September 11, 2022     The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

also known as the Fifteenth Sunday of the Pentecost Season

Walking the Tightrope of Christianity


Imagine that you’re standing in front of your freezer. You’ve opened the door just to explore, nothing particular in mind, just to see what’s there. In front of you is a container label1ed, “Gourmet Ice Cream: Cherry Almond Fudge.”   Lifting the lid, again just to explore, just to see what’s there, you discover that there is probably enough left for two servings.  It’s about five in the afternoon and dinner is going to be in an hour or so.   Your mother always taught you that you would spoil your appetite if you ate sweets before dinner.   Plus, lately your best friend has made a few not-so-sly comments about your expanding waistline every time he sees you.  So what will you do as that ice cream “calls your name?”    How many of us would leave the ice cream alone and shut the freezer door and just forget about it?  Or, would you indulge just a little….maybe eat a simple spoonful, or perhaps one small serving, and leave the rest?   And I wonder how many among us would just go for it and eat the whole thing….even with supper less than an hour away?  


The real issue here isn’t so much ice cream….as it is self-control.  Who decides for us what we will and won’t do?    Can I really do whatever I feel like doing at the moment?   Can you?   Sometimes we can, I suppose….at least when it’s what theologians refer to as “a matter of indifference” or “adiaphora” (namely, things that are neither commanded nor forbidden by God).  


And, frankly, whether or not eating ice cream before dinner falls into “matters of indifference” probably depends more on if you’re a child under your parents’ authority, or an adult whose spouse is preparing supper, or a diabetic (or someone on a diet) who isn’t supposed to eat ice cream at anytime, or – maybe – a single adult who might be able to delay eating dinner in order to indulge in a little ice cream ahead of your evening meal.


But this ice cream before dinner illustration fits reasonably well with the Spiritual issue Paul is addressing in our Sermon Text for today in Galatians 5.   Simply put, as a Christian, can I do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it….knowing that God has already forgiven me for Jesus’ sake?    Am I completely free from God’s law because I’m forgiven in Christ, or am I still supposed to responsible and accountable to God’s law?   And what are the consequences if I don’t do what God wants?   How much control over my thoughts, words and actions do God’s expectations for Christians have on me?  And, finally, what should my attitude be toward God’s commands, since I am a forgiven sinner and a baptized child of God?


Today’s Scripture Lessons


In our Children’s Lesson, based on Romans 6:1-2, we’ll ask and answer the question, “Can I Sin Because God Forgives Sin?” Paul’s point in these words is that the Christian will not callously keep on sinning, taking advantage of God’s grace.  Instead, he/she will do our best to repent of our sin and, as God enables us, will try to do what is pleasing in God’s sight.


Our First Scripture Lesson is Paul’s open admission that years earlier, in his legalistic ignorance, he has been a blasphemer and persecutor of the church.   In fact, he calls himself the worst sinner of all.   Still, God in His grace, not only converted Paul from unbelief to faith in Christ, but He also called him to serve as an Apostle.   For that grace, Paul praises God.


In our Second Lesson, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks about our being released from the law’s absolute demand of perfection as its condition for salvation.  However, Paul makes it very clear that God’s law has great value in the life of a believer, since it shows us our sinfulness and need for a Savior.  The Law also shows us how to live for God – which, regrettably, we cannot do to the extent that God desires and that the believer in us also desires.   That’s because our sinful nature remains a strong competitor with the believing nature within us.  Our only hope (and confidence) for deliverance from our ongoing sinfulness comes from God’s continuing grace to us in Christ.


Through today’s Gospel Lesson Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment of all is to love God totally, and the next is to love our neighbor.   Those two directives not only summarize the Ten Commandments, they provide us with the motivation for keeping them:   out of love for our God Who has loved us first and best by giving us Christ Jesus as our Savior.


Finally, this morning’s Sermon continues our summer/fall service and sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.   In the Words of God on which we’ll be meditating come from the last half of chapter 5.   Here the Holy Spirit has led Paul to address a problem that every Christian faces:   the temptation to abuse God’s grace by indulging the desires of our sinful nature.   Paul reminds us that, as Christians we walk a sort of “tightrope” through life.  The danger on one side is legalism, while the danger on the other side is living a libertine life.   In between, on the Christian is called – with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power – to walk the tightrope of faithfulness, avoiding calloused sin, and instead living in accord with the God-pleasing “fruits” of our Christian faith.



Pre-Service Prayer

The day has dawned and duty calls – so many tasks await.

Lord, strengthen me when my spirit falls, or when I hesitate

To do the good I ought to do, to shun each sinful way.

Jesus, forgive the wrongs I’ll do, and keep me safe today.    Amen




The portions of God’s Word used in this worship flyer have been taken from The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version    Copyright 2019, The Wartburg Project, Inc.   All rights reserved.   Used with permission Music and lyrics, as needed, are used with permission via  #A712831

Prayer upon entering the sanctuary                                                                                      Pre-service Music

Greeting and Invitation to Worship


We Praise Our God


The Opening Hymn                                                                         Hymn 241  “Alleluia!  Let Praises Ring”


1 Alleluia! Let praises ring!   To God the Father let us bring

Our songs of adoration.     To him through everlasting days

Be worship, honor, pow’r, and praise    Whose hand sustains creation.

Singing, Ringing: Holy, holy,    God is holy.   Spread the story  Of our God, the Lord of glory.


2 Alleluia! Let praises ring!    Unto the Lamb of God we sing,

In whom we are elected.    He bought the Church with his own blood;

He cleansed her in that blessed flood     And as his bride selected.

Holy, Holy Is our union     And communion. His befriending    Gives us joy and peace unending.


3 Alleluia! Let praises ring!    Unto the Holy Ghost we sing

For our regeneration.    The saving faith in us he wrought

And us unto the Bridegroom brought,    Made us his chosen nation.

Glory! Glory! Joy eternal,    Bliss supernal; There is manna    And an endless, glad hosanna.


4 Alleluia! Let praises ring!    Unto our triune God we sing;

Blest be his name forever!     With angel hosts let us adore

And sing his praises more and more    For all his grace and favor.

Singing, Ringing: Holy, holy,    God is holy. Spread the story    Of our God the Lord of glory!


after which the Congregation will rise for


The Invocation

We begin this service in the name of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit.   Amen.


Our Psalm Reading for Today                                                                                                             Psalm 1


P:        How blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked, who does not stand on the path with sinners, and who does not sit in a meeting with mockers.


C:       But his delight is in the teaching of the Lord, +  and on his teaching he meditates day and night.


P:        He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and its leaves do not wither. Everything he does prospers.


C:       Not so the wicked!   +   No, they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.


P:        Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.


C:       Yes, the Lord approves of the way of the righteous,   +  but the way of the wicked will perish.

We Confess our Sins to the Lord


P:  Almighty God, Heavenly Father, we have violated Your holy will through our sinful actions, in our failure to do what You righteously expect from us, with our wicked words, and by our evil thoughts and desires.


C: We come, O Lord, to Your altar to confess our sins.   +   We beg for Your mercy, + though we do not deserve it.   +   Hear our prayer.    +  Grant us the forgiveness of all our sins, for Jesus’ sake.



Just as I am without one plea    But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,     O Lamb of God, I come, I come.




P:  Our sins are many….inexcusable, yet inevitable given our weakness and dullness.    We/have sworn falsely and used Your name to curse, rather than to bless others and to praise You.   We have not worshiped You as faithfully as we ought.  We have not listened to Your Word as we should.  Too often we have conformed our lives – not to Your perfect will – but to the norms and dictates of this sinful world.    At times we have lived as though we were “god” instead of humbly submitting everything that we are and have to You, O Lord.

Just as I am, though tossed about      With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

P:  We have acted spitefully toward friends and strangers.    We have fought with our family.  We have been impatient with each other, and even with You, O Lord.  We have sought superiority over others at work, in the home, at school, and in the church.   We have preferred materialism more than we have pursued our spiritual growth.   We have committed the very evils that we have self-righteously – and You have properly – condemned.

                                      Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;    Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,     O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

P:  We have passed by and ignored those who have been in genuine need.   We have thought too highly of ourselves and too little of others.      Though converted by the Gospel’s power, we have been reluctant and indifferent to bring the Good News to others.    We have not readily forgiven those who have sinned against us.    We have not loved You and others as You have commanded us to do.

C: Forgive us all our sins,   +  those known and unknown to us,   + according to the mercy of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.     +   Pour Your grace upon us, +    that we might know the peace which surpasses all understanding, + and that we might share eternal life with Christ, our Lord.         


Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,     Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,      O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Congregation        Almighty and most merciful God,   +   We acknowledge and confess   +    that we have sinned against You in   thought, word, and deed;    +     That we have not loved You with all our heart

and soul,   +  and with all our mind and strength;   +    and that we have not loved our neighbor as our-selves.   +   We ask You, O God, + to be forgiving of what we have been,   + to help us to amend what we are,   +   and – in Your mercy – to direct what we shall be,   +   so that the love of what is righteous in Your sight   +    might always be in our hearts,   +     that we may always walk blamelessly in Your commandments,   +   and faithfully follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ to the very end.   +   Amen.  

Pastor      Upon this, your voluntary confession, and in accordance with the responsibilities entrusted to me as a called and ordained   servant of the Living Word, I assure you that God, our heavenly Father, has

forgiven you all your sins.   By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt and condemnation forever.   You are His own dear child –  an heir of everlasting life through faith in Christ.   May God now give you the strength of faith to live according to His will.   Go in His grace and peace.   Amen.

Our Grateful Response for God’s Forgiveness

To the tune of “Come You Thankful People, Come”    meter:    7777D

Blessed Holy Trinity,   Glorious in Your majesty,    Father, Spirit and the Son –  Savior-God, the Three-in-One –

From sin’s curse You set me free   Heaven’s mine – eternally.   

All I am, to You I owe,  Source from Whom all blessings flow.    Amen.


We Hear God’s Word

The First Lesson                                                                                                                   I Timothy 1:15-17

12 I give thanks to the one who empowered me, namely, Christ Jesus our Lord, that he treated me as trustworthy, appointing me into his ministry. 13 He did this even though formerly I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord overflowed on me along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” of whom I am the worst. 16 But I was shown mercy for this reason: that in me, the worst sinner, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his unlimited patience as an example for those who are going to believe in him, resulting in eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, to the immortal, invisible, only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Second Lesson                                                                                                                     Romans 7:6-25


6 But now we have been released from the law by dying to what held us in its grip, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the letter of the law.

7 What will we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have recognized sin except through the law. For example, I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity provided by this commandment, produced every kind of sinful desire in me.

For apart from the law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive without the law. But when this commandment came, sin came to life, 10 and I died. This commandment that was intended to result in life actually resulted in death for me. 11 You see, sin, seizing the opportunity provided by this commandment, deceived me and put me to death through it.

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. 13 Then did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it might be recognized as sin, brings about my death by this good thing, so that through this commandment sin might prove itself to be totally sinful.

14 Certainly we know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not keep doing what I want. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer I who am doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 Indeed, I know that good does not live in me, that is, in my sinful flesh. The desire to do good is present with me, but I am not able to carry it out. 19 So I fail to do the good I want to do. Instead, the evil I do not want to do, that is what I keep doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who am doing it, but it is sin living in me.

21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 I certainly delight in God’s law according to my inner self, 23 but I see a different law at work in my members, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me captive to the law of sin, which is present in my members. 24 What a miserable wretch I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my sinful flesh I serve the law of sin.


After which the Congregation will rise for

The Gospel Lesson                                                                                                               Matthew 22:34-40

34 When they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees met together. 35 One of them who was an expert in the law asked him a question, trying to trap him. 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

The Apostles’ Creed                                                            to the melody of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”


I believe in God the Father,   Maker of the heav’ns and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, our Savior, God’s own Son, of human birth.

Virgin born, the Lord incarnate,    Whom the Spirit did conceive,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate;     Our salvation to achieve.


Crucified, was dead and buried,    Down to hell in victory;

From the dead He rose the third day;    Up to heav’n triumphantly.

There at God’s right hand He’s ruling,     By His will the world is led.

He will come to judge the nations,    Both the living and the dead.


I believe in God the Spirit,    In His Church, His chosen band.

They are joined in close communion,    Holy in His sight they stand.

I believe in sins forgiven;    That the dead will rise again;

I believe in life eternal.    Amen!   Amen!   A – – men!

The Children’s Lesson                                                                                                                Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer?

Can I Sin Because I God Forgives Sin?

The Sermon Hymn                                                                         Hymn 385 “Chief of Sinners Though I Be”



1 Chief of sinners though I be,   Jesus shed his blood for me,

Died that I might live on high,    Lives that I might never die.

As the branch is to the vine,    I am his and he is mine!


2 Oh, the height of Jesus’ love,     Higher than the heav’ns above,

Deeper than the depths of sea,    Lasting as eternity,

Love that found me — wondrous thought!–    Found me when I sought him not.


3 Only Jesus can impart    Comfort to a wounded heart:

Peace that flows from sin forgiv’n,    Joy that lifts the soul to heav’n,

Faith and hope to walk with God    In the way that Enoch trod.


4 Chief of sinners though I be,    Christ is all in all to me.

All my wants to him are known;    All my sorrows are his own.

Safe with him in earthly strife,    I await the heav’nly life.


5 Strengthen me, O gracious Lord,   By your Spirit and your word.

When my wayward heart would stray,   Keep me in the narrow way;

Grace in time of need supply   While I live and when I die.


After which the Congregation will rise for

The Pre-Sermon Greeting


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.   May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer!   Amen.


The Sermon Text                                                                                                                   Galatians 5:13-26

13 After all, brothers, you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as a starting point for your sinful flesh. Rather, serve one another through love. 14 In fact, the whole law is summed up in this one statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you keep on biting and devouring one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 What I am saying is this: Walk by the spirit, and you will not carry out what the sinful flesh desires. 17 For the sinful flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful flesh. In fact, these two continually oppose one another, so that you do not continue to do these things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the control of the law.

19 Now the works of the sinful flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, complete lack of restraint, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, discord, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things similar to these. I warn you, just as I also warned you before, that those who continue to do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk in step with It. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another and envying one another.

Walking the Tightrope of Christianity

following the sermon the Congregation will REMAIN SEATED for

The Post-Sermon Blessing

To Him Who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power, and authority now and forever.  Amen.

We Offer Our Gifts to the Lord

Our Offerings of Love to our Lord


Offerings will be received this morning through offering plates passed among those who have gathered here for worship.      However, for those viewing this service online,  we offer you the following suggestions for providing God with Your thank-offerings through our ministry:     

1) You can mail a check (no cash) to the church address

 (415 N. 6th Place, Lowell, AR 72745)

2) You can donate on our website:

We Bring Our Prayers to the Lord


Our Prayers for Today

In our prayers this morning we include

A Prayer of Intercession on behalf of our brother, Rudy Ryskey, who is hospitalized at Baxter Regional Hospital with a collapsed lung;     and, in addition,

A Prayer of Thanksgiving on behalf of Jody and Nancy Larson  whose wedding anniversary is this coming Saturday


The Prayers for this Day    


P:  Hear us also, dear Lord, as we take a few moments to offer You our silent, personal petitions and praises…..


Silent Prayer


P  Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.   In His name we offer this prayer and continue now by praying…….


Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name;   Thy kingdom come;  Thy will be done    on earth as it is in heaven;    Give us this day our daily bread;    And forgive us our trespasses,    as we forgive those who trespass against us;     And lead us not into temptation;     But deliver us from evil;  For Thine is the kingdom,  and the power,  and the glory,   forever and ever.  Amen.

We Leave With The Lord’s Blessing


The Benediction


     May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

     and the love of God the Father

     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.   Amen.



The Closing Hymn                                                                              Hymn 333    “Abide, O Dearest Jesus”


1 Abide, O dearest Jesus,    Among us with your grace

That Satan may not harm us    Nor we to sin give place.


2 Abide, O dear Redeemer,    Among us with your Word

And thus now and hereafter   True peace and joy afford.


3 Abide with heav’nly brightness   Among us, precious Light;

Your truth direct and keep us    From error’s gloomy night.


4 Abide with richest blessings    Among us, bounteous Lord;

Let us in grace and wisdom   Grow daily through your Word.


5 Abide with your protection   Among us, Lord, our Strength,

Lest world and Satan fell us   And overcome at length.


6 Abide, O faithful Savior,   Among us with your love;

Grant steadfastness and help us    To reach our home above.


Silent Prayer


Post-Service Music                                                                                                                                            





Last Week at Grace                                                                        Worship Attendance: 56    Online views: 13

Sunday Bible Class: 23   (Online views 7)         Sunday School: 5

Tuesday Bible Study: 9     Budgetary Offerings: $4651.01          Online: $110

Capital Improvement:   $10      Scholarship Fund: $125


This Week’s Birthdays and Anniversary             Sept 11- Jim Winnat;        Sept 12 – Rob Carr; 

Sept 13 – Henry Strackbein;     Sept 14 – George Layton;         Sept 15 – Kelvin Johannes;    

Sept 16 – Elissa Ferguson;    Sept 17 – Jody & Nancy Larson


This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church


Today      Morning Worship, 9:30 a.m.               Fellowship, 10:40 am        Bible Class/Sunday School, 11 am

Tuesday  Morning Bible Class,   10:30-11:30 am                        Church Council Meeting, 6 p.m.

Saturday  Outreach Calls, 10 a.m.    

Sunday    Morning Worship with the Lord’s Supper, 9:30 a.m.

                  Fellowship, 10:45 am    Bible Class/Sunday School – 11am


Serving Us Next Sunday (9-18)                                                                 Elders: Rick Tragasz, John Johnson

Ushers: Terry Bruns, Tom Otto, Tim Huebner     Fellowship:  Mary Karloski

Altar Guild:   Harriet Johnson, Jill Calkins


Church Council Meeting Tuesday…..September 13 at 6 p.m.   



Our Women’s Retreat will be held Saturday, September 24 from 9am-3pm.   Its theme is:   “God’s Light;   Our Light.”   Please be a part of this special Spiritual opportunity and bring a friend!   For more information see Harriet Johnson.

Keeping Our Commitments

2 Corinthians 8:16-9:15

When bringing your offerings to the Lord, have you ever thought much about the offering made by Ananias and Sapphira, the couple whose death is recorded for us in Acts 5?   Following Pentecost, the growth of the Christian church in Jerusalem was explosive.   As the church grew, a variety of individuals joined the congregation, including  some with significant material needs.   Motivated by Christ’s generous love, the early Church in Jerusalem responded to the needs of the poor among them.  Materially blessed members like Barnabas even sold property, giving the proceeds to the apostles so that they could minister to the needs of the congregation’s poorer members.   As you might recall, Ananias and Sapphira had a piece of property that they decided to sell.   They decided to give  a portion of the proceeds to the church.  The problem with their offering was not that they kept back part of the proceeds of this sale for themselves, but that they lied about the amount they gave to the apostles.   No doubt they were motivated by sinful pride (and competitiveness).  And so both of them agreed that they would tell others that they had given to the church the entire amount they had received from their property’s sale.   The result?   Both of them were struck down dead.   What a lesson their sudden deaths were for the early church – and for Christians today, as well.   As it did for the church in Jerusalem, the story of Ananias and Sapphira should make quite a strong impression on me and you.   Their sin was not the size of their offering, or that they didn’t give the entire proceeds from the sale of their land to the church.   Their sin, simply, was that they brazenly lied about it – to their fellow Christians, and to the Lord!

Let’s suppose, hypothetically-speaking, that given the apparent needs of the church’s poorer members, Ananias and Sapphira had decided to make a contribution to the Jerusalem congregation’s “benevolence fund.”  Like Barnabas and others, they had a piece of property that they could sell.  And so they call on an appraiser to determine its value.  Let’s say that he gives them a value of $100,000.   They put the land up for sale, and announce that they’ll be donating the entire amount to the church.   But right before the property sells, plans for a new retail development are announced.   It’s going in right next to their property.   That developer, as well as another individual investor, both approach Ananias and Sapphira, offering to buy their land.   And before you know it a bidding war occurs.  Our couple ends up getting an offer to sell their property for the astounding amount of $200,000….double what they initially imagined it was worth.   Of course, they accept.   It takes a few weeks to close the deal, and no one knows about it – except the couple and the buyer.   At exactly the same time, Ananias and Sapphira learn about a very valuable piece of property elsewhere that’s available for sale at the bargain price of $100,000.   In a few years it’ll be worth many times that amount.    So, shrewd investors that they are, the couple buys it with half the proceeds from their original property’s sale.   They make $100,000 for themselves, and they can still give their original pledge of $100,000 to the church.    That’s what they decide to do.   But, as Ananias is bringing their $100,000 to the Apostles, someone asks, “Did you get the $100,000 you were asking for the land?”  He says, “of course”….and drops over dead.    Later, Sapphira is asked the same question….says the same thing….and dies the same way.   Both had wanted to look especially generous compared to others in the church.    They wanted everyone to think that they had given it all to the Lord.   But they lied.   And they ended up dying for that lie.

My point in this hypothetical account is that we seldom premeditate such lying and deceit as that seen in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.   Sin often “evolves,” if you will pardon my use of this term.  We don’t plan for things to go the particular way they end up going….like in my fictionalized “addition” to the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  But things happen.   Circumstances change.   And sometimes, promises made to the Lord end up being altered – and even forgotten.    That’s where I think the story of Ananias and Sapphira has a connection with the lesson before us today.   Many members made promise to participate in the special Jerusalem offering.  But later, some of the people in Corinth adjusted their promises.   Circumstances changed.   Apparently some members even decided that they could completely back out of their commitment to the Lord.  

Now, that kind of thing doesn’t ever happen in the church today, does it?    It’s not possible that, on occasion, we might be guilty of the same kind of sin that Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of, right?   We don’t ever want to  appear more faithful, or sound better, or more generous, or more supportive of the church’s work than we actually are, right?    Have there ever been occasions where we’ve gone back on our promises to the Lord because we’ve lost our enthusiasm for a particular church project?    Have we ever become dissatisfied with what’s going on in the church, and then decided we were done supporting it – or at least a certain aspect of the church’s ministry?   

When Paul first brought the Gospel to Corinth, the Holy Spirit brought a number of individuals to faith in Christ.   As new converts to the faith often do, the Corinthians loved Jesus, and their pastor Paul.   And they were enthused about doing the Lord’s work… this case, the benevolent work of materially aiding the “mother church” in Jerusalem as it faced difficult financial times.   They individually pledged that they would give generous gifts for this special Jerusalem offering.   It would take time and effort, but they were bound and determined to do it!

Then circumstances changed.   Perhaps some members might have had a bad year farming or in business, and so their  ability to give may be diminished.   Others might have become discouraged when comparing what they intended to give with the pledges of others, subsequently deciding that since they could only contribute a fraction of what others were giving, they might as well offer nothing at all.   Still others may have been swindled by a  Christian brother and thus were no longer able to give much as they had earlier pledged.   Maybe a different family incurred large medical bills and then decided “for the family’s sake” that they reallocate their promised contribution to pay off those debts.    And there was the individual that decided to use his pledged amount to begin a business, certain that God would prosper him…and that in the years ahead he could give even greater amounts to the church’s work.    Then there were those whose enthusiasm for Paul diminished, partly because he hadn’t come back as quickly as he’d said he would;   and partly because the “super apostles” who came to Corinth after Paul departed had been quite critical of Paul….and these folks believed what was said about him.    Can they trust Paul with their souls anymore?  And if they can’t trust him with their souls, they surely aren’t going to trust him with their money. 

Of course, we don’t know exactly why the Corinthians were faltering and in danger of failing to keep their initial commitment to give to the poor in Jerusalem.    But here’s what we do know:   Initially the Corinthians genuinely intended and promised to contribute to the offering to help the poor in Judea.   They have even begun setting funds aside.    Now, as the time approaches for Paul to return to Corinth, the Apostle realizes that their contribution could fall considerably short of what the Corinthians had promised.   That would prove embarrassing for the Corinthians, and for Paul as well, since he had boasted to others of their generosity…..and now that boast might prove to be an  empty one.   If they were to fail to keep their commitment, they would be sinning.    And so, Paul’s words and actions, recorded in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, are intended to prevent embarrassment and to encourage the Corinthians to keep their prior commitments…..for their own good……for the good of others……and for the glory of God.

Some Trusted Colleagues Are Going To Precede Paul’s Arrival  (8:16-24)

8:16     “God….put into the heart of Titus” – Titus had developed a good relationship with the Corinthians, and God was moving his heart to serve them.

“the same concern I have” – as partners in the ministry, Paul and Titus often thought and felt the same things.  Titus’ concern here is not about the size of their offering, but the attitude of their hearts.

8:18     “the brother who is recognized by all” – probably Luke, but perhaps Barnabas too.   Regardless, he was someone who was well-known throughout the early church.

8:19     “elected by the churches” – the word in Greek refers to holding up ones hand and voting/selecting.  Paul gives us something important to consider when it comes to which people should handle finances inside a congregation.   They should be individuals well-known, trusted and chosen by the membership.

8:20     “criticism” – It’s important to recognize that not only is God watching, but our brothers and sisters are also watching how the overall ministry is being conducted, so that all work is done in a proper, ethical, and honest manner.

            “lavish gift” – something that is abundant.   Here it refers to a large amount of money.

8:21     “what is proper” – that which is good and fits the occasion.   Paul had been the victim of slander by the “super apostles,” but the integrity of those he was sending as his emissaries was very important.

8:22     “our brother” – we don’t know who this second person was.

            “proved” – to approve something after testing it.

8:23     “my partner and fellow worker”  – Titus was one of Paul’s closest and most trusted associates.   As a member of his “staff,” Titus’ ministry was a vital component of Paul’s work as an apostle.

“sent by the churches” – Paul didn’t hand-pick these individuals, and so he can’t be accused of sending his cronies.   The churches selected these people to serve on their behalf.

“the glory of Christ” – I Corinthians 10:31…..Christians exist so that the Lord might be glorified by all that we do, say and think.  

8:24     “demonstrate why we boasted to them about you” – the word translated “demonstrate” carries with it the idea of giving visible proof.

Paul’s Reason for Sending This Delegation   (9:1-5)


9:1       “it is not really necessary for me to write” – the Greek word translated “necessary” can also be translated  “superfluous.”


“the service to the saints” – This is not our typical “Word and Sacrament” ministry, but a reference to the benevolent/social ministry that the Jerusalem offering was.

9:2       “boasting….to the Macedonians” – the present tense indicates Paul is continually boasting about them.

“Achaia has been ready since last year” – the verb tense is perfect.   That means the preparations have been completed.    Paul didn’t just write 2 Corinthians to the individuals who made up the church inside Corinth, but to the churches throughout Achaia, which would also be participating in this special offering.

            “has stirred up many of them”  – this has excited, or stimulated/motivated them.

9:3       “I am sending the brothers” – the two unnamed bothers, previously mentioned, and certainly Titus as well.

“so that our boasting….will not prove empty” – the verb tense is imperfect….suggesting a repeated action that began in the past and continues into the present.

            “you will be prepared” – the preparation is expected to be thorough.  

9:4       “we (to say nothing of you) would be ashamed” – Paul, as well as the Corinthians, would be humiliated if their offering was not generous.   In Paul’s case, it would be because he spoke so positively about their generosity.   In the Corinthians’ case, it would be because they promised to be generous, but ultimately failed to match their words and actions.

9:5       “to urge the brothers” – to ask, to encourage strongly.

“the expression of praise that you previously promised” – the perfect participle emphasizes a continuing state….namely, that which was promised before and that promise remains valid at the present time.

“not of grudging selfishness” – the word conveys the idea of a greedy, grasping for more at the expense of others.   The idea here is that this gift has not been forced out of them.

Some Guiding Principles to Counter Selfishness   (9:6-15)

9:6       “the one who sows sparingly” – someone who gives in a miserly way.

“reap sparingly” – we receive from God directly in proportion to what we offer Him. 

“generously” – something that is freely and spontaneously given, bringing a blessing to the recipient.  God not only blesses us with forgiveness and salvation through Spirit-given faith in Christ, He also abundantly blesses us with material gifts, our individual talents, personal Spiritual growth experiences, health, and our time of grace (our lifetime) during which we can come to faith in Him and serve Him.

9:7       “Each one should give as he has determined in his heart” – “determine” carries with it the thought of deliberately deciding beforehand.   The giving here isn’t casual, but conscious and thoughtfully committed.

            “God loves a cheerful giver” – Through their faithful, voluntary generosity, God’s children give Him joy.

9:8       “God is able” – the present tense in Greek indicates the continuing ability and willingness of our God to bless His children. 

            “to make all grace overflow” – to have more than enough grace.  

“in all things…at all times…having all that you need” – to have self-sufficiency, being independent of any and all external circumstances.   God can enable each Christian to serve faithful and abundantly.

“you will overflow in every good work” – the less a person wants for him-/herself, the more that individual is able to meet the needs of others.

9:9       “As it is written” – Psalm 112:9 praises the believer who fears/respects the Lord and who is generous to his/her neighbors.

“He gave to the poor” – the word translated “poor” describes the person for whom life and living is a struggle – the reverse of the man who lives in comfort and affluence.

9:10     “He Who provides seed to the sower” – God is the Provider of everything we have….something we sometimes forget.

            “will provide and multiply” – to supply plentifully.

“and increase the harvest” – “increase” in the sense of causing something to grow into an abundant harvest of righteous living…which, in this case, is evident through benevolence.

“of your righteousness” – Our righteousness before God is the result of Christ’s holiness applied to us.   The righteous deeds we do, then, are not the cause of our good status before God, but the consequence of (and our response to) having been granted that status by God’s grace.

9:11     “You will be made rich in every way” – We’ll have all that we need, and more.

            “which produces thanksgiving to God” – how thankful are you?

9:12     “the administration of this service” – the Greek word for “service” was often used in the sense of wealthy individuals who served the public by financing choruses and other productions.   Here, it indicates “freewill religious service.”

            “not only making up for what is lacking” – filling up, or adding to that which is deficient.

“overflowing in many prayers of thanksgiving to God” – this special offering has a twofold purpose: 1) it supplies what poorer brethren lack;   and 2) and offers praise and thanks to God.   Consequently, the effect of the Corinthians’ generous giving will extend beyond benefitting the saints in Jerusalem, since it will also favorably affect and encourage many congregations.

9:13     “many people are glorifying God”  – “glorifying” in the sense of causing others to think well of God.

            “your confession of the Gospel” – The word in Greek carries with it the idea of a strong conviction.

9:14     “At the same time as they pray for you” – a special petition or intercession.

“the extraordinary measure of God’s grace given to you” – extraordinary means “to surpass expectations.”  The Corinthians would be responding to the grace God has shown to them by their exceeding generosity.

9:15     “His indescribable gift” – an inability to describe or account for in any kind of detail.   God’s exquisite working cannot be described with human words.   As the “chief giver” our God gave us His Son to be our Savior – a gift and blessing we obviously don’t deserve.   All Christian giving is a response to God’s initial and dominant generosity to us Spiritually, as well as materially.

Paul is coming to Corinth. There is no doubt about that. But he is not coming immediately. Instead, he is sending this epistle along with several of his most trusted associates. Paul names one of the delegation he is sending to Corinth, a name which they will immediately recognize and rejoice over—Titus. Titus has already been to Corinth on what appears to be more than one occasion.53 Paul speaks very highly of Titus. It is true that Titus is coming to Corinth (probably bearing this epistle) at Paul’s request and others (note “our appeal” in 8:17). But Paul wants them to know that the coming of Titus is his desire as well. He is not coming begrudgingly dragging his feet all the way. Titus is as eager to come personally as Paul and others are to send him.

In a momentary aside, I want to draw your attention to the wonderful picture Titus provides us of the willing service of the Christian. Just as Paul sends Titus on this mission, God instructs us by His Word. He gives us orders, as Paul and his colleagues instructed Titus to go back to Corinth. This “duty” is also a “delight” to Titus, as our “duties” should be a “delight” to us. When “duty” is a “delight,” we find our service not burdensome, but a source of great joy.

Titus is not the only one who is being sent to Corinth. Along with him, there is “the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches” (verse 18). As you might expect, there is a fair bit of speculation as to who this “brother” might be. Luke is one suggestion. I would think Apollos might be another. It is clear that God did not want us to know who this man is, and it does not matter in the least. What we do know is that this man’s qualifications are impeccable. All the churches know of him and regard him highly. By the description Paul gives us, this man seems to be a teacher of the Scriptures. From what we know of Titus (see the Book of Titus as well), it seems this is his role also.

Yet another man is referred to in verse 22, the “brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things …” Most commentators see this as a third member of the delegation. I am at least inclined to wonder if this fellow is not Titus, who is once again named in verses 23 and 24. Titus certainly was “found diligent in many things” (verse 22), and after his return from Corinth was “even more diligent” (verse 22; compare 7:13-15). Regardless of whether there are two or three men in this delegation, it is apparent that all of them are men of the highest caliber and reputation. To use the greeting card company’s expression, Paul “cared enough to send the very best.”

One cannot help but wonder why this delegation was sent ahead of Paul. Why is such an esteemed group necessary? It seems the purpose is at least two-fold. First, these men are sent to facilitate the financial follow-through Paul calls for in chapters 8 and 9. Paul urges the Corinthians to complete what they have purposed and promised to give, which they have actually begun to set aside. These men are sent to help the Corinthians do so. This is likely done by teaching and exhortation, which at least two of the men are gifted to do. Further, if the Corinthians’ failure in following through with their initial commitment is due to the false apostles’ erroneous teaching, these teachers of the truth will correct the errors and thus bring the Corinthians back to the truth, back to the gospel, and back to the grace of God which motivates grace giving.

The second role this delegation plays is to insure the integrity of this financial transaction. It is safe to say that the “false apostles” in Corinth are lining their own pockets. (This is probably where some of the absent funds are going.) Paul and his apostolic colleagues are absolutely scrupulous about money matters. They want to give no opportunity for any questions to be raised, any doubts to be created as far as how the funds are collected, kept, and distributed. How often money is the reason a given ministry or minister becomes discredited. Paul does not leave this matter to chance. These men are of the highest reputation, so that all will know the funds are all being used as promised and purposed.

A number of Christian organizations have joined organizations like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (EFCA), a group which sets standards for its members to assure the donors to its member organizations that their monies are being used wisely. The Elders of CBC have given thought to joining this organization, but have decided otherwise, simply because we are not a large organization and because the costs and some procedures are prohibitive. We would say to you, however, that we have given very careful thought to our financial procedures and practices to avoid any appearance of sloppiness or misuse of funds. It was pointed out to us that only one person counts the offering each Sunday. We now have the offering counted twice, by two different people. This is not because we distrust anyone. (In fact, this is why we never thought of having two people count the offering.) But by doing this, we protect those who handle our funds from any accusation, and we protect the integrity of our ministry.

Lest anyone think this delegation is only representing Paul and his colleagues, Paul adds that these men were “a glory to God” and “messengers of the churches” (8:23). I wonder if this delegation was not a kind of team which met various needs in the Corinthian church. I am inclined to think that at least one of these men had some accounting skills. We know that one of the men was appointed to accompany the gift collected in Corinth and the other churches to Jerusalem (8:19). Thank God for such people, who are so meticulous in knowing where and how monies are spent. I am tempted to think that as these men “went over the books” of the Corinthian church (if indeed there were such books), they found serious discrepancies. If and when such discrepancies were discovered, the action which Paul calls for in the next chapter would be more than apparent.

But mainly, I believe Paul sent the best men available so the Corinthian saints would have every possible advantage to follow through with their earlier commitment. I do not believe Paul’s only motive was the “great need” which existed in Jerusalem. (Indeed, it is noteworthy that Paul, unlike many fund-raisers today, did not even describe the need in Jerusalem in this epistle.) I believe Paul greatly desired a generous gift from the Corinthians because of the blessing it would be for them. Because it is truly “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), then facilitating a generous gift on the part of the Corinthians is seeking their highest good. How different this attitude is from the religious hucksters, who view the saints as “easy victims” who deserve to be parted from their money.

Paul’s Reason for Sending This Delegation


1 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for 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. 3 But I have sent the brethren, that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4 lest if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to speak of you) should be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, that the same might be ready as a bountiful gift, and not affected by covetousness.

In one sense, it is unnecessary for Paul to write to the Corinthians about making a contribution. After all, he is not trying to sell the idea to them, because the Corinthians have been committed to making a contribution for at least a year. While Paul has written to the Corinthians of the Macedonians’ generosity, it is not as though the Corinthians are so reluctant to give that Paul has to use the generosity of these poor saints to spur the church at Corinth into action. In fact, Paul has spoken to other churches concerning the Corinthians’ generosity, just as he has written to the Corinthians concerning the Macedonians.

That, indeed, is a good part of the problem. Paul has actually boasted to other churches about the generosity of the Corinthians, based upon their initial enthusiasm of making a contribution to the poor. Corinth is a major city of the region of Achaia. When Paul spoke to the other churches of Achaia about the generosity of the Corinthians, they also promised to make a contribution. And their contributions have already been collected, awaiting the arrival of Paul and/or others to transport the monies to Jerusalem. This creates an embarrassing situation for Paul. The churches of Achaia have their offerings ready to collect, but the church he uses as a good example of generosity is not ready with their contribution. The Macedonians who will be coming with Paul to collect the Corinthian contribution will be appalled, Paul’s boasting will prove to be vain, and both he and the Corinthians will be embarrassed.

This is the reason Paul takes the decisive action of sending the delegation to Corinth ahead of him. He does not want the Corinthians to fail in this area. They have already repented of other wrongs; now let them make good on their promise to give to the poor. Time is short, but with the encouragement and facilitating gifts of this delegation, the Corinthians still have time to make good on their promise.

Guiding Principles to Counter Greed


6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written, “HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ABIDES FOREVER.” 10 Now 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; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because 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, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

The last words of verse 5 inform us of one of the principle problems at Corinth (and elsewhere) which adversely impacts grace giving: covetousness. Here, Paul says he has sent the brethren so they can assist the Corinthians in arranging beforehand their previously promised gift, which is not affected by covetousness. Covetousness is the illicit desire to have what belongs to another. Generosity is the godly desire for others in need to have what I possess. One cannot be covetous and generous at the same time. And so Paul turns our attention to those guiding principles concerning generosity which counter covetousness in the closing verses of chapter 9.

The first governing principle of sowing and reaping can be stated very simply: The way you sow is the way you reap.

There is a sense in which we should “give away” our excess material possessions to the poor and expect nothing from them in return. It is also true that when we do so, we know we will be rewarded by our Lord for our generosity in heaven:

17 He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed (Proverbs 19:17).

12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).

In introducing the principle of sowing and reaping here in our text, Paul informs us that giving away some of what we have is the means by which God provides more for us to give. The one who sows sparingly, reaps sparingly. The one who sows bountifully, reaps bountifully. According to the principle of sowing and reaping, to give generously is the way to have an abundant return. The key to sowing bountifully is to delight in doing so. The reason we sow sparingly is because we sow begrudgingly. What we enjoy doing (giving generously), we do more abundantly. What we dislike intensely, we avoid. And so Paul urges the Corinthians to give generously, out of a heart filled with gratitude and joy.

Some people simply do not enjoy being generous. It causes them great pain to give up more of what they possess in order to bestow it upon someone who needs it more than they do. Once I suggested to a friend who was dying that she give away some of her possessions while she was alive, so that she could enjoy the act of giving while she was still alive. I had seriously misjudged the situation. This woman did not want to give anything away before she died, because she found no pleasure in giving. Only after her death, when she could keep her possessions no longer, would she reluctantly will them to someone else. How sad.

Giving generously is not only to be an act of joy, it must also be an act of faith. Let’s face it, when we give generously to the poor, it would seem there is no way we will ever see anything in return. But Paul introduces a second principle of giving: When we sow generously, God allows us to reap bountifully, so that we may be able to give even more.

Giving generously is giving graciously. When we show grace to others by giving generously, God replenishes our grace, so that we have yet more to give (verse 8). God graciously provides for us to be gracious, as we exercise grace toward others in generosity. It is He who “supplies and multiplies our seed for sowing” (verse 10).

Like most spiritual principles, this principle is just the opposite of what we would naturally think and practice with regard to generosity. We believe we can show generosity to others only after we have obtained all that we think we need for ourselves. I am willing to give to others, once I am assured that I have enough for myself. But I never quite reach the point where I think I have enough for myself, and so I keep postponing my generosity to others. Paul tells me that I must first be generous to others, and then after I have sown generously, God will cause me to reap in abundance, so that I may give even more. I must give joyfully and in faith, looking to God to provide for my own needs, as well as for my continuing generosity to others.

As I consider this principle of sowing and reaping, I am reminded of the story of Elijah and the Gentile widow of Zarephath, as recorded in 1 Kings 17. This woman was not given an abundance of food and then instructed to feed Elijah. She was virtually out of food and was instructed to give first to the prophet, and then to trust God to provide for her and her son. This woman’s provisions were always running out. She seemed to be taking food from the mouth of her child in order to first feed Elijah. But in generously giving to Elijah, she found that God provided for her needs and those of her son. We must not wait until we have plenty and then give to those in need, but we must give what we have to give, trusting God to provide for our own needs.

In verse 9, Paul cites Psalm 112:9: “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever.” This psalm describes the righteous man’s generosity as sowing or scattering seed abroad. It is the basis for the imagery Paul employs in 1 Corinthians 9:6. This Psalm speaks not only of the righteous man, but of The Righteous Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. This psalm, like so many others, moves from the godly man to The Godly Man. Only our Lord Jesus Christ is righteous. And so in the midst of describing what a righteous man looks like, the psalmist turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, showing Him to be the standard-bearer for generosity to the poor. Whatever Paul has called upon us to do with regard to the poor, it is in the final analysis only imitating our Lord.

The imagery of sowing and reaping is further refined by this third principle: When we sow generously, what we reap is far more than monetary.

Frankly, the religious hucksters are not entirely wrong in what they say or imply. When we give generously to God, God is generous to us in return. But the hucksters are wrong when they imply that God prospers us so that we may indulge ourselves. Paul indicates that God is generous to us so that we may be able to give generously to others. Paul also differs from the “good life gospeleers” in that he does not speak only of material benefits and blessings. Paul teaches us that we reap God’s blessings in a number of forms.

We reap God’s blessings as a harvest of righteousness (verse 10). Giving to the poor is not only what God does (Psalm 112:9, cited above in verse 9), it is what God requires and desires of us (see Romans 12:13; Galatians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 13:16; James 1:27). When we give to those in need, it is regarded by God as a spiritual sacrifice, pleasing in His sight (Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16). And thus, gracious giving not only demonstrates the grace of God, it is regarded by God as an act of righteousness, inspired and enabled by His grace.

Furthermore, generous giving to the needs of the saints produces the fruit of praise and thanksgiving to God. When needy saints receive a generous gift from fellow-believers, whom they do not even know by name, they recognize that God is the ultimate source of the gift. And so they respond with thanksgiving and praise to God for His grace in their lives (verse 11). Gracious giving does far more than just meet a physical need; it is the source of many thanksgivings to God. Now that, my friend, is reaping abundantly!

Generous giving did something else for the recipients which was very important. Those in need were not just “the poor”; they were the poor in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 24:17; see Acts 11:27-30; Romans 15:24-27). These were the Jewish saints who had great difficulty accepting the fact that Jesus Christ came to save both Jews and Gentiles to make them one in Him (see Luke 4:16-30; Acts 10-11; 22:22). The generous contribution of Gentile saints is proof that their profession of faith is genuine, and their unity in Christ is real. Because of this, the Jewish saints glorified God.

Giving to the needs of others produces spiritual blessings for the giver as well (verse 14). This financial gift bonded the Jewish saints in Jerusalem and Judea with the Gentile saints abroad. Because of this, the prayers of the poor Jewish saints not only expressed praise and thanksgivings to God, but also petitions for the well-being of the Gentile saints who had given to them.

I would have to say from experience, both as a giver and as a recipient, that giving to those in need creates a very special bond. I graduated from seminary a good number of years ago now, and I think it is safe to say that those relationships which continue are often those which involved the exchange of money. It is no wonder that the Greek term koinonia is used for the sharing of funds in the New Testament (see, for example, Romans 12:13; 15:27; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:15). What a way to demonstrate our unity—by sharing with the saints.

The final and fourth principle regarding generosity is recorded in verse 15 and may be summed up this way: No matter how generous our giving to others might be, it pales in insignificance when compared to the ultimate generosity of God, who saved us through the sacrifice of His Son. Paul is never far from the cross of Christ, even in a matter which seems as mundane as money. The gift of the Corinthians is but a drop in the bucket when compared to the gracious gift of salvation. The gift of salvation should never cease to produce awe, wonder, and gratitude. Our gifts to others should be a kind of commemoration of the gift of God in Christ. Our generosity is rooted in the generosity of our God in the person of our Savior, 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, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

I am amazed at the lengths to which Paul is willing to go to promote godliness in the Corinthian church. How easy it would have been to write this bunch off as a bad investment. Instead, Paul has written them on a number of occasions, he has sent others to minister to them, and now he is sending a delegation of men to help the Corinthians do what they should do. Giving to the poor is not only good for the poor, it is good for those who give to them. Paul wants what is best for these saints, and he is willing to sacrifice personally in order to facilitate their good. You may remember that these were very difficult days for Paul in Macedonia, and the presence of those with Paul is a source of great comfort and encouragement (see 2 Corinthians 7:5-7). Rather than keep these men by his side to comfort and encourage him, he sends them on to Corinth to promote their godliness.

This text says much to those who are would-be donors, but it also speaks to those who may be the recipients of financial gifts from fellow-believers. First, it should remove any feelings of guilt or embarrassment for receiving from others. Giving is certainly intended to be a blessing to the recipient, but it is also to be a blessing for the donor. Have you benefited from the generosity of the saints? Be grateful for it. Praise God for it. Pray for those who have given to you. And don’t feel guilty for being a source of blessing to those who have given to you.54

Our text says a great deal about the way we should raise funds and the way funds should be handled by the church. Paul’s appeal for funds is done in a way which does not appeal to the flesh, but rather in a way that depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. He does not employ guilt or greed as motives for giving, but rather the grace of God. The way funds are raised, handled, and distributed should mark the Christian apart from others and must avoid any questions concerning propriety. It is my opinion that much of the fund-raising done by religious organizations today falls far short of the standard set in our text.

I am impressed, once again, by Paul’s “team” approach in ministry to the Corinthians. There is a saying that goes like this: “If you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself.” Paul does not believe this at all. I sincerely believe Paul sent the delegation described in our text because he was certain they, as a team, could do a better job than he could have done alone. Paul had done what he could. He had written them a letter, he continued to pray for them, and he sent the team of men best suited to do the job which was needed in the Corinthian church. Paul was not a “one man army,” as were the “false apostles” at Corinth, who wanted to “own” their own group of devotees.

We should also learn a lesson from our text concerning the currently popular concept of “accountability.” Paul is very careful to hold the Corinthians accountable for the things they have purposed and promised. Paul holds their feet to the fire to complete the collection for the poor. He does all he can to encourage and facilitate their completion of this ministry. He also sees himself and the other apostles as accountable to the churches regarding the raising, collecting, and distribution of funds for the poor. The interesting thing to me is that the church at Corinth, as a church, is accountable not only to Paul and to the other true apostles, but to the delegation Paul sends. Paul sends a delegation of outsiders to Corinth to expose problems, to teach the Scriptures, to complete a collection, and to supervise the transfer of funds. In our day, when individual local churches pride themselves for being “autonomous,” we may need to step back and re-think our position. Here is a local church, accountable to the apostles and to a delegation which is sent to help them deal with their problems. There may be things wrong in our church which are obvious to an outsider, but to which we are blind. Let us give serious thought to how we practice our accountability to the larger body of Christ.

This text has something to say to those who excuse their failure to give because they think they do not have enough funds to give to others. First, giving to the poor is not just for those who have much to give, but for all those who have more. To use an analogy our Lord employs, when we see a brother who has no coat, we don’t have to own a coat factory; all we need is two coats (see Luke 3:11). The reason we may not have the means to give to the poor is because we have not sown from that which we have in order to reap more to give. We, like the widow who cared for Elijah, may need to give first to those in need, and then look to God to supply our needs. There is a difference here between faith and folly, but to the unbelieving, all faith is folly.

Finally, our text has some remarkable parallels to the second coming of our Lord. Paul has been to Corinth, where he has proclaimed the gospel and many have come to faith. In his absence, he has written several letters and sent others to minister to them. He has promised to return to them, and his return appears to have been delayed. Now, he is soon to come, and he does not want the Corinthians caught by surprise, not really ready for his return, and thus embarrassed by his coming. This is the reason Paul writes to them and sends this delegation to prepare the way for his return. He wants his return to be a joyful reunion.

Our Lord has come to this earth and proclaimed the gospel. He has departed by His resurrection and ascension, but He assures us that He is coming again. He does not want us to be caught unaware and unprepared. He wants us to be ready for His return so that our reunion will be a joyful one, rather than an occasion for embarrassment. And so He has left us with His Word and with other gifted saints, all of whom are to encourage and equip us to live godly lives, so that when He returns we will be found ready. What a joyful time that will be if we are ready and waiting. Are there things which need to be done beforehand? Then let us tend to them now, quickly, before He returns, so that our reunion may be a joyful one.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life, you are not ready for our Lord’s return. The time for repentance is now. Now is the time God has allowed for you to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection on your behalf, so that your sins might be forgiven and you may receive God’s gift of eternal life. Do not delay! Time is short! Trust in Him for salvation, and then live in a way that you will not be ashamed at His return.

53 Titus was there a year before to help the Corinthians “make a beginning” in their gift to the poor (8:6). He was also just there and had recently returned to Paul with a good report about them (7:6-7). These seem to be two different visits, and it is possible there were others. The return of Titus to Corinth would therefore appear to be his third visit to this city.

54 There are those who abuse the generosity of others, and there are texts which deal with this sin (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15), but that is not the topic of our text.