Study Notes on 2 Corinthians 8
2 Corinthians 8
Now this chapter and the next chapter are great sections on giving. This isn't necessarily the giving we should do regularly for our own pastors and churches but this is "grace giving" or taking up an offering for specific causes. Paul calls on the Corinthians to give generously to relieve the poverty and suffering of the church at Jerusalem.
1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
The churches of Macedonia were in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, and possibly more not mentioned elsewhere. Macedonia today covers a different territory. The church at Philippi was especially commended (Philippians 4:15), and perhaps that is the church meant in this chapter.
This verse has an odd construction but it just means that "we make known unto you" the Grace of God.... The contextual meaning is that this grace of God given them refers to their ability to turn from natural human selfishness towards liberality of giving. God gave them the grace so that they could give financial help to those in need.
2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
Though the churches in Macedonia were experiencing severe affliction and deep poverty, they were joyful for the opportunity to give what they could to the church at Jerusalem which was in an even worse state. The abundance of their joy overpowered their affliction and poverty.
See 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 when Paul first requested this, and compare with Galatians 2:10, Acts 11:29-30, Acts 24:17.
Adam Clarke, "We can scarcely ever speak of poverty and affliction in an absolute sense; they are only comparative. Even the poor are called to relieve those who are poorer than themselves; and the afflicted, to comfort those who are more afflicted than they are."
3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
They gave beyond their ability to give. Meaning they deprived themselves even of necessities in order to give. "Their hearts were larger than their purses."
What a drastic difference to today when people complain whenever a Pastor mentions giving. We have excess and abundance and yet we so desperately hold onto things that will perish and fail.
4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
The churches desired to give these gifts! It's as if the churches were pleading with Paul and his companions to take their gifts. Great sacrificial love here.
See Romans 15:25-27.
5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
Not as we hoped, or not as expected. Being that the Macedonian churches were so poor not much would have been anticipated from them but they greatly exceeded expectations. They trusted in the Lord and so were able to give. We hold onto our stuff because of a lack of trust in God to provide.
Do we exceed expectations with our givings, or do we give the minimum?
6 Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
Because of the eager desire of the Macedonian churches to give, we wanted Titus to come to you guys and see that you would be generous as well. It seems the Corinthians had at first been willing to give but hadn't yet followed through on it. The next several verses make this clearer (see v. 10 especially).
7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.
Some people think this is spoken sarcastically, since similar sarcastic phrasing is seen in 1 Corinthians, but I don't think that's the case here. I think Paul is sincerely commended them and building them up.
"Because you abound in these important areas, don't neglect the area of cheerful giving."
8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
This isn't any kind of an order or a moral obligation, but others have been eager to give so perhaps you all will be as well.
9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
So Paul first made a case based on other churches, now he makes a case or argument from the example of Jesus.
Christ being God owns everything. Yet in taking on humanity He became poor to the point of having nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). This verse speaks to the pre-existence of Jesus. Through His poverty we get riches in Heaven, an inheritance with Him, etc.
10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.
11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
His advice on the matter of giving is to do it, and not just do it but to do it willingly. We can serve the Lord out of a feeling of obligation but that's the wrong heart. Our service should be out of love and joy.
There was a readiness for them to do the work but it seems to have been delayed. At first they were eager, but over time things change. Don't delay in serving the Lord because the devil will do whatever it takes to distract you away from that.
See Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.
12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
Desire is what matters. If you want to serve God, seek Him and He will help you be a profitable servant.
"God considers not the magnitude of the gift, but the proportion which it bears to the means of the giver." - TPC
See Luke 21:1-3.
13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
These are interesting, and I think pretty clear verses. The church at Corinth shouldn't put themselves in a state of poverty in order for another church to be affluent, but when one church does well they should help a struggling church. If conditions change in the reverse then there can be giving in the other direction.
The bible is clear that each church should be independent, but also that churches should help each other out. Perhaps this would be more natural during times of severe persecution such as the 50's & 60's a.d., but I think this also speaks strongly against the idea of wealthy megachurches.
See Acts 2:44-46 for the unity and financial equality among the church members.
1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
Quoted from Exodus 16:17-21 regarding the gathering of manna.
16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
17 For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
Titus was happy and willing to go see the Corinthians.
18 And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:
We don't know who this brother is, but apparently someone highly respected.
Apparently several churches voted for this brother to travel with Paul and Timothy with this grace ministry. The grace (gift) here is referring to the collection from the churches.
A good lesson on being transparent and careful whenever the handling of money is involved.
20 Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Garner-Howes, "This concerns solicitation, collection, transportation, and accompanying the grace gift of bounty across national and international boundaries to the Jerusalem saints who were in dire need; It appears that when any church made a meaningful, very liberal gift, Paul welcomed the church’s sending a personal guard and watchman to help see that the gift or properties reach their proper destination, 1 Corinthians 16:3-4."
22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.
Likely another brother, a third person being sent on this collections journey. Someone that they had great confidence in.
23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.
Paul speaks highly of the brothers, and now praises Titus as well. These were all "Men whose work and worth redound to Christ's honour." - TPC
24 Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.
This is your opportunity to show to the brothers and Titus, as well as the churches, how great your love is, and you can make proof of the boasting we have done regarding you.