One of Paul’s purposes in writing 2 Corinthians was to prepare the Corinthians for his visit. While ministering to the Corinthians, Paul planned to receive their gift for the saints in Jerusalem. After several chapters of catching the Corinthians up on his current situation (2 Cor 1:1-2:13), and a lengthy defense of his apostolic ministry (2 Cor 2:14-7:1), Paul returned again to the point of departure at the end of 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul asked the Corinthians to contribute to the needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Corinth was a wealthy city and Paul believed that the Corinthians’ resources could bring relief (Rom 15:22-33). The apostle’s practical concerns for the gospel and the broader unity of the church dominated 2 Corinthians 8-9, chapters which also manifest Paul’s administrative skill and integrity in handling sensitive issues. Paul viewed the Corinthians’ collection for the needy Jewish believers in Judea within the framework of the storyline of Scripture.
(1) In 2 Cor 8:15, Paul quoted Exod 16:18 to urge the Gentiles to provide for the physical needs of the Jewish Christians in Judea. Immediately following the Exodus, the Lord provided manna for the people. In Exod 16:15-20, Moses commanded that the people each take two quarts per individual. Every person in the community of Israel had the same amount of food, no surplus nor deficiency. Paul urged the Corinthians to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who, “although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Paul proposed that the gospel should have an equalizing effect when it comes to socioeconomics; those enjoying surplus should feel compelled to share with those in need so that there would be equality in the church (2 Cor 8:14). Paul noted Moses’ observation concerning the Lord’s supply of manna “the person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little” to urge the Gentiles to share their material blessings with Jews. In Paul’s mind, Gentile generosity toward the Jews would be the just response from those who had received historical spiritual blessings from descendants of Abraham.
(2) In 2 Cor 9:8-9, Paul quoted Ps 112:9 to present God’s generosity to His people. In Psalm 112, the psalmist extolled the stability the generous enjoy in their possessions, relationships, and status before God. When the psalmist wrote, “He distributes to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (Ps 112:9), he had a human in mind. In Paul’s mind, if a man could be that generous, God all the more. “God is able to make every grace overflow to you,” Paul wrote, “so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. As it is written: ‘He has scattered; He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever’” (2 Cor 9:8-9). What the Corinthians had received freely from God they should freely give to their needy Jewish brothers and sisters in Judea. Paul concluded 2 Corinthians 9 by noting that he was speechless, unable to describe the joyful partnership God called His people into when they responded to His generosity and shared His good gifts with each other.