This chapter and the next form the second major division of the epistle. Whereas Paul has been extending his appeal to the Corinthians to embrace the ministers of the gospel, he now switches to a new topic—giving to the saints in Jerusalem. In his first epistle, Paul has already given detailed instructions about this project (
Did You Know...?
- Macedonia (8:1) was a Roman province in the Balkan Peninsula. Paul’s first missionary efforts in Macedonia began after he saw a vision in a dream of a Macedonian man calling for help (Acts 16:9–10). There, he and his fellow workers won converts in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and possibly Berea. But wherever they preached they met fierce opposition and were forced to leave (cf. Acts 16:16–17:15). Despite their adversity, the churches in Macedonia excelled in their steadfast faith and generosity (cf. Php 1:3–7, 4:14–18;
1 Thess 1:6–8; 2 Cor 8:1–5, 11:9).
- Favor (8:4): The word is translated elsewhere in the passage as “grace” (vv. 1, 6, 7, 9, 19) and “thanks” (v. 16).
- Relief (8:4): The Greek word is diakonia (διακονία), meaning “ministry” or “service.” The verb form is found in verses 19 (“minister”) and 20 (“administered”).
What is the grace of God that has been given among the churches in Macedonia?Hide Answer
Paul is alluding to how the churches in Macedonia gave generously, even beyond their means, to the saints in need. Despite their affliction and poverty, they begged to take part in the act of grace (vv. 2–5). The fact that God calls the Macedonians’ generosity “grace of God” implies that he considers their eager love for the brethren a sign of God’s working in them.
What stark contrast do you see in verse 2?Hide Answer
The Macedonians had abundance of joy even as they underwent a severe test of affliction. Their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity.
“Relief of the saints” in verse 4 may be translated “ministry of the saints” or “service of the saints.” Why is giving of aid a ministry?Hide Answer
“Ministry” or “service” pertains to the act of a servant. A servant’s responsibility is to meet the needs of the one he is serving. In this sense, when we provide for the material needs of those who are lacking, we are carrying out a ministry or a service. In addition, service implies humility on the part of the one who serves. When we give to those in need, it is important to remember that we are simply administering what God has given to us to do what He wishes us do, namely, to love others as ourselves. We love others because God loves them. We should not think highly of ourselves or take pride in our charitable acts.
What does Paul mean by “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us”?Hide Answer
The believers in Macedonia considered the act of giving as part of their self-dedication to God. Out of their love for God and faith in God, they knew it was right for them to help their brethren who were in need. Their eager response to the ministers’ call for the charitable act stemmed from their commitment to please the Lord.
What can we learn from the Macedonian believers about generosity?Hide Answer
Our generosity does not depend on how wealthy we are. A wealthy person may not be a generous person. In a severe test of affliction, the Macedonians’ abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity (v. 2). They gave even beyond their means and did so with willingness and earnestness (vv. 3–4). Their generosity is also God-centered in the sense that their act of giving was based on their own commitment to God (v. 5).
Our faith in God and love for God should translate to love for others. True faith is expressed in deeds, including deeds that serve the needs of others (cf. Jas 2:14–17). If we truly love God, we would have compassion for those who are suffering. If we truly believe in God, we would view ourselves as servants and actively share what God has given us with those who are in need.
According to Romans 15:25–27, did the church in Corinth succeed to complete their pledge?Hide Answer
Based on Paul’s letter to the Romans, both Achaia and Macedonia participated in giving to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. Corinth, being the capital of Achaia, would be included in the reference to Achaia (cf.
2 Cor 9:2). Apparently, the believers in Corinth responded to Paul’s exhortation and joined the relief effort.
Why does Paul not wish to make his appeal a command?Hide Answer
Paul wants the Corinthians to give out of willingness rather than compulsion. In doing so, their love would be shown to be genuine. Instead of commanding them to give, he motivates them by citing the earnestness of the Macedonians in helping the saints in need.
Explain the poverty and riches in verse 9.Hide Answer
As the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord Jesus has the greatest riches because He owns all things (cf. Gen 14:19; Ps 50:11–12; Acts 17:24–25). Not only so, He is rich in the sense that He is far above all, being in the form of God (Php 2:6). But to save mankind, He came to this world as a lowly servant, born in a manger and lived in poverty (Mt 8:20, 20:28; Php 2:6–8). By His sacrifice and sufferings, we have become rich. We have been made heirs of God’s kingdom and received a new abundant life (cf. Rom 8:32; Jas 2:5).
How does our Lord’s grace motivate us to be generous?Hide Answer
It is not possible to love without making sacrifices. Our Lord Jesus is the prime example of giving. By giving, He demonstrates His love. If we wish to fulfill God’s expectation for us to love others, we need to learn to give what we have generously. If our Lord loves us so much that He even laid down His own life for us, we ought to also love our brethren by laying down our own lives for them. Perhaps the most basic way to lay down our lives for others is to give to those who are in need (
1 Jn 3:16–17).
What important principles about giving can we learn here?
How does giving bring about fairness and unity in the body of Christ?Hide Answer
Different individuals may have different needs at different times. Whenever a member in the body of Christ has something that another member lacks, he is to meet that need by giving what he has. Everyone has a responsibility to take part in serving others in the church. Even if we think that we are not as capable as others, we ought to still do what we can according to the gift God has given us. That way, we would not place all the burden on a few members, but all the members may work together in unity (cf.
1 Cor 12:14–26; Eph 4:15–16).
Why does Paul give such an elaborate commendation of Titus and the other brothers?Hide Answer
Titus and the other brothers will be carrying the gifts from the Corinthians to the brethren in Jerusalem. As messengers entrusted with this task, they must be shown to be men of integrity. By going to great lengths to assure the believers that Titus and the other brothers are trustworthy, Paul ensures that the relief effort is carried out in a way that is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man (cf.
2 Cor 8:21).
Why must offerings in church be managed with utmost integrity?Hide Answer
When brothers and sisters offer to the church, they do so with trust in the stewards of God’s house. Those who have been elected to collect and dispense members’ offerings, such as the treasurers and other council members, need to manage the offering faithfully and put it to good use. When funds are misappropriated, whether out of personal greed or negligence, the church loses members’ trust and the name of the Lord may even be maligned as a result.
What measures does the church take today to ensure financial accountability?Hide Answer
Church rules and regulations regarding finances vary from one locale to another. But generally, most churches have in place sound accounting practices such as auditing, posting of financial reports, issuing receipts for offerings, and bylaws that ensure that members of the same family do not comprise the majority of the church board or council.