The Grace of Giving
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Tonight we are learning about Christian giving. The grace of financial giving. There is only one other topic that could be preached that so directly strikes at our Old Man and fleshly sensibilities: overeating and obesity.
We are going to examine what the Word of God says in 2 Corinthians 8.
- There are obvious pitfalls associated with the sharing of our finances.
- Giving unto God financially can be a reflection of prideful hearts.
Regardless of the amount or proportion of our finances we give:
FIRST – Giving can turn into a cold moral duty. We can give with bitterness and sourness yet have a smile on our face.
SECOND – Giving can puff up one’s pride. We can give with arrogance and self-satisfaction and competitiveness all with a smile of our face.
This is one of those topics that many people have a tight grip on. Not that these people have a tight grip on their finances, they may joyfully and earnestly give, but they have a tight grip on their understanding of giving, and this may impede the true joy of the grace of giving.
So, at the outset, in light of the tight grip we may have on the topic of financial giving, I want to give a biblical summary of giving ………….Turn to 1 Corinthians 16:1-2:
Sam Storms writes on this passage that giving is to be:
- Purposeful – for the “Saints” (V.1). We don’t give unto God by giving to the local window factory down the street. That may be a wise investment, but Christian giving first begins with giving to God by giving to God’s church.
- Periodical – “on the first day of the week” (V.2). This means we are to regularly set something aside and be consistent in doing so.
- Private – “let each one of you put aside” (V.2). There is no leader’s board put up on the screen. Sadly, a friend of mine told a story of a previous church he was at where they invited all the big donors to a special dinner. Not only is that not private, it shows partiality.
- Proportionate – the text says, “as he may prosper” (V.2). – we don’t give based on a flat tax. As God has blessed – and hasn’t he blessed you church – God’s people are to give unto God’s work.
So GIVING SHOULD BE PURPOSEFUL, PERIODICAL, PRIVATE, AND PROPORTIONATE
Let’s turn back to 2 Corinthians chapter 8.
2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 are to be read together. Both of these chapters together give us the fullest exposition of Christian financial giving.
Let’s define what we mean, what Paul means, by the word giving:
GIVING means the offering of earthly possessions to the Lord—and specifically financial possessions — for the work of the ongoing ministry—or to support the ministry for some special dire circumstance—and always offering it generously, joyfully, and sacrificially.
ONE MORE TIME:
Giving is the offering of earthly, financial possessions to the Lord, for the work of the ongoing ministry or to support the ministry for some special circumstance (as we see here in 2 Corinthians 8) and always offering it generously, joyfully, and sacrificially.
In chapters 8 and 9 the word Grace appears at least 10 times.
We know what grace is. It is love and favor and kindness which we won’t deserve.
The Greek word CHARIS is found in the English translated words generosity, give, and gratitude, and we can hear the word CHARIS in the word CHARISMATA = which means spiritual gifts. CHARASMATICS are those who believe in the ongoing nature of the sign gifts, like speaking in tongues.
These two chapters are centered around grace!
Did you notice that Paul does not mention money? it’s not the amount of money, it’s the more or less attachment to the money.
The question is: Is our heart attached to the money and how it satisfies us,
is our heart attached to the Grace of Christ—who secured for His people everlasting glorious communion and Peace, though we deserved only condemnation.
Paul doesn’t emphasize the money, but he emphasizes the generosity and the Grace of giving. Paul’s focus in both of these chapters on giving is centered around grace.
In verses 1-5 Paul describes the wealth of generosity on behalf of the Macedonians. Incredibly, about 375 years earlier the Greeks (including the city of Corinth) were conquered by Alexander the Great who was a Macedonian. And now the Corinthians are hearing about these same Macedonians—the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and perhaps Berea—who are giving in such abundance despite their own poverty.
Paul is using the Macedonians as an example when he tells the Corinthians to give themselves unto the Lord by giving generously unto the Saints in Jerusalem, just as the Macedonian churches did.
Paul’s logic can be explained this way:
Give yourselves abundantly to the gracious Lord,
by freely giving generously to the Lord’s people,
just as your brethren in Macedonia have done
He isn’t ‘guilting’ them, but he is describing how the Macedonians were taking part in God’s work (in v.4). Here is the application that we can draw from verses 1-5:
Giving is an act of Grace which allows us to take part in God’s work. The grace of God is given to us (v.1)—and this necessarily includes saving grace but also God’s ongoing gracious provision to us—and as a result of our apprehension of these abundant blessings and provisions, we freely, graciously, and generously give to God’s work for the Body of Christ.
Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthians HOW MUCH they must give, and neither should any minister. He says in v.3 that they gave of their own accord. They were not compelled and neither should we be compelled. They didn’t give in order to get something. They didn’t give out of guilt. They didn’t give because the tele-evangelist said they would become wealthy by doing so. They gave of their own accord.
Look at verse 4. This is one of those amazing verses that you would hardly believe if you didn’t believe in the authority and infallibility of scripture:
What did the Macedonians do in (V.4)?
The Macedonians begged for the favor of giving to the saints. They pleaded urgently to give. Have you ever heard of anyone doing this? Have your children or grandchildren pleaded with you to give you money from their piggybank? This is not a normal occurrence, especially for people in extreme poverty.
Isn’t this a powerful picture of what the Grace of God can do in a man’s heart. But, notice also verse 5: their earnest begging to give financially, springs from giving themselves first to the Lord. This is exactly what Romans 12:1 describes:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. He goes to tell his readers (in V.2): DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD
Give yourselves unto God (in 2 Cor) or Present your bodies as a living sacrifice (in Romans 12) is the starting place. It is always the starting place.
In Matt 6, from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
It was God’s will for the Macedonians, to overflow in a wealth of generosity, for they had first been drinking from the well of living waters. And Paul is commending the Macedonians to the Corinthians as an example to do the same.
GO TO THE WELL. AND THEN GIVE AS AN ACT OF GRACE.
It is God’s will for everyone who has their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, to also overflow in a wealth of generosity. We see this in v. 7 – In the same way you seek to excel in faith, speech, knowledge, excel also in the act of grace that is giving financially.
But more than a Macedonian example, we have the example of Christ. Verse 9. This is such a RICH text. That pun is definitely intended! It is Beautiful, poetic, doctrinal, pure gospel, and Christ exalting.
Let’s look at this verse in its three parts:
That Christ is rich –
That Christ became poor –
That we have become rich on account of his becoming poor –
What does it mean that Christ is rich?
it means that Jesus Christ is eternal and uncreated and unceasingly emanates glory.
in the high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus begins his prayer like this:
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
It means that Jesus Christ is God.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that there is one God, in three persons. Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are distinct in persons, but one in BEING or ESSENCE or SUBSTANCE.
John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
It means that Jesus Christ is the Lord of Glory.
We read this in James 2:1. Jesus is so very rich, for Jesus is our glorious, and beautiful, and powerful, and mighty Lord who is self-existent.
But this self-existent, second person of the trinity, became poor. What does it mean that Christ became poor?
The answer is that He entered into humanity as a human, by being sent from Heaven to Earth in the incarnation.
Philippians 2, beginning in verse 5-8
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Christ’s very essence and identity is one with the Father—this is what “in the form of God” means (in V.6). This high and heavenly being, the second person of the Trinity, emptied himself and took on flesh. He did not cease to become holy God, but he voluntarily subjected himself and became a human person. He lost none of His divine attributes, but added human nature, though without sin.
Jesus is therefore, the God-man. Truly God and Truly Man. There is no mixture of these natures. The human and divine natures must be distinguished but not separated.
So this is what it means that Christ became poor. by taking on human nature for our sake. But that is just the beginning of our understanding of how he became poor. He became incarnate – in human flesh, yes! – in the womb of Mary, yes! But the humble and meek God-man was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (V.8)
And this is what it means for believers to be rich on account of
Christ becoming poor
Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf. …their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners
Or, to put it as Paul puts it a few chapters earlier in 2 Cor:
FOR OUR SAKE HE MADE HIM TO BE SIN WHO KNEW NO SIN, SO THAT IN HIM WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.
So meditate on what Christ has accomplished for you, Christ follower. How Christ has made you rich:
The infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-wise, powerful, holy, just, and good God, in the person of the Son, broke his body and shed his blood for “your sake”
“For your sake” the text reads … you now, Christian, are rich in Christ.
- The peace of Christ rules in your heart
- The power of Christ is made perfect in your weakness
- The life of Christ is made manifest in your flesh
The phrase “in Christ” is, in fact, used more than 150 times in the Pauline Epistles alone? You are rich, Christian, ……………..IN CHRIST.
Paul inserts this magnificent verse to encourage the Corinthians to look to Christ before they look to their wallet. To remember how Christ gave, before they think of giving themselves.
Their giving and our giving should be self-less, magnanimous, sacrificial, under no compulsion, and driven by grace. For this is how Christ first gave to us. So give, church, because of grace. Give, as an act of grace.
Let me end with this.
GIVE GENEROUSLY and GIVE CHEERFULLY. DO NOT DO SO UNDER COMPULSION AND THEN THERE WILL BE BLESSING.
There is already rich and eternal blessing – for as the Christian stands now, he stands as justified and no longer condemned. You, Christian, are rich in Christ. But more blessings follow.
Turn to chapter 9 verses 6-8. READ
God is able to make grace abound. Paul doesn’t say giving leads to monetary gain; But he says we will abound in the grace of contentment and we will abound in good works. This is God’s amazing promise.
Give, and you’ll abound in contentment.
Give, and you’ll abound in good works.
Seek Christ first, draw from the Living Waters, then give generously and give cheerfully and give not under compulsion. And blessing and Grace will abound.