2 Corinthians chapters eight and nine (I will comment deeper on chapter nine in a subsequent blog) are a treasure trove of inspiration in missions and giving. The following are a few of my reflections for Assemblies of God district youth directors’ to consider. However, the biblical principles apply across the leadership spectrum. Most Scripture quotes below are taken from the NIV.
Here is the BIG IDEA of this blog post…In 2 Corinthians 8-9:5, no less than three times the apostle Paul makes it clear that itinerant missions giving was NORMATIVE in the New Testament Church!
In chapter eight of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he describes in detail the missionary work offering being collected among the “Macedonian churches” and soon again for the Corinthian church. The monies were headed for Jerusalem to meet the needs of God’s people. Famine hit Judea (Acts 11:27-30). Great persecution upon the apostles (Acts 5) spread in broader persecution of all believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8). The Church worked hard to meet the needs of widows and others even through strategic structuring (Acts 6). Among Paul’s great work as an apostle to the Gentiles was an effort to bring justice to an unjust persecution that he had previously help lead! (Acts 8:1-3)
2 CORINTHIANS 8:1-9
In the midst of “extreme poverty” and “severe trial” the Macedonian “churches” (note the plural) had an overflowing joy of rich generosity to the offering Paul’s missionary team was collecting. Note the conditions of “the most severe trial” and “extreme poverty.” The language suggests far more difficult circumstance than even a double dip recession facing the modern Church.
Despite the hardships, the Macedonian churches “pleaded” to give. That is an attitude not often found even in calm watered churches. It is a sign of deep maturity in the believers even though there is no mention of a curriculum to produce it. There was distinctive work of this “grace” in the Church. Paul urged the Corinthians to excel in this same grace of giving.
It is in VERSE SIX that Paul first alludes to a normative pattern of giving to itinerant missions offerings, when he says, “So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your (Corinthian Church) part.” Titus had been at this before (v.17; 12:18). And Titus was on his way back again.
2 CORINTHIANS 8:10-15
VERSE TEN is the second reference to this recurrent offering collection. “Last year” says it clearly. The Corinthians had given in this missions offering before. Paul admonishes them with “here is what is best for you in this matter.” “Best”? A more formal translation says, “this benefits you.” Paul notes that this is not just going to benefit the need in Jerusalem. It is going to benefit the giver. It is for their best too.
Have you ever heard of Christians that do not like to give in recurrent missions offerings. Saying things like, “I gave last year.” Well, that attitude doesn’t fit the normative disciple in the New Testament. It is not a mature characteristic of a biblical disciple. Furthermore, it is evidence of a misunderstanding of what is best for them, and it is suspicious of a selfish and contrary spirit toward a biblical fellowship in the Great Commission.
Paul commends the Corinthian Church for their previous giving and their heart to give. It is fitting to encourage the Church today in the same way.
We should also note that Paul thought enough about the offering that he should write a letter of “readiness” and send a delegation to prepare it. We should not apologize for offerings toward the Great Commission today any more than Paul did in the Early Church!
Paul gives strong instructive words for another year, “Now finish the work”.
2 CORINTHIANS 8:16-24
Is it fitting to commend someone’s missions giving effort to other parts of the Church?
The answer is obvious. Paul affirmed Titus’ effort in this matter and added his “thank[s]” to God for his partnership. Paul commends Titus to the Corinthian Church. Furthermore, Paul notes that the same praise is shared by “all the churches” about Titus.
Why are some Christians troubled by the public recognition of exemplary missionary giving efforts by others? Is it because they don’t share the same generous spirit and it therefore convicts them? Yes, the soul battles the Spirit. (Romans 6-8) We should pactice the biblical model of honoring givers. We should not let misunderstanding minds stop what is right.
I pray that today’s Church will welcome those collecting today’s missionary offering needs in the same way that the Macedonian and Corinthian churches were urged to do. The Spirit’s voice in this letter speaks to us to practice such hospitality and generosity.
Verses 20-21 gives place for me to bring a good report about Speed The Light….It is a joy to note that STL recently received an excellent report of good stewardship following a seven month audit! You can have confidence in that mission!
Paul’s concluding word in chapter eight rings loud to me. Once again, the apostle urges the Corinthians to demonstrate their love and faith in the cause of Christ “so that all the churches can see it.” “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)
2 CORINTHIANS 9:1-5
Paul encourages them to collect offerings within the Corinthian church to pass along for the broader Church need. They are to give it to persons being sent to receive the offering.
Then we reach a THIRD note that recurrent missions giving was NORMATIVE in the New Testament Church when Paul again references “since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm stirred most of them to action.”
And in verse five we see that it was also normative to make a “promise” of giving!
Let us press on with the faith promise and the offering for the cause of Jesus Christ! It’s biblically normative.