Criswell Theological Review 4.1 (1989) 97-117.
Copyright © 1989 by The
THE COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS:
2 CORINTHIANS 8-9
RICHARD R. MELICK, JR.
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
Christian stewardship occupies a major place in contemporary
Christian thought. Through the various media, including the pulpit,
many Christian spokespersons call for Christians to give of material
resources for the advancement of their ministries. Often 2 Corinthians
8-9 forms the biblical basis for giving.
The Scriptures speak often of material possessions. They warn
about misuse of what God has provided, about the acquiring of things
as a life goal, and about the necessity of using material things to
produce spiritual blessings and eternal rewards. The foundation for
this occurs in the OT, and Jesus himself taught that we should "lay up
treasures in heaven" (Matt 6:20). The irony of this teaching is that
laying up treasures in heaven involves a wise spending of the treasures
of earth. This passage speaks indirectly to that issue.
At a deeper level, however, Paul speaks here of Christian brother-
hood. While ostensibly the relief offering occupies the prominent
place, the passage concerns the well-being of Christian brothers and
sisters. It speaks to a Christian's world and life view, the reality of a
spiritual tie that transcends physical dimensions, and the fulfilling of
OT prophetic expectations. The literature on this section of Scripture
is extensive,l and at least one major commentary concerns these two
1 See for example the bibliographic entries in H. D. Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9; A
Commentary on Two Administrative Letters of the Apostle Paul (Hermeneia; Phila-
delphia: Fortress, 1985) xix-xxv and 146-53, and R. Martin, 2 Corinthians (WBC 10;
recent works on the subject.
2 H. D. Betz, 2 Corinthians.
98 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
I. The Occasion
These two chapters focus on the grace of giving. Written while
Paul was on his third missionary journey, they reflect one of his major
concerns: a collection for the saints at
deliver at the Passover celebration. This special offering helped pro-
vide for the financial needs of Christians from another ethnic and
national background. The monies were neither the tithe nor the gifts
given for the functions of the church. This was a truly benevolent
The early church took seriously the social and economic condi-
tions of fellow believers. Many different Scriptures urge care for those
who have endured difficulties. These include widows and orphans
(Jas 1:27), natural disasters (famines, Acts 11:27-30), and persecution.
The most likely immediate concern was for the financial loss suffered
first century. It left many, including Christians, in dire straits.
Before turning to the content of these chapters, two introductory
comments demand attention. The first relates to the purpose of the
collection for the saints. Obviously Paul considered it a significant
part of his ministry, devoting a seemingly inordinate amount of time
and energy to help those in need. Many have suggested reasons for
the offering, most of which expand the significant work of D. Georgi,
Die Geschichte der Kollekte des Paulus fur Jerusalem.3 R. Martin
reduces these to four: (1) Paul was remembering the poor as he
promised the "pillar apostles" of
genuine concern by the Gentile congregations; (3) he was seeking to
unite the two diverse elements in the early Christian community; and
he was cooperating in the eschatological fulfillment
conversion.4 No doubt each of these deserves legitimate discussion.
Beyond it all, however, the words of E. Best serve as a good re-
minder. They are based upon the character of the apostle himself.
"Paul probably initially accepted the obligation to raise the money
because he saw the need in
Jesus to respond. Other reasons might have come to his mind as time
3 D. Georgi,
Die Geschichte der
Kollekte des Paulus fur
Hamburg-Bergstedt: H. Reich, 1965). Other works which detail and expand these
arguments are: K. F. Nickle, The Collection: A Study in Paul’s Strategy (SBT 48;
Pastoral and Practical Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982).
4 Martin, 2 Corinthians, 251.
5 E. Best, Second Corinthians in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching
and Preaching (ed. James Luther Mays;
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 99
The second introductory comment relates to the unity of the two
chapters. Many interpreters assume Paul wrote the two chapters at
different times and, perhaps, to different churches (see n. 7 below).
Others have argued for their unity. Recently C. Talbert supported the
unity of the section based on a perceptive literary and thematic
analysis.6 The objections are not insuperable. Concerning the relation-
ship of chaps. 8 and 9, C. K. Barrett concludes that "the transition is
not as sharp as is sometimes supposed. . . . It is therefore best to treat
it as a continuation of chapter viii, and as belonging to the same letter
as chapters i-viii."7
II. Theological Foundations
Typically, Paul's Christian ethic emerges from theological convic-
tion calling for a life lived reflectively and purposely. There are many
suggested theological underpinnings. Some interpreters see ecclesias-
tical concerns in the forefront of the passage while others see a
broader theological foundation. Talbert sees a threefold theological
significance: "(a) it would be a realization of Christian charity (Gal
2:10; 2 Cor 8:14; 9:12; Rom 15:25); (b) it would be an expression of
Christian unity (2 Cor 9:13-14; Rom 15:27); and (c) it would be an
anticipation of Christian eschatology (Romans 9-11 . . . )."8 The eccle-
siastical argument assumes that the collection is from churches to
church. For them the project demonstrates a strong ecclesiastical tie.
The passage, however, neither asserts nor assumes that. Here at least
two primary theological pillars support Paul's program of giving.
A. Soteriological Concerns
Perhaps the most impressive theological underpinning is soterio-
logical, emphasizing the outworkings of salvation. The distinctive
6 See C. H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians (New York: Crossroad, 1987) 181-82.
7 C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (ed. Henry Chadwick; New
since 1776, when J. S. Semler wrote a thesis suggesting that 2 Corinthians is a composite
document consisting of several fragments. The arguments against the unity of these
chapters are as follows: (1) the introduction of chap. 9 is typically used by Paul to start
a new section of thought; (2) the discussion in chap. 9 is redundant; (3) there is an
apparent contradiction between 8:10 and 9:3-5; (4) the content is addressed to two
different groups (
8:20 and 9:3-5 (Talbert, 181-82). Each of these has been answered by various means.
(See the representative list of scholars who hold to unity in P. E. Hughes, Commentary
on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians [NICNT;
xxi-xxii.). The best history of the interpretation of these chapters from a liberal
perspective is H. D. Betz, 2 Corinthians, which also is the best presentation of the issues.
It takes a literary approach to these chapters. Even R. Martin has been swayed to this
position, stating that the two chapters may not be from the same letter (2 Corin-
100 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
employment of the term "grace," the example of Christ, and the
Pauline concept of Christian community support this interpretation.
1. The Employment of "Grace." Semantically, the word grace
(xa<rij) predominates in these chapters. Its frequency has led some to
argue for the unity of the two chapters based upon the rather consis-
tent use of the term.9 Indeed, the chapters open with the concept of
grace (8:1) and close in the same manner (9:14-15), forming an
inclusio. The term occurs at least ten times,10 and the root occurs in
compound words twice more (translated "thanksgiving").11
The most common use of the term "grace" speaks of the act of
giving as a "grace" (8:4, 6, 7, 19). The employment of the term "grace"
so frequently and naturally reflects Paul's theology. First, by using the
term "grace" for the act of giving, Paul changed expressions from the
Jewish concept which no doubt formulated his thinking as a rabbi.
The Jews customarily referred to benevolence as an act of righteous-
ness.12 Jesus also spoke in these terms in the Sermon on the Mount
when he addressed almsgiving as an act of "righteousness" (dikaio-
su<nh, Matt 6:1ff.). His terminology reflected a situation of law and a
preoccupation with legal requirements. Paul, however, used the term
righteousness in this connection only once. In 9:10 he speaks of the
gift as coming from the Corinthians' righteousness, but he generally
refers to giving as an act of grace. By this expression, Paul emphasizes
both the situation of the giver and the motivation for the gift. Those
who have received God's grace engage in benevolent activities as the
fruit of the state of grace. Paul carefully avoids any "works ethic,"
choosing rather a terminology and concept to root these activities in
his characteristic theme, God's grace.13 E. Best correctly states, “If
giving loses its origin and purpose in God and his grace, both it and
our faith will shrivel and die.”14
As a second factor, the concept of grace applies to a specific
action related to the experience of grace. Consistently Paul refers to
9 Ibid., 181.
10 8:1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 16, 19; 9:8, 14, 15.
11 9:11, 12.
12 C. K. Barrett says "It is true that in late Hebrew hqAdAc; (cf. the Aramaic hqAd;ci)
came to mean almsgiving" (Second Corinthians, 238).
13 Some prefer to think that Paul really speaks of grace on the human level here
(Martin, 2 Corinthians, 254), although Martin recognizes the logical underpinnings that
the church acted in response to divine grace. But the term is too prominent here and
the passage too theological for the mere human interpretation. E. Best, among others,
provides a list of theological terms which he says "gives the whole discussion a
theological orientation" (E. Best, Second Corinthians [Atlanta: John Knox, 1987] 88).
These include grace (xa<rij), ministry (diakoni<a), glory (do<ca), fellowship (koinwni<a),
and service (xeitourgi<a).
14 Best, Second Corinthians, 87.
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 101
giving as "this grace." Ultimately Paul considers all human re-
sponses to God outworkings of grace. This is especially true of the
gifts which work for the betterment of the Christian community.15
Although a spiritual gift of giving occurs in the lists of spiritual gifts,
here individual gifts come as the result of God's grace ("Let each
person give as he has determined," 9:7). Rather than an act for
attaining righteousness, this giving evidences the grace of God in the
lives of the Corinthians. In this regard Barrett's comment regarding
the Macedonians applies. He notes that Paul may mean "the grace of
God himself" or "that God has given grace to the Macedonians," and
that Paul may not distinguish between these two.16 The term "grace,"
therefore correctly designates the action in its full theological definition.
Paul also uses grace to refer to the grace of God which initiates a
good deed. Here, again, he expresses his understanding that every-
thing good originates from the grace of God and glorifies his grace
(see Eph 1:3-14, for example). The passage begins with the grace of
God working in the Macedonians (8:1), continues with the grace of
God in Titus (8:16), and ends with an expression of God's grace
(9:14). Clearly, the grace of God motivates Christians to give. Paul
commends them for their participation (koinwni<a) in the gift, because
it means that God is at work in them.
2. The Example of Christ. The grace of God is demonstrated in
Jesus. His action of self-denial is a particular expression of the grace
of giving (8:8). When Christians give of their time/lives/resources (for
financial resources represent them all), they are fulfilling the same
action of Jesus in kind, though not in degree. That is, he gave of
himself for them, and they are giving of themselves for others.17
The example of Christ, which undergirds this passage, occurs in
8:8-9.18 The illustration calls to mind the basic Christological truth.
Three elements support Paul's argument, and each has particular
relevance to the matter at hand. First, Jesus was rich (8:9). The term
applies to possession of resources sufficient to accomplish a proposed
task. Here it must refer to spiritual riches, since there is no evidence
that Jesus had material possessions on earth.19 On the other hand, it is
15 For example, Romans 12:6 speaks of various gifts (xari<smata) which come
from the grace (xa<rij) of God.
16 Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 218.
17 Strangely, E. Best says, "What, then, the Macedonians have done in sending
for us" (Best, Second Corinthians, 78). He overstates the case.
18 In actuality, this is the second example for the Corinthians. The Macedonians
provided the "near" example (both geographically and temporally near), but Jesus
provided the ultimate example for them.
19 Indeed, his own comments reveal as much as well as the remarks of the gospel
102 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
unlikely that purely spiritual blessings are in mind, since the Scripture
teaches that Jesus entered a state of poverty. Paul may be speaking of
the “spiritual-environmental" riches of the preincarnate state which
Jesus left in the journey to earth for redemption.20 Jesus' kenosis lies
behind Paul's thought here. The example does not suggest divesting
oneself of spiritual riches which sustain us through difficult times, but
speaks of the willingness to change the conditions of life for the sake
The second focus in the illustration is Jesus' poverty. He became
poor. Jesus left the environment of heaven to assume the limitations
(thus poverty) imposed by both his humanity and his earthiness. Paul
stresses here the state of poverty by an ingressive aorist.
Third, the purpose of his change of condition was soteriological,
i.e., that we might become rich. Jesus' riches and poverty were not
primarily spiritual; neither are the Christian's. Paul has in mind the
eschatological reality of the full spiritual life, including heaven, when
he speaks of riches. Jesus left what he had to take us there with him.
The relevance of this illustration challenged the Corinthians. They
were not to think of their environments or material possessions as of
primary concern. Just as Jesus left his, so we are to realize that this
world and its goods must not enslave us. Although the cross is un-
mentioned, it lies in the background. The point is that to accomplish
what Jesus wanted, material (environmental) blessings of earth must
serve God's kingdom. Now the Corinthians had opportunity to imitate
Jesus’ action by giving of their materials to accomplish a spiritual
3. The Concept of the Christian Community. Finally, the con-
cept of Christian community permeates the soteriological foundations.
Christians form one brotherhood because of the saving grace of
Christ. The offering demonstrates this unity. Naturally Christians
shared with those in need, but this was more significant because it was
a tangible expression and validation of the Pauline mission to the
Gentiles. Repeatedly Paul expressed his distinctive theological insights
in symbolic forms. His consistent emphasis on the principle of justifi-
cation by faith alone led him to have Timothy circumcised but not
Titus (Gal 2:3).22 This well-known incident crystallized Paul's theology
20 This is amply illustrated in Phil 2:5-8 which must underlie Paul's thought.
21 This interpretation recognizes that, while Paul does not stress Jesus' loss of
spiritual blessings, obviously he considers the environmental blessings of the kingdom
as significant. Ultimately the environmental cannot be distinguished from the spiritual,
for we will enjoy both. Many commentators recognize the close connection between
the spiritual and material dimensions of life here.
22 He did this no doubt to demonstrate that no one should despise or reject
national heritage. On the other hand, Christianity meant that no one had to accept
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 103
and exemplified it for the Christian community. In similar fashion the
relief offering symbolized the real unity of the churches and their
theology. The gospel of grace meant that the gospel could go to non-
Jews without the cultural practices inherent in its original (Jewish)
roots. When it spread beyond Jewish culture, would it be anti-Jewish
or apathetic to the Jewish system which had birthed it? There was a
clear soteriological tie between the peoples which took account of the
deeper basis of unity. Later Paul expressed the soteriological tie with
a reference to the removing of the barriers between the two groups,
allowing a new man to emerge (Eph 2:1-11). Thus in the offering, the
Christian community expressed itself as unified beyond racial and
cultural boundaries. Paul carefully avoids the term "church" in this
passage, preferring words like "saints." He emphasizes the Christian
community but not in ecclesiastical terms.
B. Eschatological Concerns
A second theological foundation relates to the eschatological
framework within which Paul operated. Clearly, his understanding of
the historical outworkings of God's redemptive plans formed the basis
for much of his appeal. Specifically, Paul saw a historical develop-
ment in God's workings. Some interpreters link the offering to Rom
15:27 and the Christian obligation for those who profit spiritually to
share their physical/material blessings with their spiritual benefac-
tors.23 Others prefer to make the situation hypothetical, indicating that
course, be able to help Gentiles.24 The latter approach, however, fails
to deal with the text at two crucial points: (1) the text says "their
abundance" (to> e]kei<non perisseu<ma) with no hypothetical element
inserted (it is a given for Paul), and (2) the purpose clause moves to
the point of equality (a true equality measures spiritual with spiritual
and physical with physical). Both interpretations overlook the most
obvious parallel earlier in Romans (11:12 specifically, and the argu-
ment of 9-11 generally). In
the past, God worked through
accomplish his purposes. With the rejection of Christ, however, na-
theless, Paul expected a time in the future when God would again
another national heritage either. Timothy was technically a Jew, having a Jewish
mother, and identified, therefore, with that culture. Titus was Gentile and was not to
reject that upbringing by circumcision.
23 F. F. Bruce, for example, suggests this as the best possible interpretation. See
F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (New Century Bible; ed. R. E. Clements and M. Black;
24 Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 226, for example.
104 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
and Jewish relations which have significance here. First, the fall of
the Gentiles.25 Second, God will restore
will have significance for the Gentiles (Rom 11:12) in bringing them
even greater riches.26
This eschatological framework finds expression in 2 Cor 8:14. The
key to Pauline thought here is the terms for time which he employs.
The "now time" (nu?n kair&?) contrasts with another time, a typical
Jewish and Pauline way of contrasting the present age with a future
age. Therefore, Paul urges involvement in the relief offering because
of its eschatological significance.27
The eschatological dimension takes us deeper into Paul's under-
standing. Here there are clearly two realms of blessing and responsi-
bility: spiritual and
physical. The spiritual situation of
brought spiritual blessings to the Gentiles. The spiritual blessings
anticipated in connection with
blessings to the Gentiles. The Gentiles, therefore, are to respond in
providing physical blessings for the Jews who are in need. In this
eschatological framework two ideas develop. First, there is a close
unity between the spiritual and physical realms, and Paul moves easily
between them. The blessings of the present time involve primarily the
spiritual aspects of redemption. The future blessings, however, include
the entrance into the environmental (physical) blessings associated
with the Second Coming of Christ. The physical and spiritual unite in
Paul's thought, since ultimately, at the return of Christ, both appear
together for the enjoyment of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
Second, the various churches acting consistently with the example
of Christ must conduct themselves in light of the economy that
characterizes the kingdom environment. Like Jesus, the Gentile Chris-
tians must give of their earthly environmental blessings, motivated in
part by the expectation that they will be recipients of the future
spiritual/environmental blessings of
work of Christ continues on earth through the work of the church.
Christian people must pray and work for "thy kingdom come on
earth as it is in heaven."
25 Thus Paul stresses the redemptive aspects of God's relationship with the various
peoples. He looks to the positive side of a theologically difficult situation.
26 The phrase Paul actually uses is "life from the dead," referring to a resurrection
which will occur at that time.
27 It is worth noting that his argument to this point in Romans has included the
significant phrase "the now time" (t&? nu?n kair&?, Rom 11:5) as a time when Israel is a
"remnant according to grace." "The now time" is the same expression of 2 Cor 8:14
contrasted with 11:12, their "fullness."
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 105
The eschatological significance of the offering, therefore, goes
beyond the immediately visible. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles,
“remembered the poor" as the
2:10). This was especially important to his ministry to the Gentiles
since it symbolized the unity of the churches and his support of the
Jewish Christian community. Paul realized full well that the future
would be a time of unity of all persons in Christ and the complete
satisfaction of every need. It was necessary, therefore, for all Chris-
tians to share in anticipation of that great day.
One final aspect of the collection requires attention. Paul realized
the OT predictions about the future relationships
the Gentiles. Many of them anticipated a time when the Gentiles
would bring gifts to
the last days
expected this fulfillment in the future, perhaps he saw the offering
prophetically as well. It was another step in the fulfillment realized
through Christ. Even more, when Gentiles gave to Jews, the gospel
message reached maturity. Christian unity was effected. Paul could
then go on with his anticipated mission to the West (Rom 15:24-26).29
however, he must delay his trip to
mission) until he delivered the offering (Rom 15:28-29). The eschato-
logical foundations of the. collection were solid, and Paul's growing
understanding of salvation history no doubt inspired him in his efforts.30
III. Motivations for Giving
Having seen two of the major theological foundations for giving,
the motivations may be considered. The discussion is suggestive rather
A. The Example of Others
The first motivation found in this section is the example of others.
includes two examples: the churches of
example of Christ.
28 Note especially verses like 60:5 which says: "The wealth on the seas will be
brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come" (NIV).
29 On this see J. Munck, Paul and the
Salvation of Mankind (
1959) 176, 193.
30 There is a growing discussion about the authority of Paul as reflected in the
collection. The suggestion that this represented a "roll call" of those who accepted
Paul's apostolic authority seems beyond the text. Paul does not handle the Corinthians
in an excessively high-handed manner. The delegation of the task to Titus and the
"gentle" manner with which he writes here suggest that
he really has the
Christians and their need in mind.
106 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
The Macedonian Christians eagerly participated in the offering
for the saints. The Macedonian churches, Philippi,
salonica, were founded by Paul on the second missionary journey.
occupied the same peninsula as
and were the nearest Christian neighbors to the north. Since little is
situation there. The church had a troubled history, It was founded
amid difficulties which Paul here identifies as tests.31 Their situation
makes the gifts all the more impressive,
Two seemingly contrary characteristics make them significant.
First, they were poor. The term Paul uses to describe their poverty
may well be translated "dirt poor."32 The reasons for their poverty are
not clear, although their political history no doubt contributed.33 The
church contained some wealthy and influential persons at its founding,
however, did not diminish their extreme joy, nor did it affect the size
of their gift. Paul identifies the gift as the "riches of single-mindedness"
(plou?toj th?j a[plo<thtoj v 2). The expression suggests that their gift
was (1) generous, and, (2) purposeful. As to the latter, they gave
"single-mindedly." The term often is translated "liberally, gener-
ously,"35 but perhaps it is better translated in this context as "focused."
They simply gave to meet the needs of others.36 That single-minded
31 The histories of these churches are found primarily in Acts 16:11-17:15 and in
the epistles of Thessalonians and Philippians. Space forbids recounting what may be
32 The Greek is actually kata> ba<qouj, a term well translated by Hughes as "rock
bottom," 228. The origins of that translation are uncertain, since others have picked up
33 See H. D. Betz' brief discussion in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9,49-53. He accepts the
position that the Macedonians lived in a relatively poor condition. That is challenged
by Barrett who contends that "
perous province, with flourishing agriculture and mining and lumbering industries."
Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 219.
vocation is not clear. Purple dye was quite expensive since it came from the head of a
fish in the
symbol of wealth. No doubt her clientele was of the upper class, and perhaps her own
resources were substantial. The Roman connections are assumed because of Phil 4:22,
which sends greetings from the household of Caesar. The expression would have
in a Roman colony such as
35 W. F. Arndt and F. W.
Gingrich, "a[plo<thj," BAG (
second of their entries), there are obviously these overtones at times.
36 The same term is found in the gospels when Jesus advocated giving "liberally."
The point was that the gift was to be a true gift, that is, with "no strings attached."
There were to be no ulterior motives, and no personal benefits or rewards were to be
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 107
focus produced a generous gift. Although the size of the gift is
unknown, four elements in the text suggest it was substantial. First,
Paul calls it "riches" (plou?toj), a rare term to use in such a context.
Second, it is described as "to their ability and beyond" (8:3-4), indi-
cating the sacrificial nature of the gift. Their giving began with ability
and moved to their inability ("beyond themselves"). Third, they begged
Paul to allow them to give (8:4). This statement reflects both their
insistence on giving and their situation. Perhaps Paul thought the gift
was more than they could really give, but they begged for the privi-
lege of giving. Here again Paul uses the word "grace" to describe the
gift. If Paul were troubled by the size of the gift, he accepted it
because it came from the grace of God. Fourth, Paul took great care
in the administration of the gift. With justification, some see a major
transfer of funds because of the size of the envoy selected to accom-
pany the gift to
Each of these factors suggests that generosity is not dependent on
the possession of significant resources, but is a matter of the purposes
of the heart. Paul says as much in his commendation of the Mace-
donians (8:5). They "gave themselves first to the Lord, and unto us by
the will of God." Their giving was twofold: to the Lord and to us.
Although many suggest a temporal argument here (that they gave
themselves first in time to the Lord), the logical expression is more
likely. The financial gift represented a higher giving than was ex-
pressed. The real issue was their relationship to the Lord and the
personal implications it brought. The material gift was "natural" be-
cause they had already cared for the greater matter of presenting
themselves to the Lord.38 That prior commitment led them to commit
themselves to Paul and the concerns he brought to their attention.
Thus the gift was truly Christian. It was an outworking of their
relationship with Christ; it was a participation in the lives of other
Christians, and it was sacrificial. The Macedonians were indeed ex-
emplary in their giving.39
37 This, of course, is not a necessary conclusion and may not be warranted. It
would be perfectly natural for each church to be represented in light of the theological
significance of the gift (see above discussion). Further, it is doubtful that the size of the
Christian communities of this area as well as their general socio-economic situation
would allow for a gift of unusual proportions. On the other hand, it is likely that the
envoy would carry cash and that many dangers awaited travelers with such resources.
38 Paul's concern at this point parallels his well-known commands in Rom 12:1-2.
H. D. Betz says the expression "first" means "before I asked them." or "before they
made their contribution" (2 Corinthians, 48).
39 Many times the competitive element is emphasized here. Some suggest that
Paul stirs the Corinthian church to action by appealing to a competitive spirit. If this
occurs, it is certainly in mild form. It seems, rather, that Paul presents two examples
of giving to provide models. These are the incarnational principles which Paul saw in
108 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
B. The Continued Development of Christian Graces
A second motivation is the completion of the work of Christ in
them. Here Paul builds on the desire of all mature Christians to grow
in grace. In 8:7-9 Paul lists six virtues in two triads. The first triad
includes faith (pi<stij), utterance (lo<goj), and knowledge (gnw?sij).
Even a cursory reading of the Corinthian correspondence reveals the
importance of utterance and knowledge. First Corinthians 1:5 states
that they were present in the church. These two became the subjects
of contention in the church as well as the vehicles by which Paul
answers the problems of divisiveness.40 The Corinthian correspon-
dence, however, does not reveal a church particularly known for its
faith, yet Paul commends the church for these qualities which were
obviously prominent. The second triad commends the church for
qualities which are more directly related to the offering. First, they
possess great zeal (spoudh<). The term frequents these chapters. Gener-
ally it stands for a zeal to do properly what is correct. If that meaning
obtains here, Paul commends them for the desire and ability to
implement the plans for the offering.41 Second, they are commended
for their love (a]ga<ph). Third, they are to cultivate the gift (grace) of
giving. The argument is simple, yet demands responsible action. Since
the church was spiritually rich and prided itself in the manifestations
of spiritual gifts, they should bring that spiritual heritage to bear on
the material and financial needs of other Christians. If they would
devote themselves to the offering, it would provide an occasion for
them to develop another Christian grace in their lives individually and
corporately. If the argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14 applies here as
well, the offering takes on more significance. In 1 Corinthians the
evidence of the reality of these other gifts is the exercise of love. So
here, the proof of their claim to these spiritual qualities depended
upon the exercise of love shown in the offering. The motivation is
Jesus first and employed in his own discipleship. He sometimes urged others to follow
him. The two models complement each other. The example of Jesus was now some-
what removed from the Corinthians, and none of them had seen him in the flesh. The
Macedonians, however, were near and well known. Their example could not be set
40 This becomes a major problem in the first epistle in the group spirit which
manifests itself. There is a continual discussion of the theme of Christian knowledge
with the responsibilities and the freedoms it brings. Indeed, that was a source of mis-
understanding and distinctive in the various groups. The question of utterance also ties
the books together, whether utterance of the "wisdom" of the church (sofi<a) or of the
matter of tongues utterance. In the second epistle these issues revolve more around the
ministry of Paul. Even here wisdom and utterance are foundational to the arguments.
41 The term in its various forms occurs frequently in an administrative sense. That
usage predominates here, cf. 2 Cor 8:7, 8, 16, 17, 22.
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 109
twofold: (1) the development of the complete person so every area of
life falls under the lordship of Christ and the process of sanctification;
and (2) the complete exercise of their spirituality calls for a tangible
act of love.
C. The Completion of a Promise Made
The third motivating factor is the completion of a commitment
made to the offering. This first appears in 1 Cor 16:1-4, where Paul
opens his remarks in a way typical of the first Corinthian correspon-
dence. The phrase "now concerning" indicates that he was responding
to questions from the church. Thus there was a prior knowledge of
the offering. Perhaps it was Titus who informed them of the offering
and secured their initial participation (2 Cor 8:6).42 Following that,
Paul wrote specific instructions in 1 Cor 16:1-4. They included (1) lay-
ing aside an offering on the first day of the week, (2) giving as God
had prospered them, and (3) selecting some trusted persons to carry
the offering to Jerusalem.43 The same instructions had been given to
the churches of
missionary journey. Obviously the project constituted a major concern
during this time of Paul's life.
The church at
year had passed since Titus went to
the need to address them again regarding the offering. Probably, they
had given immediately upon hearing of the need (2 Cor 8:10) and left
Titus with the promise of more to come. Such zealous and spon-
taneous giving may easily subside into forgotten promises.
Paul's approach contains several elements. He first showed genu-
ine concern for their well-being in this undertaking (8:10). He stated
what all should remember: it is in our best interests to keep our
promises. He also called them to realize that the desire to perform
will not replace the actual performance, and he continued by remind-
ing them of the pressing need. They must complete the task. Second,
he sought for Christian equality. The equality was in the supply of
needs and sacrifice. Each person measured his giving in light of what
42 This must be the meaning of Titus' having made an "earlier beginning" (NIV)
rather than thinking of it as earlier than Paul. We also know that Paul had sent Titus to
successful ministry in
envoy to solve a problem between the Corinthians and Paul (2 Cor 7:6).
43 Paul's plans for the offering changed after the 1 Corinthian correspondence.
According to Rom 15:25-27, Paul determined that the offering was of such significance
that he should postpone his trip to
with the offering from the Gentiles.
110 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
he had, not what he did not have (8:12). Again, the goal was not that
others prosper at someone's expense, but that there would be equal
sacrifice and equal supply of needs (8:13). The OT supports these
ideas. Paul quotes the LXX of Exod 16:18 (8:15) to remind the people
that when God supplied in the wilderness, he did it in a way that all
would receive adequately and equitably. The situation applied to the
Corinthians. If God were supervising the distribution of resources, as
he was in the desert when he supernaturally supplied their needs,
there would be adequate supply for all and equitable distribution.
The Corinthians had the responsibility of acting God-like in their
stewardship of resources.
D. The Principle of the Harvest
The final major motivation is the principle of the harvest. The
principle occurs in both natural and special revelation, coming from a
knowledge of agriculture and Scripture. Paul states it: "Whoever sows
sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will
also reap generously" (9:6, NIV). Statements like this had become
proverbial by the first century, occurring in both biblical and extra-
biblical contexts. Perhaps Paul crystallizes such proverbs as Prov
11:24-25 and 22:9, which extol generosity in sharing with others.44 The
form of the proverb, however, resembles that of Cicero who said, "As
you sow, so shall you reap."45 Here Paul applies it to one's relation-
ship to material things and makes it a normative Christian principle;
Interestingly, the phrase translated "generously" is literally "upon bless-
ings"(e]p ] eu]logi<aij), stressing the principle of proportionate giving.
The Corinthians were to give according to how God blessed.
Paul provides a commentary on the last two portions of the
proverb, "He that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully" (9:6).
Rather than warn of the repercussions of stinginess, which Paul assumes
are self-evident, he urges them positively toward the rewards of
giving. The commentary provided expands "soweth bountifully" and
44 Prov 11:24-25 says:
One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
Prov 22:9 says:
A generous man will himself be blessed,
for he shares his food with the poor.
than a copy of some other formulation.
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 111
Regarding the matter of sowing bountifully, God loves a cheerful
giver. Two guidelines explain cheerfulness. First, the gift must be
according to conviction (“every man according as he purposeth in his
heart”). Rather than external motivation or standards, perhaps im-
posed by the collector of the gifts, each one is to respond to the
promptings of the Holy Spirit in light of his own personal situation. A
special joy and satisfaction comes from following through on what
God has placed in the mind and heart. Since it is always easier to
purpose than to do, and the distance between the commitment and
the follow-through constitutes the amount of frustration one will
experience, Paul urges them to comply with the Holy Spirit and
joyfully follow God's promptings. Second, the gift is not to be given
grudgingly. The parallel words “not out of regret” and “not out of
necessity” suggest that one should not succumb to the external pressures
imposed on him. “Regret” means literally “out of sorrow” (lu<phj).
Perhaps Paul has in mind the sorrow that comes from mishandling
material possessions and learning this important principle of steward-
ship after many difficulties. The term “necessity” (e]c a]na<gkhj) speaks
to the possibility of being pushed (by God) into a situation of giving.46
To avoid these wrong motives for giving, the giver should give out of
a free enactment of a predetermined commitment. Not only does this
provide the best situation for the conscience, the burden of this
section, but it places one in an environment of God's special love
since God loves a cheerful giver.47 Thus, sowing generously means
responding consistently to the promptings of the Lord to give accord-
ing to what God has laid on the heart.
The second portion of the commentary addresses the matter of
reaping generously (9:9-11). Those who sow will-receive. This passage
has given rise to the idea of “seed faith,” i.e., that God will provide
more to those who give.48 The context, however, speaks against this
idea. First, Paul states that God can make all grace abound. Again he
prefers to use the term “grace” for this type of giving (typical of this
46 The use of the term in 1 Cor 9:16 parallels this one in a helpful way. There Paul
explains he is under compulsion to preach the gospel. There is such strong internal
witness to that calling that there was no real alternative.
47 Since God obviously loves a stingy giver or even a non-giver, this statement
must mean that God's blessings are somehow uniquely poured out on a giver. When
giving freely and out of love, we are more like God than when engaging in any other
48 Some who teach "seed faith" suggest that God expects a gift out of faith and
that he will provide for the giver in greater measure. There will thus be a greater
harvest for their own use. As will be demonstrated, this passage counters that argument
both contextually (with the argument of this passage) and conceptually (that God is
required to give to those who give to him).
112 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
context), and thus the grace God will supply must refer to some gift
received in return. As the Corinthians are to be the vehicle of God's
grace to the Jews, so God is able to work so his grace comes to them
through some appropriate vehicle in their time of need. Note that
Paul does not guarantee a great influx of financial provision, but
reminds them that God can remember them. Since God placed the
Jewish situation on Paul's heart, resulting in a generous gift for them,
so God can place anyone on another's heart with the same result.
Second, Paul indicates that this grace accomplishes "good work."
Two statements crystallize this teaching. In v 9:8 the goal of God's
provision is that they "might abound to every good work" (note the
i!na clause which introduces this aspect of the text). This statement is
further explained by 9:10, where Paul states that God may "increase
the fruits of your righteousness." Some have interpreted these state-
ments to mean that God will provide financial blessing because of the
righteousness (or good work). Taken in this sense, the gift becomes a
means of securing greater financial blessings.
The problems with this interpretation are: (1) this represents a
non-Pauline use of the term "righteousness," and (2) this makes giving
a way of receiving rather than the single-minded giving that Paul has
advocated earlier. Christian giving is never to be a means of receiving
material things. Rather, Paul states that God is able to enlarge the gift
given so that the giver may be able to engage in greater benevolence
("every good work," v 8), and that the gifts given will produce fruit.
The latter phrase, found in verse 10, teaches that the real benefits of
giving are the spiritual blessings that accrue because of the righteous
state of the giver (i.e., that he is saved), and because he has invested
in the work of God as a result of that state of grace.
The ultimate goal is "thanksgiving to God," expressed here in
vv.11 and 12.49 Far from being a promise that one who gives will al-
ways receive more financially, this suggests that the giver will receive,
in that (1) he will understand the workings of God better and be in a
better position to trust his own needs to God who can supply grace to
those in need even as he did through the giver to another's needs, and
(2) the results of a gift prompted by the Spirit and given for the work
49 This is best understood as a corporate idea. Verse 12 is taken as the thanks from
Jewish Christians who receive the gift (C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the
Corinthians, 240), from both Jewish Christians and Corinthians (Bruce, 1 and 2 Corin-
thians, 228), or even many beyond these two groups (Martin, 2 Corinthians, 294). The
general broad perspective fits best with Paul's thought. Therefore the thanksgiving
comes from many sources, encouraged by this gift. Obviously in this context the
Corinthians and Jewish Christians are in the forefront of thought, but the idea should
not even be limited to them.
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 113
of God will be that God is glorified in new ways by broader circles of
The motivation from the principle of the harvest, therefore, is
that God will do more with a gift given (sown) than the obvious. The
act of giving cheerfully will place the giver in a special environment
of God's love, and the gift will ultimately bring praise to God. There
is no guarantee that God is bound to increase the resources of the
giver, nor is there here a promise that God "must" meet the needs of
one who gives. The matter is a matter of God's grace, not of law.50
IV. Administrative Responsibilities
Sensitive to the charges of abuse in this area, Paul clearly sets
forth responsibilities in the physical matters. The responsibilities are
two-dimensional, encompassing both the giver and the collector of
The primary focus of these chapters is on the giver and his
responsibility before God. A summary statement will suffice to review
to this point. The giver is (1) to be sensitive to the promptings of God
in his life; (2) to recognize that giving is an expression of the grace of
God and brings with it a responsibility of stewardship; (3) to deter-
mine for himself what amount is appropriate; (4) to follow through on
his commitments, giving cheerfully; (5) to give single-mindedly, with
a focus simply on being faithful to God's prompting to give; and
(6) to give expecting that God will use the gift beyond what can be
imagined to bring praise to himself. Clearly, Paul conceived of stew-
ardship as essential in the lives of believers and as a unique evidence
that the grace of God was operative in their lives.
Paul also defined responsibilities for the collectors of the monies,
sometimes by command and sometimes by example. Although the
offering was of extreme importance to Paul as a vindication and
completion of his own ministry, he recognized the higher importance
of his calling to spread the gospel to the world. His primary task was
the ministry of the Word, and not even the offering could deter him.
He chose to utilize Titus as the intermediary. Perhaps he learned from
50 One should, of course, guard against going to extremes. The one extreme has
addressed because it is most pressing in our society (that of wrong expectations
supported by misunderstanding of Scripture). The other extreme is that one should not
expect God to meet his own needs since that is not directly promised here. Such is not
the case. The general principle is that God will supply to those who give (cf. Phil 4:19).
The supply, however, is what is necessary to do the will of God in our lives. Giving to
God should never be perceived as a way of investment, binding God to bless us
financially. That is not giving in the character of this chapter.
114 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
the early church that while "waiting on tables" is important, there is a
higher calling of "giving oneself to teaching" (Acts 6). Paul under-
stood himself as clearly in the line of the apostles both by spreading
the gospel and by his involvement in the Gentile mission, which was a
ministry and insight distinctive to Paul (Eph 3:1-10). Whether or not
this was his motivation, Paul chose not to engage in the "hands-on"
aspect of the offering. Originally, he did not even intend to accom-
pany it to
changed his mind.
The procedures for the collection are, therefore, instructive. Paul
entrusted the work to qualified brethren. He addressed their character
and their concern in 8:16-9:5.
A. The Character of the Men
The most prominent of the men selected was Titus, Paul's trusted
companion. Significantly, he is the only one named in this passage, a
fact which suggests that Paul wanted Titus to be prominent because of
his relationship to both Paul and the Corinthians. Having been sent to
offering. Obviously he also bore the primary responsibility for it. Three
statements reveal Titus' suitability for the task he undertook. First, he
enthusiastically cooperated with the promptings of God in this service
(8:16). Again, Paul thanked God for so moving in Titus' life. His
"natural" concern for them and the collection qualified him for this
important position. Perhaps Titus bore this burden from the beginning,
since he heard the apostles urge Paul to "remember the poor" (Gal
2:1-10). Second, Titus was responsive. He "accepted the exhortation"
from Paul. Third, he was anxious to go. Paul indicates that he was
desirous of going to the church to see them again, a fact which
evidences the special relationship God had given
to Titus and
(8:17). Paul's primary representative, therefore, had an enthusiastic
commitment to the project, knew the theological significance of the
offering, and enjoyed the trust and respect of
the church at
Another Christian brother accompanied Titus. Unnamed by Paul,
this man also had the respect of the Gentile Christian community. His
reputation in the work of the gospel was legendary (8:18). The churches
chose him for this task (8:19).51 Paul seemed anxious to have this man
because he wanted to do things properly in the sight of the Lord and
in the sight of men (8:21). The concern for propriety before the Lord
suggests that Paul lived with the realization that God watches each
51 The term "chosen" may actually indicate a vote. It literally means a "hand vote"
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 115
person and activity. In actuality, Paul did not need a delegation to
guard his character, as 1 Thessalonians 1-2 reveals. Nevertheless, the
group would produce an added accountability which would be com-
mendable to the Lord as well as satisfy human expectations. Paul had
settled financial matters at the outset of the ministry, preferring not to
be supported by others. Nevertheless, this procedure would ease the
minds of those who gave, as well as provide an objective protection
for the administration of funds.
A third brother, also unknown, accompanied the two (8:22).
Characterized by a proven earnestness which now was at its height,52
and no doubt equally well known to the churches, this brother would
lend his credibility to the offering. If Acts 20:4 speaks of the same
delegation, it was significantly larger than these three. It included
local representatives consisting of Asians, Europeans (Macedonians),
and Romans. The offering encompassed many nationalities and was
delivered by a composite group.53
B. The Concern of These Men
The size of the group and its manner of selection further stress the
importance of the offering to Paul. Nothing was to interfere with their
expression of love, and the three men were to guarantee it. The group
had another function, however, that of properly overseeing the matters
so there would be no reproach brought to the name of the Lord or to
Paul and his ministry. If there would be opposition to Paul, it would be
on spiritual/theological grounds, not on financial.
The group functioned also in other ways. First, it was to assist in
the collection of the offering. Paul scheduled an
Passover. The feast was not only the appropriate time for all Jewish
men to appear at
of redemption, sacred to the Jews because of Egyptian bondage, and
sacred to Christians because it pictured the redemption accomplished
in Christ. The gifts from the Gentiles received at the feast of redemp-
tion were, in a sense, the final fruit of redemption. Therefore the
timing was of great significance. The group of three was to guarantee
that the collection would be ready on schedule.
They were also to make sure that the gift was not of “covetous-
ness” (9:5). The term is difficult to interpret here. In 1 Thess 2:5 Paul
uses the term in defending himself against the charge of “extortion or
52 The terms are polu> spoudaio<teron, the superlative degree indicating an inten-
sive desire for involvement in this.
53 Perhaps two reasons for this appear: (1) to communicate personally the good
will of the churches they represented, and (2) to protect the local "Christian invest-
ment" from their churches.
116 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
avarice." Perhaps, therefore, Paul wanted them to know that the gift
did not come from his own covetousness, but it is difficult to see how
their prior arrival would solve that problem. First, Paul could still
have used the gift for his own ends even after the arrival of the group;
and second, the term contrasts with "thanksgiving" (eu]logi<a). The
covetousness to avoid, therefore, must be an attitude on their part.
Perhaps it is best to understand it as Martin does. He suggests that the
gift was not to be from the "'love of money' which in turn leads to a
niggardly gift."54 The arrival of these three prior to Paul would help
the Corinthians to offer a genuine thank offering to God. They could
fulfill their promises, give as God had prompted, and no ulterior
motives would either produce the gift or control its amount.
There are, therefore, several concerns relative to the matter of the
collecting of the offering. First, Paul must be the motivator for the
giving since God laid it on his heart. Second, others who share the vi-
sion and the burden must be involved in the actual handling of the
monies.55 Third, the group who deals with the money should repre-
sent trusted men from Paul and the churches. This provides account-
ability before the Lord and men. Fourth, the involvement of the
group encouraged the churches to give more generously by reducing
the likelihood of misconduct. The early arrival of the group gently
reminded them of past pledges. Significantly, Paul deals in great
detail in this chapter with responsibilities for both the giver of funds
and the collectors.
In these two chapters Paul presents his most comprehensive in-
struction for giving to needy Christians. His theological motivations
included the common salvation and an awareness of the historical
outworkings of God's redemptive program. He selflessly motivated
the Corinthian church to follow the example of the Macedonian
Christians, to remain true to their prior commitments, and to co-
operate with the work of God in their lives. They were to remember
the example of Christ who gave himself for them. Finally, his adminis-
trative procedures revealed his concern that all things be done above
reproach. Paul's concerns help the contemporary church. In a day of
increasing demand for financial support of ambitious ministries, there
is danger that the end will justify the means of fund raising. Some-
times both Christians and non-Christians take offense at high-pressure
54 Martin, 2 Corinthians, 286.
55 Significantly, the term for money does not occur in these chapters.
Melick: COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS 117
tactics and the continuous emphasis on finances. A study of this
passage however, reveals that Paul would have none of these. As
important as this offering was--and as necessary for the Corinthian
Christians as an expression of their spiritual lives--Paul remembered
his priorities. In a masterful way he promoted the cause while dis-
associating himself from the process of collection and the destination
of the funds. Above all, he saw this as a necessary outworking of
salvation. It would unite Christians of many ethnic and national back-
grounds in a tangible fellowship and, ultimately, contribute to the
praise of the glory of God's grace.
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