WHEN BOASTING IS VAIN
2 Corinthians 9:1-4 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: for I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
Paul begins this portion of his letter to the church at Corinth by reminding them of ministering to the saints. This is in reference to the collection that was underway to aid the poor and needy Christians in Judea, referred to, by Paul, in Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians 16:1, and in the first verse of the preceding chapter of this letter. Reminding them, Paul said, was superfluous, not needed, and unnecessary. Why? It was because they had already made the commitment to take up a collection to help relieve those in need, due to the distressful conditions that led to poverty in the Judean area. To say some teaching is superfluous is Paul's tactful way of stressing its importance. This same teaching method was used by Paul to demonstrate the importance of brotherly love (1 Thess. 4:9), and regarding Judgment Day, as he introduced it, by referring to the times and the seasons (1 Thess. 5:1).
Paul often used various congregations of God's people as examples to teach other sister congregations. For instance, referring to the church of the Thessalonians,Paulsaid their work of faith, (was a) ...labor of love, and patience of hope ...were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia (See 1 Thess. 1:1-7). Then notice how commendable, and far-reaching, their influence extended as noted in the following verse 8. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. Through the apostle, John, as recorded in Revelations 2 and 3, Jesus used the seven churches of Asia as examples of both good and bad, to teach Christian doctrine to other churches throughout the world. The use of examples is a good, sound, and expedient method of instruction that often reaches the very heart of listeners.
Paul used the church at Corinth, the capitol of Achaia, as an example to boastfully teach godly duties and responsibilities to other congregations throughout Macedonia, saying that their zeal hath provoked very many to, likewise, take up collections to send to needy Christians in Judea. However, that was a year ago, and still their contribution, for some reason or another, was not yet collected and ready, as intended, to distribute to the elders of congregations in need. For this intent to go unfulfilled, Paul's boasting of them would have been in vain in this behalf. Paul uses this fact as encouragement for them to get the intended commitment completed - to do what they had promised to do!
The church at Corinth seemed to be zealous to make this vow of charity, but their zeal seemed to wane when it came to actually doing what they vowed to do. Paul was afraid that their zeal of commitment, which he boastfully used as an example to other churches, would be vain unless it was completely carried out. Paul wanted the church at Corinth to have already made their collection before he arrived. To insure this, Paul sent brethren to remind them of their commitment, which, at the present time, had not been fulfilled (See 2 Cor. 2:18, 22-23). This, he told them, was done that ye may be ready when he arrived (See verse 5 following). Designated Christians from the Macedonian churches were to accompany Paul to Corinth. Certainly, after boasting to their congregations in Macedonia about of their zeal, Paul did not want them to arrive with him and find the Christians at Corinth unprepared - not having their promised collection ready to send on to Judea. In such case, Paul said that he would be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
This lesson brings to mind the vanity of faith without works. James wrote this in the form of a question: But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead (James 2:20)?, This, he confirmedwith a statement of this godly fact: For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26). It is by faith that we become a Christian; it is by works that we demonstrate, and make it valid in the sight of God. Boasting of faith is vain unless it is accompanied with works that confirm it. If you love God, show Him. If you love your fellow man, prove it with righteous, charitable works. Unless this is accomplished, your boasting is vain!