The Corinthians and the Collection: Notes on 2 Corinthians 8-9

Paul’s collection from Gentile churches for the needy Jewish saints in Jerusalem was a one project that was below the surface of his 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys. It was Paul’s goal to connect the two ethnic groups together through this relief effort. In these notes we will explore the collection from the Corinthian perspective and possible reasons why they delayed for over a year in assembling the funds they had promised.

Paul’s Collection for the Needy Saints in Jerusalem:

• First proposed during Paul’s trip to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10; cf. Acts 15).

• Funds were solicited from the churches of:

– Galatia: Including Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Debre (1 Corinthians 16:1; cf. Galatians 2:10)

– Macedonia: Including Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi (8:1-5; cf. Acts 20:3-4)

– Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8-9)

– I think it is also safe to say that many other congregations contributed as well such as Ephesus, or Troas, or Cenchreae, etc. Though these congregations are not specifically mentioned.

• The Funds Collected & Delivered to Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-33; Act 21:17)

The Corinthian’s Attitude Toward the Collection (2 Corinthians 8-9):

• Had a desire and a readiness which manifested itself in starting to collect the needed funds (8:10-12).

• Also, they had a zeal and love which stirred up other churches to generously give to the relief effort (8:8; 9:1-2).

• They had zealously promised Paul they would contribute a generous gift for their Jewish brethren (9:5).

• Yet one year later, their zeal had grown cold, their love had dried up and their portion on the relief effort remained uncollected (8:10).

While all the other churches were ready for Paul to collect their contribution, it seemed the Corinthians, were behind schedule.

4 Reasons Why The Corinthians Had Delayed Completing their Contribution For Over A Year:

1. The Corinthians were content to desire to contribute and start the collection but lack motivation to complete the project itself:

“And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” (8:10-12)

2. They felt taken advantage of by the poorer Judeans. The Corinthians, who had much, thought others would be living a life of ease at their expense:

“I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’” (8:13-15)

3. The Corinthians were swayed by false teachers to stop contributing to the collection, alleging Paul exacting funds and was untrustworthy with such a large sum of money (cf. Chaps. 11-13). However, Paul took great pains to show the safe guards he and his companions had taken to ensure the monies collected were freewill offerings and would reach their intended destination:

“But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men. Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated–to say nothing of you–for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” (8:16-9:5)

4. They feared the sacrifices that came with making such a large contribution. You might say, Promiser’s Remorse had set it:

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (9:6-15)

I believe these four reasons contributed to the Corinthians lack of doing what they had zealously been ready to do a year ago. Nevertheless, it seems from Paul’s upbeat words in Romans 15:25-33, the Corinthians did come through and complete the promised collection.

One take away for us today is what were we ready to do a year ago that is still lacking in our lives? Let’s get it done today.

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