Bible Study on 2 Corinthians 8

When asked what sets Lutheran theology apart from other Christians, many people answer “Grace.” Once, I was taught the meaning of grace using an acrostic - God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. While that may help understand the word, it ignores the fact that we are called to reflect that grace in our own lives and relationships. Grace figures heavily in our Scripture reading for this week.


2 Corinthians 8:1-15

8:1We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.


8I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.’


“Central to Paul’s appeal to Corinthians to give to the Jerusalem collection is the theme of “grace” -- God’s freely given gift, which flows within and through us on to others -- although the significance of this theme is obscured by the fact that the Greek word charis is translated in a number of ways in chapters 8-9 (e.g., as grace, blessing, generous act, thanks, and in relation to the collection, as privilege and generous undertaking).” (from Meda Stamper’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 located at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4531)


Stamper’s commentary intrigued me and made me want to dig deeper into this idea. The Greek word in question is χάρις or charis. When translating, it can be helpful to use the same English word consistently for related Greek words, but that often leads to an awkward reading or ignores the nuances in both languages. In different translations, χάρις has variously been translated as favor, thanks, blessing, gift, grace, credit, gratitude and kindness. For more on χάρις you can visit https://biblehub.com/greek/5485.htm.


In 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, I went through and put asterisks around the various ways χάρις is translated in the NRSV.


8:1We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the **grace** of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant **joy** and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the **privilege** of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this **generous undertaking** among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this **generous undertaking**.


8I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the **generous act** of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.


Some questions to consider:

How does your understanding of grace expand when you see all the ways Paul uses that word?

How does your understanding of Paul’s request for generosity change when you connect it to grace?

What is the connection between God’s grace and human expression of grace?

What other Biblical passages add to your understanding of grace? (You can search for the word “grace” at http://bible.oremus.org/ if you aren’t sure where to look.)


You can share your responses or other questions with a friend, on our Facebook page or with pastorlecia@risenlordlc.org.


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