2 Corinthians 8:1
Moreover, brothers, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
By these we are to understand the Churches at Thessalonica, Philippi, and Beroea. There is a sense in which we speak of the Church of Christ as one, and also a sense in which we speak of it as many. It is correct to say, "the Church," and it is also correct to say, "the Churches." All who love the Lord Jesus Christ, and have surrendered their will and life to his ruling, and have made open profession of their devotion to him, make together the one catholic and apostolic Church, and may properly be thought of as a whole, as the members of the one body of Christ; but as these are located in various places, as they unite for purposes of fellowship and worship indifferent spheres and different buildings, they may be spoken of as Churches. The answering terms, which help to explain those on which we are dwelling, were used by our Lord, who spoke of his many folds and his one flock. St. Paul might with equal truthfulness have spoken of the Church in Macedonia, but he probably desired to direct attention to the special circumstances of each individual community, in order to bring out forcibly the remarkable character of their generosity and self-denial, He sets before us for our consideration this fact, that, just as a Christian man's conduct and character may make him a model to others, and a gracious power upon them, touching and quickening into power that spirit of emulation which dwells in various strength in us all, so an individual Church, or a set of Churches, may act with a nobility, a generosity, and self-denial that should make them an inspiring model to other Churches. We consider in what ways the Macedonians became a model to the Corinthians.
I. A MODEL AS THE OBJECTS OF DIVINE GRACE. "We do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia." By "grace" here we are to understand the special favour of God, and the precise "gifts" with which they were endowed. The disposition and the power to give is to be regarded as a divinely bestowed talent or trust, and as a special sign of the Divine favour. The gift of benevolence, charity, generosity, is as truly a Divine trust or bestowment as the gift of healing, of preaching, or of tongues. And, like all other Divine gifts, it is dependent on recipiency, preparedness to use such gifts aright. Divine bestowments on Churches are never made at haphazard, upon any kind of favouritism, or in the exercise of any so-called sovereignty. Neither Churches nor individuals can get free from the responsibility of being ready to receive. The loving and thoughtful spirit of the Philippians, and the studious openness of the Bereans, and the suffering experiences of the Thessalonians, prepared them to receive this special grace of God unto generosity and brotherly charity. Illustrate and impress this point, that nowadays Churches lack "grace" because they are not in attitudes and moods fitting them for its reception. We are not straitened in God, in God's provisions, or in God's willingness, but we are sadly straitened in ourselves, in our unreadiness and unfitness to receive. Of God it is said, "He giveth more grace;" but of us it must be said, "Ye have not because ye ask not, or because ye ask amiss." Illustrating how God delays his bestowments until there is the fitting attitude for their reception, the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:21, 22) represents God as saying, "It shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." When all unite to cry for the refreshing rains, then, and only then, shall the windows be opened, and grace in copious showers descend.
II. A MODEL AS RESPONDING TO DIVINE GRACE. For the grace may come, and be neglected or misused. Compare the expression St. Paul uses concerning himself (1 Corinthians 15:10): "By the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." It is a great and ever working law that all Divine gifts that are unused or undervalued will be taken away or lost. The one condition of the renewal and enlargement of grace is that we have faithfully responded to the grace we have had. We retain the gift of preaching only by preaching, and the gift of charity only by the exercise of generosity and self-denial. The remarkable thing about the Macedonian Churches, the thing which made them a model to other Churches, was that they so nobly responded to the grace that rested upon them, and acted in so earnest and self-sacrificing a manner. So often Churches have more grace than they follow out, and so they lose the grace. The grace abounds, but the response to the grace is set under unworthy limitations.
III. A MODEL AS SELF-DENYING. The apostle notices two things which might reasonably have excused the Macedonians from sharing in the contribution.
1. Their persecution, and the anxieties and distresses which it had brought them.
2. Their poverty, for the Church was not gathered from the rich; the poor of this world were made "rich in faith." So their large and generous gifts were a delightful surprise, and a testimony to the power of Christian principle upon them. Christian motive mastered worldly considerations; and their gifts became peculiarly acceptable to God, because upon them rested the Christly stamp of self-sacrifice. St. Paul commends, in these Macedonians, just what our Lord commended when he directed attention to the poor widow who cast two mites into the treasury - "all her living."
IV. A MODEL AS THOROUGHLY EARNEST IN GENEROUS SCHEMES. St. Paul dwells, in a very delighted way, upon their willingness and their earnestness. It was not merely that they gave, but that they gave in such a hearty way, so cheerfully, under the sway of such high motives, and with such evident warmth of affection for himself. If it is true that "what is worth doing is worth doing well," it is especially true of the Christian duty of brotherly kindness as finding expression in self-denying gifts. The great blessing of a gift is the spirit in which it is made. The value is taken away when it is given grudgingly. God loveth - and so do men - the cheerful, willing giver. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;