The collection for the poor 2 Corinthians 8

One verse in this passage is very familiar to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through His poverty you might become rich.”
In this single sentence, the apostle Paul sums up the whole story of Christ’s incarnation and the way God brings us salvation. Here is the story of Christmas. And Paul begins, as does John’s Gospel, not with the baby in the manger but with the cosmic Christ.

THOUGH HE WAS RICH
The person Paul is talking about is Jesus of Nazareth, but that person had existed long before the baby was born, long before even time began.
Who was that person? He was God the Son
John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
And what had that person, the Word already done? He had created all things, absolutely everything. And he is the source of all life.
John 1:3-5 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
THAT is the person we are talking about as Christians – the Word of God, God the Son. If our thoughts of Christmas and the incarnation don’t begin in heaven with the Cosmic Christ, we have missed half the story!
Though He was rich
YET FOR YOUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the manger we find the Word without a word – not so much squeezing a quart into a pint pot as squeezing an entire OCEAN into a pint pot!
Philippians 2:6-7 6 (Christ) being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Christ chose not to cling on to His divinity but that doesn’t mean He ceased to be God. He remained fully God as well as being fully human. There was no loss of power or glory – just a change of status as the king of kings and Lord of Lords became a tiny human baby. Think about the poverty of Christ’s birth and his childhood. Born in a filthy stable, not a palace. Brought up as a refugee in Egypt and then in an insignificant village in the back of beyond called Nazareth. One of a despised race, in a country ruled by an occupying army in the shadow of the mighty Roman Empire. Think of the shame for Jesus, being conceived before his mother Mary was married.
And just why did God the Son leave all the glory of heaven and the presence of the Father and the Spirit? Not for their benefit, but for ours.Though Christ was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor

SO THAT THROUGH HIS POVERTY YOU MIGHT BECOME RICH
The riches Christ has are not material but spiritual. So the riches He brings to us are not material but spiritual. As Christ shared the poverty of the human separation from God, so he shares with us the riches of a relationship with Almighty God as our Father. God the Son became a human being so that men and women could become God’s children too.
John 1:11-13 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Christ makes us rich by making us children of God. Christ became what we are, so that we might share in what He is.
In that simple verse Paul unfolds the mystery of the incarnation. But we take it out of context when we unwrap its theology. Because Paul speaks about the grace of Christ to spur the Corinthians to GENEROSITY. Giving to those who are poor or needy, homeless or marginalised. And by extension also giving to the work of the church and to Christian mission. God loves us so much, and has given so much to us. We should follow that example and be generous to people in need, out of deep gratitude for all that God has done for us.

So let’s go back and see the context – and that is of the collection that the churches outside Israel were taking up to meet the needs of poor Christians, in particular the poor in Jerusalem.

THE EXAMPLE GIVEN BY THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES
2 Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
GENEROUS GIVING DESPITE EXTREME POVERTY
2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.

Following the Jewish practice, and the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Christians were expected to give alms to the poor. One was to give alms according to one’s ability
Deuteronomy 15:14 Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you.

But the Macedonians went beyond this rule. They gave sacrificially, even beyond their ability.As an aside, remember that Paul is not asking for himself here. He is asking on behalf of the poor in Jerusalem
GIVING THEMSELVES FIRST TO THE LORD and THEN TO US
Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
That is true of all Christian giving. We are giving first and foremost to God, and then secondarily to the poor or to the church or to whatever other good cause. The term translated “participation” (NASB), “sharing” (NIV, NRSV) or “fellowship” (KJV) was used technically in business documents of Paul’s day for a “partnership.” The word is koinonia = fellowship. We give to meet the needs of other Christians as an expression of our fellowship with them.
Judaism used the term translated here as “service” (NIV) or “support” (NASB) technically for distributing alms for the poor.
CHALLENGE TO THE CORINTHIANS
6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Since the Corinthians are doing so well in following Jesus, Paul expected them to be outstanding in their generosity to the poor of Jerusalem too. The extent of our giving is an expression of our love and not just an act of obedience.
NOT OBEYING A COMMAND BUT OUT OF SINCERE LOVE
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

THE GRACE of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST – the supreme example of selfless giving

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Paul uses the example of the love and generosity of Jesus to inspire gratitude in the Corinthians, and by extension in all of us as well.

FINISHING WHAT WE HAVE STARTED – GIVING THE BEST WE CAN

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

PRINCIPLE OF SHARING – EQUALITY and FAIRNESS

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’

Paul is quoting Exodus 16:18 here which talked about the Israelites collecting up the Manna in the wilderness. Everybody had what they needed. That’s the way God wants it to be in the church. The Corinthian Christians were relatively wealthy. The Jerusalem church were relatively poor and in particular need due to the famine at that time. So in the spirit of fellowship out of a desire for fairness it was only right that the Corinthians should give generously to help their brothers and sisters who were in desperate need.
THE ROLE AND ENTHUSIASM OF TITUS
16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
TITUS is delivering the letter 2 Corinthians to them. And then he would also collect the Corinthians’ gifts and take them on to Jerusalem.
THE ROLE OF THE UNNAMED BROTHER – TRANSPARENT HONESTY
18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.
Who was this unnamed brother? It couldn’t have been Barnabas or Silas. They wouldn’t have been relegated to being just a companion to Titus. Similarly Apollos was known to the Corinthians so Paul would surely have used his name if it was him. The best guess is probably actually Doctor Luke, companion of Paul and later author of the Gospel which bears his name.
ANOTHER BROTHER ALONG WITH TITUS AND LUKE
22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.

This brother is commended for zealousness, or earnestness, more than other qualities. Paul had just praised the earnestness of others in verse 8 and Titus for his enthusiasm in verse 17.
Romans 12:11 says 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

They were REPRESENTATIVES of the Churches and AN HONOUR TO CHRIST
23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honour to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

Paul is spurring on the Corinthians to generous giving for the needs of the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Out of fellowship, sharing a common life. Out of a desire for equality and fair shares for everybody. But most of all out of the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

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