Click here to get started today!
Chapters 8 and 9 deal with the subject of proper care for poor saints on the part of the assembly. The wisdom and delicacy with which the apostle writes is both admirable and beautiful. He avoids absolutely anything like the demands of law with its system of tithing; and yet encourages every activity of grace, every motive of faith and love, so that each individual will be free to willingly and cheerfully give as directly to the Lord, and as the Lord lays upon his heart.
He first makes known to them the lovely example of the assemblies of Macedonia, their giving being in no way a legal obligation, but the fruit of the grace of God bestowed on them. While suffering a great trial of affliction, they had abundance of joy alongside of abundance of poverty; and this issued in "the riches of their liberality." Whatever the depth of their poverty, and however little they could possibly give, still their attitude of willingly giving what they could was "riches of liberality" in the sight of God. The occasion was that of a famine in Judea (Acts 11:27-30), and Gentile saints were desirous of sending help to the saints there. Philippi and Thessalonica were prominent assemblies in Macedonia, and these were willing to give more than they were able, urging the apostles to accept this for the poor saints.
Paul and his fellow-servants had doubtless made known to the saints the great need in Judea, and the Macedonians had not merely helped as the apostle hoped, but beyond this; giving their own selves to the Lord, and to them, by the will of God. Is this not a matter of laying both themselves, and therefore all they have, at the feet of the Lord and of the apostles, to be disposed of simply by the will of God? What precious and proper effect of the grace of God in souls!
Paul had desired Titus, when he came to Corinth, to encourage the Corinthians in "the same grace also." Evidently Titus had, a year previously, begun this by informing the Corinthians of the need, and they had willingly promised to help (v. 10). This being so, Paul desired Titus to "finish" in them this work. Apparently however, even at the second visit of Titus, they still procrastinated. Paul therefore appeals to the fact of their "abounding" in a general way "in everything," because of the grace of God conferred upon them; and he speaks specifically of faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence, and love to the apostles. On such a commendable basis he encourages their abounding also in the grace of sharing their means with the poor saints.
But he is careful to insist that he does not speak as commanding this: he does not want them to consider it a matter merely of obligation. The example of the Macedonians, of which he has spoken, was that of wholehearted willingness; and on the other hand there is the question of proving the sincerity of the love of the Corinthians. Paul is seeking therefore to reach and stir proper motives, not to make them merely give.
In verse 9 he reminds them of the supreme Example of sacrifice, He whose grace led Him to come from the place of infinite glory and riches, to become poor in a world of sorrow and need, not only in His life of lowly grace and kindness toward men, but in going to the utter extremity of poverty, in bearing alone the dread judgment of God against our sins at Calvary. Here was the grace that willingly gave up His own riches; and indeed gave Himself, in order that we might be enriched beyond all human imagination. No legal obligation is involved here at all, but pure, real love, the voluntary willingness to do His Father's will, for the sake of the blessing of those who deserved nothing. Can we rightly appreciate such grace as this without being moved with desire to willingly help those who are in need?
With such a background Paul gives his advice, because he is persuaded it is profitable for them: it is for their own spiritual good. Since they had begun in this matter, having a year before willingly expressed themselves in desire to give help, he tells them, "Now therefore perform the doing of it." For it would be grievously wrong to go back on their word in this. They had not been coerced, but promised willingly. So Paul is not going to allow them to forget this. It involves no question as to how much each one is to give, or how much the company is to give, but the matter of keeping their word in willingly giving. They must not allow this to die with the good intention, but act upon it.
It is to be out of what they have, not what they might hope to get in the future. A year's procrastination is certainly more than enough to warrant Paul's pressing exhortation. This delay is in striking contrast to the purpose of heart of the Philippians, who, though in circumstances of poverty, sent help to Paul twice at Thessalonica, when he was there only three Sabbath days, and this only a short time after he had left Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16).
Verse 12 certainly implies that at any time one should give according to the amount he has, not wait until such time as he thinks he has a substantial amount to give. A willing mind that gives only a little because there is little to give, is that which God accepts. The widow with her two mites teaches us a salutary lesson.
It is not that Paul wanted the Corinthians to assume a responsibility out of proportion to others, to make things hard for them in order that others might be eased. But the spirit of willingly sharing what God has given, with those in evident need, is a proper expression of unity that desires the blessing of all saints. At another time the situation might be reversed, but "at this time" the Corinthians had the wherewithal by which those in need might be relieved, and this therefore makes for equality.
Exodus 16:18 is quoted here in regard to the manna, not speaking of the prime interpretation of the verse, but giving an excellent application. The Lord had provided the manna: some gathered more, some less; but His care was the same for all, and all had sufficient with no excess. If such is the Lord's way, then if I have excess, I should be thankful to be able to share it with another who has lack. If I see others not having equality, at least let me have the heart to equalize things.
In verse 16 Paul thanks God for having put in the heart of Titus such concern for the Corinthians, that he was willing to go to them, even without having been urged by Paul. Paul's exhortation to him to go therefore was gladly received, and Titus went of his own volition. No doubt this applies to the visit of Titus of recent date, but also to his willingness to return to Corinth with this present epistle. For two other brethren (vv. 18,22) are now sent with him, and Paul is careful to give witness to the dependable character of each of them.
The first enjoyed an evident reputation of devotedness in the work of the gospel, and had been chosen by the assemblies to travel with Paul and others to Jerusalem with the gift for the poor saints. The administering of this was a sacred matter, with the glory of the Lord predominant, and with its witness to the willingness of the servants thus chosen.
No matter how faithful a reputation one had, he would not alone travel with these funds. It must be carefully avoided that there might be the least occasion given to anyone for suspicion that all might not be done in total honesty. Not only was the sight of the Lord important, but the sight of men, too.
The other brother sent was well commended for his diligence in many things, and now seen as specially diligent because of the great confidence he had in the Corinthians. He was akin to Titus in this, and well chosen. Each of these three men is evidently willing to be subjected to the scrutiny of the saints; and Paul gives his own evaluation of them for the benefit of any who might enquire. Titus is his own partner and fellow-helper in connection with the welfare of the Corinthians themselves. The two brethren had been chosen as the messengers of the assemblies, therefore approved of them, and Paul adds, "the glory of Christ." It was true that they represented the assemblies, yet above this, there was in them the sense of representing Christ in so serious a labour committed to them.
This being so, Paul appeals to the Corinthians to recognize what is plainly true, and show before the assemblies the proof Of their love, by the willing gift of their means, and fulfil Paul's boast as to them. This is a definite purpose for which these men are sent: Paul expects no more delay.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24