Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2 Corinthians - Chapter 8

As we studied in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul set up a system to collect donations from all of the churches to be taken to the church in Jerusalem for the poor saints. Jewish Christians near Jerusalem were reportedly on the verge of starvation. This letter was written about a year later, according to verse 10 in this chapter. When he wrote this letter, he was visiting the churches in Macedonia, where he fled after the riots in Ephesus as described in Acts 19.
He wanted the other churches to know how faithful the Macedonian churches had been. Paul saw this as an opportunity for Gentile Christians to reach out in compassion and demonstrate their spiritual unity with Jewish Christians.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

The Macedonian churches had entered into giving to the poor wholeheartedly. Even the very poor were giving generously, even beyond what they could afford. They not only gave what they could for the poor, but wanted to give to Paul and his companions to help them in their journeys.
So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

The churches had found joy in giving, so Paul was encouraged to teach the grace of giving to the Corinthian churches so they might also share in this joyfulness. So Paul sent Titus with this letter to the churches in Corinth. He says that he knows how much they desire to please God. They are so full of faith, eloquent in speech, and possess so much knowledge. Because of this, they should be willing to excel in the grace of giving to others.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 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 through his poverty might become rich.

          Paul explains that this is not a commandment, but something they should do to show their love.

He reminds them how Jesus set the example by leaving His glorified place in Heaven to come to

earth where He was no more than an ordinary man so that He could show us how we should live.

He did this for our sake, so we should pay it forward.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

A year prior to this letter, the churches in Corinth had given willingly to help the poor as Paul had asked. He asks them to continue this practice. He does not ask them to give beyond their means. He asked them to willingly give according to what they had. He stresses how it is important to give willingly. If it is given grudgingly, God does not accept it. Only a gift out of love is acknowledged by God.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Paul quotes the Old Testament scripture found in Exodus 16:18, which explains the principle of sharing with others so everyone can be equal. The idea was if you have more than you need, you give to those who have little. In return, when their harvest is more abundant and you are need, they can return the favor. This is a principle from God and hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. Hording for our future while others are in need is not a Godly attitude.
16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
         Titus was eager to to go to Corinth as Paul asked because his love for them and his excitement for the mission of giving to the poor was as strong as Paul’s.
18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

Paul does not name the “brother” is who accompanied Titus, but he had been chosen by the churches to accompany Paul in the collection and distribution of the money for the poor because he was trusted. Paul says he is praised for his service to the gospel. They are doing all they can to ensure everything is above reproach and there is no cause for criticism, not only in God’s eyes, but in the eyes of man.
22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

A second messenger is being sent with Titus who is known to those in Corinth, although he is not named here. He calls Titus his partner and co-worker, therefore representing him, and the other two are representing the churches and a glory to Christ. He asks that they show these men the love of Christ so everyone will understand why Paul is so proud of them. He has bragged about them and wants them to live up to his praise.