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2 Corinthians 8:1–5

“In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (v. 2).

Macedonia was the place where Paul and Titus met after Titus brought the Apostle’s letter of rebuke to Corinth and observed the response of the church there to Paul’s correspondence. Having just told the Corinthians of Titus’ positive report to him in Macedonia (see 2 Cor. 7:5–16), Paul now has an opportune moment to address another concern he has with the Corinthians—their contributions to the collection of funds he was gathering for the church in Jerusalem. This is a natural place for Paul to raise the issue, for he has been talking about Macedonia and can make a connection with the contribution of the Macedonian churches to the needy saints in Judea.

In his earlier canonical letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave instructions for the church in Corinth to take up funds on the first day of the week for the Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1–4). As we see in other texts such as Romans 15:22–29, the church in Jerusalem was suffering from a significant lack of material provisions, almost certainly due to the great persecution of the Jerusalem Christians that Paul had taken part in before his conversion (see Acts 8:1–3). Once Paul became a Christian and started planting churches, an important part of his ministry involved taking steps to alleviate the poverty of the Jerusalem church. He expected the gentile churches to donate to this collection as a sign of unity between the Jewish Christians and the gentile Christians (see Rom. 15:22–29; 2 Cor. 9).

It seems, however, that the Corinthian Christians were not giving to this collection as they could. Thus, Paul implores them in 2 Corinthians to fulfill the task (see 8:6). Before doing that, however, he makes special note of the surprising generosity of the Macedonian Christians in this matter (vv. 1–5). This would serve as an indirect encouragement to give, for if the poorer Macedonian believers could donate to the collection, there was no reason why the much wealthier Corinthian believers could not give.

Paul notes that the Macedonians gave even though they were suffering affliction and extreme poverty. Indeed, they gave even “beyond their means” (vv. 2–3). The sense here is not that the Macedonians gave money that they did not have but that they gave far more than anyone might reasonably expect people in their dire straits to give. They were exceedingly generous, serving as an example for Christian generosity toward the poor.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Paul appeals to the Macedonians as examples of Christian generosity. Would he be able to make the same appeal about us? Although Scripture does not prescribe the level of generosity we must show to those in need, especially Christians in need, it does expect us to be generous with the Lord’s provisions for us. Let us show such generosity that others might look to us as an example.

For Further Study
  • Ruth 2–3
  • Proverbs 19:17
  • Galatians 2:10
  • 2 Corinthians 9:1–5

Paul’s Confidence in the Corinthians

Excelling in Grace

Keep Reading The Doctrine of Justification

From the October 2021 Issue
Oct 2021 Issue