I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.2 Corinthians 9:1-5
Clearly Paul had been boasting. Rightly or wrongly. Boasting about the Corinthians’ readiness to send money a year before. He had been using the Corinthians’ willingness as an example to other churches. It was the Corinthian example which got the Macedonians inspired and moving. Paul confessed “we would be embarrassed” if after all this boasting you were not ready. Interesting Paul uses the royal “we” again. Was he meaning all those with him would be embarrassed or is it Paul who would be embarrassed and he has softened the words but couching it in “we” terms? Paul is confident they are ready to give and will carry out their promise. But just to be sure, he reminded them in a letter and then sent three guys (Titus included because they related to him well) to check it out. Not only that but he made sure NO MACEDONIANS came along so he wouldn’t be embarrassed if they were not ready.
Paul was confident, full of faith and yet not, all at the same time. We all do it. We have all been in that situation where we believe in someone else and trust that they will do the right thing, fulfil their promise, finish off what they said they would do. But then at the back of our mind there is a niggling doubt that maybe they have forgotten. We believe and yet not believe. Oh help my unbelief. So we take steps of our own to ensure they remember; just to make sure. I have done it . I am sure you have done it. Paul did it too. Just to avoid embarrassment. Of course embarrassment to the Corinthians but undoubtedly there is a major element of embarrassment to Paul involved as well.
Yes there are also those times when he used the Corinthians as an example to inspire the Macedonians and the Macedonians as an example to inspire the Corinthians. Used all in good faith that they will carry out what they said they will do. Or in good faith that that the repentance or the promise to change or do something was sincere. And of course inevitably there are those times when one of those steps falls over because the people in questions shrunk back from doing what they said they would do. It makes using them as an example look empty or fake. But it was not fake because it all looked good at the time. But of course over time it is subject to change and the fickleness of human intentions. Thus the difficultly Paul was in. He was clearly working on the Corinthians to ensure the end result is in accord with what they promised, hence much space is given to the matter in the letter.
Paul was not with them. He was sending the others to represent him. It is clear they are being sent ahead. Paul wanted to meet them again as he has said numerous times throughout the letter. But he was wiling to entrust this matter to others. There has been much conjecture among the commentators over the years as to who the two men were who went with Titus. Was it Mark, Silas, Barnabus, Apollos or Luke? Most opt for Luke. He went with Paul on many of his journeys. He was well known to the Corinthians and trusted by them. It is interesting to note in Acts, Luke’s use of “the royal we”. He used it in Acts 16:10-11 when he went with Paul into Macedonia. He uses it too in Acts 16:15 when he accompanied Paul to Philippi. He didn’t use the “we” in Act 17:1 but rather used “they”, inferring he was not with Paul when he went to Thessalonica but joins him again in Acts 20:5 on the way from Troas to Jerusalem with the gift. Mmm interesting! Was one of the two Luke? A bit of detective work seems to indicate it was. Add that to the fact that one of them was praised for his work in the Gospel seems to indicate Luke. Although many translations include “praised in the preaching of the gospel” the literal Greek reads “praise in the Gospel”. Many think that Luke was working on his Gospel in this interim period or maybe even distributing it.
But we really don’t know. Still it is worth looking closely at the text to see what we can work out from what is written. Pay attention to the detail.
Live Simply. Give Generously. Love Totally. Care Deeply. Speak Kindly. Leave the rest to God.Anon
You are heir to the entire universe—what a difference that should make!! Let that sink in.Ian Vail