You Know The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus
2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Key Verse 8:9
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
On the coastal sands of the Miletus, in his farewell speech to the Ephesian church elders, the apostle left them some very meaningful words to compliment everything else he had taught them about the Lord Jesus, about the Christian life, and about the life and health of the church Jesus entrusted them with. It wasn’t long when we reflected on that speech as we studied Acts, since the last few words of his speech continue to echo on in the hearts of everyone of the Lord’s children who’s been touched by his grace and who respond in love. The apostle’s last words in his speech to the Ephesian elders were Jesus’ lost Beatitude: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b) And you have no idea how true these life-giving words are until you’ve experienced them in your own life first hand. But not anyone will accept them and experience the blessing that comes from giving. The Lord Jesus doesn’t lie. “It is [absolutely, surely, without doubt] more blessed to give than to receive”, that is, if you’re willing to take the Lord at his word, and take them to your heart; and put them into practice; regardless of your human situation or circumstances, and without excuses and then put your trust in the Lord and in his word— entirely by faith!
Jesus’ own words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”! Yet, these are words that most people cannot accept, nor do they tolerate, and certainly they are words they’d never live by! And we’re talking about those even among the Lord’s people whose hearts cringe even at the thought of giving. Oh, they give, they’re not stingy, as they give generously to themselves and to the things they deem worthy in their own lives, friends and family, even to worthy causes. But they simply don’t believe in giving to the work of God nor to the church— not even to the church they belong to! Moreover, they certainly don’t like to be told to give. But no matter, because in most small and sincere churches, God’s work which is done [built] entirely by the faith (1 Thessalonians 1:4) of those who give of themselves and their earnings voluntarily, willingly and joyfully without being told. That’s how a work of God or a church or ministry survives, even prospers to the blessing of other churches. But it doesn’t happen through the many who prefer to receive instead of giving, and then keeping a tight hold on what they have by making excuses or by finding faults with the church. It happens through a handful who don’t even have to be told to give. So why do they do it? Why do they give their hard earnings to Lord and church when they’re never told to? And how is this different from worship temples who constantly [Sunday after Sunday] cajole their members to give, appealing to their greed, and bleeding them dry with false promises of prosperity? I’ll tell you why they do it, and how it’s different. These two chapters (8 & 9) are all about offering and how different this kind of giving is— that is, what offering [or giving] is all about.
In all these years I’ve served in this ministry, I cannot remember but less than a handful of times delivering sermons on offering or money matters. Here’s why: When Christ is at the heart of a Church; when His Word of Truth is faithfully taught; When the Holy Spirit is the rightful Guide and Shepherd of a congregation; there’s no need to pressure people into giving neither of themselves nor of their earnings. You’ll notice that these two chapters contain a most comprehensive and thorough section on Christian giving or offering that we have in the whole Bible— yes the whole of it! In reality almost everything we need to know seems to be right here. People usually prefer rules or guidelines for giving or offering, but there are none! But you may consider what we have here as clear principles for offering. And that’s not so unusual. Some people might insist on the rule of offering a tithe. But in truth, as exemplary and commendable as the practice of tithing may be, we cannot in good conscience insist on this as a rule for our Christian faith walk today. Your personal conviction may lead you to tithe as a general principle in your own Christian faith walk, even to encourage others to do the same. But our conscience dictates that none should impress it as an absolute rule on those who walk with us in Christ. What’s vital in regards to giving or offering can be found in these two chapters. And it’s all in that word which keeps repeating itself in these two chapters— which is Grace!
In this chapter (8), the word Grace is repeated seven times, and in the next chapter (9) the word Grace is repeated three times— ten times in all. In other words, it’s the grace of giving. (7) That’s the one surpassing principle of offering. Of course, there are other principles for offering that need be closely looked at, which also define Offering and contribute to its meaning— But this one outshines them all! To know the grace of our Lord Jesus is at the heart of giving. Offering, or giving, is in response to the Lord’s grace! To answer our earlier question then— why do they do it? Why do they give of their hard and meager earnings [and why do they do it so generously, whether it’s a tithe, or at times they’re even known to give twice the tithe without a second thought, or to give of their first fruits even their second and third— so why offer so generously] to the Lord and his church when they’re not even told to? They do it because they know the Lord’s grace so personally. They do it because they so deeply value that grace above all else in their lives. Read our key verse 9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” We need not answer the other question about those who need to be persuaded to offer.
Whatever else it may be called or labeled, according to the Scriptures, and in accordance with the apostle’s own God-given inspiration, offering is first and foremost an act of grace (1,6). And this act of grace is mutually enacted by two parties. The First is the Lord, the enactor who exemplifies the grace of giving especially through the sacrifice of his own Son for the sake of his people (9). We also witness here that as the Gracious First Enactor of grace, God also gifts [imparts] this act of grace— or this grace of offering— on his people (1). The Second enactors are the Lord’s people, who in turn imitate the Lord’s act of grace through acts of offering to the Lord and his work in and through expressions of love and worship (6)! In other words, acts of grace— or offerings that Christians participate in, whether visible or invisible, are never one sided acts of sacrifice that any genuine child of God can ever glory in or boast about. They are ever mutual acts of grace— the giving of both sides! As the Lord gives, the child of God also understands that amazing grace of God’s generous giving; And so he or she in return also give back to the Lord, expressing love and worship in moments of deep gratitude.
Read our key verse 9 again. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Consider the Lord’s act of grace! The apostle doesn’t talk about the Lord’s death on the cross or the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins, although he could have. That grace is enormous and overwhelming and can reduce us to tears when we consider that Jesus sacrificed his life on our behalf. But the apostle talks about what Jesus gave up in riches for our sake. He was rich beyond imagination. The King of heaven, in all his glory, deserted his kingdom and all its riches, left it behind and embraced abject poverty— for who and for what? Not so that we might receive forgiveness and then live in selfishness, holding on to this world’s petty treasures while the church and God’s people suffer. The Lord gave it all up, to free us from this world’s chains of selfishness and to inherit us eternal life and the glory of his kingdom. When we know this act of grace, this priceless offering on God’s part, we can understand what our own acts of grace and offerings should be. We would understand what it is to give back to the Lord and to his people and to his church— and to give back sacrificially in acts of love and worship to God. It wouldn’t be a one sided business transaction, something we have to do because its necessary, like a pill that needs to be swallowed once a day and be done with. But it would be truly a mutual act of grace, and not once or twice here and there when its convenient or available, but acts of grace that go as far as even making others rich through our own poverty because we know and understand and value what grace is.
In the Old Testament, the concept of act of grace was not missing but tenuous. God’s people needed to learn how to offer God in everything, like a child needs to learn how to take steps to walk, until he or she can make it to the altar all by themselves in order to express genuine love and worship to God. God had to teach his people to give a tithe, and a thanksgiving offering, a free will offering, a first fruits offering and so on; he established laws for them not to be broken; even warned them with words like these: “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” (Exodus 23:15) For some it took a lifetime to barely walk; for many they would never even take a step. A few came to deeply understand how great God’s acts of grace are. They so deeply valued that grace of God that day after day they made it to the altar all by themselves. They didn’t need any laws, or warnings; they didn’t need threats or reminders. The first thing Noah did after he came out of the ark was to build an altar! It was an altar of thanksgiving. No one had to teach him that act of grace. It came from his depth of his understanding of God’s act of grace towards him and his family. Noah made offerings on that altar to God. He offered many sacrifices in deep gratitude to the God who saved his life and the lives of his family. No one taught him; no one told Noah that he needed to give thanks to God nor to make a huge and lavish and generous offering to God. It was the right thing to do. It was his act of grace, an expression of his love and worship to God.
[Read John 12:1-8] When Mary of Bethany took a pure pint of nard, a very expensive perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair, it was one of the most beautiful acts of grace ever witnessed in the gospels. The nard was worth a year’s wages, and for an unmarried woman, it was her future security. But none of these things mattered to Mary because for that moment in time, all that mattered was how to express her love and gratitude to the Lord in an act of worship. At that moment, she felt he was worth sacrificing her future security for, even her honor as a woman. She never calculated the cost of such an enormous act of grace. So, ever since that day, a woman’s beauty has been measured by how much a woman gives of herself to Christ. All other kind of beauty pales in comparison. Mary’s offering didn’t sit well with one of the disciples who thought the offering could have been better used on the poor. He missed the whole point of the offering! People like him often seem sincere in matters of how offerings should be used, and could easily corrupt others to their way of thinking. But Jesus put everything into perspective that day! He taught us to see beyond the cost of the perfume and into the heart of this woman to witness her act of grace. Then he taught us the true purpose of the offering— It is to honor him (7-8). When Mary of Bethany honored the Lord Jesus that day, she never counted the cost of her offering, nor did she ever think of it as a waste. Churches that reduce offering to business transactions lose the point and end up honoring each other instead of the Lord. But as long as a church has a few men and women who offer in honor of the Lord, their acts of grace will always be like the fragrance of Mary’s perfume which filled the house on that day.
Look at verse 10. A year ago, the Corinthians had promised to give, perhaps in a moment of emotional enthusiasm, but now a year had passed and it seems they had reneged on their promise. There are many reasons why a church may be of such low spiritual quality in the area of offering or when it comes to giving; that is, that one moment they’re inspired to give and in the next the inspiration’s simply gone; Or the fact that they have to be reminded that the time to offer or to give is past due that “the work of God is in need of your assistance and support”! One of the reasons for the low spiritual quality in this area is the seed of selfishness most people are so deeply still entrenched in— that is, the world’s philosophy which opposes the truth of the Lord’s Beatitude [which goes something like: “It is more blessed to receive than to give”]. And when one is entrenched in it, especially if a child of God or a congregation are, then they don’t get to experience the depth, breadth and width of the Lord’s blessing— that is, the blessing of giving (Acts 20:35b). It’s been a year since they made that pledge to give. And the apostle loves them so very much and he wants them to give, to participate in this offering— of course, because offering is actually needed for the work of God to help the suffering Jerusalem church. But, he wants them also to participate in the offering even if there was never any need! Why? It was for their own good; So that they might experience the full measure of God’s blessing. The question then is, how will he better help them understand the blessing of offering? How will he break through the layers of hardened shell around their heart which resist the words like— Giving— and offering?
I believe the apostle simply taught them the very essence of what giving and offering mean and then let God the Holy Spirit work in their hearts to fill them with renewed and godly inspiration. As we said before, the apostle explained offering as an act of grace. We talked about the act of grace. But let us trace how he hoped that their hearts would open. He showed them the example of offering in the Macedonian churches.
Read verses 1-5. “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” The apostle did not have to explain what offering is all about at all. Offering or giving has nothing to do with one’s means, whether rich or poor. These saints were poor, but they offered, and went beyond their ability such that in their poverty they offered generously. Offering was given entirely on their own, they were not asked. In fact, they pleaded to offer and they pleaded urgently to do it. Why? Because they knew that offering was a privilege. They understood perfectly well that offering is a privilege of sharing and of fellowship with other suffering churches and people. They knew that offering or giving is a privilege to serve the saints of God. Offering also was done in an unexpected way, such that they did not only give their earnings as is expected. What did that mean? The apostle tells us that they gave offered themselves first to the Lord. In other words, they didn’t just give their money in a business-like manner. Offering to them was never about just giving money. It was about prayer and offering themselves first to the Lord in prayer, in heart mind and soul. They lived offering in truth. They worshiped in offering. They not only gave money, they gave their hearts and taught the Christian world what offering is all about. And they did this all in keeping with God’s will. In other words, they did because it was the will of God to worship offer in this way, and to give worship in this way. In these first 5 verses, we not only understand that it was the Lord himself who gave that exemplary church this act of grace to live by, but we also understand so much more what this grace of giving is all about. The apostle wanted these Corinthians to see a living example of offering worship in action that their hearts might open up. That they might repent of selfishness, and pour out themselves to God in living-giving-worship-offering act of grace.
Look at verses 6-10. There is no better example of giving or offering greater than that of our Lord Jesus. We reflected on verse 9 already regarding the poverty he embraced in order to bring about the richness that we enjoy now and forever. One glimpse at the manger in the cow’s stall at Christmas is enough to humble our hearts into understanding what the Lord gave up so that you and I might not perish in our selfishness and sin. If Jesus on the cross, forsaking his own unimaginable heavenly powers, and surrendering to death, to deliver us from the world’s decay and to inherit us heaven’s glory doesn’t move our hearts to learn the essence of what offering and giving is all about, that he is worthy of it all, that there is nothing we can give or offer that’s enough to express our love and thanksgiving, our worship and honor; then perhaps only God Almighty, may he have mercy on our souls and lead us to repentance and to worship in spirit and in truth. The apostle only helped the Corinthians see what God’s act of grace was and what God’s acts of grace continue to be, so that their hearts might fully comprehend the worthiness of giving, a giving that needs be done as the apostle reminds them: “You were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.” (10)
Look at 11-15. There’s much more to learn about the essence of offering in these verses, such as the importance of finishing a work of offering that’s been started; The willingness of offering or giving; Acceptable and unacceptable offerings; Offerings according to what one has or does not have; Offerings that relieve and burden and promote equality; And one offerings purpose which drew my attention regarding equality seems to be based on the principle of our daily bread in the Old Testament. Perhaps when our Lord Jesus taught us to pray “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3), he meant for us not only to ask God for my daily bread and my family’s daily bread, but to also make every effort to contribute to that community pool of daily bread needed for God’s household, whether I have the means to do so or not, since there are no stipulations here in the Lord’s prayer. In a sense, that’s at the heart of the meaning of offering and giving “in keeping with God’s will” (5b).
May the Lord by whose many acts of grace and by whose poverty we have been made extremely rich, may he break the walls of hearts that keeps us from opening them to every act of grace on our part, acts of giving and offering that need to be done in willingness and with generosity and within our means, and beyond our abilities, and unexpectedly for the honor of our Lord and the good of his church the body of Christ. May the Lord teach us what offering and giving is. Read verse 9. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” God bless you.