What does 2 Corinthians chapter 8 mean?Having addressed the issue of his painful rebuke of the Corinthians and his joy at their repentance, Paul moves to a new topic: the collection of funds for suffering Christians in Jerusalem. The Corinthians had previously agreed to participate in contributing to this collection about a year earlier. Paul gave them instructions for how to do so in 1 Corinthians. However, some difficult issues had arisen between them and the apostle in the meantime. Will they still follow through on their commitment to give?
Paul begins by pointing to the example of the churches in Macedonia. Though they are under the affliction of persecution and in extreme poverty, they begged Paul to be allowed to participate in the collection. Not only that, but they gave beyond their means in order to help the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. They did this, Paul writes, because they gave themselves to the Lord and then, by God's will, gave themselves to Paul's effort to raise these funds (2 Corinthians 8:1–6).
With this in mind, Paul urges the Corinthians to excel in this "act of grace," as they excel in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in earnestness, and in his love for them. He is quick to say that he is not commanding them to follow through with their commitment. That would defeat the purpose of the gift. Instead, he asks them to understand this as an opportunity to prove that they genuinely have Christlike love for others (1 Corinthians 8:7–8).
After all, Paul adds, Christ did much more for them. He willingly left the riches and safety of heaven to come to earth as a man and die for their sins. He did this so that they could experience the riches and safety of heaven. Now it is time to follow Christ's example in sacrificing for the good of others.
A year ago, Paul says, they were ready to give. For that readiness to mean anything, though, they must now follow through and actually give. He is not asking them to give everything they have or more than they have. He is asking them to follow the biblical principle of giving in proportion to what they have. The goal for Christians should be to maintain fairness, Paul writes, with those who have much giving to those who have little, so that all have enough (2 Corinthians 8:9–15).
Three men will be coming to Corinth to help with the collection of the funds, and to deliver this letter. Titus had recently been to Corinth and will be returning specifically to carry out this mission because of his earnest care for the Corinthians. He is Paul's partner and co-worker with the Corinthians and cares as much for them as Paul does himself.
Two unnamed men will accompany Titus as representatives of other churches that were participating in the gifts. One is described as a man famous for proclaiming the gospel. The other is a tested and trustworthy brother in the ministry who is serious about important things and has great confidence in the Corinthians.
Together, these two men will help to make sure that the collection and distribution of the funds is done in an upright way so that everyone can trust Paul's integrity in administering the collection. Paul refuses to give anyone a valid reason to question his motives in collecting this money. These men will also report back to their churches how the Corinthians responded to the opportunity to help those in need. Paul urges them to allow their gift to be proof of their Christlike love (2 Corinthians 8:16–24).