Lesson IIIA - Faithfulness Illustrated - Page 1 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Paul commends the liberal contributions of the Macedonian churches for the relief of the brethren in Judea.

Paul commends the liberal contributions of the Macedonian churches for the relief of the brethren in Judea.

October 5, 2014

Tom Lowe
The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians


Lesson III.A: Faithfulness Illustrated. (8:1–5)

2nd Corinthians 8:1-5 (NKJV)

1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:
2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,
4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.


Introduction

• In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul commends the liberal contributions of the Macedonian churches for the relief of the brethren in Judea.
• In 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 Paul recommends to the Corinthians that they follow the example of the Macedonian Churches, as well as in other graces.
• In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul suggests they follow Christ’s example.
• In 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 Paul challenges the Corinthian believers to contribute to the contribution for the brethren in Judea since they had expressed the desire to do so in the past.
• In 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 Paul reminds them that they may need help in the future, therefore, they should give in order to set a precedent which might in time be of use to themselves.
• In 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 Paul lets them know the willingness of Titus to come and promote this good work among them; and commended him to their love, together with the brethren; godly men, who were sent with him on the same errand.


Commentary

1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:

Moreover
In addition to what has already been said; or furthermore.

Brethren
He addresses them in a kind and tender manner, using the endearing designation of "brethren", seeing that they are so in a spiritual sense; and he takes the liberty to inform them of the goodness of God to some of their sister churches.

We make known to you
“We make known to you” is like the modern "I wish to inform you." In this and the next chapter the apostle Paul, having thoroughly spoken of the joy which he had received from their sincere reception of his first letter, and having said as much as he intended to say in answer to the false charges concocted against him, proceeds to give instructions about the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. He had already spoken of it (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), but now he feared that they were overdue in their contributions, so he sends Titus to stimulate their enthusiasm.

The grace of God
The thing “made known” here, is “the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia"; by which is NOT meant, any of the blessings of grace common to all the saints, such as the new birth, justification, adoption, forgiveness of sin, and so forth; but generosity, liberality, or a benevolent disposition to do good to others, called here "the grace of God"; because it sprung from Him, as do all good works when performed for the right reason. The churches of Macedonia” were assisted in giving by “the grace of God”; and it was the love and compassion of God in Christ, which was the motivation that inspired them to do it.

It was a great favor which God had done for them by exciting a spirit of liberality, and in enabling them to contribute to the fund for supplying the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. The word "grace" is sometimes used in the sense of a gift, and the phrase "gift of God" is supposed by some to mean a very great gift, where the words "of God" may have been meant to denote anything very well-known or excellent, as it does in the phrase "cedars of God," and "mountains of God," denoting very great cedars and very great mountains. Some Bible scholars have supposed that this means that the churches of Macedonia had been able to contribute generously to the aid of the saints of Judea. But the more obvious and correct interpretation, as I understand it, is that the phrase "grace of God," means that God had bestowed on them grace to give according to their ability. According to this view, it is implied:
1. That a desire or willingness to contribute to charitable causes can be traced to God. He is its author, and He motivates it.
2. That it is a favor, even a blessing, bestowed on a church when God creates a spirit of benevolence in it. It is one of the evidences of His love. And without a doubt, there cannot be a better proof

of the favor of God than when by His grace He persuades and enables us to contribute generously to improve the condition, and to relieve the needs of our fellowmen. Perhaps the apostle meant to delicately hint at this; therefore, He did not say callously that the churches of Macedonia had contributed to this collection, but he speaks of it as a favor shown to them by God—that they were able to do it. And he probably meant to gently suggest to the Corinthians that it would be evidence that they were enjoying the favor of God if they would contribute in a similar way.

Bestowed on the churches of Macedonia
Notice that the grace (free grace) of God is “bestowed” on them, not merited by them. God may give to some persons so much of this world's goods, yet if He does not give them a spirit of generosity, a liberal nature, they will make no use of it for the good of others. Paul implies that though given by God, grace is revealed in their conduct.

“Bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia,” more exactly, “which is being bestowed in the Churches.” St. Paul wants to tell the Corinthians how extremely liberal the Macedonians have been, since it was his custom to stir up one Church by the example of another—“For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action” (2 Corinthians 9:2)—but he begins by speaking of their generosity as a proof of the grace which they are receiving from the Holy Spirit. Their generosity was not something that developed naturally over time, but was instead God's grace “bestowed” on them, and enabled them to be the instrument of God's "grace" to others—“So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. . . and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind” (2 Corinthians 8:6, 19). The importance given in this Epistle to the collection, arose as well from Paul's commission as missionary to the Gentiles—“They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10), as well as his desire to reconcile the Judaizing Christians at Jerusalem to himself and the Gentile believers, by such an act of love on the part of the latter towards their Jewish brethren.

The only Macedonian Churches of which we have any information in the New Testament are those of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. They seem to have been particularly dear to Paul, who was attracted by their cheerfulness in affliction and their generosity in the midst of want. Previously, they had shown their generosity to Paul himself by acts of personal kindness, and now were showing it in an even better way, by acting as he wished them to act; and he sees in this a means of stirring up his friends at Corinth to an honorable imitation of them. The generosity of the Macedonians served as a Pattern for the Corinthians; Christ is the Loftiest Pattern.

Liberality shown to the poor saints, as such, flows from that feature of love by which men are taught by God to love one another; for though men, from a natural goodness, or moral virtue, may out of compassion relieve persons in misery from their burdens; yet none, from any such principle, do good to any members of the household of faith, as such; but rather feel from them the effects of their hatred, when they take from them what is rightfully theirs.


2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.

That in a great trial of affliction
We do not know if there is a particular infirmity or hardship which this statement relates to, but a community of Christians in a heathen city was always exposed to trials of one kind or another, and the bad temper shown before by the rulers at Philippi and the Jews of Thessalonica—“When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten” (Acts 16:19-20)—makes it almost certain that they would at least carry on petty persecution.


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