2 Corinthians


7. The collection for the believers, 8:1-9:15

i] The grace of giving


Paul now deals with the issue of the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem, 8:1-9:15. In the passage before us Paul affirms the grace of generosity that was given to the Macedonians by God, a generosity which has prompted sacrificial giving toward the collection, v1-5, he then notes that he has organized Titus to return and finalize the collection with the Corinthians in Achaea, v6, and then encourages the Corinthian believers to participate fully in the collection, to excel in the grace of giving in the same way that they have excelled in the other graces, v7.


i] Context: See 7:5-16. This passage is part of a wider section running from 8:1-9:15. The subject of the section is the collection of funds for the poor believers ("saints") in Jerusalem. It seems that initially the Macedonian churches were not included in the collection, possibly due to their own poverty, but none-the-less they expressed a desire to be included.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7. The collection for the saints: For Paul, the collection for the saints in Jerusalem is an important subject to broach with the Corinthian believers. The financial gifts of the Gentiles to the historic people of Israel serve as a fulfillment of Israel's prophetic expectations. For this to take place, through the ministry of Paul, is nothing less than an evidence to Israel that the kingdom of God is bursting in upon them, in and through the person of Jesus. The historic people of Israel have shared the gift of the good news of Jesus, and it is only right and proper that the Gentiles respond with similar generosity toward the present needs of Jewish believers. Paul hoped that the gifts of the Gentiles, as a prophetic sign to Israel, might soften his fellow Jews to the claims of the gospel. Sadly, this was never realized. Soon after arriving in Jerusalem with the collection he was arrested and forced to declare his innocence before the Emperor in Rome.


iii] Structure: The grace of giving:

Exhortation - excel in the grace of giving:

A description of the generosity shown by the Macedonians, v1-5;

An explanation as to why Paul has sent Titus back to them, v6;

A direct exhortation to the Corinthians to excel in the grace of giving, v7.


iv] Interpretation:

In the opening verses of this section of Paul's letter / address, 8:1-9:15, Paul describes the generosity of the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) toward his collection for the poor believers in Palestine. He uses the word "grace" to describe their God-inspired generosity. He is saying that their generosity is a ministry-gift of the Spirit, cf. Rom.12:8. In 8:7 he calls it "this grace of giving." God's grace, his merciful favor toward his people, is expressed in many ways; it is seen in the free gift of salvation, in the gift of apostleship to a rebel like Paul, and here, in the gift of generosity. So, "rich generosity" is a work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, a fruit of the Spirit's renewing power. It is this grace which Paul wants the Corinthian believers to excel in, "this grace of giving."


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 8:1

To excel in the grace of giving, v1-7. i] Paul opens by describing the abundant generosity shown by the Macedonian churches toward his collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, v1-5.

de "and now" - and/but. Transitional connective introducing a new subject, although rather abrupt, but "not such as to suggest that two different letters have been put together", Barrett.

gnwrizomen (gnwrizw) pres. "we want [you] to know" - [brothers] we make known. "Brothers, we want to inform you", TH.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

thn carin (iV ewV) "about the grace" - the grace. Direct object of "we make known", although possibly an accusative of respect, "we want to inform you with regard / with respect to the grace of God that ......" In general terms "that grace given by God in the afflicted and poverty-stricken Macedonian churches [which] has overflowed in their generosity for the collection", Barnett. Harris seems a little pedantic when he suggests that in chapters 8-9 the word "grace" takes six different meanings, cf., p559.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god. The genitive is probably not ablative, a grace that comes from God (separation), out of God (origin), although obviously it does, since in the NT this sense is usually expressed with a preposition, eg. ek. The genitive "of God" is usually viewed as verbal, functioning as a subjective genitive where God produces the action implied by the verbal noun "grace". Yet, the genitive may simply be adjectival limiting "grace", "divine grace", possibly possessive, "God's grace". Grace, in the sense of God's covenant mercy, is indeed a divine characteristic, a possession of God, but at the same time a quality that is powerfully active, rather than static, a characteristic possessed by the divine - the God of grace acts graciously. In much the same way as "the righteousness of God", the righteous reign of God, entails God's setting all things right, so "the grace of God", God's covenant mercy, entails his kindness toward his people. Here the enlivening of his people with a spirit of generosity.

thn dedomenhn (didwmi) perf. pas. part. "that [God] has given" - having been given. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "grace"; "grace ... which has been given."

en + dat. "-" - in = among. Expressing space / sphere - local. Probably just underlining the dative, but possibly "among the churches / within the churches", Furnish.

thV MakedoniaV (a) gen. "the Macedonian [churches]" - [the churches] of macedonia. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local; "located in Macedonia."


"Paul now expresses how the grace of God was exhibited in the lives of the Macedonians", Harris. The Macedonian churches had little to give because of the persecution they faced, and yet they were rich, rich in generosity. They were like the widow in the treasury, Mk.12:41ff; they generously gave of the little they had.

oJti "-" - that. Probably introducing a dependent statement of perception, "we want you to know (v1) ...... that ....", although possibly introducing an noun clause in apposition to "the grace" of v1, "namely the most severe ......", or simply expressing cause / reason, "for during a severe testing ....", Furnish. "I want you to be aware of how they (the Macedonians) have demonstrated their true colors", Junkins.

en + dat. "out of / in the midst of" - in. Probably adverbial, temporal.

pollh/ dat. adj. "the most / a very" - a great. "Much / great", so NIV, "under the most severe test", although possibly "many", "prolonged", Plummer; "continual ordeals of hardship", NJB.

qliyewV (iV ewV) "severe" - [test] of trouble, affliction, tribulation, oppression, distress, adversity. The function of the genitive is unclear, but it is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting "test"; "a severe test which is oppressive." Zerwick suggests that it is epexegetic, "a most severe test consisting of hardship", while Long opts for a genitive of reference. The TNT instrumental "by tribulation" is a wild stab. In the end Paul's point is simple enough; "we desire to let you know of the grace of God ...... how amid a trial of great affliction ....", Weymouth.

dokimh/ (h) dat. "trial" - test, trial, ordeal. "Usually in the sense of the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use - 'value, worth, true, genuine, approvedness.'* Here referring to the test itself - an ordeal which serves as a proof, or testing.

thV caraV (a) gen. "joy" - [the abundance] of the joy [of them]. The "abundance of Joy", ESV, is treated as an attributed genitive by the NIV, "abundant / overflowing joy." The word is mostly used of a person's response to the gospel.

kata + gen. "extreme" - [and] down [depth]. Spacial in sense, "down", but with the noun baqouV, "depth", the prepositional phrase serves to form the adjective "deep", limiting the noun "poverty; "their desperate poverty", Barclay.

hJ .... ptwceia (a) "poverty" - of the poverty [of them]. Nominative subject of the verb "to overflow." The poverty of the Macedonian churches was probably due to the persecution faced by the early Christians and the economic hardship which this caused.

thV aplothtoV (hV htoV) "[welled up in rich] generosity" - [overflowed to the riches, wealth] of generosity [of them]. The genitive is adjectival, best treated as attributed, as NIV. "An overflowing wealth of generosity", Barclay.


So, the Macedonian believers gave generously out of a limited resource, disregarding their own needs. This they did without being asked. Paul probably knew of their plight and didn't ask them to share in the collection for the "saints" in Jerusalem, but they gave none the less. This verse begins a long and unwieldy sentence in the Gk. which runs through to v6.

oJti "for" - that. Possibly serving to explain v2, as NIV, so Barrett, etc., but better taken as introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul is able to testify to; "I can testify that up to their means, aye and beyond their means, they have given", Moffatt.

marturw "I testify" - i bear witness [that]. If oJti is taken to express cause / reason, then this verb is viewed as an intrusion into the sentence to emphasize the worth of Paul's observation; "for - as I can testify - they gave ..", Martin.

kata ...... para "as much as [.... and] beyond" - according to [their ability and] beyond [their ability]. The two prepositions establish a mild contrast, not "according to .... contrary to", but "according to .... beyond", Harris. "They gave according to (expressing a standard) their means, even (kai) beyond (expressing comparison) their means."

auqairetoi adj. "Entirely on their own" - they gave of their own accord. Either with an assumed verb, or treated as an independent statement within the sentence, so Furnish, as NIV; "I myself bear witness to them how they offered - and that of their own accord - that they would do all they were able to do, in truth more than they were able to do (v3); how they appealed to us ...", Cassirer, ie. and this "of their own choice" without being pressured to give.


Paul continues with his testimony. Not only did the Macedonians abound in generosity, v3, they actually pleaded to be included in the collection, v4. The meaning of thn carin, "the grace", and Paul's explanation (kai is epexegetic) of deomenoi hJmwn thn carin, "they pleaded the grace of us", produces a complex verse. The sense is simple enough, so the NIV rightly goes for a dynamic equivalent. "In fact, they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them share the honors of supporting their brothers in Christ", Phillips.

meta + gen. "[they urgently]" - with [much, great appeal, encouragement]. Expressing association; "with considerable urgency", Barnett; "with earnest entreaty", Weymouth. On the other hand, the preposition may be functioning adverbially, modal, expressing manner when linked with "much" and "appeal", so forming an adverb like "urgently", as NIV.

deomenoi (deomai) pres. pas. part. "pleaded with [us] for" - pleading, asking, requesting. The participle is probably serving as a finite verb, so Moule, Harris - a periphrastic imperfect with an assumed imperfect verb to-be. It could also be treated as an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the implied verb "they gave" of v3, so Barnett; "they gave ...... and they begged ....".

hJmwn gen. pro. "us" - of us [a favor]. The verb "to beg" usually takes a genitive of direct object, which is how the NIV has read hJmwn, "of us"; "pleaded with us", rather than treat it as possessive, "pleaded for our favor."

kai "-" - and. The statement "they begged of us" is unclear and so Paul sets out to explain what he means. So, the conjunction here is epexegetic, it introduces an explanatory clause, "they begged of us a favor, grace, namely, for participation of ministry to the saints" = "that they might participate in the ministry to the saints", Wuest.

thV diakoniaV (a) "[of sharing in] this service" - [the participation, fellowship] of the ministry. The genitive is usually read as verbal, objective, but possibly adjectival, epexegetic, limiting by defining "fellowship"; "this fellowship which consists of ministry to the saints" = "this participation in the charitable collection for the poor believers in Palestine."

thV "-" - the one. The genitive article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase eiV touV aJgiouV, "to the saints", into a substantive standing in apposition to "service / ministry"; "this fellowship which consists of ministry, the ministry to the saints."

eiV + acc. "to [the Lord's people]" - to [the saints]. Serving instead of a dative of interest, advantage.


Paul had never expected the positive response he received when he began evangelizing in Macedonia, but indeed, not only did many dedicate themselves to the Lord, but they stood up for Paul and his mission.

hlpisamen (elpizw) "we expected / our expectations" - [not as] we hoped. Here "expected", Zerwick; "and not at all as we expected".

alla "-" - but. A strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not as ......, but ....". The ou kaqwV, "not just as, as, according to" expresses a quality or standard; "not as we expected, but ....."

edwkan (didwmi) aor. "they gave" - "They made a complete dedication of themselves first to the Lord", Phillips.

eJautouV "themselves" - The reflective pronoun takes an emphatic position in the Gk.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "[first] to the Lord" - [in the first place] to the lord. The adverb prwton is temporal. The dative "to the Lord" is a dative of indirect object. "First", prowton, may mean "the first thing they did", meaning first in time, but probably first in importance is intended; "but instead, above everything else they gave themselves to the Lord, and also ....."

kai "and then" - and. Probably adjunctive; "and also they gave themselves to us".

dia + gen. "in keeping with / by" - [to us] through, by means of [will of god]. Is Paul saying that the motivation of their generosity is the will of God, ie., the command to be generous is the instrument of their generosity? Paul usually argues that grace is the motivator of right action. We would therefore expect the sense "in accordance with the will of God", "in keeping with the will of God", Harris. None-the-less, "through the will of God", instrumental, expressing means, is probably what Paul intends. He is making the point that both the conversion of the Macedonians, and their generous contribution to the collection, falls within the ambit of the divine will, just as his apostleship is "through the will of God", cf., 1Cor.1:1, ie., "an apostle by divine calling", Martin. "Their offering of themselves was governed by the will of God", Plummer.


ii] "Paul now explains to the church in Corinth why he has sent Titus back to them", Barnett. In the previous year, Titus had commenced the collection at Corinth in Achaea, and given that the neighbouring Macedonian churches had fully contributed to the appeal, Paul has asked Titus to revisit Corinth and finalize the appeal there.

eiV to parakalesai (parakalew) aor. inf. "so [we] urged" - into [we] the to urge, exhort [titus]. This construction, eiV + the articular infinitive, usually forms a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that", but sometimes, as here, a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that / so that". "As a result of the Macedonian churches acting with such generosity toward the collection, we encouraged Titus, ...." The pronoun hJmas, "we", serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive; "So consequently, we urged Titus"

iJna + subj. "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of what Paul asked / encouraged Titus to do, namely, to get the Corinthian believers to finalize the collection for the saints, as have the Macedonian churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Paul's words to Titus are "complete what you have begun", Harris.

kaqwV .... ou{twV "since / just as.... also" - as, just as [he began before] so [he should complete]. A correlative comparative construction, with both the conjunction kaqwV and the adverb ou{twV expressing a characteristic quality; "as he had begun, so he would also finish", AV.

proenhrxato (proenarcomai) aor. "he had earlier made a beginning" - he began before = earlier made a beginning on a previous occasion. This verb appears only here and v10 in the NT. The "previous occasion" would be the first visit of Titus to Corinth (in the previous year, cf. v10) to begin the collection. Although not actually forming an adjectival clause, Barclay carries the sense well with: "It was Titus who was in charge of the first moves in the organization of this gift [at Corinth]. So we have invited him to visit you (again), and to see that it is brought to a conclusion."

epitelesh/ (epitelew) "to bring [and = also] to completion" - [so also] he should complete.

thn carin touthn "this act of grace" - this grace. Accusative direct object of the verb "to complete." See above for the sense of "this grace."

eiV + acc. "on [your part]" - to [you]. Adverbial use of the preposition, "to/toward you" = "in reference to you", Plummer, so possibly as NIV, or "among you", JB, but also possibly expressing benefit / advantage, "for you", Barrett, Martin, ie., "for your benefit", Betz. We asked Titus "to help you finish what you began", CEV.


iii] Paul, at this point, switches to direct exhortation, v7. Having revealed the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul goads the Corinthians to follow suit, to excel in generosity as they excel in the other spiritual gifts. The Corinthians were greatly blessed with spiritual gifts: they abound in wonderworking faith, 1Cor.12:9, 13:2; "utterance", probably in the sense of prophecy, 1Cor.12:10; "knowledge", probably referring to a word of wisdom, 1Cor.12:8, 10; "earnestness", a quality all believers should possess; and "love". Given that the Corinthians posses such an abundance of spiritual qualities, Paul exhorts them to excel in the spiritual gift of generosity.

alla "but" - Here serving a particular contrastive function which serves to strengthen, "Moreover"; "Well then, as you have everything in abundance ....", Cassirer.

w{sper ..... iJna "just as / since ...... see that" - as, just as [in everything you abound ....... ] see that [also you abound in this grace]. Forming a correlative comparative construction, but here with iJna kai + subj. serving "as a substitute for the imperative (infinitive)", BAGD; "given that / since you abound in everything ....... then see to it that you abound in this grace-ministry."

perisseuete (perisseuw) pres. "excel" - abound, overflow. The word takes on a technical sense in the Corinthian letters, so Paul is likely restating the Corinthian belief that they are rich in spiritual gifts, eg., faith, etc. "Abound in the gifts of the Spirit", "overflow in every grace-gift".

en + dat. "in" - in [everything]. Possibly local, expressing space / sphere, but better serving adverbially, expressing the manner of having, "have everything in abundance / abundantly", or reference / respect, "with respect to everything."

pistei (iV ewV) dat. "faith" - in faith. This, and the following datives, most likely work off an assumed en, as for en panti above. It is unlikely Paul means saving faith, but rather wonder-working faith.

logw/ (oV) dat. "speech" - in word. Possibly eloquence, but more likely "spiritual speech", even "tongues".

gnwsei (iV ewV) dat. "knowledge" - in knowledge. Paul was not really complementary of the Corinthians' claim to a hidden and superior knowledge. Is this list partly tongue-in-cheek?

spoudh/ (h) dat. "earnestness" - [and in all] zeal, eagerness, diligence... Referring to the Corinthians renewed "affirmation" of Paul as their apostle.

kai "also" - and [in the love from us to you]. Here taking a strong adjunctive sense, "as well".

perisseuhte subj. "you ..... excel" - [see that also] you abound. The word Paul has used to describe the Corinthians excelling in spiritual gifts, is now used in his exhortation that they excel in the grace of giving.

en tauth/ th/ cariti" in this grace of giving" - in this grace. Again the preposition en takes the same sense as en panti, "in everything." The "giving" is implied. Possibly "in this gracious ministry", the "ministry" being the involvement of the Corinthians in Paul's collection for the saints in Jerusalem. "Do come to the front in this gracious enterprise", Moffatt.


2 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]