The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ
2 Corinthians 8:8-11 ESV
In this second part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he is encouraging them to renew their giving for the good of others. To spur them on, Paul first set before them the example of the Macedonian churches. Last week we considered two of the ideas that ought to help the Corinthians become a body of believers characterized by overflowing giving. Paul taught that overflowing giving occurs through a way of life that is complete (8:7) and that such giving occurs through a way of life that is tested (8:8). Today, we want to look at the third idea—that overflowing giving comes from lives that are Christ-structured (8:9).
This is an important idea in the Scriptures and here at FBC. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible and that our view of how the Scriptures are put together must be structured according to Christ. The same is true about our lives. We must be following Christ and seeing Christ and the gospel form our way of life. This idea shows up in our mission statement: “Our mission is to make fully committed followers of Christ.”
For this reason, when we think of giving, whether giving ourselves, our time, our talents, or our money, we ought to realize that our giving must be flowing from Christ and the gospel.
I. The link – what all believers know
A. This knowledge is common to all who know the saving mercy of Jesus. It is “the knowledge that Christ himself gave voluntarily and sacrificially for the benefit of others and so is the supreme model to be followed in giving” (Harris).
1. We know it in the knowledge of his word and in the experience of his grace. It comes by written revelation and the by the work of God in us that makes us experience the power of that word. For example, God’s word tells me that Christ loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20); God’s Spirit pours out that love into our hearts (Rm 5:5).
2. We are expected to act on the basis of what we know about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the apostle’s point in referencing the truth about Jesus. It is to be forming something new in us—an overflowing kindness. In other words, this knowledge is not static but dynamic, not merely informational but also transformational. There is a lot of talk about “spiritual formation” these days, but how much of it flows from the living Christ and his powerful gospel? It is one thing to be involved in “spiritual disciplines”; it is another to be transformed by the Spirit of the Lord.
B. This is especially knowledge of the grace of Christ.
1. This grace is “the utterly undeserved, royally free, effective, unwearying, inexhaustible goodwill of God, active in and through Jesus Christ, God’s effective overflowing mercy” (Cranfield quoted by Garland).We deserved wrath, but in Christ God saved us, giving us surpassing glory.
2. Since we did not deserve grace, it is intended to undo any and all of our calculations about deciding who is “worthy” to receive “our” grace. When Jesus was asked about forgiving others, he made this point very clear to his learners (Mt 18:21-35).
Apply: We are to give ourselves to reach “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” found along the “streets and alleys of the town” and even to “go out to the roads and country lanes” (Lk 14:21-23). Those who suppose themselves worthy do not want grace.
II. The core – what Christ did for our benefit
A. He was rich yet he became poor for us
1. Christ existed before he took on true humanity. As other texts tell us, he was Son of God, the Word, equal with the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, and lived in God’s glory (Jn 1:1-2; 17:5; Ph 2:5-6; Heb 1:3). As Creator God he made all things and all things exist for him; therefore, he was very rich.
2. Christ chose, in the Father’s plan, to become poor. This refers to the whole complex of ideas associated with his saving work. God the Son took on true humanity—the very nature of a servant. He lived as the adopted son of a poor Jewish carpenter and worked as a carpenter himself. He lived in the wilderness for forty days with nothing to eat. He taught about God, his kingdom, and eternal life while he lived in poverty, having nowhere to lay his head at night. He was arrested, forsaken by his friends, was beaten, mocked, scourged, and crucified. He bore the penalty for our sins in his death. And he was buried in a borrowed grave. He became poor for us.
Apply: It would do us all well to think about his poverty while we sit in our easy chairs, being entertained to death, while we gulp down a full bowl of fattening ice cream. When you lie down tonight on your very comfortable bed, remember that his bed was the hard ground. And his thoughts were not on a luxurious vacation but on the cross where he would die for his people. How much do our thoughts turn to the cross we are to carry as we follow him (Mk 8:34)?
B. We through his poverty become rich
1. Think about “through his poverty”. We are saved because of what Jesus Christ did for us. We are not saved because of our ethnicity, not because our intellect and education, not because our career and net worth, not because of our popularity on social media, not because of our personal appearance, and not because of our involvement in a church, religious rituals, and caring for the poor. Our salvation is through his poverty. If we ever stand in glory, it will be because one day he hung on a cross, disgraced, becoming a curse, and satisfying God’s wrath for our sins.
2. Think about the riches he has given us. So far in this letter, the apostle has mentioned at least ten: the guaranteeing deposit of the Spirit (1:22; 5:1), daily renewal (4:16), an eternal glory (4:17), an eternal house in heaven (5:1), a certain destiny with the Lord (5:8), new creation (5:17), reconciliation with God (5:18), Christ’s righteousness (5:21), God’s presence with us (6:16), and a place in God’s family as his sons and daughters (6:18). My friends, Jesus Christ has made us very rich with enduring, eternal riches.
Apply: Perhaps you have entered this room this morning broken, battered, bruised, and bankrupt. You need not stay in you hopelessness! My God takes the broken and makes them whole. You can be spiritually rich with such riches that will change your life and your destiny. This can be yours because Jesus Christ died for sinners and rose the third day that all those who trust in him may be right with God and receive the gift of eternal life.
III. The outcome – what this ought to produce in our lives
A. The riches of salvation are intended to influence our lives now—to make us givers now.
B. Our giving as Christians is related to the grace of God we have experienced in Christ. As we comprehend in our experience more and more of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we start to overflow with the grace of giving. From the day God saves you, you are richly blessed with grace. Even from your first days, there can be remarkable expressions of generous, gracious giving. But the Corinthians, like most of us, are years past those first fresh days of grace. And so there must be an ongoing development of the grace of giving.
C. The true Christian life is not triumphalist, wrongly assuming that we are to live like kings and queens now. Instead, it imitates Christ in slave-like service and giving for the benefit of others. We are not to be fascinated with heaping up treasures here on earth, but with giving our treasures now in order to store up better treasures in heaven (Mt 6:19-21). This requires faith in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.