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2 Corinthians 9

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Offering for the Saints Administering the Gifts The Collection for the Relief
of the Jerusalem Church
Help for Needy Believers The Delegates Recommended
to the Corinthians
    (8:1-9:15)   (8:1-9:5)
9:1-5 9:1-5 9:1-5 9:1-5 Blessing to Be Expected
from the Collection
  The Cheerful Giver      
9:6-15 9:6-15 9:6-15 9:6-15 9:6-9
        9:10-15

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. It must be remembered that chapters 8 and 9 form a literary unity. Also to some extent they are parallel. Possibly Paul has combined two sermons on Christian giving.

 

B. These two chapters taken together, in my opinion, are the definitive NT discussion of stewardship.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:1-5
  1For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to speak of you-will be put to shame by this confidence. 5So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.9:1 "it is superfluous" This is the term perissos. It is used here in the sense of over and above. It and its related forms are used often in 2 Corinthians . Paul often uses emotional or "over-the-top" language. See Special Topic at 2:7.

▣ "for me to write to you" It is unusual for Paul to say this when he has just written to them on this subject (i.e., the collection from his Gentile churches to the mother church in Jerusalem, cf. chapter 8).

These two chapters are parallel in the spiritual principles related to Christian stewardship. Possibly they are two sermons combined or parts of two catechisms.

▣ "this ministry" This term (diakonia) is often used of Christian stewardship (cf. Acts 6:1; 11:29; Rom. 15:31; II Cor. 8:4; 9:1,12,13). Here it refers to servanthood. Believers' relationship to a gracious God and a self-giving Messiah demand a life of service to others (cf. John 17:18; 20:21; I John 3:16). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SERVANT LEADERSHIP at I Cor. 4:1.

"to the saints" See Special Topic: Saints at I Cor. 1:2.

9:2 "I know your readiness" Paul has alluded to this in 8:8-12,20.

▣ "which I boast about you to the Macedonians" This is a present middle indicative. Paul continued to boast about the Achaians. In 8:1-5 Paul uses the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians; now, in chapter 9, Paul states that he has used the Achaians to encourage the Macedonians.

"boast" See Special Topic: Boasting at I Cor. 5:6.

▣ "Achaia" This was the Roman province along the south coast of Greece. This is in agreement with 1:1, where the letter is written for all of God's people in Achaia. That shows that the letter was read in several churches of the area or that the church in Corinth, which was the capital of the province, had a wide geographical influence.

▣ "has been prepared since last year" There seems to be a contradiction to chapter 8. However, the Corinthians wanted to begin the offering a year earlier, but they had never finished it. The real problem is the translation (the inflected forms are the same) of the verb.

1. if it is a perfect middle indicative, it should be translated "have made preparations"

2. if it is perfect passive indicative, it should be translated "has been prepared"

I think it should be perfect middle because of the context and the matching participle in v. 3 (i.e., perfect middle).

"your zeal has stirred up most of them" The verb in this sentence can be used in a negative sense (cf. Septuagint of Deut. 20:21; Col. 3:21) or a positive sense (cf. II Cor. 9:2). Only the context can determine the meaning.

9:3 "you may be prepared" This is a perfect passive subjunctive. The tense and voice match v. 2, but the subjunctive mood shows there is an element of contingency based on the volition of the believers at Corinth related to the collection (lit. "this matter").

9:4 "if any Macedonians come with me" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action. These representatives are mentioned in 8:19-24. In Acts 20:4, where the representatives to Jerusalem with this offering are mentioned, none from Corinth are listed. Some have asserted that it was possible that Titus, who went earlier, was their representative, but there is no mention of him in Acts.

There are three aorist subjunctive verbs in v. 4 which introduce an element of contingency based on the actions of the Achaian churches.

NASB"we - not to speak of you -"
NKJV"we (not to mention you!)"
NRSV"we. . .to say nothing of you -"
NJB"we - to say nothing of yourselves -"

The problem which is translated in these different ways relates to the pronoun and how it should relate to the previous verb ("should be shamed," kataischunthōmen, aorist passive subjunctive, plural). The UBS4 shows three options.

1. "lego" (present active subjunctive, singular) - MSS P46, C*, D, F, G

2. "legōmen" - (present active subjunctive, plural) - MSS א, B, C2

3. omit - MS K

The UBS4 gives option #1 a "B" rating (almost certain). Paul uses the first person singular in vv. 1, 2, 3, and 5 (Metzger, p. 582).

NASB"by this confidence"
NKJV"by this confident boasting"
NRSV"in this undertaking"
TEV"for feeling so sure of you"
NJB"by our confidence in you"

Why would Paul and the Corinthian church be ashamed? The term hupostasis (i.e., NASB, "confidence"), according Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker's Greek-English Lexicon, cannot be translated "confidence," but must be "frame of mind" or possibly "realization" of the collection for the poor in Jerusalem (cf. NRSV) (p. 847 #2 and #3). Paul was worried about the offering, not his boasting. This fits the word's usage in Heb. 1:3. However, when comparing this same term usage in 11:17, "confident boasting," then one understands why NASB translated it this way in this verse.

The word "boasting" (NKJV) is missing in most early Greek manuscripts (i.e., MSS P46, א*, B, C, D*, F, G). It is present in MSS א2, D1. The UBS4 gives its omission a "B" rating (almost certain).

9:5 There are three words in this verse which begin with pro (i.e., before).

1. Paul sent the church representatives in advance (proerchomai, cf. Acts 20:5,13)

2. Paul wanted them to prepare in advance (prokatartizō, cf. Acts 3:18,24; 7:52)

3. Paul wanted them to fulfill their previous promise (proepēngellomai, cf. Rom. 1:2)

 

"bountiful gift" This is eulogia (i.e., literally "good word"). This term is also used in v. 6 in the sense of "abundant."

This term has a wide semantic field. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, list six senses (vol. 2, p. 108).

1. praise (cf. James 3:9)

2. flattery (cf. Rom. 16:18)

3. blessing (cf. I Cor. 10:16; James 3:10)

4. benefit (cf. Rom. 15:29)

5. gift (cf. II Cor. 9:5)

6. large amount (cf. II Cor. 9:6)

The #3 usage follows the Septuagint (cf. Jdgs. 1:15).

NASB"as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness"
NKJV"as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation"
NRSV"as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion"
TEV"you give because you want to, not because you have to"
NJB"as a real gift and not an imposition"

Literally "thus as a blessing and not as greediness." Paul's whole discussion about giving in this literary unit (i.e., chapters 8-9) is written in tactful and positive ways, but this phrase shows that there was an element of opposition in the church. Paul wanted the church at Corinth to feel a part of the larger fellowship of his churches and be a part of this corporate benevolent ministry. He knew, however, some would take this opportunity to accuse him of being overbearing in regards to this contribution. So to stop all possible criticism, he said, "Get it done before I get there!"

The Jerome Biblical Commentary says that the noun often translated "greed" should, in this context, be translated "gift grudgingly given" (p. 285).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:6-15
  6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9as it is written, "He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever." 10Now 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; 11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

9:6 "he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly" This seems to be an allusion to Pro. 11:24-25 (cf. Pro. 19:17; 22:9). It reflects Jesus' teaching on giving (cf. Matt. 7:2; Mark 4:24; Luke.6:38). The agricultural metaphor of sowing is often used in the Bible; sometimes in an eschatological, judicial sense (cf. Gal. 6:7), but also as a way of referring to supernatural actions like the resurrection (cf. I Cor. 15:35-37). In this context it speaks of one seed producing many seeds as a way of referring to abundance. But first the seed must be given away (i.e., sown)!

9:7 "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart" This is a perfect middle indicative. This is one of the key principles in spiritual giving. It ranks alongside 8:12 in giving believers major guidelines on stewardship.

▣ "heart" See full note at I Cor. 14:25.

"not grudgingly or under compulsion" Spiritual giving must be voluntary and with the proper motive (cf. 8:12). I am personally appalled when I hear OT tithing preached (usually from Malachi or Leviticus) as (1) a mandate for personal wealth or (2) a threat to physical health or well being. See SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHING at 8:8.

"God loves a cheerful giver" This seems to be from the Pro. 22:8 in the Septuagint. The statement does not occur in the MT. We get the English term, "hilarious," from this Greek root. The same term is used in connection to mercy in Rom. 12:8. In the Koine Greek papyri (i.e., magical texts) the term hilaros (happy) is synonymous to hileōs (mercy). Because of this Moulton and Milligan, in The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, think it is used in the sense of gracious (p. 303).

9:8 "God is able" This is a powerful testimony of God's character and a wonderful title (i.e., "to Him who is able," cf. Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:20; Jude 24). Believers trust, love, and serve a God who acts!

▣ "to make all grace abound to you" This phrase does not refer to the Corinthians' giving, it refers to God's basic nature, which is grace. Because of God's nature and God's gift (i.e., Jesus), believers must also give. Believers reflect the family characteristics of God.

▣ "always having all sufficiency" Notice the number of inclusive "all"s (i.e., pas).

1. all grace (pasan)

2. always (pantote)

3. all sufficiency (pasan)

4. in everything (panti)

5. every good deed (pan)

Christian giving affects all of life! God provides for all needs (cf. Matt. 6:19-34).

The term "sufficiency" comes from two Greek terms, "self" and "contentment" (cf. I Tim. 6:6-10; Phil. 4:11-12,19; Heb. 13:15). A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures In The New Testament, vol. 4, p. 248 and M. R. Vincent's Word Studies, p. 831, both claim that the use of this term shows Paul was familiar with Stoic thought and terms. But he redefines them in light of the gospel. See Bruce Winter, Philo and Paul Among the Sophists.

▣ "you may have an abundance for every good deed" God will give those who share their resources with Him, more resources. This abundance, however, is not for the personal use of the individual, but for the causes of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:28). The Christian giver becomes a channel of God's provisions for the needs of others. This is the truth that is so often lost in our teaching on Christian stewardship. Yes, covenant blessing and abundance will occur, but they are to be passed on for the Kingdom, not retained! Believers are saved to serve and blessed to give!

9:9 "as it is written" This is a quote from Ps. 112:9 from the Septuagint (i.e., 111:9). This quote includes one of the rare uses of the term "righteousness" (see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:30) to refer to human action (cf. Matt. 6:1). In Judaism it came to refer to the weekly practice of Jewish almsgiving for the poor of the synagogue (cf. Ps. 112:1-6). Usually in the NT, righteousness is a gift of God in Christ apart from human action or merit.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALMSGIVING

▣ "forever" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('OLAM)

9:10 The first part of this verse seems to be a quote from Isa. 55:10, and the second part seems to be quoted from Hosea 10:12. These verses assert

1. God's ownership and provision of all things

2. believers' stewardship

God is the source, but believers receive a blessing when they share.

God's ownership is communicated through the Greek word "supplies' (i.e., chorēgeō), which comes into English as "chorus."

This term in Koine Greek was used of a benefactor lavishly supplying for a local choir. Often modern believers attribute their prosperity to their own creativity, work ethic, accumulated knowledge, or self-effort. However, a biblical worldview attributes all resources to God. See Special Topic: Servant Leadership at I Cor. 4:1.

NASB, NRSV"increase the harvest of your righteousness"
NKJV"increase the fruits of your righteousness"
TEV"produce a rich harvest from your generosity"
NJB"make the harvest of your righteousness a bigger one"

In 8:5 the term "grace" is used in several different senses, so too, righteousness. The theological mystery is how do believers receive a blessing or reward for things which God gives and inspires? This is the mystery of a Sovereign God and mandated covenant response! Believers give because

1. God gives

2. Jesus' example

3. human need

4. new world view

5. indwelling Spirit.

Giving is the natural result of salvation. A stingy Christian is a contradiction in terms!

9:11 "you will be enriched in everything" This is present passive participle of ploutizō with "in everything" fronted for emphasis. From 8:7-9, it is obvious that this does not refer to material blessings only, but also spiritual blessings (cf. 6:10; I Cor. 1:5).

▣ "all liberality" Notice two more pas inclusives (cf. v. 8). This Greek term can also mean single-mindedness (i.e., sincerity, purity) and genuineness (cf. 8:2; 9:11,13). See note at 1:12.

▣ "producing thanksgiving to God" The emphasis of this closing section of chapter 9 is on God's receiving the glory from believers' sharing (cf. vv. 11-13). This reminds me of Matt. 5:16, where it says, "they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Paul's major purpose in linking the mother church in Jerusalem with his Gentile churches was that an atmosphere of love and appreciation might develop (cf. v. 14).

9:12 "service" This is the Greek term leitourgia (a compound from public and work) from which we get the English term "liturgy."

Originally it referred to someone who did public service at their own expense. In this sense it is similar to chorēgeō of v. 10.

"fully supplying the needs of the saints" This is the Greek term prosanaplēroō, (present active periphrastic indicative), which is pros plus anaplēroō, which means to fill up or complete (cf. I Cor. 14:16; 16:17). Paul uses many intensified, verbal forms with pros (cf. v. 5), however, the exact resulting meaning is uncertain. Paul uses the same intensified form in 11:9.

The term "needs" is literally "the things lacking" (cf. I Cor. 16:17; II Cor. 8:8,13,14; 11:8). The poor believers in Jerusalem had real needs that these Gentile churches could meet. For "saints" see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:2.

"overflowing through many thanksgivings to God" The needy in Jerusalem and all believers in Palestine were thanking God for the concern and sacrificial help of the Gentile churches (cf. v. 13).

9:13 "proof" This is the word for "test" (i.e., dokimē) used in 2:9; 8:2; 13:3. See Special Topic at I Cor. 3:13.

"this ministry" This refers to the contribution of Paul's Gentile churches to the mother church in Jerusalem. This is the same word used in v. 1.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, NJB"obedience"
TEV"loyalty"

This is literally the term "submission" (i.e., hupotagē, cf. Gal. 2:5; I Tim. 2:11; 3:4), but used in the sense of obedience because the object is "the gospel," not a person.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SUBMISSION (HUPOTASSŌ)

▣ "confession of the gospel of Christ" Confession means "to agree with" (cf. I Tim. 6:12-13; I John 1:9). In this context their metaphorical confession is their liberal contribution, which confirmed their relationship with the other Gentile churches and with Christ. Eternal life has observable characteristics!

▣ "contribution" This is the term koinonia (cf. Rom. 15:26), which means "joint participation with." Here it refers to money given for the poor of the church in Jerusalem (see note at I Cor. 16:1). See Special Topic at I Cor. 1:9.

"and to all" This is a difficult phrase to interpret. It must somehow refer to the Corinthian influence in encouraging other Gentile churches to participate in the collection (cf. v. 2).

9:14 This verse refers to those who receive the collection (i.e., the poor of the Jerusalem church and all its members). Paul wanted these two wings of the early church to be inseparably united.

▣ "surpassing" Huperballō. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at I Cor. 2:1.

9:15 "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" Some take this context to refer to the Corinthian monetary gift, but because of

1. Jesus' great sacrifice mentioned in 8:9

2. the gospel of Christ mentioned in 9:1,

It probably refers to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (p. 184) mentions that the "gift of God" in Acts refers to the Holy Spirit (i.e., the new age, cf. Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17).

The self-giving ministry of the Son (cf. 8:9) was meant to

1. inspire these believers to give thanks ( i.e., eucharistia, vv. 11,12; charis, v. 13) to God

2. impel them to share their financial resources with needy believers

 

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"indescribable"
TEV"priceless"
NJB"beyond all telling"

This is the term ekdiēgeomai, which means to explain completely or mention all the details, plus the Alpha privative, which negates it. In some ways the love of God is too wonderful for humans to grasp all its facets (cf. Deut. 30:11; Job 11:7; Ps. 139:6; Pro. 30:18; Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Outline in your own words the principles of stewardship mentioned in chapters 8 and 9.

2. Define in your own words what the quote from v. 6 and v. 10 mean in your life.