1 Chr. 29:14). Here grace does not refer to spiritual graces, but to money and material needs. So, when the believer generously—and wisely—gives of his material resources, God graciously replenishes them so he always has plenty and will not be in need (cf. 2 Chr. 31:10). In secular Greek philosophy, this was the proud contentment of self-sufficiency that supposedly led to true happiness. Paul sanctifies the secular term and says that God, not man, will supply everything needed for real happiness and contentment (cf. Phil. 4:19). God gives back lavishly to generous, cheerful givers, not so they may satisfy selfish, nonessential desires, but so they may meet the variety of needs others have (cf. Deut. 15:10, 11).

“For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:12

9:12 | Administration, which may also be translated “service,” is a priestly word from which we get liturgy. Paul viewed the entire collection project as a spiritual, worshipful enterprise that was primarily being offered to God to glorify Him. The Greek word for supplies is a doubly intense term that could be rendered “really, fully supplying.” This indicates the Jerusalem church had a great need. Many of its members had gone to Jerusalem as pilgrims to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost (see notes on Acts 2:1, 5–11), had been converted through Peter’s message, and had then remained in the city without adequate financial support. Also, many residents of Jerusalem had undoubtedly lost their jobs in the waves of persecution that came after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1). However, the Corinthians were wealthy enough to help meet the need with a generous monetary gift (see note on 9:5).

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

2 Corinthians 9:15

9:15 | Paul summarized his discourse by comparing the believer’s act of giving with what God did in giving Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:32), “His indescribable gift.” God buried His Son and reaped a vast harvest of those who put their faith in the resurrected Christ (cf. John 12:24). This makes it possible for believers to joyfully, sacrificially, and abundantly sow and reap. As they give in this manner, they show Christ’s likeness (cf. John 12:25, 26; Eph. 5:1, 2).

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