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The Grace of Giving
Summary —The Liberality of the Macedonian Brethren. Exhortation to the Corinthians to Abound in the Same Grace. The Example of Christ. The Spiritual Blessing of Liberal Giving. Titus and Another Brother Sent to Corinth to Aid and Encourage Them.
1–5. We make known to you the grace of God (Revision). Paul now introduces the great collection of which he spoke in 1 Cor. 16:1, and Rom. 15:26. See also Acts 11:29; Acts 24:17. It had always been the custom of the Jews in foreign lands to send up to Jerusalem contributions for the temple treasury, but Paul urges the contributions for God's spiritual temple, the poor saints. The mother church was in need and the abundance of the saints elsewhere was to be her supply. The cause of the destitution of the Jerusalem Christians is easily found in the times. Famine (Acts 11:29) had stricken the land, this had been followed by the troubles and unsettled state of affairs which were leading to the Jewish war. The uneasiness of the public mind, as well as the tumults, disturbed business and labor. The result would necessarily be close times and destitution. The lesson of this great collection is that distance does not diminish the claims of suffering brethren for help. Churches of Macedonia. The Roman province of Macedonia embraced all Grecian countries north of the province of Achaia. The churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, founded by Paul, and probably many others, were in this province. 2. How that in a great trial of affliction. The language seems to imply persecution. This might have been an excuse for not giving, if they had sought one. See Acts 17:6 and 1 Thess. 2:14. But, still, their joy in the gospel and their poverty combined so that they contributed with great liberality. 3. For to their power. It was not the greatness of their contribution, but the fact that they gave not only up to, but even beyond their ability, which made their liberality so rich. The widow who gave her mite did more than the rich men who cast in out of their abundance. Willing of themselves. Required no urging. 4. Praying us with much entreaty. They insisted on doing more than the apostle felt that they ought to do. 5. And this … not as we had hoped. The thought is that they exceeded our hope. They consecrated themselves, and hence, held that all they had was the Lord's. When church members give their own selves, there will be no complaint that their money is withheld.
6–9. We desired Titus, that as he had begun. This faithful fellow laborer of Paul, when he had gone to Corinth when Paul's first epistle was sent, had begun the collection which it commanded in 1 Cor. 16:1. Now Paul directs that he return and complete the collection before the arrival of Paul (Acts 20:1–3). Grace. The grace of giving. 7. As ye abound in everything. Instead of Macedonia setting the example to Corinth, the latter ought to have led. Their church was rich in gifts. See 1 Cor. 1:5. 8. I speak not by commandment. He levies no tax by command. The giving must be free and cheerful in order to be blessed. He encourages them by the forwardness of others; the example of the Macedonian brethren, and by that of Christ. 9. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the chiefest of motives to giving. Our Lord gave up all for us. He became poor that we might be rich in heavenly riches. If he gave himself for us, what shall we give for him? Compare Phil. 2:7. Christ parted with riches and took poverty; with glory and took humiliation; with bliss and took suffering, all for our sakes. The passage compares Christ's pre-existent state with that he had on earth.
10–15. Herein I give my advice. Not a “commandment” (verse 8), but advice. That is, that it is expedient to complete the work begun “a year ago,” or as we would say, “last year.” 11. Therefore, perform the doing of it. Finish it up. As there was “a readiness to will,” let there be “a performance” by giving out of what “you have.” 12. For if there is first a willing mind. The willing mind had been shown in the readiness “to will.” The willing mind is essential to the acceptance of the gift. If there be this pre-requisite, then God accepts the gift and measures it according to a man's means. 13. I mean not that other men be eased. I wish all to give according to what they have, other churches as well as you. Nor do I mean to burden you that the saints at Jerusalem may be at ease. 14. But by an equality. There is a lack at Jerusalem; let your abundance supply it. So, too, if you be in want, they must supply it if they have abundance. The church is a band of loving brethren. Where one lacks others should supply, that all may be equally provided. 15. It is written. In Exodus 16:18. When the manna fell, whatever each individual gathered, there was found to be, on measuring, “an omer to a man.” So brotherly love is to effect such a distribution that no saint will be in want, and none have what is superfluous.
16–21. But thanks be to God. Because Titus is ready to return to Corinth and help in the work. 17. For indeed he accepted the exhortation. Readily accepted the work when Paul suggested it; nay more, of his own accord, he desired and chose it. 18. We have sent with him the brother. Two brethren are sent with Titus. These are not named, and we can only conjecture who they were. As verse 19 says that he “was chosen of the churches to travel with us in this grace,” and as Acts 20:4 says that the Macedonian brethren, Sopater, Aristarchus and Secundus did travel with him to Jerusalem, one of these is probably meant. Many have held that Luke was the person, nor is this improbable. 19. Chosen of the churches. Paul desired, for the reasons given in verses 20 and 21, that the churches should send along messengers in charge of their gifts. 20. Avoiding this. There were evil-minded persons who might charge that the apostle had used the gifts of his own advantage unless the messengers could report just how the funds were used. Paul was careful (21) to provide what was honest, in the sight of God, for his conscience's sake, and in the sight of men for his work's sake.
22–24. We have sent with them. With Titus and the brother named in verse 18. The brother referred to here and commended so highly is nowhere named. 23. Whether any do inquire of Titus. The commendation given of these three brethren is official. Titus had long been a fellow laborer, and had recently visited Corinth. The other two were messengers of the Macedonian churches. Not only of the churches but of the glory of Christ, the Lord's messengers to show forth his glory in a great work of mercy. 24. Therefore, shew ye to them. Since these are representative men, delegates of the churches, and of Christ, receive them cordially. Give proof of your love, and show that when we have boasted of your excellencies that our boasting was not empty. An ill reputation would not only reflect upon the churches, but upon Paul himself.
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