by Stan Smith
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)Taken completely out of context, this is still a fine thing to consider. Thanking God is a good thing to do. Remembering His gifts to us is a good and natural thing to do. All well and good. But Paul here references God's gift -- singular. Perhaps it would be good to look at exactly what the gift is for which Paul is thanking God.
The context of the statement gives the meaning, of course. What "inexpressible gift" had he been discussing? It is one of those things of which most would say, "It is too good to be true." And yet, it is true. The context of Paul's praise here is originally on the topic of giving. The church at Jerusalem was in dire need. The churches about the region wanted to help them out. So Paul was gathering contributions from other areas to take to Jerusalem.
Paul tells in chapter 8 of a remarkable generosity. Of the churches in Macedonia he says, "In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord" (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). This isn't a case of taking from the rich to give to the poor. It is a case of those in "extreme poverty" overflowing in "a wealth of generosity", giving "beyond their means" and, of great importance, "of their own accord". Paul says they were "begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints" (2 Corinthians 8:4). Think about it! These people weren't complaining about the "1%" or bemoaning their miserable financial condition. They were willingly and eagerly giving more than they could afford to assist fellow believers in their need. And the context of Paul's reference to God's inexpressible gift is in the midst of this giving.
You see, Paul anticipated that if the Macedonian Christians in their poverty gave generously, surely the Corinthian Christians in their riches would give even more. And that is what he was telling them here. Sure that they wouldn't embarrass him or themselves (2 Corinthians 9:4), he encouraged them, "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6). He assured them that giving was not compulsory, but from the heart. "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). And then he rounds this off with a somewhat staggering statement.
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 (2 Corinthians 9:8).Note, first, "and" at the beginning of the sentence. This is tied in to giving and the cheerful giver. Note, second, the number of "alls" in that sentence. "All grace", "all sufficiency in all things at all times". "All" covers just about everything, doesn't it? You give all and God provides more. So, "You give cheerfully," Paul indicates, "and God is able to make all grace abound to you." That is, you give out of God's grace. You have sufficiency to give to others out ofGod's sufficiency. You do good works out of God's provision. "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" (2 Corinthians 9:10).
That, you see, is the "inexpressible gift" for which Paul is giving thanks here to God. So let's be clear. The gift for which he is thanking God here is this: God gives to us so that we can give back to Him and to others; as a result of our giving to others in resources and good works, we bring glory to God (2 Corinthians 9:13) and are rewarded by God. This, then, is that "inexpressible gift". God gives to us so that we can give to Him and for which we are rewarded. Now that is surely too good to be true. And yet it is true! He gifts us with faith (Romans 12:3; Philippians 1:29; Hebrews 12:12) and then counts that as righteousness (Romans 4:3). He gifts us with spiritual gifts and then counts that as service to God. He gives us new life and then gives us rewards for it (James 1:12). He gives us the ability to give to others and then rewards us for giving to others. How can it get any better than that?
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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