God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – 2 Corinthians 8:9

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

Nick Esch, 12/24/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Have you ever wondered why we give each other gifts at Christmas? Is it because it’s Jesus’ birthday, and for some reason we give other people presents instead of Him? Is it because of the life and pattern of Saint Nicholas? Or what? Why do we feel the need to give at Christmas?…

Well, as we’ll see, it’s quite appropriate that we associate Christmas with the giving of gifts. In the text that I wish to draw your attention to this evening, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Church in Corinth, exhorting them to be generous and to give sacrificially. Now, instead of laying down the law or seeking to guilt them into giving, Paul appeals to the Christmas story, to the gospel story… He calls them to give sacrificially and joyfully because that’s exactly how Jesus gave Himself. In one verse Paul summarizes Christmas and the gospel together, all with the great aim of the Corinthians becoming joyfully obedient and thus joyfully generous.

Well, tonight I want us to look at this one verse, and not only think about why it would compel us to give, but to think about exactly what has been given in and through Christmas and the gospel. You can find this verse on the back of your bulletin, or by opening one of the Bibles around you to page 968. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, God’s Word says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

If you’re familiar with the Christmas story this verse might strike you as odd. I mean, when was Jesus ever rich? We think of Joseph and Mary as poor travelers, with nowhere to stay. Jesus is born around animals and laid in a manger because there’s no room for them in the inn. It’s not exactly the scene of riches. Or even later, when Jesus was an adult, He Himself said that He had nowhere to lay His head, that He was homeless… So when was Jesus rich?

The riches of Christ go back into eternity past. As John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God the Son, He’s the second person of the Trinity, and therefore He is rich as God is rich… As God’s Word says, “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (1 Corinthians 10:26)… He is the God who made the world and everything in it (Acts 17:24). As Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

Jesus was rich because He is God… He created all things and owns all things; indeed all things exist for Him. But that’s not quite what our passage has in mind… Jesus Himself actually helps us understand what is meant in our passage. In His great High Priestly Prayer to the Father for His people, He asked, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4). Then He went on to say, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Do you see what Jesus is saying? In Genesis 1:1 it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” Well, if you’ve ever wondered what God was doing before that, here Jesus gives us the answer… He was eternally loving the Son… And no doubt the Son was eternally loving the Father, and the Spirit was eternally loving the Father and the Son, and so on… The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have always been in perfect loving communion together. What we see here is that Jesus, God the Son, was eternally rich in glory and love because He was eternally rich in communion with the Father. For all eternity the Father and the Son have been loving one another and enjoying eternal glory. And that’s the riches that are being spoken of here… The riches of eternal glory, eternal joy, eternal love and communion with God… Jesus was rich before the foundation of the world was ever laid…

Well, with that in mind, how did Jesus become poor? He became poor by leaving it all behind… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus took on flesh and was born of the virgin Mary; He left the majesty of heaven and enter into the humility of a manger; He left the perfection of heaven and enter into the brokenness of this world… The infinite became an infant… But He didn’t stop there. The baby in a manger became the man upon a cross…

Jesus emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, after living the perfect God glorifying life that we should be living, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8)… And it was there, upon the cross, that Jesus truly became poor. It started when He came to earth and took on flesh, but it found its climax as He took on our sin upon our cross… It was there that for our sake, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Though He is sinless and guiltless, He took on our sin and took on the punishment for our sin upon the cross. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s infinite glory, and are thus deserving of God’s infinite wrath. But Jesus took that wrath upon Himself. That’s why before the cross He prayed that the Father would help Him to drink down the cup of His wrath due us. And as He obediently went to the cross that’s what happened: God’s wrath was poured out upon Him. And as His wrath was poured out, the eternal love and communion of the Father that Jesus had always enjoyed went away…In that moment He was forsaken by the Father, and the eternal glory, love, joy, and communion of God was removed… Christ had truly become poor…

In His death on the cross Jesus took on total impoverishment… There He experienced wrath and condemnation. There He became a curse for us sinners, who by our very nature are under the curse of God. The idea of the curse (due us) that Jesus took on Himself, is the opposite of that great benediction passage in Numbers 6:24-26. There it says, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Instead of blessing, it’s a curse… Instead of being kept by God’s grace, you are judged and condemned. Instead of His face and His grace, instead of His countenance and peace, it’s darkness and turmoil… No grace, no glory, no love… Just wrath and death… This is the poverty that Jesus took upon Himself…

Again our passage says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). So what was the purpose of His poverty? It was for our sake… It wasn’t for His sake—it wasn’t for His own sin that He went to the cross (for He has none), but for ours… We must come to grips with this if we are going to enjoy the riches of it. For our sake means for our eternal good, but before it means that we have to understand that it’s also referring to our sin… And that takes humility to accept. Imagine opening up a Christmas present tomorrow from a family member and it’s a membership to a gym. And then you open up another one and it’s a dieting book… Clearly they’re trying to tell you something… And if you’re going to truly accept those gifts with gratitude you’re going to need some honesty and humility… They’re telling you that you’re out of shape… Well likewise here, God’s Word is telling us that we are sinners in need of a Savior… Will your pride allow you to hear that? We must humble ourselves and accept that this is for our sake…

Now thankfully our text doesn’t stop there; it says it was for our sake, that we might become rich. But don’t misunderstand what that means. As John Piper has said, “Christ is not glorious so that we get wealthy or healthy. Christ is glorious so that rich or poor, sick or sound, we might be satisfied in him.” Remember Jesus was rich in glory and in love, in and through eternal joyous communion with God… Getting Him, being in communion with God, enjoying Christ, and being satisfied in Him forever… that’s the great riches we get in and through Jesus’ poverty. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again to get us right with God. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God… Or as we sing this time of year, “Hark! the herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth, and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled…” To be rich is to be in a right relationship with God, to be reconciled to God…

Now with this in mind, look at how our verse starts: it says you know the grace of God, and then it defines God’s grace by this great exchange of poverty for riches… “Jesus has exchanged His riches for our poverty, so that we could exchange our poverty for His riches” (John Folmar)… And this is the great grace of God… Grace is God’s favor towards undeserving sinners… And the favor He shows us is shown in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ: it begins at Christmas in a manger, and leads to a cross, and ends in the majesty of eternal glory, eternal love, and eternal joy in Christ… And this is favor we could never earn or deserve… It is a gift that flows from God’s sovereign goodness…

Conclusion

So you see, gifts and Christmas go hand in hand… In and through Christmas God gave us the gift of Himself in Christ… This gift defines the grace of God for us… And it defines the love of God for us… As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Believer, herin is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus ‘became poor’ that He might lift you up into communion with Himself.” So as it has been said, grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense; and the riches are God Himself… But notice the might in this verse… Though this is an act of God’s sovereign grace, we must rightly respond to it… Salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone, but also through faith alone… Faith is what unites us to Christ bringing us into right relationship with God. We must place our faith in Christ… But if we do, if we repent and believe we receive great riches…

And that indeed is what we see here… And seeing this, and seeing how this is tied to Christmas explains why Christmas is tied to gift giving… Christmas should most definitely compel us to give, but before we give we need to make sure that we have truly received this great gift of God’s grace, these eternal riches in Christ… For it is these riches that will bring us joy, and not to us only but to the whole world…