Preaching Values in 2 Corinthians

James A. Young  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 32 - Fall 1989

H. C. Brown and Gordon Clinard taught me the basics of preaching the Word of God. T. B. Maston taught me how to apply these truths to the social problems facing the church, and this was especially valuable to me as a pastor in the turbulent sixties. Huber Drumwright and Virtus Gideon taught me how to interpret the Scripture. All of these wonderful, dedicated professors are now with the Lord, and I would like to dedicate this article to them in sincere appreciation for the contribution they made to my life.



The church has faced many turbulent times. It is appropriate that in the midst of our present struggles we give special attention to Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. This book offers the pastor an opportunity to deal lovingly with various problems that surface in his congregation.

Dwight Stevenson wrote, “The Corinthian congregation was a problem-ridden church. It seems scarcely possible that anything could have been added to the disorder which is reflected in First Corinthians.”[1]Dwight E. Stevenson, Preaching on the Books of the New Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1956), 91. A study of the letter reveals that things did get worse. The church had not responded to Paul’s pleading, and he found it necessary to write more words of admonition. Stevenson continued, “Sometimes love is compelled to be surgical. Paul was not engaged in a popularity contest at Corinth; he was trying to grow Christians and to create a community of Christlike minds.”[2]Ibid., 94.

Paul’s love for the Corinthians would not allow him to overlook the problems at Corinth even at the risk of being misunderstood. C. K. Barrett suggested, “Paul suffered for the Corinthians the agony a father might feel over a loved daughter whom he had betrothed to the best of husbands, only to see her flirting and apparently about to destroy her virtue, her happiness, and herself with selfish and unprincipled philanderers.”[3]C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 34-35. Although he knew many good things were happening at Corinth, Paul continued to struggle with the recurring problems. Handley Moule pointed out that “these must be faced in a spirit of absolute realism and some of them countered with the full weight of his apostolic authority.”[4]Handley C. G. Monie, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd., 1962), xxvii.

Thus the letter is a combination of comfort and rebuke. In an attempt to encompass both of these in a theme, Alan Redpath concluded,

There were those, a majority, who had genuinely repented of sin in the church and dealt with it thoroughly; there were others, a minority, who challenged his (Paul’s) authority, suspected his motives, and questioned the validity of his ministry. His answer, as recorded here, is an amazing mixture of tender love and stern rebuke.[5]Alan Redpath, Blessing Out of Buffetings (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1965), 11.

Before a preacher can share the truths of a letter he must become saturated with its content. Suggestions for this kind of preparation include reading the letter in several translations (Curtis Vaughan’s The New Testament from 26 Translations is an excellent study guide), developing an outline of the contents, consulting the leading commentaries, and developing a preaching outline. Of course, this should be based on the needs of the individual congregation.

January Bible Study can be done in a variety of ways, and preaching through a letter as a supplement to the study course format is an excellent way to reinforce the message of the letter.

A thematic sermon on 2 Corinthians would be an excellent way to introduce January Bible Study. The nature of this letter makes the task a bit more difficult, but with adequate preparation it can be a helpful way to begin a study of the book. When Clyde Fant was a professor of preaching at Southwestern, he emphasized the difficult task of making the biblical message live again. He took a piece of paper and put an X on each side at the bottom of the paper. He wrote under one X “what God said then” and under the other “what God says now.” He drew arrows upward from each of these and said, “Where these arrows cross, preaching occurs.”

Much of the preaching that is heard today is interested in applied Christianity. This might be acceptable if people had a sound knowledge of the biblical revelation. But as a result of teaching the Bible for nineteen years at Louisiana College, it is evident that students do not know the Bible. Dwight Stevenson wrote, “If hungering congregations in recent years looked up to us and were not fed, it may be that we were waiters carrying in the menu from an empty kitchen.”[6]Stevenson, 3.

The preacher must learn how to convey the positive fruits of biblical scholarship to his people. Random selected texts will not teach people the Bible because they do not give people a sense of the whole message of the Bible. They do not give wide perspectives of meaning or knowledge of unity and design. The books of the Bible are natural units and are intended to be read and studied as a whole. They have an organic unity of their own, and it is the preacher’s task to discover this unity and share it with others. The book sermon will enrich the appreciation of this unity.


Book Sermon

Once the letter has been read several times, the key verse or verses that relate the general theme should be selected. The key passage in 2 Corinthians is 5:17-21 and the title might come from verse 18, “The Ministry of Reconciliation.” Paul’s primary emphasis in the entire letter is to get the Corinthians reconciled to him, to each other, and to God, and the content of the letter could be dealt with under these three ideas.

John Fischer wrote a fascinating book entitled Real Christians Don’t Dance. He attempted to unmask Christianity and apply its truth to the contemporary scene. He gave several suggestions from 2 Corinthians in the book and dealt with the difficult problem of making the message of the letter real for those who hear. He explained that “the role of the prophet is to stand before truth and cause it to shine in relationship  to current situations.”[7]John Fischer, Real Christians Don’t Dance (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1988), 36.


Series Preaching

Once the book sermon has been delivered, the book can be studied more intensively by a series on the chapters of the letter or selected texts from it. Kyle Yates offered some excellent suggestions on preaching chapter sermons. He selected thirteen chapters from several books and gave sermon examples from them.[8]Kyle M. Yates, Preaching From Great Bible Chapters (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1957). Since the topics in 2 Corinthians do not fall clearly into chapter divisions, the textual approach is more appropriate.

Paul began the letter by reminding his readers of God’s grace and peace (1:2). Ray Summers pointed out that these words always appear in that order because the Christian can only know true peace when he experiences God’s grace.[9]Class lecture at Southwestern Seminary, 1960. A word study sermon might be developed on the biblical meaning of grace and peace. Peace to most people means the absence of conflict. Curtis Vaughan said in class one day, “The most peaceful place I know is a graveyard but every­ thing in it is dead.” Biblical peace is not the absence of conflict but peace in the midst of conflict. This peace is not possible until we have experienced God’s grace. Paul was facing some difficult decisions in writing this letter and he set the tone for it with these words.

The God of All Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-7[10]Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

Comfort is more than sympathy. God does sympathize with us but he goes beyond that to give us courage to face the issues of life. He does all things with a purpose and Paul explained how this comfort works out in our lives.

God’s comfort is always personal. He speaks to us and helps us understand the trials we face. These words came alive for me in 1983 when my eye doctor discovered a critical problem. Both of my eyes had deteriorated rapidly. I had laser surgery on the left eye, but the problem in the right eye was too critical for surgery. I was told that within two years I would lose most of my central vision. Never before have I felt God’s presence as I felt it during the ensuing years. The condition grew worse. Then about two years ago the degeneration reversed and the eye healed itself. My doctor told me that God had healed my eye. God’s comfort will always be more real to me because he led me lovingly through this experience.

The purpose of God’s comfort must never be an end in itself His comfort must cause Christians to reach out and share this wonderful comfort with others. Paul wrote, “If we are comforted, it is for your comfort” (v. 6). The ultimate purpose of experiences that tend to shatter our lives is “to produce in you patient endurance” (v. 6). The idea is not blind acceptance but the assurance of victory. We must avoid following the little old lady’s lead who said, “My favorite verse of scripture is ‘Grin and bear it.'” Her philosophy and her knowledge of Scripture were both mistaken. The Christian life is sharing, and life at its best is experienced during periods of great distress as God is trusted more completely.

When at Wit’s End, What Then?
2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Have you ever been at wit’s end? Most of us have. The major question that must be faced at that moment is, “How will we react to the circumstances of life which come to baffle us?” Paul experienced something at Ephesus which brought him to the point of fear for his life. No one knows what it was because Paul was not one to sit around and complain; rather he gloried in being counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ.

Circumstances of life often baffle the Christian; life appears to be a dead-end street or like the sign on the elevator “not running today.” Some grow bitter and like Job’s wife suggest that we curse God and die. Others face life’s difficult circumstances by play-acting, as if these experiences were not real. That may be a good escape mechanism for a child but not for a mature Christian. There is an old Arabian proverb which reminds us, “All sunshine and no rain makes a desert.” How can we take hold of suffering and calamity and make it work for our spiritual growth?

When at wit’s end we realize the folly of trusting in ourselves (v. 9). Some live with the idea that mankind is capable of handling any situation. We are self-made and owe a debt to no one. We trust completely in ourselves and then it happens. Life falls apart! When this happens we realize the folly of trusting in ourselves. The danger of prosperity is that it encourages a false independence. Dr. Truman Aldredge said in a sermon, “Sometimes God has to put us flat on our back because that’s the only time we ever look up.”

When at wit’s end we develop an unshakable confidence in God (v. 10). God can never cease to be in the future what he has been in the past and as difficult experiences are faced, we re­ member how God has cared and confidence is gained to face life with a new hope and purpose. The confidence of the Christian is not a theory or speculation. It is fact and experience and because of what God has done in the past he can be depended on for the present and future.

When at wit’s end we realize the power of prayer (v. 11). For every prayer that rises to God in prosperity ten thousand rise in adversity. Paul was determined to extract from every experience of life all the blessings he could for himself and others. Out of a Bedford jail came the amazing Pilgrim’s Progress as John Bunyan refused to allow life’s circumstances to deter him from God’s purpose. Out of the heart of a blind man came John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Out of the heart of blind Fanny Crosby came “I shall know him by the print of the nails in his hand.” In Acts 12 we have the record of Peter in prison while a prayer meeting was going on. Suddenly the chains fell off, and Peter was released. No matter what the circumstance happens to be, Christians can offer their prayers on behalf of others. Paul thanked God for experiences like this one, and every Christian would do well to follow his example.

When Procrastination is Justified
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4

Procrastination is usually condemned but there are times when a purposeful delay is the better course of action. Controversial issues and developing problems often need a cooling off period. The wise pastor’s insight will dictate a delay while he meditates over the situation. He must never use his position to impose his will on others. Ministers are called to lead others and this is done by insight into truth, love, and grace that God can share through interpretation of his word. Paul would not “lord it over their faith” (v. 24) but promised to work with them for their growth and development. The pastor must realize that he is a leader, not a dictator, and he must reject every temptation to use pressure or force. The true minister cooperates with people in the search for truth and does all this to aid his people in realizing joy and faith (v. 24).

Based on twenty years of teaching preachers, I find that they fall into one of two broad categories: fighters and lovers. The fighters are always on some crusade and they seem to think that nothing is being accomplished unless something is “stirred up.” The lovers go about their task lovingly, helping others realize the investment God has made in them. Paul delayed his visit to Corinth until he was in a better state of mind and spirit. Love is not blind, but it helps to know when to attack a problem and when to leave it alone. Paul’s utmost concern was the redemption of God’s people. Whatever problems are attacked or crucial issues faced, the preacher must preach with a redemptive goal in mind.

When Enough is Enough
2 Corinthians 2:5-8

This text provides an excellent opportunity to deal with church discipline. Its only purpose must be to correct the offending party. Jesus warned against judging others. If judgment is to be effective, it must bring the offending person face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Once the church has made the person aware of his sin and confession has been made, restoration is imperative. If church fellowship is genuine it will assist in this restoration. Paul placed forgiveness and comfort side-by-side and warned that if these two did not come the person could be “over­ whelmed by excessive sorrow” (v. 7). The elder brother story (Luke 15) is an example of the unforgiving attitude displayed by many Christians.

Enough is enough when the problem has been corrected, when confession has been given, and when discipline ceases to be redemptive. John Bunyan wrote, “I never cared to meddle with things that were controverted, and in dispute among the saints, especially things of the lowest nature; yet it pleased me much to contend with great earnestness for the word of faith, and the remission of sins by the death and sufferings of Jesus: but I say, as to other things, I should let them alone.”[11]John Bunyan. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1905), 155-56.

The Christian Ministry
2 Corinthians 2:14-3:18

This passage helps the pastor understand the true nature of ministry and needs to be shared with the church fellowship. It is a ministry of Joyous triumph (2:14-17), a ministry approved and accredited (3:1-6), and a ministry of surpassing glory (3:7-18).

Paul contrasted the ministry under the old and new covenants and concluded that the old was of death, the new of life (v. 7); the old of condemnation, the new of righteousness (v. 9); and the glory of the old was temporary while that of the new is abiding (v. 12).

Centering on v. 17, a sermon might be developed on “Peddlers or Prophets.” I remember the traveling medicine shows that came through my hometown when I was a teenager. They sold medicine that they claimed could cure any ailment. They were peddlers and a peddler is not concerned with quality or character or the best interest of his customers. Some preachers are like clever salesmen interested only in self-advancement. Paul insisted that personal gain must never be the motivating force for a preacher. The preacher must always be aware that he speaks “in Christ” and “before God.”

The Torn Curtain
2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Shortly after World War II, Sir Winston Churchill visited Westminster College in Missouri. In the course of his address to the student body he coined a new phrase “iron curtain” to describe the imaginary curtain which had fallen between the East and West. The news media seized upon it and has talked about it ever since. Several years later the phrase “bamboo curtain” was added to our vocabulary.

Even though Churchill coined the phrase, curtains have existed between all persons ever since Cain decided to kill his brother. These curtains are reflections of the curtain which hangs between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.

The gospel has faced curtains since it was first proclaimed. There was the curtain of the Jews. Jesus’ new and fresh interpretations of the law left them blinded in their tradition. The Roman curtain was power and authority. Pilate told Jesus he had the power to let him live or put him to death. Pilate was unable to understand Jesus; he could only wash his hands of the whole matter and try to forget it. The Greeks thought they had found the answer to life in philosophy and culture. Paul confronted this arrogance on Mar’s Hill and declared the gospel which they rejected.

The veil in the temple separated people from God. Hebrews .teaches us that Christ, in his death, tore the veil away and opened a new and living way into God’s presence. Paul reminded us of this when he wrote, ”Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (v. 16).

When the curtain is torn away we are given liberty (v. 17). The moment a person looks to Christ in faith and repentance, he is given this liberty. Some think of liberty or freedom entirely m terms of freedom from restraints, the right to do as one pleases regardless of the rights of others. True liberty is not the freedom to do as we like; it is the power to be what God wants us to be. The secret of liberty is found in the indwelling Spirit.

When the curtain is torn away we stand in God’s presence (v. 18). The word translated “open” or “unveiled” is in the perfect tense. Literally it is “having been unveiled.” This means that the action took place in past time and the result of that action continues. Further, it is in the passive voice which means that the subject was acted upon. What a picture! When a person comes to Christ in repentance and commitment of life, something happens. The veil is removed and he stands in God’s presence as a result of that action and the result continues.

When the curtain is torn away we begin a process of change (v. 18). Not only is the person who comes to Christ given liberty and the privilege of standing in the presence of God with an unveiled face, he begins the process of being changed into the image of Christ. Likeness to Christ is not a human achievement. It is growth produced by the creative power of Christ working in us. The Christian must work, but that work is in response to the power that works in him.

John on the Isle of Patmos wrote, ”And there was no longer any sea” (Rev. 21:1). The sea separated John from all those he loved and one day it would be no more. God tore the curtain when Christ died and nothing will ever separate his children from him.

The Purpose of the Pulpit
2 Corinthians 4:1-18

This passage gives a clear discussion of the place of the pulpit ministry in the total ministry. Paul pointed out four things for the wise preacher to convey to his congregation.

The preacher does not get depressed (v. 1). Paul had every reason to question his effectiveness in light of the action of the Corinthians but he refused to allow those actions to depress him. He realized the great task before him and the power of God in his life.

The preacher must never resort to unethical methods or even questionable ones (v. 2). The truth must be proclaimed with clarity, never in questionable ways. God can use dedicated minds but he does not need clever ways, and the truth must be spoken openly with the knowledge that preaching is always before God.

The preacher must preach Jesus Christ as Lord (v. 5). The Lordship of Christ means that he takes possession of every life, and ministry is under his command.

The preacher must realize he is only a servant (v. 5). The church congregation is a fellowship of believers and the preacher is called to lead and to serve as Christ’s under-shepherd.

Down But Not Out
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

It seems strange to say that the conjunction “but” is a glorious word as Paul employed it. However, that is the case in these verses. This passage proclaims that God always has the last word. After the world has done its worst, after it has passed all its judgments and ordered its last sentence, God keeps on speaking. There is this divine continuation of God in every time of trouble. In this passage Paul mentioned four situations of life and showed how God helps his followers in each of them. Situations may drive us to the edge of despair but God writes the last chapter.

We may be handicapped but never hemmed in (v. 8a). Helen Keller’s life is an excellent example of one who overcame adversity to make her life count for God. By any standard, she was severely handicapped but never allowed this to dampen her spirit. God promises that he will be with us in all of life’s circumstances.

We may be perplexed but never driven to despair (v. Sb). Christians are often like children who have just begun long-division and are suddenly faced with calculus. Life baffles us as it did the baker and the butler of Pharaoh until someone comes along to interpret it (Genesis 40).

We may be persecuted but never abandoned (v. 9a). Christian history is replete with examples of Christians who suffered every imaginable persecution yet lived victorious lives. Paul never lost hope no matter what happened to him, and these words sum up a life of trust that still believes God when all visible evidence of his love and care have been removed.

We may be struck down but not destroyed (v.9b). Life deals God’s children serious blows as it does non-Christians. The Christian faith does not build a wall to protect from all the storms of life but it gives strength in the midst of storms. If one is to live a victorious life a second-hand faith is not sufficient. The strength to face life can only come from a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Challenge of the Unseen
2 Corinthians 4:13-18

The Milan Cathedral has three large entrance doors. Over the left door the inscription reads ”All that pleases is but for the moment,” over the right door, ”All that troubles is but for the moment,” and over the center door, “That only is important which is eternal.”

Christians walk by faith not sight. Paul was confident in his faith and this caused him to speak out even though he could not see the ultimate outcome. The three statements over the doors of the Milan Cathedral suggest some lessons that must be learned.

All that pleases is but for a moment. This principle can be applied to several areas of life such as popularity, fame, comfort, enjoyment of life, and making money. People need to understand that the ultimate values of life are not found in stocks and bonds or in beautiful things but in relationships.

All that troubles is but for a moment. Troubles are real and must be faced but they can be faced confidently, knowing God is there in the midst of trouble. The old Negro preacher put it plainly when he said, “My favorite verse is the one which reads, ‘And it came to pass.’ ”

That only is important which is eternal Troubles and pleasures are like scaffolding around a building. They will be taken away once the building is completed but they serve a vital purpose during the building process. Paul’s words here reflect Heb. 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

The Ministry of Reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:11-21

When man sinned a chasm was opened between man and God. It was bridged at the cross and God gave the church the ministry of reconciliation. This title was suggested for a book sermon but this passage should also be dealt with in detail. James Denney wrote many years ago, “Where reconciliation is spoken of in St. Paul, the subject is always God, and the object is always man . . . . We never read that God has been reconciled.”[12]James Denney, The Death of Christ (London Hodder and Stoughton, 1902), 143-44.

God offers a way of reconciliation, bringing God and mankind together again, which will result m bringing all believers into fellowship. The need for reconciliation points out the fact that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23).

The basis of reconciliation (vv. 18-19). The need for reconciliation implies estrangement which takes many forms such as indifference Mankind ceases to be aware of God’s presence or his demands, and there is never any personal encounter. Life is lived as if God did not exist. Resentment is another form of estrangement. Like the prodigal son, any restraints are resisted. Selfishness also causes separation between God and man. Many people want their way, their rights, the desires, without considering others. Lot choosing the fertile plain illustrates this attitude (Genesis 13). Guiltlessness is another form of estrangement. There ceases to be any sense of responsibility to God. In Jeremiah’s day the priests and prophets alike were so corrupt that they had lost all sense of guilt.

Jeremiah asked, ”Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all, they do not even know how to blush” (Jer. 8:12).

The representatives of reconciliation (v. 20a). Paul called all Christians ambassadors. They were to represent Christ to a lost world. An ambassador is not responsible for the content of the message he conveys, only for its transmission. The solemn responsibility   of sharing the message of salvation must be accepted and acted on.

The demand of reconciliation (v. 20b). Great confidence is placed in social programs to improve society and they do, but mankind’s basic need is to be reconciled to God. Any solution that approaches the problem from a purely humanitarian position is doomed to failure.

The cost of reconciliation (v. 21). Reconciliation to God was purchased at Calvary. Jesus died as a sinner. He never yielded to sin, but in the redeeming act of God, he became the very essence of sin. He took the sinner’s place. He did not change God’s mind about sin but he died to pay the price of sin, the price no other person could pay because all are sinful and thus guilty. The weight of the sins of the world was placed on “him…who knew no sin.” The cross is more than a message; it is God’s deed of redemption because of man’s estrangement.

The reconciling work of Christ is the only hope. To those who have experienced his grace, God has   committed the ministry of reconciliation.

Giving Liberally
2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Paul cited the example of Macedonian Christians, those in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, to inspire liberal giving. The churches in Macedonia had suffered persecution at the hands of the Romans until they were poverty-stricken. But God had been with them through it all and had given them great joy in the midst of heartache. As an expression of gratitude, they had given liberally to the offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Those who have little of the goods of this world often are the most generous in sacrificial giving, and those who have an abundance often give grudgingly. The poor know the needs of others from experience, and they give of their means and beyond, and Paul pointed out the key to their liberality—“but they gave themselves first to the Lord” (v. 5).

The basis of liberality (vv. 1-8). Giving demands a consecrated spirit in which all of life is given in service to God. Christians realize that they have no absolute right to material things but are trustees or stewards. Everything they possess comes from God and will be returned to him one day. In the interim, he charges each one with the careful use of that which belongs to him. The Macedonian Christians had come to realize this, and it prompted them to give liberally although they had little to give. Itis possible to give of material goods and not give oneself. The Macedonians did not make this mistake. They first gave themselves and then their material possessions.

The example of liberality (v. 9). The heart of Paul’s appeal for liberality, however, is the example of Christ. He referred to giving as a “grace” (v. 6) and reminded them, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich” (v. 9). Paul gave a more detailed statement of this in his Philippian letter when he discussed the preexistence, the incarnation, and the exaltation of Christ. Christ existed in the form and the essential nature of God, but he laid this glory aside and voluntarily took upon himself the essential nature of man and humbled himself to die on the cross for us (see Phil. 2:5-11). The step from the throne of God to death on a cross is beyond mankind’s ability to comprehend. In that act of selfless love, he set the supreme example for us. The purpose of the incarnation was that ”through his poverty [we] might become rich.” The wealth Paul spoke of here is measured not in material things but by the things of the spirit such as faith, love, peace with God, and the power of the indwelling Spirit.

The results of liberality (vv. 10-15). A third motive in liberality is caring for those in need. Giving must be according to God’s blessings rather than placing emphasis on the amount given. The best example of this spirit is seen in the widow who gave her two mites (see Mark 12:41-44). Although she had little, she cared for others. God does not want to extract money from his children; he wants them to give because they care for others who are less fortunate. Paul said that the time could come when fortunes would be reversed and the givers would become the receivers.

The Principles of Giving
2 Corinthians 9:1-15

It is important to understand the contrast between the Old Testament and the New Testament, especially as it is related to giving. The Old Testament teaches that the tithe is required; the New Testament teaches total Christian stewardship. Paul gave, in this passage, one of the clearest teachings on giving found in the New Testament. Paul was in Macedonia and he wanted to take up an offering for the needy in Jerusalem. In doing this he stated the principles of giving. As Paul closed his first Corinthian letter he wrote, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1Cor. 16:2). He gave the time and the spirit of giving. Then in his second letter he set out the manner in which it was to be accomplished.

Giving must be planned (vv. 9:1-5). In these verses Paul wrote about the offering for Jerusalem and he wanted it to be ready when he arrived. “Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given” (v. 5).

Giving must be cheerful and generous (vv. 6-7). Each one is to give as God prospers not “reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” The word translated “reluctantly” means “out of sorrow.” There is an old story about a preacher having Sunday dinner with a deacon. As the preacher was leaving in his horse and buggy, the deacon got a ham out of the smokehouse and gave it to the preacher. The preacher started to leave and the deacon called him back. He went to the smokehouse and got another ham and gave it to the preacher. Again the preacher started to leave and the deacon called him back The preacher heard the deacon mumbling to himself as he headed for the smokehouse, “You old stingy heart, if you don’t quit hurting, I’ll give every ham in the smokehouse away.”

Someone said that each person is supposed to give until it hurts. No, giving must continue until it quits hurting. Giving must be done cheerfully, generously, and with purpose. Giving must be the result of careful planning and determination.

Giving is an act of faith to which God responds (vv. 8-14). In effect, Paul wrote, “You cannot outgive God.” God supplies every need when giving is done in faith. The emphasis should not be on the amount given but on what is left after the gift.

Giving is an act of gratitude (v. 15). “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” In chapter eight Paul wrote about the abject poverty of many of the ones to whom he made this request. He commended them because ”they gave themselves first to the Lord” (8:5). This is the place where stewardship begins: give yourselves. Once we give ourselves, giving of our material things will follow.

Immediately after Paul gave the magnificent teaching on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) he wrote, “Now about the collection for God’s people” (16:1). Paul did not hesitate to mix theology and giving.

Huber Drumwright’s last sermon was preached at the First Baptist Church of El Dorado, Arkansas. He preached on the subject “I Asked the Lord Three Times.”[13]This sermon is printed in Huber Drumwright Rediscovered Prayer (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1978) 50-58. It is a beautiful sermon on 2 Cor. 12:1-10. It is a sermon on persistent prayer. Shortly after returning to Little Rock, he died from a severe heart attack. This sermon is an excellent example of the teaching of this passage. Drumwright said in that sermon “Paul knew only one way to deal with that thorn, and that was to pray to get rid of it. God knew another way to deal with the thorn. God knew about the provision of sufficient grace.”[14]Ibid., 56.


A Miscellany of Titles and Texts

The Spirit, Our Assurance (1:22); Life in the Spirit (3:4-6); Ministers of a New Covenant (3·6); For Freedom, Set Free (3:7); Freedom in the Spirit (3:l6,17); Transformed into His Likeness (3:18); Personal Integrity (4:1,2); Treasure in Earthen Vessels (4:7); The Power of God in Man’s Weakness (4:15-18); Going Home (5:8); God’s Ambassadors (5:20); A Ministry of Integrity (6:8,9); Mixed Marriages (6:14)· Your Body God’s Gift (6:16); Purpose of Godly Sorrow (7:10); Giving Beyond the Limit (8:1-15); Riches of the Incarnation (8:9); Counterfeit Messengers (11:14,15); Sufficiency of God’s Grace (12·8); Strength Through Weakness (12:10); and Building Christian Fellowship (13:10ff).

Most preachers feel unequal to the task of preaching, but God has called the preacher to proclaim his word. James Stewart wrote

For your task is to confront the rampant disillusionment of the day, and smash it with the cross of Christ and shame it with the splendor of the Resurrection. What makes your calling in the church so urgent and critical is the fact that human hearts bombarded with grim perplexities and damaging shadows of despair, are crying as never before, “Is there any word from the Lord.”[15]James S. Stewart, Heralds of God (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946), 21.


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Southwestern Journal of Theology
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