For the week commencing 14 July 2019

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Giving as a grace and a privilege from 2 Cor 8:1-9

With a PDF found here

Next Sunday we begin a 2-week series on the joy of giving. Here’s the outline:

21 July    Giving as a grace and a privilege                 2 Cor 8:1-9

28 July    Giving as planned, generous and cheerful    2 Cor 9:1-8

DAY 1: Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

In chapter 7, Paul had relived the joyous reunion in Macedonia with Titus who brought good news of the Corinthians’ response to the ‘sorrowful letter’ about disciplining a believer who had done wrong. Here now in Chapter 8 he writes about the other report by Titus from Corinth – news about the collection. This collection was mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:1ff and also in Romans 15:26ff. This collection was to help out the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. Such practical help had its beginnings a decade earlier in Jerusalem! When it was originally agreed that James, Peter and John would evangelise Jews, while Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles, they agreed that Paul and Barnabas would ‘remember the poor’, that is; make provision from the Gentile churches for the poor among the Christians in Jerusalem (see Galatians 2:9-10). Implicit in the collection was Paul’s desire to create a sense of unity and brotherhood between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians are given over to Paul’s plea for generosity to the Christians in Jerusalem. They were facing harder than usual economic times as a result of a famine during the mid to late 40s. In addition, double taxation and overpopulation crippled an already precarious economy. Paul and Barnabas made an initial famine-relief visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 46 and delivered a monetary gift from the church at Antioch (Acts 11:29-30). At that time the Jerusalem church expressed the hope that the believers associated with Paul would continue to ‘remember’ the Judean believers, which Paul was more than eager to do (Gal 2:10).

How might you better ‘remember’ the poor who among us?

DAY 2: Read again 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

As we study these chapters, it’s important to note that the generosity being commended is not for Paul personally nor for ministry purposes, rather it is for people who are in need of food and clothing at a time when there was no welfare system in place. Yet the principles we see here in terms of godly generosity are applicable whether the cause is specifically for the poor or the work of the gospel.

Here are the highlights of these first 9 verses: Paul holds up as an example, the generosity of the Macedonian churches, describing them as a grace or gift given by God. Pray for that same gift for us! I also want you to notice that they give beyond their ability and saw it as a privilege (vv3-4). They were able to give like this because they had given their whole selves to God and therefore saw everything they had as his! Note Paul doesn’t command giving – but commends it as an appropriate way of responding to God’s grace.

Now to go back and see some detail: Paul begins by sharing with the Corinthians, just how generous the Macedonian churches have been (this included the Thessalonians and Philippians). They were poor people compared to many well-to-do Corinthians, and yet their giving has been significant. V1 makes it clear that this was because the Lord had given them a gift of generosity – we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. God enabled them to be the instrument of his grace to others. Giving is itself a gift of God’s grace to us!

Note that even in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty, they knew overflowing joy. Poverty and joy – a delightful pairing – enabled only by their trust in God. We would think that poverty would result in small gifts, given grudgingly. Not here! Their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  In fact, v4 tells us they pleaded with Paul for what they saw was a privilege – sharing with the saints in Jerusalem.

How is this possible? How do you give generously when you yourself have so little? Because when you give your entire self to the Lord as a first priority, then you can trust him to look after you and provide for you. When you take hold of him entirely, your hold on money and material possessions loosens considerably. When you put the Lord first, then everything else in life falls into place and will hold a very different place in your hearts. And your thoughts about your money and material possessions will become very different from that of people around you. So Paul uses the example of the Macedonians to urge the Corinthians to a similar generosity. They ought to be excelling in giving, as they do in other gifts.

I wonder if you have seen generosity as a gift from God? Have you ever pleaded with someone to be allowed to share in the grace of giving? And do you consider you have given of yourself utterly and completely and first, to the Lord? If you have, then real generosity – and a passion to be generous – will be a natural outcome.

DAY 3: Read 2 Corinthians 8:9

Verse 9 is the centrepiece of chapters 8 and 9: – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

All Christian generosity is predicated on God’s astonishing generosity to us in Jesus, by which we receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. Once we have truly grasped how blessed we are by Jesus, then our generosity cannot help but flow!

Verse 9 is one of my favourite summary statements of the gospel. Jesus left the glorious riches of all eternity with his Father (see Philippians 2:5ff for a great explanation of this.) He gave up all he had to enter the muck of our world and become poor. He came in humility and entered our world as a baby; a food trough for his bed. He subjected himself to Israel who rejected him. He gave himself up into the hands of sinful people who hung him on a wooden cross. But in so doing, he made it possible for the likes of you and me to enter his eternal riches. Through the forgiveness of sins and our reconciliation with the Father, we can enter the riches of eternity! We become rich.

This is model generosity. Costly generosity. Sacrificial generosity. Let me ask – do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? For if you truly know the depth of his grace to you in becoming poor so that you might become rich, then you will want to mirror that generosity.

Yes, giving to the poor and to the work of the gospel, is a grace (a gift) and a privilege. Is that the way you see it? Have you known – do you know – the joy of giving?

DAY 4: Read Psalm 62:1-8

We read this Psalm at all services on June 7. I hope it ministered to you then, and I hope it may minister to you again today. I hope that as you take refuge in God as your rock and salvation, you will find him to be fortress and that you will never be shaken. Whatever challenging circumstances you face today, pour out your heart to him for he promises to be our refuge.

Here is a recent sermon by Michael Calder on this Psalm: