The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: 8

2 Corinthians 8  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 12
"But we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God bestowed in the Assemblies of Macedonia, that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty has abounded to the riches of their free hearted liberality. For according to their power I bear witness, and beyond their power, they were willing of their own accord, begging of us with much entreaty to give effect to the grace and fellowship of the service which was to be rendered to the saints. And not according as we hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and to us by God's will" (verses 1-5, JND).
Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea,—these were the Assemblies of which we know in what another writer has called "the long desolated and impoverished district" of Macedonia. And there was not only deep poverty, but at this time too, a great trial of affliction, the nature of which is not stated. In such a scene, the grace of God was bestowed in such fashion that we read of "the abundance of their joy" abounding to "the riches of their free hearted liberality."
What was the occasion for this fine liberality? There were saints in Judea suffering from poverty, and the knowledge of it had gone out where the gospel had spread, with such effect that the apostle had given to the Assemblies in Macedonia and at Corinth, directions for a collection, as we read in 1 Corinthians 16:1-41Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. (1 Corinthians 16:1‑4), and now a year perhaps later he was seeking to stir to action the well-to-do saints at the rich and populous city of Corinth. But first he must tell them of what had occurred in the north among the poor when he was there.
"According to their power" and "beyond their power" these Christians rescued from the slavery of Satan were "willing of their own accord," and begged the apostle and his traveling companions "with much entreaty" to "give effect to the grace and fellowship" (no doubt it was tendered in the form of money or its equivalent, but in God's reckoning it was grace and fellowship) of the service to be rendered to the saints in far away Jerusalem.
Then does the apostle add, "And not according as we hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and to us by God's will." What evidence we have here of a deep and precious work of God! Though in deep poverty and in great trial, these very pressing and painful circumstances were regarded by the Macedonian saints as though they did not exist, while they looked past them all to the Lord, and gave themselves to Him, and to the apostle by the will of God.
What an example is here, for all who love the Lord! O, for more of a heart like these dear saints of long ago, to subordinate our own circumstances to the will of God without any reserve whatever! What an enviable record they have left behind them in the Book of God! Nor are they alone there, for without going outside of the Epistles, we find in 1 Corinthians 16 the house of Stephanas, who devoted themselves, or as it may be read, appointed themselves, to the saints for service. And let us not forget, there is a word directly for us on this subject in Romans 12, and a shorter one in Galatians 6:22Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2), and another in Philippians 2:44Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:4); and many more.
"So that we begged Titus that, according as he had before begun, so he would also complete as to you this grace also; but even as ye abound in every way, in faith and word and knowledge, and all diligence, and in love from you to us, that ye may abound in this grace also. I do not speak as commanding it, but through the zeal of others, and proving the genuineness of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes He being rich became poor, in order that ye by His poverty might be enriched" (verses 6-9, JND).
"Enjoin on those rich in the present age not to be highminded, nor to trust on the uncertainty of riches, but in the God who affords us all things richly for our enjoyment; to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal in distributing, disposed to communicate of their substance, laying by for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold on what is really life." (JND)
So the opinion of the apostle is given; it was profitable for the Corinthian saints who began before, not only to do, but also to be willing, a year ago. Now, let them complete the doing of it. At the present time the Corinthians' abundance would be for Macedonian need; in God's ways and in due time Macedonian abundance would be for Corinthian need, for God would see that there would be an equality, as in the wilderness when the children of Israel were fed with manna.
Titus had gone to Corinth (verse 17) and with him two other brothers were sent (verses 19 and 22) to take the responsibility of bringing the gifts of the Assemblies to Jerusalem, in order that no blame might be attached to the apostle.