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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Super-Abound in This Grace

08/18_2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Superabound in this Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190818_2cor8_6-7.mp3

Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is talking about giving, about generosity; he is encouraging generosity toward a collection for the poor saints; but he is talking about grace. He frames everything he says about generosity around God’s generosity toward us, about God’s undeserved grace toward sinners through Jesus. This first act of giving, God’s grace toward us grounds and motivates our gracious generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] on their part. 3 For [they gave] according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Encouragement / Comfort

This passage is full of grace, and it is saturated with encouragement. When Paul says that ‘we urged Titus,’ he uses the same word ‘encourage’ or ‘comfort’ that has been a major theme of this letter.

The opening of the letter points to God’s comfort, God’s encouragement in affliction.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Just in the last chapter (chapter 7) he said:

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

…13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

Paul was comforted, encouraged by Titus, as Titus was encouraged by the Corinthians. Now Paul encourages Titus to go back to Corinth and finish what he had started there.

[MAP]

Titus has just met Paul in Macedonia. It is sometime around AD 55 or 56. There had trouble in Corinth, so Paul had left Ephesus to cross the Agean and deal with the issues, but his visit was not received well, so he retreated to Ephesus and wrote a painful letter and sent it with Titus to Corinth. He then traveled by land North from Ephesus to Troas, where he expected to meet Titus with news. But Titus didn’t show, so he abandoned an open door for ministry and traveled over to Macedonia, to visit the churches of Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea. There Titus met him and gave him a good report of the grief and repentance of the Corinthians in response to the painful letter. Now he is writing the letter we know as 2 Corinthians and encouraging Titus to take it back to Corinth and to finish what he had started. He wants him to bring to its fulfillment this grace.

The Collection

Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (AD48) of his meeting with James

Galatians 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James and Paul and Peter and John were all proclaiming the same message, the same good news about Jesus, Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the right gospel, only be sure the gospel moves out from what you say into what you do. Belief must work itself out in action. Only they asked us to remember the poor, and that Paul was already eager to do. Around this time, in Acts 11 [AD 45-47] there was:

Acts 11:28 …a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Some years later Paul is taking another collection. Paul gives instructions for this collection in 1 Corinthians 16 [AD 53-55]. Apparently he had already made them aware of this before the writing of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift [grace] to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

It appears that Titus during his recent visit had made a beginning at this collection. Paul is now encouraging him, just as you began before, thus also bring it to completion. Notice what he calls it; this grace. The ability to give is a gift; it is grace. It is not deserved or earned.

We are first and fundamentally receivers. Every good thing comes from God. He is the source of all good. To give is a gift, it is grace.

Superabounding

Paul has encouraged Titus to complete among them this grace, and now gives a word of encouragement to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Just as in all things you superabound. Faith, speech, knowledge. Back in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1 he says:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

Paul thanked God that by God’s grace, they had been enriched in all speech and all knowledge. Speech and knowledge are gifts of God’s grace. But he also warns them in 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

All speech and all knowledge are good gifts, so long as they are exercised in love. Here he also commends their faith. He commends their eagerness or earnestness. He said in

2 Corinthians 7:11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you,…

12 …I wrote to you, …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

His sorrowful letter produced in them an earnestness for the apostle just as he had hoped. And now he commends them for it.

You superabound in our love for you. It seems odd to include in a list of their excellencies the apostle’s love for the Corinthians, and this unusual expression has likely led to the variant reading in the manuscripts which reads ‘your love for us,’ which would seem to fit the context better. Literally the phrase reads ‘the out of us into you love’; and some have translated this ‘the love we aroused or inspired among you’ [WBC, p.259; BECNT, p.403]. Paul had said in 6:11-12 that ‘our heart is wide open …you are restricted in your own affections’. It could be that Paul is acknowledging and praising an opening of their hearts to him in response to his severe letter, or it could be that he is highlighting the fact that they hold a special place in his own heart, as he has communicated to them many times already in this letter.

Regardless of how we read it, the point he is making is clear. You are extraordinarily gifted by God; you superabound in everything; be sure you superabound also in this grace.

This Grace

God’s grace produced in the Macedonians a superabundance of joy in the midst of their afflictions, according to verse 2. Paul is inviting the Corinthians to superabound in this grace also. It is worth looking back at these verses, at this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] on their part. 3 For [they gave] according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

God’s grace created an abundance of joy in spite of affliction and deep poverty, and their joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion to Christ; they begged for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. God’s grace came in, and it created a simplicity of affections for Jesus that overflowed in joyful eagerness to serve others. Ministering to others is gift, it is grace; and it is communion, fellowship.

Not About Amount

It is important to see that Paul is not telling the Corinthians to compete with the Macedonians in how much they give. The Corinthians were much more affluent, so they likely could have easily outgiven them in amount. But that is not the focus, so he carefully chooses his language to make sure they don’t fall into that trap. He is looking at their hearts. He wants the grace of God to be experienced by them in such a way that it wells up in a joy in Jesus which spontaneously overflows in service to others. Paul’s aim is never simply to raise more money for his project regardless of where it comes from or how it is given. He cares more about the hearts of the givers than he does about the gift itself.

Grace and Love

This is not much different from what he says in 1 Corinthians 13. You can have all wisdom, all knowledge, all faith, you might even give away all that you have, but without love, it is all nothing. Nothing! Love is essential. First, love from God. We only can love because he first loved us. And love freely received from God spills over into love toward others. Do you see how this is the same? After describing love in 1 Corinthians 13, he says

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…
…12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

He exhorts them to excel, to strive to superabound in building up the church; overflow in loving service to others. It is not only what you do, but why you do it. Is the motive to build yourself up, to make yourself look good, to impress others? Or is it to stoop low so you can build others up, to use your gifts to serve others for their good? To build up the church?

In the very next verse here in 2 Corinthians 8:8 he will connect this overflow of grace with love for others; as an expression and a proof of love.

Do you love? Have you experienced grace? This is rubber meets the road Christianity. This is what following Jesus looks like. It looks like God’s gift of grace poured out into a person that so transforms them that they are eager to serve others, to extend grace to others, to freely give of themselves, first to the Lord, and then to the Lord’s work in the lives of people. Is this what your life is shaped like? Does the love of Christ compel you? Constrain you to live no longer for self, but for others?

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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August 19, 2019 - Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , ,

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