Exegetical Notes: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints,

Paul uses a bit of honey here to convince the believers in Corinth to complete their original intention of participating in the Jerusalem Offering. (See. 8:6)

“the ministry for the saints” – more specifically the Jerusalem Offering. As Paul would go from town to town on his missionary journey, he collected an offering to present to the believers in Jerusalem.

Near the end of Paul’s ministry, he took up a collection for the poor of the Jerusalem church. Why the Jerusalem church had so much poverty is not clear. Jews in Jerusalem may have isolated Christian Jews from the economic system. Paul and Barnabas promised to help (Gal. 2:1–10), so Paul collected this money from the Gentile churches which he administered. These included churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Galatia. He mentioned this offering on three occasions in his letters. In 1 Cor. 16:1–4 Paul indicated that he wanted the church to put something aside on the first day of each week. In 2 Cor. 8–9 Paul wrote that the churches of Macedonia had given liberally and Titus would oversee the completion of the offering in Corinth. Finally, in Rom. 15:25 Paul stated that at the present time he was going to Jerusalem to deliver the gift. A sense of spiritual indebtedness to the founding church in Jerusalem prompted the offering. Luke never mentioned the offering specifically in Acts. There is a list of men in Acts 20:4 who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem. (This trip corresponds to the plans of Rom. 15:25.) The importance of this offering for Paul was twofold. First, the offering met an economic need in Jerusalem. Political instability and general economic depression were problems in Palestine. There were dependent widows (Acts 6:1), and the sharing of property offered only temporary relief (Acts 4:32–37). For this reason Paul was anxious to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). Second, the offering had a theological importance for Paul. The fact that the Gentiles were willing to aid the Jews in this manner validated Paul’s Gentile mission. The offering was evidence that in the Christian family there was neither “Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). Lynn Jones with Ellis Terence B., “Collection for the Poor Saints,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 316–317.

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.

“readiness” – meaning “eagerness to engage in some activity/event”

QUES: Can we honestly say we are “eager” to participate in God’s Work through our giving?

“I boast about you to the people of Macedonia” – Paul has expressed his great confidence in the Corinthian church to participate in this offering to the people of Macedonia (Phillipi), his writing here is to serve as a reminder in order that neither Paul or the believers at Corinth would suffer embarrassment upon his arrival as he journeyed back to Jerusalem. 

“Achaia” – referring to the region in which Corinth lies.

“zeal” – to have a deep concern for or devotion to someone or something. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 293.

APP: – Concern is contagious.

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.

“prove empty in this matter” – APP: Avoid hypocrisy in our Christian living, esp. regarding giving in this passage.

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.

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.

“willing” – that which is bestowed or given as a blessing or benefit. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 569.

“exaction” – It is Paul’s desire that the motivation for the giving be the desire to bless others, he doesn’t want manipulation to be the reason for their giving. 

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Paul uses a agricultural metaphor to illustrate a principle of giving.

No farmer considers sowing as a loss of seed because the harvest will provide the seed for the next season. Consequently, no sower begrudges the seed he casts upon the ground or tries to scrimp by with sowing as little as possible. He willingly sows all that he can and trusts that God will bless the sowing with a bountiful harvest. If the farmer, for some reason, stints on the sowing, he will cheat himself of that harvest. The more he sows, the greater the harvest he will reap and the more he will have for sowing for the next harvest. Applying this analogy to giving means that plentiful giving will result in a plentiful harvest. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 405.

This begs the question.

QUES: What kind of harvest do we reap with our generosity?

The idea that generosity to the poor would meet with overflowing blessing in return was common in Jewish thinking (cp. Prov 11:24–25; Mal 3:10; Sir 35:10–11). In recent times this idea has been perverted by unscrupulous ministers to entice people to believe that the more they give the more they we will get in return. They appeal to greed to encourage others to open their pocketbooks, and they give ultimately to get more for themselves. But this verse must be interpreted in terms of what follows. Paul does not pass this principle off as a shrewd investment strategy on how to reap greater material blessings by giving a portion of it to others. If one gives in hopes of attaining greater material prosperity, then one will harvest only spiritual poverty. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 405–406.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Truths from verse 7:

1) “Each one” – everyone has an individual responsibility to accompany God in His work through giving.
2) “as he has decided” – scripture focuses on the attitude of the giver, not the amount of the gift.
3) “in his heart” – Giving ultimately reflects the giver’s heart. Lack of giving reflects a heart problem, not a financial problem.
4) “God loves a cheerful giver” – God holds those who give worshipfully in high regard.

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.

Verse 8 provides the basis in which believers can give generously and cheerfully. 

1) God is a giver, and giving reflects his own character. John 3:16.
2) God is the omnipotent provider for His people. He will supply all that we need, ultimately enabling us to be able to give.

Reluctance to sow generously, then, reflects a refusal to trust that God is all sufficient and all gracious. It also assumes that we can only give when we are prospering and have something extra that we will not need for ourselves. Paul says that at all times God provides us with all that we need so there is never any time when we cannot be generous. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 407–408.

“all sufficiency” – QUES: What’s the difference in self-sufficiency and “having all sufficiency”?

“all things” – God supplies our every need.

“at all times” – God supplies our every need at every moment.

“you may abound in every good work” – Paul relays the purpose in God providing all of our needs in every moment. It allows us to minister and give to His Kingdom work.


1. Christians should know contentment (autarkeia, “having enough”) in every state.
2. Money is a commodity that should be used in the service of others (leitourgia), not something to display one’s virtue publicly, to gain honor, or to bring others into one’s orbit of power.
3. Reward can only be expected from God, not from others, an Old Testament view that runs counter to Greco-Roman social expectations. Giving to others in need reaps spiritual dividends from God.
4. God bestows the material wealth that we share with others, and consequently God, not the giver, is the one who is to be blessed and thanked.
5. Sharing with other Christians is identified as koinōnia—joining in partnership with them. In no way should the benefactors assume that the recipients of their gifts become their social inferiors or are obligated to return the favor with material benefits.
6. Giving to others proves that one’s confession of Christ as Lord is true. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 409–410.

As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

A quote from Psalm 111:9. LXX

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.

This verse highlights God’s work in supplying all that is needed to allow one to be generous and ensuring that generosity will be fruitful. 

11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

“enriched in every way to be generous in every way” – Notice closely these words. God provides blessing to those who give, not as a self-enriching investment, but as a means to ensure more generosity. These words seem to suggest that God enriches people in various ways in order that those people might be generous in a variety of ways. 

“produce thanksgiving to God” – The goal of generosity is praise of God. This then becomes a litmus test in which we might evaluate our giving. Why do we give? The answer should be because its worship for me and I desire others to worship God as well. 

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,

“that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ” – Giving is one way we communicate our authentic belief in the Gospel and God’s redeeming work.

14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

1Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

As we mentioned earlier. God supplies the ultimate gift in the gospel of Christ. Paul writes the the greatness of God’s generosity and gift of salvation surpasses adequate means of communicating it’s greatness.