Grace leads to praise and thanksgiving!
How is it that I often read a passage and miss very important things and add in something that isn’t there? At first glance, chapter 8 and 9 appear to be mainly about securing the gift the church had been preparing for and promised to do. However, after rereading it slowly I see something very important that I missed. Yes, Paul is urging them to finish well (and I’ll have more to say about that in a moment) but if we miss the grace of God in this, God misses His deserved praise!
As I read chapter 8, I think I read it like this: ” We want you to know, brothers, about the
grace of God [money/gift] that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1). As you might be aware, that changes everything. Why? No grace, no praise! If the example of the Macedonians’ gift and the gift the Corinthians were not by God’s grace but merely in their own strength then these churches should be praised for what they did!
But that’s not what happened and that’s not what the scripture says. The “Today Show” would love to have these stories to highlight people on their “Morning Boost.” But who gives out of poverty and affliction? I said this in a sermon when preaching about the widow who put in all she had to live on: “If you do not give in your poverty, you will not give in your abundance.” Yet, the ONLY reason these churches gave was because God gave them grace! In other words, it was by God’s grace only that they gave!
What is grace that it would cause this in them? Well, when favor with God has NOTHING to do with what you do (it’s unmerited) then it frees you to give lavishly because the love and favor of God is enough for you and causes you to do strange things like this. AND Paul pens one of the most amazing visuals of what Jesus DID: “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” (2 Cor. 8:9).
When God’s grace lands on us, we finally get to see the beauty in the cross of Christ. Notice what Paul said again, “…you know the *grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…”. When God’s grace/favor awakens us to His amazing love, then we follow Christ and we begin to become like him. We start becoming poor though we may be rich because God has made us rich in Christ, meaning we have everything if we have Jesus. But if you have all the riches of the world and do not have Jesus, you have nothing!
These chapters are saturated with grace! Take note of what the Macedonians plead for: “…begging us earnestly for the favor (grace) of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). God’s unmerited favor (grace) produces in us the desire for more grace…the grace of participation (like being ambassadors in the previous chapters). But the order is important. Grace must come first and here’s what that looks like: “…but they gave themselves *first to the Lord and *then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor. 8:5). That order matters. If that order gets turned around, God’s glory is at stake!
Now to a particular grace of God in these chapters that we might miss. So here it is…all of this: Paul made known this need of the saints in Jerusalem, he prepared them, they became desirous to participate in this need, they were even zealous for this work (so much so they influenced Achaia to this work), and yet they needed to finish this work.
There’s more to this grace but let me pause to confess that I struggle at finishing. Maybe you struggle to finish as well. I can be just like the Corinthians…hear the need, desire to help, get all pumped for the work and then not cross the finish line. But let me encourage you in this: Jesus crossed the finish line for you and me and stated from the cross “it is finished!” And that’s not all, Paul’s urging and sending of Titus is God’s grace too. In other words, God is urging us on by His grace!
He provides what we need to finish the race. That’s why He gets the glory. It sort of looks like this picture/scene:
It matters that we finish. It matters how we do this. God is not glorified when it seems as though our fingers must be pried open and we are grumbling under our breath when we give. But rather, like this: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a *cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). It doesn’t make worldly sense to give and end up getting more! But that’s how God’s economy works. You must have eyes of faith to see that. And only cheerful givers glorify God.
Let’s see how this section ends and how grace results in praise. I think I’ll simply quote the verses without comment. It’s so easy to see now:
1. (2 Cor. 9:8) 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.
2. (2 Cor. 9:11-15) You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 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, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
All “because of the surpassing grace of God upon you! Praise be to God!