The Gift, People, and the Lord
2 Corinthians 8:16-24 ESV
23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
God has called his people to do good—to act for the benefit of others. Our individual lives should be a constant expression of the goodness of our Father in heaven. In our acrostic BLESS, we are seeking to make this our way of life. We ought to be constantly seeking to show mercy and kindness to others in practical ways. Each of this has this responsibility. And we as a local body of believers have this same duty to act together for the good of others. In this section of Second Corinthians, the apostle Paul is urging them to fulfill a commitment they freely made to give a generous gift to needy Jewish believers in Judea. This was a big project involving many churches over about a five year period.
Paul has been reviewing some of the underlying ideas about this gift, but now he inserts some information about the administration of this gift. This information will help them to renew their commitment to contribute to this ministry of love. In our text the apostle talks about the gift, some people involved in administering the gift, and the Lord’s place in this matter.
I. The gift
A. It was a sizable gift – liberal or lavish. Two facts indicate this.
1. The gift was collected from many churches in western “Gentile” areas. He has mentioned the generosity of the Macedonian churches, and undoubtedly churches from Asia Minor and other parts of Greece were also involved.
Illustration: Think of “Operation Christmas Child” that includes thousands of churches across our country. Our relatively few shoe boxes are joined with other churches doing the same, and then you have hundreds of thousands available to distribute.
2. The gift had to meet the needs of many believers. Much money would have been required to make a significant impact; otherwise, it would have been a token gesture.
Comment: In our current invitation card outreach, we are partnering with many other churches to get out the good news across our land. As churches work together, we can reach many.
B. It had two special purposes (8:19)
1. To honor the Lord himself. It was for the glory of the Lord. Here is an idea to transform our thoughts. As we act like God, who is kind, generous, compassionate, and merciful, we show his greatness to people (cf. Mt 5:14-16). This is a witness that can lead them to repentance and salvation (Rm 2:4).
Comment: As we read the Gospels together, we see how Jesus lived to show the greatness of God the Father. We should be picking up his attitudes and way of life.
2. To show our willingness to help – two concerns might be in view
a. The care of the Gentile believers for their brothers and sisters in Christ in Judea. They crossed hostile ethnic barriers by this gift.
b. Paul’s desire to help after the havoc he caused. This could be a real concern on his part. We all wish we had an “undo” button. But we can’t change history. However, we can live a life of love now (Eph 5:2).
Apply: This is the real issue in striving for reconciliation between people groups. No one can undo the wrongs of the past. But together people groups can act in harmonious ways to be a new future. However, this can only be done through Christ and the gospel. Don’t be afraid to cross ethnic barriers and love those who never thought you would love them.
II. The people – Many people are mentioned in this passage.
Like the Corinthians, the churches of Macedonia, and the apostle Paul. All are important, but we will focus on three men mentioned in regard to the completion and administration of the gift. These verses function like a letter of recommendation for these men.
A. Titus – They knew Titus, but Paul reaffirms his place in new covenant ministry. This is very personal recommendation. Paul says that Titus shares his zeal and owns him as a close associate.
1. His qualifications (8:23) – He is Paul’s partner and fellow worker. Paul was confident about sending Titus into difficult or demanding situations. He knew Titus would act well according to Christ and the gospel.
2. His desires (8:16-17) – Titus wanted to return to Corinth to help the believers there. While Paul asked him to go, he makes it clear that it was also Titus’ plan to return. Obviously, Titus had seen the Lord at work among them (7:5-16), and he wanted to continue to be part of what God was doing. By the way, this should help us have a better view of the Corinthian church than many have had.
B. The first unnamed brother – “brother” means not only a brother in Christ but also a brother in the work of the gospel. How good it is when Christians recognize and celebrate our personal unity in God’s family and in our labors for the gospel.
Comment: Don’t waste your time speculating the identity of either unnamed brother in this passage. If it mattered at all, the Holy Spirit would have led Paul to write down their names.
1. His qualifications (8:18) – He was well-known for his service in reference to the gospel. Again, we do not know exactly what is meant. There are many ways to serve.
2. His selection (8:19) – He was chosen by the churches to accompany Paul to administer the lavish gift. Clearly, they knew this brother would faithfully carry out the mission and confirm that the gift reached those in need.
C. The second unnamed brother
1. His qualifications (8:22) – He was a man of proven character. His presence would help satisfy the integrity of this ministry. He was also confident in the Corinthians. They would sense that this brother respected them, which would make them all feel better about this giving project.
2. His selection (8:23) – He as well was chosen by the churches. Both are called the “sent ones” (apostles) of the churches. They were selected to protect and to promote their interests in this project.
Apply: Churches can appoint people to represent them in ministries or for special meetings. It is a blessed situation when churches work together for the gospel.
III. The Lord
A. His work (8:16)
1. Observe that Paul give thanks to God. This is an essential activity of God’s people: that we might glorify God in this world. We thank God because he has acted among us. Obviously, you must have this in your life’s “viewfinder”.
2. God is able to act directly in the hearts of people. This is important to know. It tells us why we can and should pray for people. In a human-centered age, we must continually put God back in our thoughts. Our Father in heaven has not left us alone to work strenuously with little hope of success. He is able to change people—the new birth, etc.
B. His honor (8:19-21)
1. This is one of the objectives of our lives. How can we demonstrate the greatness of our great God and Savior?
2. This ought to guide our actions, as it guided Paul in these arrangements about the offering (8:21). This is what we seek to do as a church in money matters.
Apply: Now, how are we honoring the Lord together in our community in other ways?
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.