12. The Holy Spirit is present in the church of Corinth (7:1-16). The apostle Paul introduces this section with a reminder of the need for spiritual cleansing, both external (in deed) and internal (in attitude). vs. 1. He becomes jubilant as he deals with the Corinthian church. He urges them to make room in their heart for him as he has them in his heart, (vss 2-3). Unashamedly and frankly, he tells them of his joy and confidence in hearing from Titus of their repentance. This was great comfort and consolation for him (vss. 4-6). He could easily forget the opposition he encountered from some of their members. Repentance and forgiveness brings complete reconciliation. He distinguishes their sorrow (after a godly manner, vs. 9) from the sorrow of the world which is self pity. This godly sorrow included indignation (righteous anger at themselves for their sin), fear (of punishment), vehement desire (of the favor of God and the apostle), zeal (to do good) and revenge (not in an evil sense, but in the consciousness that sin must be punished and things must be made right with God). The fruit of such sorrow is a “clearing of yourselves”, (vs. 11), that is placing themselves in good standing before the apostle and the God he represents. By God’s grace, this stern reprimand bore fruit so that Paul and Titus may now be the more joyful. Even as Paul had expressed to Titus his confidence that the church of Corinth would respond correctly by repenting (Paul boasted of them to Titus, vs. 14), so they both may continue confident in the good standing of this church. What a blessed example of the Holy Spirit’s reformed work in the church! His presence makes all the difference, today as well as in Paul’s day.
INSTRUCTION CONCERNING CHRISTIAN GIVING (chapters 8, 9)
Interspersed between Paul’s joy in the renewed Corinthian church and his instruction concerning specific problems that still existed in the church, he deals with the subject of Christian giving.
1. The Macedonian (Greek) churches were examples of liberality, (8:1-6). Those churches had themselves gone through a time of economic trial. This may have been due to the general political situation (Greece, was plundered by Roman armies), or it may have been due more particularly to the persecution of Christians. It left them poor in worldly goods. Yet, they did not use this as an excuse not to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem, see I Cor. 16:3. Rather, they gave liberally, out of their own limited means. The apostles did not force them to do this, they did it voluntarily. The spiritual reason for this was the fact that they had given themselves to Christ, (vs. 5). This is always first. Christ said, wherever your treasure is there will your heart be also, Matt. 6:21. Hence, giving of their possessions came easily. Paul informs the Corinthians that part of Titus’ ministry will be to instruct them in this Christian activity of giving.
2. The apostle gives the church guidelines for Christian giving, (vss 7-15). First, he explains to them what the proper motivation should be. This includes five things. (1) It will be an additional demonstration of their love which will confirm their past conduct, vs. 7. (2) It will establish their sincerity, for it will not be a forced act, but a willing deed, vs. 8. (3) It will make them Christ like in their life, for He was rich but became poor for us, vs. 9. (4) They will be able to fulfill their good intentions made a year ago, see II Cor. 9:2. In response to his former letter (I Cor. 16:1-3) they said they would raise money to help the Jerusalem Christians. Now they should go ahead and do this and they will be true to their word, vss. 10,11. (5) They will not be expected to give more than they have. The privilege to give financially is not an impossible burden, for giving must be according to what a man hath to give, vs. 12. According to I Cor. 16:2 it is as God hath prospered him.
The apostle explains the implications of this last idea in greater detail in the following three verses. How much should one give? — that’s always a sensitive question. So Paul tells them that they must not give in such a way that some members of the church have it easy and will sit back and receive the benevolence of the church without lifting a finger to earn their own way. According to verse 13, Paul does not expect some Christians to be burdened by carrying a double load at the expense of lazy members. We are reminded of II Thess. 3:10, “For even when we were with you this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” The concern that the Holy Spirit has for the material needs of the church is this: Christians must work to deliver one another from the burden of poverty. Verses 14 and 15 speak of “equality.” This does not mean that we have no right to private property (see Acts 5:4, where Peter instructs Ananias that to sell their property or not and how much to give to the church was their own private decision. Their sin was that they lied when they said that they brought the entire price, but in reality kept back part for themselves). Neither does this mean that all Christians should have, equal financial assets, as sought by those who desire some form of Christian communism or socialism. Rather, he means that those Christians who have more than they can use, should share it with Christians who are poor and have need. In this way the rich will be the means in God’s hand to deliver the poor from the ravages of their poverty. The reference to the distribution of manna proves his point, seeEx. 16:18. They did not all have the same quantity of manna, yet they all had enough.
3. Paul encourages the Corinthians to receive Titus who comes with the great desire to prosper in the collection for the poor, (vss. 16-24). Titus was compassionate and zealous for the care of the poor, hence he was especially qualified for this task of collecting for the needy churches, (vss. 16, 17). We are reminded that Paul sent Titus as the bearer of this letter and to implement the instruction it contained. Accompanying Titus were two other men. One is mentioned in verse 18. He is unknown to us, but obviously he had good credentials and was chosen by the churches. Since Titus was going to deal with large sums of money, it was important that there be more than one man (to avoid temptation and to remove any suspicion) — a practice our deacons still follow today. In addition, all concerned had to have a reputation for honesty and trust, (vss. 20, 21). The other brother mentioned in verse 23 was also zealous for this work. Hence Paul recommends these three men to the church. Titus, as a partner and fellow laborer, was to be received, and the other two as messengers of the churches (in all likelihood not apostles as Paul was, but helpers). The Corinthians should love these men and receive them and thereby prove that what good things Paul had said of the Corinthians were indeed true, (vs. 24).
4. Giving should be done cheerfully, chapter 9:1-15. Paul points out the urgent need for the Corinthians to respond quickly and liberally with the collection (vss. l-5). He had spoken highly of them to the churches of Greece. This fact had moved these churches to respond generously with their collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Now Paul is on his way to visit Corinth and with him are members of the Greek churches. The Corinthians, however, have not yet finished their collection. Hence he urges them, through the three men sent to them, to hasten with the work and give liberally so that when he arrives, they will be proven as faithful and none need be ashamed. Their bounty (collection) will prove them generous and not covetous.
To spur them on, Paul now instructs them as to what spiritual attitude should govern their giving. It must be cheerful, with joy! The opposite is to give grudgingly or out of necessity, that is, with regret or by constraint. Such a person feels the obligation to give, but not the joy. “God loves a cheerful giver.” How can a Christian give cheerfully? The answer is that he knows the benefit of such giving. In verse 6 we are reminded of the oft quoted maxim, we reap what we sow, see also Prov. 11:24, Luke 6:38. In verses 8-10 he points out to them that God rewards liberality. This is true spiritually, but also materially. Even though we give up our money or possessions, God is able to return it to us in great measure, (vs. 8 refers to all grace, favor, gifts). The purpose of God in returning it is that we may have plenty with which to perform every good work. Notice the promise is not to make us materially rich, as you hear some say it: “Give to the Lord and He will make you rich.” No, the idea is that we give liberally to the Lord’s cause and He will provide the means with which we can serve Him in all things, to buy food and material necessities for our family, to give them Christian education, to promote the ministry of Word and missions, and such like. In this way God blesses the home of him who gives cheerfully. His righteousness (the ability to do good) shall remain. God is able, for He is the one Who gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater, Isa. 55:10, and He will multiply your seed (material wealth) and cause you to have more means with which to do deeds of goodness (fruits of your righteousness).
The purpose of such cheerful giving is not only the care of the poor saints (vs. l2), but especially it expresses thanks to God and thereby God is glorified. It also causes the poor who are helped to pray for them who help. (vs. 14). How fitting that this instruction should close with the doxology of thanks to God for His great gift, Jesus Christ. In this unspeakable gift, all our giving has meaning. It is of God alone.
PAUL’S AUTHORITY UNDER ATTACK (chapters 10-13)
The tone of the epistle now changes. Paul turns his attention to those in the church of Corinth who attacked his authority to preach, but were themselves false teachers.
1. Paul sets forth a warning that his opponents not take his Christian meekness to mean that he will not fight for what is right and true (10:1-6). His enemies thought him to be base (cowardly) when he was in Corinth and to be bold (courageous) when speaking to them from a distance (vs. 1). He urges them to respond to his instruction so that what boldness he has will not have to be demonstrated to them when he comes. They had falsely accused him of walking according to the flesh, (vss. 2, 3). Paul declares war and assures them that the weapons he uses are not after the flesh (human reasoning and argumentation) but spiritual, which even God considers to be mighty, (vss. 3, 4). So mighty are these weapons that they pull down strongholds, which are explained to be imaginations (opinions of men) and high things that exalt against the knowledge of God (human knowledge that seems impressive, such as philosophy or science of unbelieving men). Instead, all human knowledge must be brought into obedience of Christ, (vs. 5). This Paul will continue to do until the disobedient are exposed and removed and the obedient safeguarded (vs. 6).
(To be continued)