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2 Corinthians 9:1–5

“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” (v. 5).

Few passages in the epistles of Paul put the pastoral skill of the Apostle on better display than 2 Corinthians 8–9. As we have seen, Paul begins in chapter 8 to deal with a significant problem: although the Corinthian Christians had committed to giving money to help alleviate the suffering of the Jerusalem Christians, the collecting of these funds in Corinth had hit a snag. Having begun well, displaying an earnest desire to give to the needy believers in Jerusalem, the Corinthians had failed to give in a way that matched their evident commitment to the effort. So, Paul was dispatching Titus and two other individuals to Corinth to encourage the church there and to ensure that the giving would be completed.

We see with particular clarity in 9:1–5 Paul’s pastoral skill in dealing with this matter. The Apostle writes not to condemn the Corinthians for their failure but to commend them for their desire to help, hoping that his encouragement will spur them on to fulfill that desire. He notes in verses 1–2 that in one sense, what he writes about the collection is unnecessary. That is because their zeal to help the Jerusalem Christians has been plainly evident to him. It has been so evident, in fact, that his boasting of it to the churches in Macedonia was what led the Christians there to give in an exceedingly generous way to the same collection (see 8:1–5). Paul does not browbeat the Corinthians for their temporary shortcomings but points to what is positive in their disposition toward their Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. In so doing, he offers a subtle encouragement for them to demonstrate the fullness of their zeal by completing their donation.

Paul’s pastoral wisdom is seen not only in his stressing what is positive in the Corinthians but also in his providing practical help to bring their positive intent to full expression. Sending Titus and the other brothers would assist the Corinthians in fulfilling their pledge and would keep the Corinthians from being embarrassed by their failure to give and the Macedonians from being embarrassed for believing the best about the Corinthian church (vv. 3–5). John Calvin comments, “[Paul] had seen a happy commencement: he had hoped, that the farther progress of the matter would be corresponding; but as he was well aware of the unsteadiness of the human mind, he could not provide too carefully against [the Corinthians’] turning aside from their pious design.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Sometimes people have good intentions but for various reasons have trouble fulfilling those intentions in their deeds. Let us think of practical ways to put our intentions into practice. If we can’t think of anything, we can ask a pastor or other Christians.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 22:9
  • Galatians 6:2
  • 1 Timothy 5:1–16
  • Hebrews 10:24

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