2 Corinthians 8:1-24

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2009-11-10 17:19.

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Our heavenly Father expressed his gracious favor when making it possible for humans to be reconciled to him by what his Son did when dying for sinners. This revealed God’s boundless love and concern for them. Understandably, therefore, Paul attributed the generosity of the believers in Macedonia to God’s unmerited favor. Their generosity was rooted in deep appreciation for the incomparable kindness their heavenly Father had shown them.

The apostle wanted the Corinthian believers, his brothers, to know about the gracious divine favor that had been granted to the congregations of believers in the neighboring Roman province of Macedonia. He then called attention to the extraordinary generosity of the Macedonians as the evidence for their having been given God’s gracious favor. By implication, the apostle encouraged a like generous spirit among the Corinthians. (8:1)

He did not explain the nature of the very trying distress or affliction to which believers in Macedonia had been subjected. They were not well off materially and encountered intense hostility from unbelievers. Opposers may have plundered them of possessions, making their circumstances even more difficult. (1 Thessalonians 2:14; compare Hebrews 10:34.) Yet, despite their great distress and their deep poverty, their joy abounded and found expression in the overflowing richness of their generosity. (8:2)

Paul could testify that the giving of the Macedonians was not just “according to [their] ability.” It went beyond their means. Of their own accord, they had been moved to want to share with needy fellow believers the little they themselves had. In their generous giving, they went beyond what might have been expected from persons with limited means. (8:3)

The Macedonians strongly entreated Paul, yes, begged him, for the “favor [of being able to participate] and the [actual] share in the service for the holy ones.” They considered being able to give as a favor or kindness, earnestly desiring to provide help for their fellow believers, the destitute “holy ones” in Jerusalem. (8:4; see the Notes section.)

Concerning the Macedonians, Paul continued, “And not as we hoped.” This may be understood to mean that the Macedonians did more than the apostle could possibly have expected. (8:5) Numerous translations make this significance explicit. “And their giving surpassed our expectations.” (REB) “And they gave in a way we did not expect.” (NCV) “And they did more than we had hoped.” (CEV) “It was not something that we expected of them.” (NJB)

“First,” or most importantly, they gave themselves to the Lord (God, according to other manuscripts, including P46 [c. 200]). At the time of their becoming believers, they placed themselves fully at the disposal of the Lord Jesus Christ, earnestly seeking to conduct themselves in harmony with his example and teaching. In view of Jesus Christ’s oneness with his Father, they would also have given themselves to God, determined to do his will. Therefore, whether the original reading refers to the Lord Jesus Christ or to his Father is immaterial. The Macedonians also gave themselves to Paul, doing what they could to assist him. Their giving proved to be “through God’s will,” indicating that it was in response to the divine will. (8:5)

In view of the generous spirit of the Macedonians, Paul was particularly concerned that the Corinthians would not fall short in their giving. While in Corinth, Titus had already started the arrangement to provide aid for the poor believers in Jerusalem. Therefore, Paul appealed to him to complete this gracious “favor,” or the relief effort. (8:6)

The apostle spoke commendably about the Corinthians, referring to them as “abounding in everything.” He then identified “all things” as being “faith,” “word,” “knowledge,” “all eagerness,” and “our love for you” (“your love for us,” according to other manuscripts). As believers, the Corinthians did have faith in God and Christ, and their faith deserved commendation. They were not lacking in “word,” or in the ability to express themselves, and they were in possession of the vital knowledge concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and his Father. They had already manifested an eagerness to give. (8:7; compare verses 11 and 12.)

It appears that the oldest extant manuscript (P46) and fourth-century Codex Vaticanus preserve the original reading (“our love for you”). There was room for improvement respecting the love of the Corinthians for Paul, but he himself had not restricted his love for them. (Compare 6:12, 13.) As they abounded, or were rich, in the things he had enumerated, Paul also wanted the Corinthians to excel in gracious giving. (8:7)

By what he had said to them, the apostle did not intend to command them to contribute, for he desired their giving to stem from a pure motive. Paul, “through the eagerness of others,” desired to test the genuineness of their love. This may be understood to mean that the eagerness of the Macedonians to aid poor believers in Jerusalem would be the standard by which the love of the Corinthians would be tested. (8:8)

Paul reminded them about “the favor of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Corinthians did know that the Son of God had given his life for them, which was an unmerited favor beyond compare. As his Father’s dearly beloved Son, he shared with him in the ownership of everything in heaven and on earth. In his heavenly estate, the Son was rich. Yet he became poor, emptying himself of all the splendor he possessed and living as a man of little means on earth so as to surrender his life for sinful humans, including the Corinthians. Thus, through Christ’s poverty, the believers in Corinth had become rich. They had been forgiven of their sins and become reconciled to God as his beloved children, with a permanent inheritance in heaven. All material wealth amounts to nothing when compared to the priceless treasure of being God’s children and enjoying all the privileges and blessings associated therewith. (8:9; see the Notes section.)

Regarding the contribution for the poor believers in Jerusalem, Paul next expressed his opinion. In the previous year, the Corinthians had started to do something regarding the relief effort and had demonstrated a desire to act. (8:10) So, in view of what they had begun earlier, he admonished them to complete the arrangement based on their means, matching their actual performance with their previous eagerness to share in helping poor fellow believers in Jerusalem. (8:11)

If there is an eagerness to give, the value of that giving is determined according to what a person has, not according to what the individual does not have. Those with limited means are not in a position to give as much as are the materially prosperous. What counts is an eager desire to contribute in proportion to the available resources. (8:12)

To provide aid for needy believers in Jerusalem, Paul did not intend to relieve others and make it difficult for the Corinthians. Rather, he purposed that an equalizing be effected, with the surplus of some offsetting the lack of others. (8:13)

At that particular time, the Corinthians were in a position to give from their surplus to aid needy ones, and the surplus of the ones being helped could fill the need of the Corinthians. This would result in an equalizing, with the surplus of one making up the lack of another. (8:14)

A number of translations render the words of verse 14 to mean that those who would then be receiving aid might at a future time help the Corinthians in their time of need. “At the moment your surplus meets their need, but one day your need may be met from their surplus. The aim is equality.” (REB) “At present your plenty should supply their need, and then at some future date their plenty may supply your need. In that way we share with each other.” (J. B. Phillips) “At this time you have plenty. What you have can help others who are in need. Then later, when they have plenty, they can help you when you are in need, and all will be equal.” (NCV) “But it is only fair for you to share with them when you have so much, and they have so little. Later, when they have more than enough, and you are in need, they can share with you. Then everyone will have a fair share.” (CEV) The Greek text, though, does not refer to a future sharing, and it does not seem likely that Paul would have thought in terms of a future material reciprocation from those who were then in need.

As the poor believers in Jerusalem received aid from fellow believers in numerous other cities, the Corinthians would likewise be aided if they came to be in need. Moreover, non-Jewish believers had benefited spiritually from Jewish believers. So it is more likely that Paul regarded the surplus of the poor believers in Jerusalem as being of a spiritual kind. This “surplus” would have included their prayers of thanksgiving and their supplications for believers who had come to their aid. (Compare Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:10-14.)

Regarding the equalizing, Paul quoted from Exodus 16:18, “The one [gathering] much did not have too much, and the one [gathering] little did not have too little.” This referred to the experience of the Israelites when they collected a supply of manna. They appear to have estimated the amount they would need, and some gathered more than an omer (about two dry quarts) per person, whereas others collected less than an omer for each family member. Upon returning home and measuring the amount they had gathered, everyone had just the right amount. (8:15; see the Notes section.)

The apostle thanked God for having put into the “heart” (the inmost self) of Titus “earnestness” or deep concern for the Corinthians. This “earnestness” proved to be the same loving care and concern Paul himself had. (8:16)

The apostle had asked Titus to return to Corinth. Titus had not just responded to this appeal. Earnest or sincere about wanting to go, he had left for Corinth of his own accord. (8:17)

With Titus, Paul sent another trustworthy brother. The apostle did not identify this brother by name but described him as one whose “praise” or outstanding reputation “in the evangel” was recognized throughout “all the congregations.” These congregations would have been all the communities of believers that were known to the Corinthians. The unnamed brother’s reputation “in the evangel” or the glad tidings about Jesus Christ likely related to diligence and zeal in advancing the interests of God’s Son. (8:18; see the Notes section.)

Paul had not acted on his own initiative in selecting this brother. “Not only” was the unnamed brother highly esteemed, but all the congregations who knew him had appointed him as the apostle’s travel companion in order to administer the “favor” (the relief effort for the destitute believers in Jerusalem), doing so for the “glory of the Lord” and Paul’s “eagerness” (literally, “our eagerness”; “your eagerness,” according to later manuscripts). The contribution from the congregations consisting mainly of non-Jewish believers would have served for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It would have provided tangible evidence of the love and deep concern believers had come to have for one another because of their faith in him and what he had done for them by sacrificing his life. The contribution would also have revealed Paul’s eagerness in following through on his desire to keep the poor in mind and come to their aid. (8:19; compare Galatians 2:10 and see the Notes section.)

Having been obtained from numerous congregations, the contribution for the needy believers must have been significant. By having recognized trustworthy brothers accompany him, Paul endeavored to make sure that no suspicion would be cast on his administering this generous gift. (8:20) Stressing that nothing from the contributed funds would be for personal use, Paul added, “For good [things] we are intending, not only before the Lord [God, according to other manuscripts], but also before men.” This could mean that, in connection with all matters, Paul concerned himself about doing what is right both in the sight of God (or Jesus Christ [if the reading “Lord” designates the Son of God]) and fellow humans. (8:21; see the Notes section.)

With Titus and the unnamed brother, Paul also sent another brother whom he did not name. The apostle described the brother as one he had often (or in many ways) tested (or found to be exemplary and trustworthy in varied circumstances and situations). Paul had no doubt about this brother’s earnestness or willingness to serve unselfishly. As for the brother himself, he had come to have great confidence in the Corinthians, resulting in his being even more earnest in his desire to assist with the contribution. (8:22; see the Notes section.)

Focusing on Titus, Paul identified him as his “partner” and a “fellow worker” for the Corinthians (a brother laboring with the apostle in promoting their spiritual welfare) and thereby expressed his complete trust in him. The other brothers who would be accompanying Titus (the two unnamed ones whom the apostle mentioned earlier) were “apostles” or “sent forth ones” from the congregations where they had ministered, and so were men in whom fellow believers had full confidence. These brothers were also “the glory of Christ,” reflecting favorably on him as Lord in their conduct and dealings. (8:23)

Paul admonished the Corinthians to give proof of their love and the rightness of his boasting or his expressing pride or confidence in them, doing so before the other congregations. Believers in Corinth and other parts of Achaia would have shown their love for Titus and the brothers with him upon warmly welcoming them and cooperating with the arrangements for the relief effort. Their generosity in contributing would have shown their love for needy fellow believers and revealed that the apostle’s pride in them had not been misplaced. (8:24)


In verse 4, Paul, as in verse 1, again used the first person plural pronouns and verbs. The change from the first person singular verb (“I testify”), found in verse 3, does not appear to be significant. This is a dictated letter, and consistency in the use of the first person singular and the first person plural in an editorial sense is not to be expected.

Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus omits “Christ” in verse 9.

The wording of the quotation from Exodus 16:18 (in verse 15) is not exactly the same as that in the extant Septuagint text, but the meaning is identical.

Luke has been suggested as the brother who accompanied Titus, but there really is no way to know whom the apostle meant. (8:18)

As elsewhere in much of 2 Corinthians, Paul appears to have used the first person plural pronouns and verbs editorially with reference to himself. The reading “your eagerness” (verse 19), which has limited manuscript support, would refer to the eagerness or willingness of the Corinthians to share in the relief effort for the poor believers in Jerusalem.

In verse 21, the reading “Lord” has the most manuscript support, but the oldest extant manuscript (P46, c. 200) and a number of others contain the word “God.”

One common conjecture is that Apollos is the unnamed brother mentioned in verse 22.