2 Corinthians 9:1-15
9 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 
In our last section, we saw Paul’s recommendation letter for Titus and the two unnamed brothers coming to Corinth to help collect the offerings for the great Jerusalem Relief Project. They were honest, earnest, others-focused men. But the Macedonian churches and Paul did not send these men to convince the Corinthians to fill out pledge cards. Rather, Paul commissioned them to ensure the Corinthians had and maintained ready, willing, and able generous hearts – others-focused hearts.
New covenant giving is nothing like the Old Testament tithe. It requires no set percentage of income, and it is to be a gracious response to the priceless gift of God’s one-way love. New covenant graciousness is a heart matter, not a pocketbook matter. As we will see, the return on such graciousness is not material prosperity and security in Palestine (as it was for Israel), but spiritual wealth on your pilgrim journey through this crumbling world.
READYING HEARTS (1-5)
In verses 1 and 2, Paul encourages their readiness to give. “Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them.”
It was Paul’s excited boasting about Achaia’s readiness to give (one year prior to this letter that stirred the poor, struggling Macedonians to give generously and graciously out of their poverty (Achaia being the region of which Corinth was the capital). In his first letter, Paul had already given the Corinthians instruction about the collection (1 Cor. 16:1-3) and they had previously proclaimed themselves ready to the project. Now, he’s presented with an awkward situation in which he must choose his words with great diplomacy.
But Paul was not wasting time and energy to ensure they recommitted themselves to the project. Intent does not guarantee action. Most of us think intent is a substitute for action. How many of us use the defense when we are caught not carrying through with something of saying, “I intended to do that. I just didn’t get around to it”? So, Paul explains why he’s sending the envoys:
3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident.
There was potential for both Paul and the Corinthians to be humiliated. The oppressed and impoverished Macedonian church upon hearing the readiness of the wealthy Corinthian church to give, had dug down deep in their affliction and overflowed with an abundance of graciousness, giving beyond their means while begging Paul for the honor of helping the saints in Jerusalem (8:16). Think about these ragged Macedonians showing up in Corinth and finding the wealthy Corinthian congregation full of good intentions but their collection plates empty or incomplete.
That would mean that Paul’s boasting in the Corinthians’ spiritual growth would have been proven vain. That’s the same word Paul used in 6:1 to describe his fear the congregation had received his gospel preaching “in vain.” Their good intentions of repentance over rejecting God’s Word from God’s apostle would prove to be false if their actions did not match their stated intentions. The authenticity of their faith would be in question. So, the three ministers sent ahead by Paul are agents of grace to produce graciousness demonstrating works full of repentance before Paul himself arrives.
The trio of ministers was there to ensure not only the Corinthian readiness, but also their willing generosity. “5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” The word translated “gift” (used twice in this verse) is literally the Greek word blessing (eulogian). So a more literal translation would read:
So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the blessing you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing blessing, not as an exaction from a grudging spirit.
Paul hopes that his trio will arrive well in advance of him to provide time for the Corinthian congregation to rise to the spiritual level of gracious giving that the Macedonians demonstrated. He hoped they would not give from grudging, stingy hearts but out of a sense of the blessing of God’s one way love that created in them willing, generous hearts.
Paul’s concern is more for the state of their souls more than any specific amount of money they might raise. Their willingness to give graciously is merely a demonstration of their repentance and spiritual growth. Mere giving is NOT a sign of salvation or true graciousness. Money can save no one’s soul. But the giving of the redeemed is a response to our redemption. Paul said this in 8:9:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Those who receive such amazing grace give of themselves, of their money, their time, their spiritual gifts, their entire selves regardless of their church offices, their titles, their respective vocations, and even regardless of their incomes and their circumstances.
NATURE OF GIVING (6-7)
Paul turns positive to encourage their joyful and generous giving. He places two motives before them. Frist, using the analogy of generous sowing bringing a bountiful harvest (vv. 6–7), he points out that God is able amply to provide for those who give generously. As a result, they lack nothing, but rather have further means of giving (vv. 8–10). By “blessing” (v. 5), they are “blessed” by God, so as to “bless” further. Second, their generosity will relieve the needs of the “saints” in Jerusalem but more particularly inspire their thanksgiving to God. So, those in Jerusalem will long for and pray for the Corinthians, strengthening the bonds of the worldwide fellowship (vv. 11–15).
Paul gives them a proverb to help their understanding: “6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Paul sets out two separate ways to plant seeds. One is to carefully place each seed in a furrow, accounting for each seed to go in its perfect place in a perfect row to save as many seeds as possible. Those leftover seeds are like savings in the bank. Your garden will be ordered and tidy and you will lots of leftover seeds, but your yield will be less.
The other way to plant is for the sewer to stride with long steps across the earth, reaching into his sack of thousands of tiny seeds and scattering them with generous swings of his arms. In springtime, the earth will sprout accordingly, and the harvest will be much larger. Both methods of planting have their benefits. But only one produces the maximum harvest. And Paul is interested in the outcome – a bountiful spiritual harvest.
The word translated “bountifully” is also translated as “blessing.” It’s used in verse 5 where it’s translated as “gift.” If we supply its literal sense, the verse reads “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows with blessings will also reap with blessings.” This proves that Paul’s focus is on the heart of the giver rather than the amount of the gift. God gives back blessings to those who give with a desire to bless others. It’s not how much we give but that we give with a desire to bless others, and do so with an attitude of joy over the opportunity of providing such blessing.
I used to love to garden. Some of you, I know, enjoy growing things. The most exciting time of my gardening year was the arrival of the seed catalogs in January and February. Before the plants began to grow and the bugs, birds, armadillos, and squirrels began to attack, there was that feeling of great excitement that this year I would have a prolific harvest. My garden was small, and my harvest was meager. Spiritually speaking, the smaller our garden, the smaller our sowing and the smaller our harvest of blessings.
Generous sowing reaps generous blessing because such graciousness produces more graciousness – more Jesus-dependence and less self-focus and self-dependence. We are being made into others-focused people by the recreative work of the Holy Spirit. So, we are to strive to be generous with our lives and our resources in light of our eternity in which Christ will be our everything. Generosity unleashes the light of eternity in our hearts. To be generous is to be more Christlike.
The logical conclusion of this proverb is Paul’s advice: “each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7). There is an exegetical fallacy of the Greek language that was quite popular in its day that mistranslated this verse as “God loves a hilarious giver.” The word rightly translated “cheerful” comes from the Greek word “ἱλαρός.” Our English word, “hilarious” comes from that Greek word. But the Greek word does not mean “hilarious.” It simply means “cheerful” or “happy.” So, if you hear someone say, “God loves a hilarious giver,” you can graciously ignore their translation.
Paul’s call for cheerful giving comes from Deuteronomy 15:10-11, an Old Covenant admonishment to cheerful others-focus:
10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ 
The context of the quote is that of the Sabbatical Year. Every seventh year in Israel was to be a year of the forgiveness of all debts and the release of all slaves. Now, under the new covenant, the Sabbath Year has come permanently. All our debts are forgiven forever. We have been liberated from the slavery to sin into which Adam sold us. And we have been enriched to such an extent we will spend eternity trying to understand it. So, we are called to give of ourselves to others not merely every seventh year, but to live every second of our lives with others-focus. And we are to do so with great merriment.
In verses 6 and 7, Paul described the nature and theology of self-giving. He now sets out the benefits of others-focused giving, beginning with its effect on the giver. The first effect is sufficiency: “8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” God provides what we need to give to others. We will always be rich enough to be generous because God will never stop pouring out his grace upon us.
This is the seventh use of the word “grace” in chapters 8 and 9. “God’s power is seen not merely in providing, as if the provision narrowly met the need. Rather, God is powerful to make his grace overflow toward the Corinthians, so that they will have ample sufficiency…. By his power, God makes his grace overflow abundantly toward them so that, in turn, they may overflow in good works, such as in the collection for the poor saints of Jerusalem. …There are few evidences of God’s power so impelling as the transformation from tightfisted meanness to openhanded generosity.”
If you are trusting into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial blood-shedding death of the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ, then you already have all the grace you need to be graciously others-focused. Our challenge is not to acquire more wealth or to learn to be nicer, or to try harder, or to do more. Our challenge is to trust what God says is true enough to act on it. Do you really trust that you already have everything you need to live an others-focused life?
The other personal benefit is righteousness:
9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Verse 9 is a quote from Psalm 112:9. As such, it is a description of Messiah’s person and work. Jesus gave the entirety of himself for the poor in spirit. His entire life was one of righteousness in the face of God’s perfect law. Christ’s righteousness enables us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to reflect his righteousness to one another by meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in the gospel community. By being united by faith to the Righteous One, we reflect some of his enduring righteousness to one another. The next verse continues this thought.
2 Corinthians 9:10 is a quote from Isaiah 55:10 on the work of God’s Word. Verses 10 and 11 of Isaiah 55 read, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 
As Paul next teaches, there are benefits to the entire gospel community when the individual members act in others-focused ways. First, the entire community of believers is moved toward thanksgiving to God for his grace. “11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
Paul makes it clear that the Corinthians’ enrichment through others-focus was NOT material prosperity. God was not going to give physical health and wealth in exchange for money. They would indeed be enriched by God, but the means of enrichment would be an increase of thankfulness to God among all the congregations involved in this donation project.
The next benefit to the gospel community is glory to God. “13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others….” The starving poor of the Jerusalem congregation would give glory to God for his work among the Corinthians in producing their generosity. That is, the Jewish believers would recognize that God was at work in the Gentile churches (regardless of their circumcision status or their keeping kosher).
The third benefit to the entire gospel community was the affection it would produce between all the congregations, both Jewish and Gentile. In particular, the Jewish congregation of Jerusalem would begin praying for the Gentile congregations. As verse 14 notes, “14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.” This is the eighth and final mention of the word “grace” in chapters 8 and 9.
Paul ends his exhortation with an emphatic, excited thanksgiving: “15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” The word inexpressible (anekdiēgetos), which Paul uses here, is found nowhere else in any Greek writings. It appears first in the New Testament and only in this verse. It seems to be a word which the apostle himself coined to describe the ineffable character of God’s gift. Paul could find no word to express the nature of God’s gift, so he made one up — a word that says the gift cannot be described.
His thanksgiving brings his argument full circle. The inexpressible gift is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ who has liberated those trusting into him from their state of sin and their judgment of eternal wrath. Because God is eternal and unchanging, both his wrath against sin and his grace to sinners are eternal. Since they are eternal, it is impossible to calculate an expression that will quantify them. There is no pledge card any one of us could fill out, no matter how large an amount, which could ever adequately repay God. God cannot work on a quid pro quo system because the gift he has given can never be calculated!
Our others-focused giving of ourselves only comes through our contemplation of Christ’s giving. He embraced poverty that we might become eternally wealthy. Paul is not calling us to legalistic action but to grace. R. Kent Hughes helpfully lists Paul’s uses of the word “grace” in this section:
“the grace of God” — “the favor [literally, “grace”] of taking part in the relief” — “complete among you this act of grace” — “excel in this act of grace” — “for you know the grace” —“as we carry out this act of grace” — “God is able to make all grace abound to you” — “the surpassing grace of God.” It is a call to rise to his best within us. It is not a call to save ourselves but to demonstrate by our giving that our faith is not in vain.
If we trust that God’s one way love for us is truly incalculable, then we will never stop to calculate our others-focused response in giving our resources, our time, our love, our everything to our fellow believers in the gospel community.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 9:1–15.
 Barnett, 436.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Dt 15:10–11.
 Barnett, 439.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 55:10–11.
 Colin G. Kruse, 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 8, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 164.
 Hughes, 2 Corinthians. Crossway. Kindle Edition.