The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Explanation of the Letter (contd.)
13- An Invitation to give to the Church in Jerusalem (8: 1-15)
In his appeal to the Church of Corinth to serve the poor of the Holy City, St. Paul points to the initiative of the Churches in Macedonia (like Philippi, Thessalonica) who, in spite of their severe poverty, gave willingly and generously above their means, with excessive joy and “imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (1-4). Truly, they “first gave themselves to the Lord, then to us by the will of God” (5).
For this reason, St. Paul has asked Titus that, during his outreach of the Corinthians, “he would also complete this grace” in them as well so that, just as they “abound in everything - in faith, in speech (with the word of God), in knowledge (of God), in diligence …” they would also abound in this service (6,7). This should not be taken as an order but as an act of love for Christ, who “for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (8,9). It is not enough that you only will, but to fulfill your will with your work as much as you can. This is not to burden you but to let you give today from your excess to fulfill the needs of others, and they will offer you from their excess to fulfill your need, to have equality. He then uses as an example of equality what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness when they collected the manna in the morning, each family according to their numbers, the bigger family did not have excess and the smaller family did not lack, but all had their sufficiency, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack” (Ex 16: 18, 2Cor 8: 15)
14- Titus and Two servants carry the gifts of Corinth (8: 16-24)
To avert suspicions and offenses and to close the door of false accusations, or as he writes, “avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us -- providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (8: 20,21), St. Paul arranged that no one alone collects the gifts, and he is not sending Titus alone to Corinth (may be carrying this letter) but two other servants with him [their names were not revealed in this letter, but only “our brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches… who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us … and we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you … they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ” (18,19,22,23). It is thought that the first one in Luke and the second is Trophimus the Ephesian or Tychicus (Acts 20: 4) who accompanied Paul to Asia. Trophimus was with him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29)].
And as for Titus, St. Paul thanks God who has put in his heart to take care of the Corinthian Church, and has accepted this ministry that he went to them on his own initiative, “He is my partner and fellow worker concerning you”. St. Paul is asking the congregation of the Corinthian Church, to show - in their offering - to Titus and his fellowmen, and to the other Churches, the proof of their love and of his boasting on their behalf, especially in Macedonia (16, 17, 23, 24).
15- Guidance in Giving (Ch. 9)
Continuing his talk about giving, St. Paul says that he knew about the readiness of Achaea (the province where Corinth is) to this service since last year, and how their zeal motivated others. For this reason, he sent the brethren to see their willingness, hoping that he will not be disappointed or ashamed if Macedonians came with him and found them not as he wished (1-5). He asks them to give generously: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” (6,7).
He asks God to make them abound in all grace, blessing their seeds and harvests, so that - having sufficiency in everything - they increase in every good deed (conclusion of the prayer for the waters, plants, or fruits in St. Basil’s Liturgy). He recites from the psalms (Ps 112: 9) on the gift of God: “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” It is God who gives us to give (8–11).
In conclusion of this guidance, St. Paul says to the Church that the ministry of giving, not only fulfills the need of the saints, but also brings thanksgiving to God from those who are ministered to, who also glorify God because of your obedience to the Gospel, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (12–15).
16- St. Paul Responds to his Critics (10: 1 – 13: 11)
As St. Paul approaches the end of his epistles, he feels obliged to respond to his critics who accused him of being proud and boastful “bold” when he is away, while weak “lowly” when he is their midst (10:1): “His letters … are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible” (10:10). In his response he is keen to keep “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (10:1) and to rely not on the flesh, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (bodily) but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing (pretension) that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (10: 4,5).
In the defense of his missionary work, he says to those who criticize him:
+ If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that “just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s” (10: 7).
+ The apostolic authority given to him by the Lord is for building and not for destroying or frightening (10: 8,9).
+ We do not conduct ourselves according to the flesh. “What we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present” (10: 11)
+ We do not dare to praise ourselves as others do, but “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord”. The praise of our ministry to you will follow us as your faith grows. We do not praise ourselves “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (10: 12-18).
+ We are looking to “preach the gospel in the regions beyond you” (10:16), and we have no time to look for honors or praise.
Saint Mark's Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make any copies from these notes and distribute them to your relatives and friends. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these "Short Notes" or in private correspondence. Write to us:
PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045