2 Corinthians 8:5
And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God.
Praise from St. Paul was worth having. He was a serious man, who could not pay empty compliments, and having a high sense of the Christian calling, he would never think of praising a Church merely to please the people or ingratiate himself with them, if he had not judged it worthy of commendation. Here are two marks of a Church on which the grace of God has been bestowed.
I. CONSECRATION OF ITS MEMBERS TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Before they made their contribution to the relief of the poor saints elsewhere, the Macedonian Christians "gave their own selves to the Lord." Though poor and afflicted, happy were they and generous, because their conversion was thorough, and their devotion to Christ hearty and unfeigned. By profession all Christians give themselves to the Lord; but alas! in some cases it is a mere profession. Not every one so believes and lives as to entitle him to say, "I am my Lord's, and he is mine." This, however, is the true ideal. "Thy people shall be freewill offerings in thy day of power." And without this spirit in its members no Church is strong or pleasing to Christ, no matter how venerable its history, how admirable its constitution, or how well conducted its services.
II. SUBJECTION TO APOSTOLIC GUIDANCE BY THE WILL OF GOD. Some of the Macedonian Christians gave themselves to St. Paul as his companions and assistants in missionary labour. Such were Sopater, Secundus, Aristarchus, and Epaphroditus; of whom the first was a Berean, the second and third were Thessalonians, and the fourth was a Philippian. But these choice men were only favourable specimens of the Churches to which they belonged, and which were pervaded by reverence for the apostle and gratitude for his labours. Every true Church of Christ must be apostolic. It must stand on the apostolic testimony and doctrine, follow apostolic direction and practice, and both inhale and exhale the spirit of apostolic devotion to Christ. Of the history and writings of the apostles enough is extant to guide and comfort every Church that is, like those of Macedonia, ready to learn of an apostle by the will of God. We are "built on the foundation of apostles and prophets." On the twelve foundations of the wall of the holy city are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. EXHORTATION. Follow those of Macedonia. Give yourselves to the Lord, and then to the apostolic word and fellowship. Present yourselves a living sacrifice. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.