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The Self Sacrificing Commitment of the Macedonian Churches.
1,2. We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
Paul wanted to inspire the Corinthians with the example of the Macedonian churches, who in spite of terrible suffering (due to extreme poverty and persecution) were generous in such a way that demonstrated the reality of God's grace in their lives.
3. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means.
Although they were so poor themselves they decided to take-up an offering to help the poor saints in Judea who were hardest hit by the worldwide famine. Their love for the saints was such that they gave more than they were really able to spare and went without in order to help their brothers and sisters.
4. Begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.
Paul had not pressed the Macedonians to give, but they were so earnest that they pleaded with the apostles to take the money for the offering (1 John 3:17 ; 1 John 4:20-21).
5. And this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us.
Paul was surprised and thrilled by the grace of God in the lives of the Macedonians, for it was more than he had hoped for. The Christians first gave themselves unreservedly to the Lord and then to His people according to God's will. The two always go together. If we are committed to Christ then we will be committed to His Church (Eph. 5:31-32).
The Challenge it Brought to the Corinthian Church.
6. So that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.
Paul urged Titus to remind the Corinthians of the pledge they had made on his first visit over a year before to help the Jerusalem saints. The Corinthians had been the first to express a desire to help in this way. They had begun by laying aside a certain amount each week for the poor so that that it would be ready when Paul came again (1 Cor. 16:2). Paul wanted Titus to ensure that they complete this generous offering so that it may be collected and taken together with the offerings of the other churches to Judea.
7. Now as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you--so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
Paul was pleased that the Corinthians were excelling in every way: in faith, zeal, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in their love for the apostles. But he wanted them to grow in every grace, including the grace of giving. He wanted them to learn not only how to support missionaries but how to provide for the needs of poorer saints. He wanted them to enjoy the gift of giving.
Pioneer Missionary Mr. William Burton (Congo Sketches) writes: "For years we have been laboring among these people and it has been our joy to hear them reply to the question 'What have these white men come to get?' 'Nothing. They have come to give. All is free.' On the other hand what (the natives) have not been used to doing they will not commence to do. They say 'The white men have paid our teachers and erected our schools etc. Why should we commence to pay or give?' The natives are not stingy, they are generous to a fault. It is just that they are like children whose parents have always provided and they do not see why they should grow up and have the responsibility of providing for themselves. We earnestly pray for the time when the natives will support their own teachers and evangelists. (Yet) we are glad (that there are some) places where the natives have been endued with that beautiful gift of God- the gift of giving. It is our constant prayer that God will pour out on (them) a spirit of liberality.
8. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.
It is the nature of giving that a man should not give by compunction' since sincere giving must be motivated purely by love for the recipient. So Paul does not command the Corinthians to complete the final amount of their offering, preferring instead to use the opportunity provided by the zeal of the Macedonians to stir them to action. There is nothing like an example to stir a Christian to action. Even Jesus led by example - for little as He had, we may deduce that it was His custom to give financial help to the poor (Acts 20:35 ; John 13:29).
9. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
The Lord Jesus Christ left heaven or our sakes, where He possessed the riches of eternal glory, to live on earth as a man; a poor man at that. He stooped to redeem, that He might shed His blood both to purchase us for God and to purchase for us the riches of eternal life. These are the true riches, which Christ has made available to all, even the poorest may share these tremendous riches (Luke 6:20). In this way we are "abundantly supplied" (Col. 2:10 ; 1 Cor. 3:21-23).
If the Lord did so much for us, can we not perform a simple act of love in giving to our brothers; an act which by comparison costs us so little?
10. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something.
Christianity is a practical as much as a spiritual religion, the one aspect fulfilling the other. It is good to have good desires, but far better to turn those desires into deeds actually done. When we have a desire to serve God, let us be diligent to follow this up with action; very often that action (in terms of giving) may be facilitated by our local church and/or its leadership.
The Nature of Christian Giving.
11,12. Now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has--not according to what one does not have.
The desire to give must be matched by the act of giving, and our giving should be according to our means. It is not the amount which God desires, but the willingness and love in our hearts which motivates us to give. Even God who has all riches, could only give what He had, and we cannot give what we do not have. Let us not be dissapointed when one church can give £2000 and we can only afford £200, but let us be liberal according to our means (Mark 12:42-44).
"God accepts the will for the deed. He judges not according to what a man has the opportunity to do, but according to what he would do if he had the opportunity." JFB
13,14. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.
Paul did not want other churches to go without in order to feed the Judeans; nor did he wish others churches to be excused of their responsibility the Corinthians' genorosity. Just because another church gives £2000 does not excuse us from giving according to our means. Paul's aim was equality between the saints, with those who have more than enough sharing with those who did not have life's essentials. One day, the positions may be reversed and those of us with plenty now may find that we depend on the help of those others whom we once helped in time of need.
15. As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."
Paul cites the verse in Exodus where it says that those who collected too much manna did not have too much and those who had collected too little did not have too little. Equality was God's concern; and this equality can only be achieved by sharing.
Paul's Careful Handling of Church Business.
16. But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have.
The grace of giving in the Christian Church reflects the likeness of Jesus who gave Himself for us. Paul thanked God that Titus had seen the necessity of introducing this principle of giving in the church, when he, Paul had not, possibly because he had concentrated on fundamental doctrines first.
17. For he not only accepted our appeal, but since he is more eager than ever, he is going to you of his own accord.
Although Paul had appealed for Titus to go back to Corinth he had not needed to do so; for of his own accord Titus was very eager to go back to see the completion of this ministry of giving.
18. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news.
Paul, always the careful leader, sent another brother to accompany Titus, whose character and ministry were proven in all the churches who had been appointed by church ballot to accompany Paul and ensure that the collection and distribution of money was carried out fairly - a service which would result in the Lord receiving glory and the poor Christians receiving evidence of the true love their brothers and sisters had for them.
19,20. And not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill. We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift that we are administering.
Paul was always on his guard and like Peter, he saw the wisdom of taking extra, impartial witnesses on important business matters that here might be no occasion for fingers to be pointed at the missionaries; for example, someone might accuse him of lining his own pocket, or of mishandling the money which would have been a huge amount for those days.
21,22. For we intend to do what is right not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of others. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters, but who is now more eager than ever because of his great confidence in you.
That is why they planned carefully what they were going to do that all they did might be above suspicion and acceptable to men as well as to God (Matt. 10:16). So not just one but two brothers devoted and zealous in Christ's service and chosen by church ballot were to accompany Titus. This man was even more enthusiastic to go to Corinth since he had learned how much confidence Paul had in the church.
23. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
Finally, in case any may need it, Paul gives a character reference for the three men: Titus is an equal, Paul's fellow worker and shares in his ministry to Corinth. The other two are appointed by the churches and are a credit to them and a glory to Christ.
24. Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
Show these men, urges Paul, who will bear witness to the churches, of the sincerity and reality of your love so that they might see that what I had boasted to them about you was true.
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