2 Corinthians 9-10
1 Corinthians 9
Giving Does More Than Just Meet Needs
Paul now is going to address the issue of how to get an offering ready to give. Before we delve into that, it might be helpful to know the social demographics of Paul's day as it related to income.
At the top of the social structure were the Roman and provincial aristocracy, senators, and equestrians; there were at that time relatively few who made their fortunes through trade and craftsmanship.
Basically, the rest of humanity were dependent upon this group for their livelihood. Some free men and freeborn and even slaves were awarded offices by their masters and fared well (administrative, cultic, and military duties). But beneath all of these were the artisans, teachers, small landowners, merchants, soldiers, and the like who worked hard but enjoyed very modest success and would have been, by western standards, poor.
Now you have the leftovers, so to speak, the seventy percent of the world who survived on below subsistence levels. They were craftsmen, tenant farmers, day laborers, slaves, or patrons—poor—"doubled over with back-breaking work, history tells us" barely making enough to stay alive.
It was in this world where Paul was seeking an offering and teaching them how to prepare themselves to give it.
Getting Their Gifts Ready (1-5)
First, they were reminded again that they were who Paul was using as an example as the first to jump in, so they had become key in stirring up so many other churches to give (1-2).
Paul secondly reminded them of the Macedonian brothers he was bringing with him when he came to collect the offering, warning them not to prove his boasting an embarrassment to him when they arrived (3-4). For this reason, Paul was sending Titus and his company to Corinth to make sure the offering was collected so when those who Paul was bringing with him, who had far less to give, would not be disturbed by the lack of effort from those who had encouraged the sacrifice in the first place (5).
The Promise of Generosity (6-8)
Paul then appeals to Proverbs 22:9, assuring them that those who sow sparingly will reap it the same way as will the generous person will reap in very generous ways (6). They were to get their gift ready with an open heart full of desire and willingness to give. They were not to give with a sense of begrudging greed and murmuring selfishness but in great cheer (7). They were to remember God's ability. God's grace would always abound in response to their giving and subsequent loss of funds. God's grace would make them sufficient in everything and at any time. His grace would equip them to abound in good works. In short, Paul reminds them that they won't be missing a thing as they give liberally (8).
God's Heart for the Poor (9-11)
Paul quotes Psalm 112:9 making it clear that God gives to the poor freely, without making them feel they need to pay it back. He gives freely, not worrying about what He holds back for Himself, and it is this kind of righteousness which endures forever (9).
Then Paul quotes two prophets, Isaiah 55:10 and Hosea 10:12, promising from Scripture a great harvest of not only food but there will be even more seed available to use for more sowing. In the end, they will have much seed to sow in righteousness. To sow in righteousness Paul means that they will have much to sow among the poor (10). They will go on to be enriched and generous in every way, producing lavish thanksgiving for God (11). In this way, God freely gives to the poor, providing so much for others who experience prosperity to give to those who hurt so deeply.
Generosity Was Not Only for Meeting Needs (12-14)
This whole giving thing was not only for providing needs but also for changing the spiritual tone of human hearts by generating thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving was important because the giving of thanks actually changed the spiritual climate among those who were in need (12).
Their generosity did more than just provide for a need:
a) it caused those who received to give glory to God
b) it proved the Corinthians obedient to the gospel
c) it would cause those who received the gift to pray for those who gave it with deep affection (13-14)
Paul's Spirit Soars in Praise (15)
All of this was so inexpressible to Paul that he is overwhelmed and bursts out with great praise (15).
1 Corinthians 10
Paul Defends His Authority
Paul begins to confront his opponents in chapters 10-13, confronting the objections of his rivals. Sometimes Paul will seek to persuade and exhort, while at other times he is a bit sarcastic and then rebukes. His changing tone can make him tough to follow.
Paul's Explanation of His Meekness (1-2)
Paul's accusers say he is too timid to carry the authority of an apostle. Paul claims he is meek and gentle, as was Christ, which should provide ample evidence of meekness being a verifiable Christ-like leadership quality. He asks those who have accused him of walking according to his own lustful desire to not force him to show just how bold he can be (1-2).
Paul's Powerful Weapon (3-6)
Paul then goes on to school the Corinthians in his approach to spiritual warfare. Yes, he lives in a body but does not use external weapons of force but the divine weapons of power capable of destroying mental and spiritual fortresses. Mental fortresses to Paul would have been an:
a) argument against truth
b) opinion made more important than God's opinion
Paul's weapon: the power to hold every thought accountable which is the power to captive and present those thoughts before God for God's opinion. After holding those thoughts accountable to God, Paul declares his weaponry had the power to destroy every thought which would lead to disobedience.
Paul forewarns those who are accusing him that when he gets to Corinth, if they are still opposing him, they are going to be facing a formidable weapon of accountability and their very actions will ultimately be weighed before Christ Himself (3-6).
Clearing Up the Matter of Authority (7-18)
Paul then addresses his authority in three questions.
1. Are We Less? (7-8)
Paul asks for an evaluation; are his opponents actually any more "in Christ" when compared to his apostolic company who certainly is "in Christ"? Paul, upon assuming their rhetorical response, goes on to claim apostolic authority within the Corinthian church given to him to build them up (7-8).
2. Are We Different in Our Letters? (9-11)
Wanting to clear up some confusion about himself, was Paul one kind of bold in his letter and another kind of bold when present? Paul warns his opponents that they will not be able to out talk him with their clever speech nor out maneuver him with their human authority. Paul was clear; he would be everything and more in person than he had been in his letters (9-11).
3. Do We Compare Ourselves? (13-18)
Now for Paul's touch of sarcasm: those who compare themselves with others lack intelligence or are stupid. So while he is going to boast about his accomplishments, he is not going to do what they have done and compare himself with others (12). Paul will not go beyond his limits but will limit his boasting to what God has accomplished through him so his boast will really be in the Lord (13-14). Paul will not boast or take credit for what another person has done, but he will establish his credentials and rightful authority using a bit of boasting in what he has accomplished among them in the Lord.
Paul then explains why his authority is important: so Paul can team up with the Corinthians and extend the gospel (15-16).
Paul then defines the boast he can get away with: boasting in what Jesus has accomplished through him (17). Paul realizes it is not his approving or recommending himself that really matters; it is the Lord's approval and recommendation he is seeking (18).