John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
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Work Your Plan, Give away 033014. 2 Cor 9

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  1. 1. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 1 March 30, 2014 Session 5 Work Your Plan. Commentary The Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-13 The Point: Our generous giving should glorify God and reflect Christ’s giving. [Our culture applauds philanthropy, giving for the needs and benefits of others. Close to two-thirds (65%) of all families engage in some form of charitable giving. That is applaudable, but when the average contribution is put up against the median household income, Americans only give away about four percent of their income. Worldwide, America ranks 13th . No. 1 and No. 2 rankings were Myanmar (85%) and the United Kingdom (76 %). Interestingly, 78% of Americans claim to be Christian, 59% of British claim to be Christian and about 4% on Buddhist Myanmar claim to be Christian. Go figure! We talk a good game, but when the chips are down . . . “show me the money” One would think that those in the church do far better. Unfortunately, the average church attendee only gives about three percent to his or her church. The Bible not only calls believers to give, but we are called to give with great generosity. I think it important here to note that the Bible never teaches that we should give only or even primarily to the “church.” We are merely to “give.” Jesus said, “True religion is to care for the widows and orphans.” How much do you think Jesus gave to the “church?” It depends on which “church” you are talking about. His first church was the temple and I’ll bet He gave a tithe. However, for His “other church,” He, like the widow with the mite, gave all He had. The Setting: We continue our study from 2 Corinthians 8–9, where Paul addressed the issue of an offering that was being collected for the benefit of suffering believers in Jerusalem. Paul reminded the church at Corinth that the principle of sowing and reaping applies to giving. The Corinthians could be free and generous, knowing that God would use their gift and provide for them. This is the third successive session on giving. First, we saw the power of giving, then the process of giving, and now the result of giving. Yes, this lesion is apparently “kicking a dead horse.” However, I submit that there is still something God want to say to us or maybe just to me, about these scriptures. ]1 As to money, Jesus evidently thought our attitude and use of money was a key to our spiritual well- being, for He had much to say about money. Non-Christians can be generous, but Christians’ generosity does more than simply meet needs, it draws people to Christ. Thus, the Point: “Our generous giving should glorify God and reflect Christ’s giving.” 1 Editor’s notes.
  2. 2. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 2 Let’s see what Paul has to say in 2 Corinthians 9. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 6 Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. KEY WORDS: Reluctantly (v. 7)—Genuine Christian benevolence is defined by the attitude of the giver. To give “reluctantly” (literally, “out of sadness or sorrow,” thus “grudgingly”) is not pleasing to the Lord. Cheerful (v. 7)—Giving with a cheerful attitude delights the Lord. This Greek word is behind the English hilarious. It describes an attitude of happy compliance or cooperation. Christian giving is a blessing, not a burden. This is the third successive session on giving. First, we saw the power of giving, then the process of giving, and now the result of giving. How do you feel about teaching number three? I hope you are feeling enthusiastic. Jesus evidently thought our attitude and use of money was a key to our spiritual well-being, for He had much to say about money. Do we really need such a strong emphasis on giving? Christianity Today reports the average churchgoer gives less than three percent of household income through the church.1 Experience also shows that only a very small percent of churchgoers tithe (give 10 percent of their income). Paul has provided some valuable spiritual principles about giving. He already had declared generous giving is beneficial for the giver (2 Cor. 8:10). In 9:6 he expanded that thought: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Paul was saying that those who give generously would profit the most from their giving. The decisions we make about giving are personal. You cannot decide what I should give, nor can I decide for you. Paul obviously understood that, for he went on to say each person should do as he has decided in his heart. Notice the two verbs in that statement: do and decided. We first make the decision about what to give. Then we are to do what we decided to do. Did Paul really need to say that? Maybe you have been inspired by worthy appeals and decided to give far more than your usual response. When you got home later and took out your checkbook, you peeked at the balance and the nearby stack of unpaid bills. Did you do as you decided? Let’s admit that acting on a decision to give generously can be scary. It may mean deferring a major purchase or becoming vulnerable to some unforeseen expense. Paul encouraged believers to make up their minds and to follow through.
  3. 3. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 3 Paul added that our giving should be done with an attitude that pleases God. We are not to give reluctantly (I’ll give, but I really don’t want to) or out of necessity (I’ll give because I have no choice). That is not pleasing to God, for God loves a cheerful giver. What helps us give cheerfully? On a number of occasions my wife and I have had to work through a bit of uncertainty and anxiety over an offering. Over the years we’ve learned three things help us give cheerfully: (1) Knowing the cause to which we give is in line with God’s purposes. He wants us to make disciples everywhere, so gifts through the church for local, national, and worldwide evangelism and benevolence is a given. Among His concerns also is meeting the needs of poor and disadvantaged people for food, clothing, shelter, jobs, and the like. Giving to individuals and organizations devoted to giving practical help to people certainly squares with divine purposes. (2) Having confidence the agencies to which we give are good stewards of the funds they receive. While every organization has administrative expenses, some seem to push the envelope at that point. We appreciate the work of many fine organizations and give to them. Lately, we have decided to make most of our gifts to agencies that transparently are good stewards and offer their help in Jesus’ name. For instance, when natural disasters occur, we give to our denomination’s disaster relief program. By the same token, 100 percent of our denomination’s world hunger offering is used by our missionaries to feed hungry people overseas. (3) Being convinced the Lord is leading us to give a particular amount. These three factors give us a deep peace and enable us to give with joy and satisfaction. 2 Corinthians 9:8-9 8 And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. 9 As it is written: He scattered; He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. Paul assured the believers in Corinth that giving generously and cheerfully according to what they had (see 8:12) would not leave them up a creek without a paddle. Our Lord is worthy of our trust for salvation, and He’s just as worthy of our trust in the matter of generous Christian giving. The word translated grace basically carries the ideas of graciousness, favor, and help. We typically think of grace in terms of the Lord’s gracious provision for our salvation (“saved by grace,” Eph. 2:8). In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul wrote about God’s grace as it relates to generous giving. God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. God’s grace toward us provides bountifully in every way. His gracious provision for meeting our needs for giving will overflow. Always having everything we need is His assurance He will provide more than is required to enable us to give what He guides in every situation.
  4. 4. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 4 When God blesses us materially, we dare not lose focus on why He does so. His purpose in ensuring gracious givers have everything they need is so that … they may excel in every good work. Do you get it? God’s bountiful provision is not to enhance our reputation or to put us on easy street. Rather it is to enable us to do the “good works, which God prepared ahead of time” for us to do (Eph. 2:10). [What it’s really about? Pastor Doug Olive used to say that we should, “use things and love people.” Instead, I fear we have gotten that reversed. Our society tends to “love things and use people.” But, it’s not our fault. There actually is a reason for it. Francis Schaeffer, in How Should We Then Live, and again in The God Who is There, shows us historically how we, humans and Christians have gradually, over the millennia, lost our way about the nature of God, people and “stuff.” In so doing, our society begins to crumble, as it has no foundation of absolute truths upon which to rest. He states that it thus follows that our once held values of truth, justice, love, kindness, generosity, beauty, and all the virtues have been traded for two succeeding cardinal values: personal peace, and affluence. Since neither of these is actually completely attainable, we live in a constant state of personal and societal worry and chaos. Albert Einstein is quoted as defining “insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If Schaffer and Einstein are correct, then we are not only personally and societally chaotic, but also “insane.” Do you see things in our society that reflect these to perverted and unattainable values of personal peace and affluence? How much money do you think you’d need to feel secure and have complete personal peace and affluence until the Lord calls you home?  100,000?  One million?  Ten million?  Is there enough to absolutely “guarantee” your financial security? How much power would be sufficient so that you never had to worry?  Senator?  President?  King?  Emperor?  Caesar?  Bishop?  Pope?
  5. 5. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 5 In August 2013, there appeared an article about a Brazilian financier named Eike Batista. Speculating in the commodities market, over a 12 month period, Sr. Batista’s net worth dropped from 35.5 billion dollars to a mere 200 million, a loss of over 35.3 billion! Worse, around the year 2000, as the “dot com” bubble was bursting, a Japanese investor, Masayoshi Son, lost approximately 76.6 billion dollars, a record for the most money ever lost in human history. As to personal peace, I submit the following list of Kings, princes, emperors, and absolute monarchs, totally peaceful in their power and control. Julius Caesar, Rome Edward V, Henry VI, and James II, Edward II, Richard II, and Richard III of England Manuel II, Phillip II and Sancho II of Portugal Wenceslaus, King of the Romans Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte of France Haile Selassie I, Ethiopia Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi May I also submit the following list of notable world-stage politicians, secure in their place? Maxim lien Robespierre, leader of the French Revolution Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti Fulgencio Batista of Cuba Sam Houston of Texas U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Wm. McKinley, and John Kennedy Adolph Hitler Benito Mussolini Mahatma Gandhi Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines Egyptians leaders Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, and Mohamed Morsi Richard Nixon , well you know Manuel Noriega, Panama, and Saddam Hussein, Iraq
  6. 6. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 6 Further, I submit the following list of noted clerics, holy men, men of the cloth, men of faith, & ETC. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople Nestorius, also Archbishop of Constantinople Photios I, Patriarch of Constantinople and chief author of the “Great Schism” Antipope Benedict XIII Antipope John XXIII Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury Pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer, German Lutheran Martin Niemöller, German Anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran Pastor who famously said: First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me Dr. Martin Luther King, Civil Right Leader and Baptist Pastor What do all these men have in common besides great personal peace? They were deposed, killed or assassinated in office. Then again, I ask, how much is enough to “guarantee” personal peace and affluence? It is said of John D. Rockefeller when he died, that someone asked, “How much did he leave?” The answer, “all of it.” The story is told of the little boy who got his hand caught in a rare Ming Dynasty vase in a museum. Try as the curator might, he was not able to extricate the boy’s hand. Finally and reluctantly, he broke the vase. In so doing, he found the boy’s tight fist clutching a quarter that he had pitched into the vase. What do the impoverished goals of personal peace and affluence have in common? They are about taking, holding, and clutching rather than giving. It is said that there are only two things that are eternal and absolute: the Word of God and the Souls of men. If all we can really “keep” for eternity is that which we send ahead, is it not then logical to give as generously as we can? Jesus said, “If you are to keep your life, you must lose it.”]2 While Paul’s focus primarily was on the service of benevolent giving, every good work could include all kinds of ministry. What does excelling in the Lord’s work mean? Does it mean our efforts will be exceptionally successful? If so, how does the Lord measure success? I believe excelling in the Lord’s work is determined by the extent to which we faithfully do what He wants us to do. His grace enables us to do that. We do our part and trust Him to take care of the results. 2 Extended note by the editor.
  7. 7. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 7 In verse 9, Paul reinforced his emphasis on giving generously by quoting Psalm 112:9. That psalm describes the person who fears God as being one who “distributes freely to the poor.” Giving as the Lord leads will not impoverish us but will enrich every aspect of our lives. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 10 Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. These verses explicitly promise generous giving will not cause us to wind up in the proverbial poor house. Instead, it will produce more than we need. Some Bible readers and teachers have focused on the first part of verse 10 and teach that the way to get rich is to give liberally. Some of them claim God wants all His children to live a prosperous lifestyle—to live in nicer homes, drive luxurious cars, take fabulous vacations, and so on. Don’t swallow that garbage. Instead, read carefully verses 10-11 and see how they blow that bogus notion out of the water. The verses include four big ideas. First, the Lord is the One who provides our necessities of life and more. He is the One who will multiply our material resources. Second, as indicated in verses 6-12, the reason for multiplying our material resources is to increase the harvest of our righteousness. That of course involves meeting physical and spiritual needs of others in Jesus’ name. Third, Paul stressed again the ministry of giving—You will be enriched in every way for all generosity. As he had done earlier, he pressed the point—God prospers us not so we can move on up and enjoy a bigger piece of the pie but to enable us to do more to bless others. The false teaching that serving the Lord will make one rich is not new. Paul wrote to Timothy about “people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain” (1 Tim. 6:5, italics mine). During Jesus’ earthly ministry, a man came to Him and wanted to sign on as a follower. Jesus pointed out He was homeless (Matt. 8:19-20). Jesus thus burst his bubble, and the Gospel writers leave the impression the man left the scene. Then there was the rich man who asked Jesus what to do to have eternal life. When Jesus told him to give away his wealth and follow Him, the man also left (Matt. 19:16-22). Riches often have proven to be more a bane than a blessing. The point is, material wealth is never the point. The point is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”; we then trust Him to provide life’s necessities (Matt. 6:33). This session’s Scriptures from 2 Corinthians make crystal clear that part of seeking God’s kingdom includes being generous givers to help others. The fourth big idea in these verses is that our generosity will result in people offering thanksgiving to God, thus bringing glory to Him. Verses 12-13 emphasize that further.
  8. 8. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 8 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. 13 They will glorify God for your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with others through the proof provided by this service. I don’t know about you, but usually when I give, I am focused on the need or cause which will be helped. When we give through our church as an act of worship, we know our gifts will be used locally and around the world to advance God’s kingdom. We rejoice when we see professions of faith and/or evidence of individual spiritual growth, knowing we had a part in that. When missionaries report on establishing churches and baptizing new believers, we are glad we gave to missions. One result of our giving is seeing or hearing about the blessings it has brought to others. Verses 12-13 shed light on another and perhaps even more significant result of our giving. Those who are blessed by believers’ gifts recognize God as the One behind the blessing. As a result, they glorify God and thank Him for meeting their needs. At the same time, they recognize the gifts came from believers’ obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ. Why didn’t Paul simply say the gifts came from believers’ obedience? Remember, Paul was collecting an offering from Gentile believers to benefit Jewish believers. Some Jewish Christians had doubts about whether Gentiles really could be saved. The Gentile Corinthians’ sharing with them and with others would demonstrate their confession [or “profession”] of the gospel of Christ was genuine. Believers in Jerusalem would see clearly that both Jews and Gentiles truly could be saved through faith in Christ. Thus those who received the relief offering certainly would glorify God. On numerous occasions I have thanked God for people He put in my life to point me to Christ. As I reflected on verses 12-13, it dawned on me that all of them were members of my home church. Then I thought of the folk who had begun that church. Over many decades devoted Christians gave faithfully and generously their money, time, and energy to provide and to maintain the church property, buildings, and ministry. I now glorify God also for their faithful obedience! . . . Live it Out Where do you go from here? Are you a generous giver? Do you give joyfully and enthusiastically? Act now. You do not need to wait. Forget the past and press on to the future. Act now and become a generous giver. Consider taking action this week on one of the following applications: Identify at least one obstacle to your being generous. Write this on a self-stick note and stick it to a dollar bill. Write on another note, 2 Corinthians 9:10, and stick it to the other side of the dollar bill. Place the bill with the “obstacle” side face up on your bedside table. In the morning, turn the bill over, and read 2 Corinthians 9:10 as an encouragement to trust in the Lord, your Provider.
  9. 9. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 9 Think about one ministry that is a joy for you to support. Do you wish you could give even more? Instead of just wishing, ask God to guide you in this desire. Invite a trusted Christian friend to pray with you about your desire to be even more generous. Review your will. Look for ways to support God’s kingdom with your estate, no matter the size of it. Set a goal of June 1, 2014, to make any adjustments required. Give generously and trust God with the outcome. It doesn’t take a billionaire to change the world; it just takes a love for Jesus that is generous toward others.
  10. 10. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 10 DIGGING DEEPER: Reluctantly—The Greek word rendered reluctantly in 2 Corinthians 9:2 literally means “sorrow” or “to cause pain.” The contrasting word is the word for joy. In this context it refers to the regret or pain caused by someone who does so without their heart invested in it. SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. Grudgingly: Grudgingly (v. 7) comes from a word that means “sadness,” “grief,” “annoyance,” or “with heaviness.” Literally, when applied to giving, it meant to give “out of sorrow” or “sorrowfully.” The word also can be rendered “reluctantly” (NIV, HCSB, and ESV). In any case, it represents the opposite of the attitude Paul wanted the Christians in Corinth to have toward their giving to help the Jerusalem Christians. SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. Grudge gruj (‫ָנ‬‫ט‬ַ‫ר‬, nāṭar; στενάζω, stenázō, γογγυσμός, goggusmós): “Grudge” (perhaps a mimetic word, compare Greek grū) is “to grumble” or “murmur” at any person or thing, to entertain an envious or covetous feeling, to do or give anything unwillingly, etc. It occurs in the King James Version as the translation of nāṭar, “to keep (anger)” (Lev 19:18, “Thou shalt not … bear any grudge against the children of thy people”); in Ps 59:15, as the translation, in text, of Hebrew lūn or lı̄n, “to pass the night,” “to tarry,” Niphal, “to show oneself obstinate,” “to murmur or complain” (of the enemies who were hunting David like dogs), “Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied,” margin “If they be not satisfied then will they stay all night,” the Revised Version (British and American). “And tarry all night if they be not satisfied”; but see Ex 15:24; 16:2; Nu 14:2; Josh 9:18, etc., where the translation is “murmur”; may not the meaning be “and growl (or howl) if they be not satisfied”? “Grudge” formerly implied open expression of discontent, etc., e.g. Wycliffe has in Luke 15:2, “The farisies and scribis grucchiden seiynge,” etc. In Jas 5:9, stenazō, “to groan,” “to complain” (from affliction or from impatience or ill-humor), is translated “grudge,” “Grudge not one against another, brethren,” the Revised Version (British and American) “murmur not”; goggusmos, “a murmuring” (compare John 7:12 f; Acts 6:1), is rendered “grudging” (1 Pet 4:9), “Use hospitality one to another without grudging,” the Revised Version (British and American) “murmuring”; compare Phil 2:14; mḗ ek lúpēs, “not out of grief,” is “without grudging” (2 Cor 9:7, the Revised Version (British and American) “not grudging” margin, Greek “of sorrow”); in Ecclesiasticus 10:25 we have “will not grudge” (goggúzō), the Revised Version (British and American) “murmur.” “Grudge” was frequent in the earlier VSS, but is changed in the King James Version for the most part into “murmur”; the Revised Version (British and American) completes the change, except Lev 19:18, and text
  11. 11. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 11 of 2 Cor 9:7. SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cheerful—The Greek word for cheerful is the same root as hilarious in English. This word meant “glad” or “cheerful.” It also carried the idea of “benevolence,” or giving that was generous for a particular cause. It contrasts with the grumbling and questioning of Philippians 2:14. SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. Cheerful: Cheerful (v. 7) is the word hilaros, from which we get our English word hilarious. It means “without grudging” and implies a gracious attitude. Thus, it stands in contrast to sorrowful, reluctant giving, or giving that is driven purely by self-interest, in which there is no genuine joy. SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: CORINTH in the Time of Paul By Gary M. Poulton Gary M. Poulton is professor of history and president emeritus of Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Virginia. ONE OF THE MOST important voyages that Paul undertook was his trip to Corinth in the first century (AD 51-52). His 18-month long visit and the letters he later wrote to the believers in Corinth give us rare insight into the problems and issues confronting a first-century church. In 1 Corinthians (5—7), Paul is stunned by the news that a member of the Corinthian church is having an immoral relationship with his father’s wife. In a time of lax morality and in a city known for its sinful ways, such an arrangement might not have been that unusual. But Paul communicated decisively that such conduct was not to be tolerated among Christians. His letters proved an invaluable insight into the social world of the first century and the problems early Christians encountered as they sought to live out their faith in that world. That a Christian church would start to develop in Corinth might seem ironic, for the city had a historic reputation as being one of the most immoral cities in the ancient world. By the time of Paul, little had been
  12. 12. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 12 done that would change this perception. Corinth had long been one of the most important Greek city-states. Unlike Athens, Corinth was not known for its artists or philosophers. Located on the seacoast about 50 miles west of Athens, Corinth occupied a strategic commercial location. Overland travelers moving from north and south through Greece would need to pass through Corinth. Corinth was even more important for ship traffic because of its location. Situated on an isthmus, it possessed two harbors. One of the harbors (Cenchreae) lead to Asia and the other (Lechaeum) led straight westward to Italy.1 Most smaller ships preferred to sail into the Gulf of Corinth and then have their boats pulled the short distance overland to where they could reenter the sea. This arduous transit was preferable to sailing around the Peloponnesus and braving the treacherous waters there. The early Greeks and Romans had dreamed of a canal across the isthmus to link east and west. The second-century chronicler, Pausanias, states “you can see clearly where they started to dig; they had not yet started on the rock.”2 This feat would not be accomplished, though, until the 19th century AD. So in ancient times the Corinthians made the most of the situation and charged high rates to haul ships and goods across the narrow neck on greased sleds of wood. Because it was a thriving seaport, Corinth was quite a cosmopolitan city. People from all over Greece and the Mediterranean world traveled through or worked in Corinth. It was a wealthy city full of merchants and businessmen. In the time of Paul, “It lived for the future, and new ideas were guaranteed a hearing because profit could be found in the most unexpected places. Athens was complacent. Corinth questioned.”3 Corinth was also the site of the Isthmian Games. These biannual games ranked second only to the Olympic Games in the four great Pan-Hellenic festivals. These games drew crowds not only from Greece but from other Hellenized cities in the East. The games’ contestants and spectators added another vibrant dimension to the city. Yet Corinth had another mark of notoriety: its decadent lifestyle. “In cities like Antioch and Ephesus, where virtue has small reward, people of Corinth as an epitome of evil.”4 In classical times Corinth was best known for its temple to Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love). The city was dominated by the Acrocorinth, and almost 2,000 foot peak rising out of the plain. On the Acrocorinth was the temple of Aphrodite that housed (according to some legends) maybe as many as 1,000 temple prostitutes. These prostitutes served the goddess and collected money for the cult’s priests. “And therefore it was also on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich; for instance, the ship-captains freely squandered their money, and hence the proverb, ‘Not for every man is the voyage to Corinth.’”5 More recently this legend of the temple having 1,000 prostitutes has been challenged. Evidently no temple on the Acrocorinth was large enough to accommodate enough worshipers to call for this many prostitutes. This legend may have been promulgated by the Athenians. Two hundred years before Paul, the Romans had razed the city (146 BC) in response to Corinth’s leadership in a rebellion. The Romans massacred the male survivors and sold the women and children into slavery.
  13. 13. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 13 Julius Caesar, though, re-colonized the city in 44 BC. It became the seat of a Roman proconsul and thus the administrative headquarters for Roman Greece. Before long the city boasted a population of up to half a million people and businesses thrived as the seaport resumed. Befitting the Romans, the city had temples, baths, arenas, and covered colonnades. Roman emperors—especially Nero—carried out extensive building programs. The agora (marketplace), which was nearly 600 feet long, was particularly impressive. Corinth became a new, albeit vulgar, city. It was dedicated to making money and seeking pleasure. Its reputation as a sinful city endured. “The worship of fertility goddesses flourished in the most voluptuous and sensual forms, making Corinth a notorious center of immorality. Indeed, its reputation was so bad that the expression ‘to live like a Corinthian’ meant to live an utterly dissolute life.”6 Although the Acrocorinth’s Aphrodite temple with its (legendary) sacred prostitutes no longer functioned in Roman times, other smaller temples in Corinth celebrated Aphrodite—which meant they likely employed temple prostitutes and contributed to Corinth’s reputation as a wicked city. Additionally, barely clad prostitutes stood in the street after sunset, panderers extolled their charms and skills, and children sold aphrodisiacs. Archeological evidence today details numerous taverns lining the south side of the marketplace. When Paul reached Corinth in AD 51, he would have found a bustling port city filled with people from all over Greece and the Mediterranean area. Paul found employment in the city as a tentmaker while he worked with his fellow Christians. Conducting business with local merchants and engaging the Corinthian populace would have enabled Paul to speak to the people not as an outsider but as one of the city’s own. Corinth with its diversity of races and cultures seemed to be a city in search of God. Temples, shrines, and sacred statuaries were located all over the city—including shrines and altars dedicated to Zeus, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Asklepious (Greek god of healing), as well as those for the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis. An impressive bronze statue of Athena stood in the city center; a temple dedicated to Apollo rose near the agora. The various philosophies of the day also found an audience. Some emphasized the Hellenistic dualism of the spirit and the body, meaning that only the spirit was good and important and so what one did with his body was of no importance. In such a society, sex was commonly viewed from the standpoint of its physical nature rather from the biblical standpoint of a sacred union ordained by God. The nascent Corinthian church had to survive and prosper in this immoral setting. Not surprisingly, then, Paul’s letter to Corinthian believers openly addressed questions of marriage and morality. The Christians there surely needed clear direction from Paul on how to cope in such a culture.
  14. 14. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 14 SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 36, No. 3; Spring 2010. The Early Church in Macedonia By Julie Nall Knowles Julie Knowles is associate professor of English, Troy State University, Phenix City, AL. AFTER ANCHORING THEIR triremes (warships) in the harbor at Neapolis, the tense Roman soldiers of Brutus and Cassius hurried up the hill to a temple resembling the Parthenon at Athens. It was 42 BC, and ten miles inland the legions of Antony and Octavian (the future Augustus) waited on the Philippian plains. In that gleaming temple overlooking the Aegean Sea, prayers were lifted to Athena, patron of Neapolis and goddess of war. Despite their prayers, Cassius and Brutus eventually were defeated. By the time of Claudius, when Paul’s ship sailed before the wind into the harbor at Neapolis, a Parthenon symbolized belief that public homage to the ancient gods and to the emperor as a divine hero was necessary to preserve the Pax Romana (Roman peace). As Paul stepped ashore with Silas, Luke, and Timothy, he likely did not anticipate the state cult becoming a major obstacle to proclaiming the gospel “far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21, NEB).1 If Luke studied at Philippi’s Greek medical academy, then he previously had climbed the crest and walked the Via Egnatia, the highway stretching across the Roman province of Macedonia. He could have directed the party past the Parthenon and over the hills to the bustling Roman colony where victorious Augustus settled some of his veterans after the battle of Philippi. In no place were Romans more proud of citizenship and more intent on keeping Roman law than in a colony. As a result, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, the Philippian officials may have ordered Jewish rites be held outside the city gates. After Paul preached just outside the city to those who would hear him (Acts 16:13-14), Lydia and her household were baptized. She then invited the apostles to stay in her home, where the first Christian church on European soil was formed. Women in Macedonia enjoyed exceptional autonomy. There each early church included significant numbers of women, noticeable from the upper class. Euodia and Syntyche, whose disagreement Paul censored in his Philippian epistle, may have been connected with Lydia’s trade, or one of the women could have been Lydia herself. Lydia’s hometown, Thyatira was famed for expensive purple dye. It was located in the province of Lydia (classical Macedonia). Working with purple long had been a craft of women; In The Iliad the poet, Homer, wrote: Like as perchance some woman, Macedonian woman or Carian, Staineth with purple a piece of iv’ry, for
  15. 15. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 15 some horse a cheek-plate. There in a storeroom it lies; and to wear it many a horseman Prays; but it lies there, fated to be the pride of a monarch . . . . ( IV, 141-44).2 Lydia doubtless had grown quite wealthy by dealing in royal purple fabrics. At the opposite end of the Philippian social scale, a slave girl became attracted to Paul’s message. Possibly she was a skilled ventriloquist; the populace attributed her powers to the cult headed by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, that mysterious prophetess to whome pilgrims for centuries had gone for advice. Changed by God’s spirit through the words of Paul, the slave girl no longer was able to perform for her masters, who promptly charged Paul and Silas with spreading a treasonable heresy endangering both the worship of the gods and Roman security. In short order the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into jail. (Luke and Timothy evidently were safe at Lydia’s house.) In that dungeon the prisoners enjoyed an apostolic hymn-sing until an earthquake swung the doors and detached their shackles. Feasibly, their jailer had heard the story of Brutus’ suicide at Philippi years earlier (later dramatized by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar ), or he may have followed popular Stoic philosophy that regarded suicide as a sign of courage. Regardless, Roman law dictated the jailers receive the punishment scheduled for any escaped prisoners, so the man (like Brutus) would have run on his sword had not Paul called out that no had escaped. Then everyone in the jailer’s house, perhaps in the entire prison, heard the gospel, and a second household was added to the Philippian church. According to tradition, his name was Stephanas, whose family became devoted to Christian service (1 Cor. 16:15). Nevertheless, Philippi’s magistrates had condoned shameful treatment of Roman citizens. Perhaps during the night Paul recalled the trial of Verres, who was charged with corrupting the government of Sicily not long before the civil wars of the first century BC: ”. . . my charge is that,” cried the prosecutor Cicero, calling for Verres’ prison record, “after being deprived of ships and slaves and merchandise, honest merchants were flung into prison, and in that prison, being Roman citizens, were put to death.”3 For treating citizenship lightly the magistrates well could have suffered Verres’ fate—exile. It is no wonder, then, that when they realized Paul and Silas were Roman citizens they escorted the two from prison with respect and begged them to leave town! So for 100 miles Paul and Silas trod the broad, thick stones of the Via Egnatia, through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, the capital and largest city of Macedonia. (It seems that Timothy came later, bringing gifts from the Philippians.) Paul saw cosmopolitan Thessalonica as a strategic center from which the gospel could radiate. For supporting Antony and Octavian it had been rewarded with the status of a free Greek city, so long as the politarchs, or local magistrates, kept Roman law and maintained peace, the proconsul of Macedonia never interfered with local government. Ships from all over the Roman world sailed into Thessalonica’s splendid harbor, a haven rivaled only by Ephesus and Corinth on the Aegean Sea. To the south, Mount Olympus,
  16. 16. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 16 Greece’s highest mountain, rose beyond the hills. At its base bubbled the Pierian Spring, the classical abode of the Muses. Thessalonica was the home of the cults of Dionysus and Orpheus, Greek gods of wine and music. It had a temple for Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, religions that questioned life, death, and resurrection; and at the synagogue many Greeks were attracted to Judaism. In the synagogue Paul preached of a Messiah who had been resurrected from the dead. This message appealed to adherents of the Mediterranean mystery religions as well as to Greeks who were disenchanted with making deals with their gods for public good rather than personal salvation. Paul’s sermons were received so well that several God-fearing Greeks and many upper-class women soon became Christians. However, in Thessalonica Paul encountered a second major obstacle to evangelical efforts—Jewish leaders inciting Roman leaders against Christians for “security of the state.” Declaring Jesus as Lord (the Old Testament name for God; Adonai in the Septuagint) and Messiah who had been crucified was blasphemy to the Jews. Besides, the real crux to them was that these newcomers were converting their proselytes! The riot the jealous Jews instigated was blamed on the apostles: “They all flout the Emperor’s laws, and assert that there is a rival king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7). Those judicious politarchs could not allow peace to be broken in their model city, much less suggestions of treason. When Paul and Silas could not be located in a certain Jason’s house (where the Thessalonican church presumably met), they apparently demanded that Jason see to it that the apostles leave the city. So when night fell, it was “back on the road again”—the Via Egnatia and a side road reaching southwest to an altitude of 600 feet—until Paul and Silas found seclusion 50 miles away in beautifully situated Beroea. In this rural village on a ledge of Mount Bermius lived intelligent, open-minded Jews who received the gospel gladly. Tradition has it that the first convert there was Sopater, the Sosipater who sent greetings to the Romans along with Jason (Rom. 16:21). Also according to tradition, Onesimus was the first bishop of the Beroean church, which could be a note on one position toward slavery as well as a comment on remarkable reasoning by a Jewish and Gentile congregation. Moreover, Beroea was the only town where its Jewish population did not cause trouble for Paul! Instead, when the same rabble-rousers from Thessalonica followed the apostles there, the Beroean brethren whisked Paul away to the coast where he set sail for Athens. That tolerant attitude in the Macedonian churches Paul hoped to use favorably when he collected gifts for both Gentile and Jewish Christians in the Jerusalem church. Of the party accompanying Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem, three were Macedonians: Sopater, a Jew, and Aristarchus and Secundus, Gentile converts from Thessalonica. The churches in Macedonia had “fared like the congregations in Judaea” (1 Thess. 2:14, NEB); these men understood the Jerusalem situation. They knew the struggles of converts to continue in the new life rather than resort to the old worship; they, too, had lost financial resources, but they persevered in brotherly love (1 Thess. 4:9). Problems only increased the Macedonians’ generosity.
  17. 17. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Spring, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; and Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, except where noted. Page 17 “We must tell you, friends,” Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “about the grace of generosity which God has imparted to our congregations in Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1, NEB). Theologically, Paul was saying that the grace of God also is the generosity of God, for grace means loving generosity—the grace of God that was manifest in the gift of His Son. The Philippians especially were generous. They contributed to Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), and when Paul was confined in Rome they sent gifts by Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18), whose name (not without significance) is derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. When Ignatius went through Philippi on his way to martyrdom at Rome, the Philippians gave loving encouragement to him. Around AD 117 Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, sent to the Philippians copies of Ignatius’ letters with a cover letter of his own. Alluding to imprisoned Christians, Polycarp wrote, “I rejoice greatly with you . . . that the root of your faith . . . remains firm in you to this day, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered Himself to be brought even to the death for our sins.”4 Facing death and persecution with courage surpassing Stoics, Macedonian Christians still were turning the Roman peace upside down.

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