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They Gave Themselves to the Lord

8/6 – Finish the Task (2 Corinthians 8:1-11)

 

Introduction — Here Paul turns his focus to the matter of giving. He reminds the church to finish what they started. Apparently, over a year prior, they began taking an offering to help fellow believers. However, they did not complete their task. They started eagerly, but their zeal waned. Now, Paul directs them to finish the task. First, he reminds them of the example of churches in Macedonia who gave from great affliction and deep poverty, yet with overflowing generosity. These folks gave themselves to the Lord first and foremost. Next, Paul helps the church in Corinth to remember the example of Christ. Paul writes, “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.” Finally, he states once more “now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.” Paul truly wants this church to complete the task they started. He wants them to join with others in giving generously and joyfully. Did they finish the task? How about us? When it comes to giving, do we finish what we start? Do we give generously? Do we give joyfully? Do we recall the overflowing grace of God? Do we find it hard or easy to give our resources to the Lord? Do we tend to hold back when times are tough? Do we willingly share what God entrusts to us? Do we give sincerely? Do we give abundantly? Do we give graciously? Do we give thankfully? Do we finish the task before us?

 

Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God . . .

 

You know the grace of God in the churches.  (1-6)

1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 

 

So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.

 

Comment: Paul is joyfully confident in this church (7:16), so he now turns to the matter of a contribution for the church in Jerusalem. He wants to make sure that the Corinthian church completes the task they started the previous year. He reminds them of the grace of God in the churches of Macedonia. Paul points out that even though these fellow believers went through great affliction and deep poverty, their giving overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. The word liberality means singleness or simplicity. According to R.V.G. Tasker it refers here “to giving which is uncalculating and free from ulterior motives.”[1] These folks gave of their own choice. They gave with joy. They gave without any ulterior motives. And first and foremost, they gave themselves to the Lord. Indeed, God’s grace moved these Macedonian churches to be willing and eager and generous in their gifts to this effort. After giving the example of God’s grace given in the churches, Paul turns to the application: we’re sending Titus to you so that he can complete this gracious work of giving in you. Question: Does the generosity of others inspire you to give? Do you give with a pure heart? Do you give joyfully? Do you give willingly? Do you give even when you’re going through struggles? Do you have an eagerness to give? Do you see the value of giving? Do you join with others in this body to help someone in need?

Do you long to support a vital ministry? Do you start to give, but then get distracted or make excuses? Do you give yourself first and foremost to the Lord? Application: Take a look around you and notice the grace of God in this body. Praise God for His care and provision to this body. See the ways He is at work to shape us. Thank the Lord for faithful givers. Consider how you might participate in giving. Ask the Lord to give you a willingness to give freely, abundantly, joyfully, and liberally. Ask the Lord to help you give yourself to Him above everything else.

 

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7-11)

But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. 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. 10 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. 

 

11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 

 

Comment: Paul reminds this church of their abundance—faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and love—through God’s grace. He then reminds them of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. To see the grace of Christ is to see the rich love of God. For though Christ existed as God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (Phil. 2:1-11). Rather, though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. Jesus became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteous of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul shows them the majestic, overflowing, undeserved grace of Christ. They know this grace. They benefit from this grace. “When we have been the beneficiaries of such undeserved grace, how can true Christians shut their hearts or purses to brothers and sisters in need or begrudge every penny they may share with others (see 1 John 3:16–20)? God’s lavishness in the gift of grace and the depths of Christ’s sacrifice requires that Christians be liberal in their giving to others. A halfhearted response ill befits the total sacrifice that Christ made for us.”[2]

Question: How can we shut our hearts or purses to brothers and sisters in need or begrudge every penny we may share with others? How can we be sluggish or even dormant in giving? Application: Remain in awe of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. See the abundance you have in Him. Consider the way you give (or don’t give) to help others. Pray for a desire to give. Be sincere when you give. Be eager to give. Be abundant when you give. If you are not giving, then consider starting today. If God prompts you to give, then give. Finish the task He puts before you.

Word Study for 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

1 grace (charis—favor; kindness; good will; beauty; free benevolence; thanks)

1 given (didomi—grant; produce; deposit; to give; pour; leave)

2 affliction (thlipsis—oppression; trouble; anguish; distress; tribulations; persecution)

2 abundance (perisseia—very great; advantage; surplus; overflow; more than enough)

2 liberality (haplotes—simplicity; singleness; generosity; whole; faithful)

3 own accord (authairetos—willing; voluntary; pertaining to one’s own initiative; by free choice)

4 participation (koinonia—fellowship; share; willing contribution; communion)

4 support (diakonia—ministry; table service; provision; mission; relief)

4 first (protos—before; foremost; chief; first of all; first importance)

6 complete (epileleo—accomplish; finish; bring about; attain a goal; build)

7 abound (perisseuo—be over and above; more than enough; excessive; cause to be more; exceptional)

9 poor (ptocheuo—become poor; impoverished; beg; relatively worthless; beggarly)

9 rich (plouteo—wealthy; generous; prosper; have much; abounding in riches)[3]

 

Application for 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

Let’s remind one another of the grace of God.

Let’s see that our generosity can overflow, even in dire moments.

Let’s give of our own accord, as the Lord leads us.

Let’s go beyond what we think we can give.

Let’s join together to give much.

Let’s finish what we start, especially as it relates to giving.

Let’s learn from the noble example of others who give freely.

Let’s remember the overflowing grace of Jesus.

 

Gospel Connections for 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

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. [4]

 

Thoughts and Quotes for 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. ~ Charles Dickens

 

I am thankful that there are those among us who have sacrificed dearly on behalf of us. And I ardently pray to God that I might be less like myself and more like them. ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

When God blesses you financially, don't raise your standard of living. Raise your standard of giving. ~ Mark Batterson

 

Extravagant love, as in every generation before us, has been ridiculed and scorned. It is seen as wasteful and reckless overspending. But extravagant love, the offering of everything, the emptying of the pockets of our life, is the essence of true Christianity. ~ Eric Ludy, When God Writes Your Love Story

 

Listening is among the most generous ways to give. When a loved one talks to us— whether their words appear to be deep or shallow— listen. For in some way, they are baring their souls. ~ Jan Karon, Come Rain or Come Shine

 

To consume the best for yourself and give the crumbs to God is blasphemy. A heart that truly worships is a heart that gives its best to God in time and substance. A heart that truly worships God gives generously to the causes of God—causes that God cares deeply about. I have to wonder whether someday we may wake up to discover that all our incestous spending on ourselves and our frantic construction of excessively luxurious places of worship—even as we ignore, for the most part, the hurting and the deprived of the world---filled God's heart with pain. ~ Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver

Commentary for 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

 

From the examples of the Macedonians and Christ the Corinthians can learn the following:

1. True giving requires giving of oneself, not just giving money. The gospel is not about what we can get from God but what God has given to us so that we can give of ourselves to others.

2. One can give out of extreme poverty, and one can give out of measureless riches. Those who are disinclined to be generous when they are poor are not likely to become suddenly generous when they are rich.

3. Giving is related to the grace of God experienced in Christ. The recipients are not required to have done anything to merit the gift except to be in need. The givers are made generous because of God’s grace working on them, in them, and through them.[5]

Verses 1–6

Observe here,

I. The apostle takes occasion from the good example of the churches of Macedonia, that is, of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and others in the region of Macedonia, to exhort the Corinthians and the Christians in Achaia to the good work of charity. And,

1. He acquaints them with their great liberality, which he calls the grace of God bestowed on the churches, v. 1. Some think the words should be rendered, the gift of God given in or by the churches. He certainly means the charitable gifts of these churches, which are called the grace or gifts of God, either because they were very large, or rather because their charity to the poor saints did proceed from God as the author, and was accompanied with true love to God, which also was manifested this way. The grace of God must be owned as the root and fountain of all the good that is in us, or done by us, at any time; and it is great grace and favour from God, and bestowed on us, if we are made useful to others, and are forward to any good work.

2. He commends the charity of the Macedonians, and sets it forth with good advantage. He tells them, (1.) They were but in a low condition, and themselves in distress, yet they contributed to the relief of others. They were in great tribulation and deep poverty, v. 2. It was a time of great affliction with them, as may be seen, Acts 18:17. The Christians in these parts met with ill treatment, which had reduced them to deep poverty; yet, as they had abundance of joy in the midst of tribulation, they abounded in their liberality; they gave out of a little, trusting in God to provide for them, and make it up to them. (2.) They gave very largely, with the riches of liberality (v. 2), that is, as liberally as if they had been rich. It was a large contribution they made, all things considered; it was according to, yea beyond, their power (v. 3), as much as could well be expected from them, if not more. Note, Though men may condemn the indiscretion, yet God will accept the pious zeal, of those who in real works of piety and charity do rather beyond their power. (3.) They were very ready and forward to this good work. They were willing of themselves (v. 3), and were so far from needing that Paul should urge and press them with many arguments that they prayed him with much entreaty to receive the gift, v. 4. It seems Paul was backward to undertake this trust, for he would give himself to the word and prayer; or, it may be, he was apprehensive how ready his enemies would be to reproach and blacken him upon all occasions, and might take a handle against him upon account of so large a sum deposited in his hands, to suspect or accuse him of indiscretion and partiality in the distribution, if not of some injustice. Note, How cautious ministers should be, especially in money-matters, not to give occasion to those who seek occasion to speak reproachfully! (4.) Their charity was founded in true piety, and this was the great commendation of it. They performed this good work in a right method: First they gave themselves to the Lord, and then they gave unto us their contributions, by the will of God (v. 5), that is, according as it was the will of God they should do, or to be disposed of as the will of God should be, and for his glory. This, it seems, exceeded the expectation of the apostle; it was more than he hoped for, to see such warm and pious affections shining in these Macedonians, and this good work performed with so much devotion and solemnity. They solemnly, jointly, and unanimously, made a fresh surrender of themselves, and all they had, unto the Lord Jesus Christ. They had done this before, and now they do it again upon this occasion; sanctifying their contributions to God’s honour, by first giving themselves to the Lord. Note, [1.] We should give ourselves to God; we cannot bestow ourselves better. [2.] When we give ourselves to the Lord, we then give him all we have, to be called for and disposed of according to his will. [3.] Whatever we use or lay out for God, it is only giving to him what is his own. [4.] What we give or bestow for charitable uses will not be accepted of God, nor turn to our advantage, unless we first give ourselves to the Lord.

II. The apostle tells them that Titus was desired to go and make a collection among them (v. 6), and Titus, he knew, would be an acceptable person to them. He had met with a kind reception among them formerly. They had shown good affection to him, and he had a great love for them. Besides, Titus had already begun this work among them, therefore he was desired to finish it. So that he was, on all accounts, a proper person to be employed; and, when so good a work had already prospered in so good a hand, it would be a pity if it should not proceed and be finished. Note, It is an instance of wisdom to use proper instruments in a work we desire to do well; and the work of charity will often succeed the best when the most proper persons are employed to solicit contributions and dispose of them.[6]

 

 

 



[1] Tasker, R.V.G. (1983). Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 2 Corinthians (Vol. 8, p. 112). Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press.

 

[2] Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, p. 376). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson

 

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Co 8:9). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] Garland, D. E. (1999). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 29, p. 379). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 2287–2288). Peabody: Hendrickson.