2 Corinthians 8:1-15 – Encouragement to Give
SummaryPaul encourages the predominately Gentile Christians in Corinth to give generously to an offering being collected for the predominately Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.
AnalysisIn Galatians, Paul describes what happened when he, Barnabas, and Titus met with the Jewish Christian church leaders to discuss Paul's mission to Gentiles. He says, "They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10). Part of the way in which Paul demonstrated unity between his mission to Gentiles in Asia Minor and the mostly Jewish Christian church in and around Jerusalem was by collecting funds to take to the poorer Jerusalem church. Second Corinthians 8 is concerned with that collection and the Corinthians' participation in it.
Paul first reports the sacrificial giving of churches in Macedonia. Macedonia includes such cities as Philippi and Thessalonica. His rhetoric of comparison may inspire an eagerness on the part of the Corinthians not to be outdone by the Macedonian churches. Paul then reviews the Corinthians' recent history with respect to the collection recalling that the year before, under the direction of Titus, the Corinthian churches had begun their own collection of funds for the Jerusalem churches. We do not know when the super-apostles, as Paul refers to them, arrived in Corinth. It may be that Paul hearkens back to the previous year as a way of reminding the Corinthians how they were behaving before they came to have doubts about Paul's ministry and character.
For two reasons, we know that Paul is not talking about an offering from the Corinthians that will be used to offset his own expenses or to pay him for services as an apostle. First, in 2 Corinthians 8:19, Paul talks about Titus as a traveling companion who will help him deliver the generous gift from the churches Paul has planted. Secondly, in 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, Paul makes it clear that he refused to take money from the Corinthians for his work among them. In this way, he differentiates himself from the apostles who came after him, saying "And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about" (2 Corinthians 11:12).