Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

November 11, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

 


III. Appeal of Paul’s Ministry. (8:1–9:15.)                        

               Lesson III.C:Faithfulness Delegated. (8:16-9:5)

                  Part-1: When We Give By Faith. (8:16-24)

Faithfulness Delegated.       

      Part-1: When We Give By Faith. (8:16-24)

      Part-2: Your giving will provoke others. (9:1-5)

 

2nd Corinthians 8:16-24 (NKJV)

Part-1

16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.

17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.

18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,

19 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,

20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—

21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you.

23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.

24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

 

 

Commentary

 

A God-given desire to serve (vs. 16, 17)

This section of chapter 8, is, in essence, a letter of recommendation for Titus and two anonymous “brothers.” Titus was an official representative of Paul, while the “brothers” were representatives of the churches who had contributed to the Jerusalem fund.

 

16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.

Beginning in verse 16 Paul suddenly turns from a profound spiritual principle to some practical council on how the special collection for the needy in Judea would be handled. Paul knew he had his enemies and his critics. He knew well that there would be those who would not hesitate to charge him with turning part of the collection to his own use, so he takes steps to insure that it would be impossible to level that charge against him, by insuring that others would share with him the task of taking it to Jerusalem.

 

“Thanks” is the same Greek word “charis” which has been translated “grace.” Although “thanks” is a good translation, it would be equally correct to translate it “grace be to God.” Paul is saying that he sent Titus to get their offering, but it was already a grace in his heart (He really wanted to do it.). Paul had found a kindred spirit in his fellow worker. The same burden which the apostle had for the Corinthians, he found to be shared by Titus. Paul says that God has put the same earnest” love for you into the heart of Titus that he has for the Jerusalem Christians.

 

While it is true that grace giving means giving by faith, it is also true that grace giving does not mean giving by chance. The Christian who shares with others must be sure that what he gives is managed honestly and faithfully. Grace giving is not foolish giving. Even in a local church, the people who handle the funds must possess certain qualifications. Paul was very careful how he handled money entrusted to him, because he did not want to get the reputation of being a “religious thief.” The churches that contributed to the collection chose certain representatives to travel with Paul, so that everything would be done honestly, decently, and in order.

 

The men and women in every Christian ministry—a local church, a missionary organization, an evangelistic meeting—should possess the following qualifications if they are going to handle God’s money.

(1)   A God-given desire to serve (vs. 16, 17)

(2)  A burden for lost souls (v. 18)

(3)  A desire to honor God (v. 19)

(4)  A reputation for honesty (vs. 20-22)

(5)  A Cooperative spirit (vs. 23, 24)

 

Paul did not draft Titus; the young man had a desire in his heart to assist in the gathering of the special offering. He commended Titus to the Corinthians. He had already emphasized how encouraged Titus was after his initial visit with them (see 2 Corinthians 7:13-15). The Corinthians had welcomed Titus, had respected his message to them, and had even provided for his needs (see 2 Corinthians 7:7, 15).

 

Above all, a person who handles the Lord’s money must have a heart that is right with God.

 

 

17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord.

When Paul asked Titus to visit Corinth again, Titus welcomed Paul’s request. He himself had been eager to go and see them again. He had the same enthusiasm as Paul did. Like Paul, Titus wanted to spur the Corinthians to excel in giving (see 2 Corinthians 8:7). Appropriately, Paul thanked Titus for his heartfelt attitude. Titus’s eagerness to head up the collection efforts in Corinth was as much a gift from God as the ability to give in the first place (see 2 Corinthians 8:1).

 

Titus was unquestionably the one who carried this letter to Corinth. He didn’t leave for Corinth until Paul had finished the letter.

 

 

A burden for lost souls (v. 18)

18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,

Paul took some steps to guard the integrity of the Jerusalem collection. A brother had been chosen by the churches to make sure that the money would be given to its intended recipients. Paul didn’t want any allegations of financial impropriety, especially the sort of allegations that were already circulating in Corinth (see Paul’s defense in 2 Corinthians 12:16-18).

 

We do not know who this brother was, but we thank God that he had a testimony that he shared the Gospel, and he was well-known in all the churches for his preaching of the Gospel. “All” may refer only to all churches sharing in the collection, but it is probably a general way of saying the person referred to is known everywhere, either personally or by reputation. The fact that Paul is sending him and the other delegates shows that the apostle is in charge of the collection. Perhaps “the brother” was an evangelist; at least he was known to the churches as a man burdened for souls. Ancient commentators assumed he was Luke because they took “his service to the Gospel” to mean that this person had written a Gospel book. Recent commentators, however, uniformly deny that Paul ever used the Greek word for “Gospel” to refer to a Gospel book (Note: no written Gospel was in existence at this time, though it was probably in the early stages of preparation). Other commentators had suggested that Apollos or Barnabas may have been this anonymous brother. But the Corinthians would have known both of these men, and thus they would not have needed an introduction. Most commentators suggest that this brother was a representative from the Macedonian churches. Thus, Sopater from Perea or Aristarchus and Secundes from Thessalonica could be possibilities (see Acts 20:4, 5). Still other commentators insist that the fact that Paul stated that Macedonians were accompanying him later implies that this brother was not a Macedonian. These scholars, therefore, offer Tychicus and Trophimus as possibilities (see Acts 21:29).

 

In any case, this brother would function as a representative of the churches to insure that the money of the Jerusalem collection would be handled properly. His presence would add credibility to the enterprise of taking the collection to Jerusalem. Paul did not want anyone to accuse him of mishandling this gift for the Jerusalem Christians, for that would defeat his entire purpose. The gift was to promote unity in the early church, not division.

 

 

A desire to honor God (v. 19)

19 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,

Too often, financial reports glory the church, or a group of special donors, and do not glorify God. There is no such thing in the church as “secular and sacred,” “business and ministry.” Everything we do is “sacred business” and ministry for the Lord. The most spiritual thing a church can do is use its money wisely for spiritual ministry.

 

Paul is saying that all giving should be for the glory of God. We glorify God by using what he gives us the way he wants it used. If the people who manage church finances are not burdened to glorify God, they will soon be using these funds in a way that dishonors God.

 

 

A reputation for honesty (vs. 20-22)

20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—

Paul made it clear that he welcomed the representatives from the cooperating churches. He wanted to avoid any blame. It is not enough to say, “Well the Lord sees what we are doing.”Paul’s concern about how things appeared to others continued with the Jerusalem collection. In his initial instructions to the Corinthians about this (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), Paul advised the leaders of the Corinthian church to collect the money every week. He did not want anything to do with the money. In addition, the Corinthians were to appoint representatives from their own church to take the money to Jerusalem. The wisdom of this precaution is clear from 2 Corinthians 12:16-18, which shows that Paul was suspected of promoting the collection in order to get the money himself. Paul didn’t even want to deliver the money, for he wanted to remain above suspicion. After writing I Corinthians, however, Paul had changed his mind. He had become convinced by the Holy Spirit that he should also go to Jerusalem (see his later explanation of his actions in Acts 20:22-24, and 21:11-14.

 

 

21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

I like the way one writer translates this verse: “Naturally we want to avoid the slightest breath of criticism in the distribution of their gifts, and to be absolutely aboveboard not only in the sight of God but in the eyes of men.” Paul didn’t want anyone to be suspicious of his handling of the money. Therefore he was careful that his actions were not only honorable before the Lord, who saw all things, but also before people, who look on the appearance of things: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then You Will Win Favor And A Good Name In The Sight Of God And Man” (Proverbs 3:3, 4).That is why he refused any kind of financial support from the Corinthians when he had first ministered among them (see 1 Corinthians 9:12). He didn’t want anyone to think he was preaching for money: “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul was concerned for his own name only because his Master’s reputation is bound up with it.

 

Paul was aware that when Christians publicly profess allegiance to the living God, what they do automatically reflects on him. When non-believers find reason to be critical of believers, they are also critical of Christ. So Paul used every safeguard to maintain integrity in the collection of money for the Jerusalem church. Those outside the church can view skeptically the way believers handle money in the church. Financial scandals among high-profile ministries have alerted the nonbelieving world to the unethical gimmicks some Christians use. It is not unusual for TV ministers to promise that God will make those rich who give to their ministry or heal them of some physical malady.

 

In order to finish the collection without any suspicion, Paul continued to refrain from collecting the money himself. Instead, he sent someone whom the Corinthians respected and trusted: Titus. Accompanying Titus were two other representatives from the churches who contributed to the fund to oversee how the money was handled.

 

 

22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you.

Note the emphasis in verse 22 on “diligence.” If there is one quality that is needed when handling finances, it is diligence.

 

Paul recommended the third brother to the Corinthians in these verses. Again, this brother remains anonymous; he could be any one of the people mentioned in the commentary on verse 18. Although Paul didn’t mention this person’s name, he made it clear that the man had proven himself. The Greek for “proved” means “to test.” While Paul does not say here that this man also has been chosen by the churches for this work of taking up the collection, verse 23 implies that this is the case. This man’s zeal for Christ had been tested in many ways, and he had passed these tests. Besides, this man had evidentially heard about the Corinthians from Paul and Titus, and he possessed the same confidence that Paul had in them (see 2 Corinthians 7:13-16).

 

 

A Cooperative spirit (vs. 23, 24)

 

23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.

The last two verses of this chapter summarize Paul’s recommendation of Titus and his two traveling companions. Titus not only had a heart for this ministry (v. 16), but he knew how to be a good “team member.” Although Paul called Titus his son in the faith in Titus 1:4, here he called him his “partner” and “fellow helper,” in the preaching of the Gospel. Paul did this in order to emphasize Titus’s authority among the Corinthians. Titus was Paul’s official representative to the Corinthians to collect the money for the relief of the Jerusalem Christians: “So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part” (2 Corinthians 8:6).Paul wants everyone to know that Titus fully represents the apostle’s own views and authority. Titus was truly dedicated to the Lord’s service; he was not like the committee member I heard about who said at the first meeting, “As long as I am on this committee, there will be no unanimous votes!”

 

The two representatives of the churches who accompanied Titus were also recommended by Paul to the Corinthians (the complete list of representatives is given in Acts 20:4). In the Gospels, the Greek word for “representatives” is only used for the Twelve. Paul in his letters, however, used the word for any representative of a church commissioned for some special task (Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:5; James in Galatians 1:19). The Greek word literally means “the one sent forth.” The two men who went with Titus were apostles in the sense of being commissioned and sent by the churches. They were not apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:6), because they were not eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord or commissioned directly by Him. These unnamed “brethren” are “messengers of the churches,” to be respected and trusted because they have been recognized as competent leaders; they are also “the glory of Christ,” that is, by reason of their character and their work they bring praise to the Lord. Their lives is a mirror in which Christ is reflected. Nothing greater can be said of any man; no one should be able to say less of any Christian.

 

Finance committee members do not own the money; it belongs to the Lord. The committee is only a steward, managing the money honestly and carefully for the service of the Lord. Notice too that Paul saw the committee as special servants of the churches. The raising of this special relief “fund” was a cooperative effort of the Gentile churches, and Paul and the representatives were just messengers of the churches. The Greek word is apostolos, from which we get “apostle—one sent with a special commission.” These dedicated Christians felt an obligation to the churches to do their work honestly and successfully.

 

Grace giving is an exciting adventure! When you learn to give “by grace, through faith (just the way you were saved—Ephesians 2:8, 9), you start to experience a wonderful liberation from things and from circumstances. Instead of things possessing you, you start to control them; you develop a new set of values and priorities. You no longer measure life or other people on the basis of money or possessions. If money is the best test of success, then Jesus was a failure, because He was a poor man!

 

Grace giving enriches you as you enrich others. Grace giving makes you more like Jesus Christ.

 

 

24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

The Corinthian congregation was known as a loving group, but love is not real until it acts. If the proof of the pudding was in the tasting, the proof of professed love is in the living out of it. We prove our love when we find tangible ways to give it away each day. You see, my friend, if you really mean business, there will be more than verbiage. Giving will be a tangible expression of your love. A great many of us like to talk about how much we love Jesus, but we are not willing to sacrifice much for him.

 

Paul told the Corinthians to shower their Christian love on these fellow believers, just as they had welcomed Titus before (see 2 Corinthians 7:7, 13). They had proved Paul’s boasting about them to be true on Titus’s first visit (see 2 Corinthians 7:14); now Paul encouraged them to do the same for these two other representatives. These men were representing the other churches; therefore, the Corinthians should conduct themselves in an appropriate way, for their conduct would be broadcasted to other churches by these representatives. The fact that Paul spent so much time recommending these emissaries and their mission to the Corinthians might indicate that Paul was a little apprehensive about how the Corinthians would treat them. Paul’s last visit was especially painful (see 2 Corinthians 2:1-4). Perhaps that visit was still on his mind, even though Titus had given him an encouraging report (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7). In any event, Paul in this second letter, spurs the readers to prompt and generous giving:

  1. By appealing to their love for him.
  2. By recalling the confidence he had in the Corinthians which he expressed to the messengers when asking them to go to Corinth.
  3. By reminding the Corinthians that the other churches are present in these men and will hear from them what the Corinthians have done about the collection.

 

In any case, Paul was preparing the Corinthians for his next visit. It wouldn’t be a casual visit. Titus had already prepared the way by delivering Paul’s stern letter: “I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you” (2 Corinthians 2:3, 4). But Titus was returning with another letter from Paul (2 Corinthians) and two more representatives to insure that everything would be in order. Afterwards, Paul would come with even more representatives from the Macedonian churches (see 2 Corinthians 9:4). If there was any confrontation like the one that occurred on the last visit (see 2 Corinthians 13:1-3), Paul would have several unbiased witnesses from a number of churches. They would be able to testify to the integrity of Paul’s handling of the situation.

 

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