Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 4 — “The Ministry & It’s Financial Collections”

Lesson 1: "The Challenge to Give" - II Cor. 8:1-15

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

II Corinthians 8:1-15, “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 intreaty 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 would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but 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 I 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.”


-Introduction: The churches throughout Judea were suffering great poverty and needed help badly. This is what this passage is about: meeting the desperate need of fellow believers and human beings who were being threatened with starvation and death, many of whom were without Christ and doomed to an eternity apart from Christ.


The need of missions is an unending call, a call that never ends. The desperate needs of the world must always confront man. Why? Because the world is sinful and corruptible, full of greed and covetousness, banking and hoarding. People who have more than they need should be helping and giving, serving and ministering. Instead they are banking and hoarding. The result is a world reeling in desperate need. The challenge to the church is clear! Give—give all you are and have to reach and help the desperate of the world who are without Christ. Seven challenges here:


1.  Know the spirit of the Macedonians: they gave because of the grace and favor of God.

2.  Excel in the same spirit of giving.

3.  Prove the sincerity of your love.

4.  Know the example of Christ—He gave.

5.  Remember your own past record.

6.  Give readily and willingly.

7.  Meet the needs of one another—equally.


#1) The first challenge is to know the spirit of the Macedonians.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5, “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 intreaty 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.”


The Roman province of Macedonia included all of northern Greece. The known churches of the region were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. The first two are well known by every generation of Christians because of the two letters addressed to them in the New Testament.


At one time, the Macedonian province had been known for its natural resources. But down through the centuries the area had been ravaged by war, and Rome had stripped it of its wealth. Because of this the churches of the area were somewhat poor in material wealth. But note a glorious fact: they were extremely wealthy in the grace of God. God had bestowed an abundance of grace upon the churches—so much grace that Paul is able to use them as a dynamic example of God's grace.


Remember that grace means the favor and blessings of God, all the good things of life which God gives us—the greatest of which is salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. God's blessings were "bestowed on" the churches. The idea is that God just poured or laid blessing after blessing upon the churches. They knew the grace, the favor, and the blessings of God in a very, very special way. Note four dynamic facts about their testimony.

          A.  They gave to help others, and gave liberally. They gave despite terrible trial and deep poverty. There was great suffering among the believers and churches of Macedonia.

           

            -Believers suffered afflictions and persecutions, and the afflictions were a "great trial" for them to bear. When they accepted Christ and took their stand for Him, they were heavily persecuted.


"And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost" (1 Thes. 1:6).


"For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews" (1 Thes. 2:14).


"So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure" (2 Thes. 1:4).


            -Believers suffered "deep poverty," which means utter poverty, poverty down to the depths. As mentioned, this was due to the ravages of war and the battles which were fought on their own soil, and to the heavy taxation and stripping of resources by the Roman government.

However, note that the believers were filled with an "abundance of joy." They had come to know Christ: their sins had been forgiven and the Spirit of God was living in their hearts and lives, strengthening and guiding them through all. God was now looking after their lives and taking care of them. God was giving them the absolute assurance of His care and provision day by day and of eternal life when they departed this world. They joyed and rejoiced in all that God was doing for them and was going to do for them.


The point is this: they knew the Lord—really knew Him—and they were committed to living for the Lord. Therefore, when someone needed help, they were ready to help. They gave liberally. The word "liberality" means singleness of mind, sincerely, with an open and free heart. The churches of Macedonia determined to give, to open their hearts and give all they could.


          B.  They gave beyond their ability. They willingly gave: no special appeal had to be made; no pressure had to be executed. They gave freely and readily. And note: they did not give according to their ability, but they went beyond what they were able to give.


          C. They gave insistently, begging for the privilege to share. Apparently, they were giving so much that Paul felt it was just beyond their means. However they insisted, and note why: they wanted to share in the fellowship of ministering to the saints. Some fellow believers were in need, and they wanted the privilege of fellowshipping with them by giving to them. Note how giving is said to be a means of fellowshipping with others.


          D. They gave themselves to the Lord first. This is a most striking verse and point. What it means is this: these dear believers gave all they were and had to the Lord. They used this occasion, the occasion of an offering—the occasion when they were asked to help others—to rededicate their lives and possessions to Christ. Note that this involved three steps:

            -The dedication of their lives to Christ: all they were.

            -The dedication of their possessions to Christ: all they had.

            -The dedication of themselves to the minister, Paul, in order to serve by his side and to           allow them all to serve Christ together.


Paul distinctly says that they gave "their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." This is essential if the needs of a world reeling in desperate needs are to ever be reached: believers must join hand in hand with the ministers of God.


 "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me" (Matthew 25:35-36).


"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).


"I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).


"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).


"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thes. 5:14).


"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).


#2) The second challenge is to excel in the same spirit of giving as the Macedonians. 

2 Corinthians 8:6-7, “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”


Sometime earlier the Corinthian church had begun to take up an offering for the poor churches of Judea, but something had happened that caused the church to stop the project. Just what is not actually known, but it was probably all the trouble and problems covered in the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Since the church had experienced revival, it was now time for the offering project to be completed. Very simply, Paul says two things that apply to every church.

          A. The grace of giving is to be completed in you. The Corinthian’s were to financially support the Lord's work, the very ministry of God Himself. They were to support the ministry of meeting the needs of desperate people and of proclaiming the gospel to a lost and dying world. This glorious privilege is clearly seen when it is remembered that God has not given to angels the privilege of supporting His work; God has committed this grace, this privilege only to men.

          B. The other graces abound in you; therefore, the grace of giving is to abound in you. The Corinthians had an abundance of spiritual resources, especially the gifts that involved...

          •  faith: the trust in God that enabled them to walk through life victoriously and to serve           God faithfully.

          •  utterance: the ability to share the gospel and the doctrines of God's Word.

          •  knowledge: the understanding of God's Word.

          •  diligence: the energy and zeal to carry on the ministry of the Lord Jesus.

          •  love to us: the care for the minister of God who serves Christ so faithfully.


Because the church was so strong in these gifts, they needed to abound in the gift of giving as well. Giving and helping others in their desperate need was as much a duty as any other responsibility.


"Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13).


"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).


"That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Tim. 6:18).


"But to do good and to communicate [give] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16).


#3) The third challenge is to prove the sincerity of your love.

2 Corinthians 8:8, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”


Note that Paul does not command the Corinthians to give. If giving is forced or coerced, it benefits nothing; it does not please God. God is pleased only with gifts that are willingly and cheerfully given. He blesses only those who willingly help others. Therefore, giving must be based upon two things.

          -Giving must be based upon love for those who are lost and needy. Giving must be based upon love for the Lord Jesus who has commanded us to go into all the world to preach the gospel.

          -Giving must be based upon the example of those who give sacrificially. In the case of the Corinthians, they had the dynamic example of the Macedonians. The Corinthians should have been stirred to follow the example of such sacrificial giving. In our case, we should be stirred to follow the dynamic example of all those who give willingly and sacrificially.

Note how love is proven by action. Love cannot be known unless it is demonstrated by deeds of compassion and giving. Love demands sacrificial giving. In fact, there is no love unless there is sacrificial giving.


"And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Ephes. 5:2).


#4) The fourth challenge is to know the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9, “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.”


Above all others, Jesus Christ demonstrates not only that we are to give, but how we are to give.

          A. The Lord Jesus Christ was rich. He was the Son of God, possessing the very nature and being and fulness of God.

            -He dwelt in the glory and majesty, dominion and power of the Godhead (Jude 24-25).

            -He dwelt in light which no man can approach, in all the splendor and brilliance of the           Godhead (1 Tim. 6:16).

            -He possessed every good and perfect thing that can be possessed (James 1:17).

            -He had all the worship and adoration of heavenly beings (Rev. 4:6f; Rev. 5:11f).

          B. The Lord Jesus Christ became poor. This refers to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, that is, to His condescension or humiliation. It refers to the great gulf He had to span in coming to earth. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was King of kings and Lord of lords, who was God of very God, left all the glory and worship of heaven to become a man. He who was...

          •  God became an humble man.

          •  the Lord took on flesh and blood.

          •  the Holy God took the place of the lowest.

          •  the Sovereign Lord became the subject.

          •  the Beloved became the rejected.

          •  the Perfect One became the Sacrifice for sin.

          •  the Life became the Substitute for death.


As Scripture declares so aptly, "He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor." Because He became poor, we can become rich. We can receive the adoption of sons, actually become sons and daughters of God and live with Him forever and ever in the new heavens and earth.


The point is this: since Christ willingly sacrificed so much to help us, we ought to sacrifice to help those in need. Just as Christ gave everything for us when we were in desperate need, so we are to give everything to meet the needs of those who are desperately lost in this world.


"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8).


#5) The fifth challenge is to remember your own past record.

2 Corinthians 8:10, “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.”


As mentioned above, the Corinthians had undertaken the mission project of meeting the needs of the poor churches in Judea, but they had backed off the project when divisiveness had reared its ugly head in the church. Now that they had experienced revival, Paul gives his advice: pick up the mission project again. "This is expedient for you": expedient and beneficial for you personally and for your ministry. Recommitting yourselves to missions will stir God to bless the church.


Note that the church had been forward, that is, zealous in undertaking the mission project about a year before. Since the revival of recommitment, they should be even more zealous to launch a ministry of missions for the Lord.


#6) The sixth challenge is to give readily and willingly.

2 Corinthians 8:11-12, “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.”


Four quick points are made in these two verses, points that give clear directions on missions to any church that is willing to listen. Note: Paul is no longer giving advice; he is now charging the church to give itself to missions and to undertake this particular mission project.

          A. Give yourselves to missions. This is implied, understood. Paul is dealing with one mission project, but underlying the whole discussion is the absolute necessity for a permanent commitment to missions. After a mission need has been met, there is always another need to meet—a need just as critical. The world reels under the weight of sin and disease, corruption and death, hunger and thirst, poverty and ignorance, homelessness and exposure to the elements. Literally thousands die prematurely and without Christ every day—die because no one cared enough to help them. The call of missions is the constant call of Christ!


          B. Finish the mission. The Corinthian church had begun the project; they needed to finish it. The church is to reach out in mission projects all over the world, and it is to finish the projects. Remember that Jerusalem was a foreign field to the Corinthians.

          C. Give readily and willingly—lay hold of "a willing mind." Note that this is the first requirement when a person gives. Above all else, he is to give willingly.


          D. The reason is simply stated: God is going to judge us for what we give. The idea is this: in the day of judgment God is going to look at what we gave and at what we kept back. If we have banked, hoarded, and lived extravagantly, He is going to reject us. But if we gave all that we had beyond our needs, then we will be "accepted," that is, approved to live in the presence of Christ who sacrificed all He had for us.


"Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).


"Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea" (Act 11:29).


#7) The seventh challenge is to meet the needs of one another-equally.

2 Corinthians 8:13-15, “For I 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.”


It is critical to note that these verses are not dealing with possessions or property, not with what a person has, but with needs.

          1.  One person's need is not to be eased while another person has a need.


          2.  Each need is to be equally met. This is an explosive principle, for it goes contrary to what society practices. It eliminates the hoarding and keeping of goods beyond our needs. God wants the needs of the starving and lost masses met. The only way they can be met is by giving all we are and have beyond what is needed to take care of our own families.


          3.  The Old Testament Scripture supports this principle. When God miraculously fed Israel with the manna from the sky, the people were to gather only what they needed. If they gathered too much and attempted to hoard and put it back, it spoiled overnight. If a person was unable to gather enough due to some illness or inability, his need was either met by the help of others or by God Himself.


The point is striking: every believer is to use all he has and give it to meet the needs of a desperate world. He is to particularly meet the needs of fellow believers. 


"I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).


"Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13).


"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Ephes. 4:28).


"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Tim. 6:17-19).


"But to do good and to communicate [give] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16).


*Next lesson: “The Men Who Handle the Collection” II Cor 8:16-24.



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