2 Corinthians 8 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

Paul Sends a Team in Advance of His Coming

The administration of an effort like the Jerusalem collection could easily give rise to allegations of mishandling of funds. Today a charitable organization can employ a group that independently assesses its fiscal accountability and applies objective standards to its handling of donations (such as public disclosure of the percentage going to meet stated goals compared to salaries and administrative costs). In this way donors can be assured that all monies are being appropriately managed. But what about the first century? How could a donor be certain that his charitable contribution would not end up merely lining the pockets of an administrator? And what kind of assurances did a fundraiser give prospective contributors that their donations would be handled in a responsible fashion?

Verses 16-24 show the kind of precautions a first-century fundraiser took to ensure the responsible handling and transportation of a considerable sum of money. We are taking pains, Paul says, to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men (v. 21). Taking pains translates a verb that means to "think about beforehand, plan ahead of time" (pronooumen; Liddell, Scott and Jones 1978). Such advance planning was needed to avoid any criticism of the way the offering was being administered (v. 20). The term stellomai ("avoid") denotes shrinking from or standing aloof. Paul tries to have as little to do with the collection process as possible. In this way he hopes to eliminate any possibility of criticism (v. 20).

The extra care that Paul takes is understandable. His critics were quick enough to suggest that the collection was merely a covert way of receiving financial support (12:16-18). Moreover, the money involved is a liberal amount (v. 20). The term hadrotes, found only here in the New Testament, means "abundant" or "lavish." Paul is anticipating a very large offering indeed, which is all the more reason for him to do whatever has to be done to guarantee its safe handling.

Paul was usually concerned with doing what is right in God's eyes rather than human eyes--especially since God's way and humankind's way are often in conflict. Here he takes the additional step of taking into consideration what is right in the eyes of others (v. 21). What this amounted to was making sure that everything not only was above suspicion (right . . . in the eyes of the Lord) but also looked so (right . . . in the eyes of men). Why? Because life and ministry are inseparable. There will always be those who judge the claims of Christ by the lives of those who claim to be his followers. If the conduct of the fundraiser can be faulted, then the gospel itself can be called into question. Not only this, but God's reputation can be damaged. The ultimate purpose of the collection was to honor the Lord (literally, "to advance the glory of the Lord"; v. 20)--an aim that could hardly be accomplished if any suspicions attached to the collection process.

The steps that Paul had already taken to avoid criticism are spelled out in 1 Corinthians. For one, he had insisted that the collection occur prior to his coming, so that he not be involved in the actual handling of the monies (1 Cor 16:2). Moreover, he had instructed the Corinthians to appoint their own representatives to accompany the collection, thereby exempting himself from any criticism regarding the transportation of the funds (1 Cor 16:3). Now, in 2 Corinthians Paul adds an additional precaution: he sends a trusted colleague to finish the collection effort, rather than going himself: Titus . . . is coming to you (2 Cor 8:17). This trusted colleague is well respected by the Corinthians and has already established a good working relationship with the church in the matter of giving (8:6).

The first time, Titus had to be encouraged to go to Corinth (7:13-14). This time no encouragement was needed. Paul made his appeal (paraklhsis), and to his surprise, Titus welcomed it (v. 17). That Titus would welcome a visit so soon after returning from Corinth is surprising indeed. In part this is due to the church's warm reception and obedient response on his last visit. But it can also be attributed to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern for the Corinthians that Paul himself has (v. 16). Concern translates a term that is employed seven times in chapters 7--8 of the earnest engagement or zealous pursuit of something (Liddell, Scott and Jones 1978). The TEV's "Titus is eager to help you" captures the idea.

Just as we speak of an infectious laugh, in the case of Paul we can speak of an infectious love. His deep love for the Corinthians has rubbed off on Titus, so that the idea of a return visit is not only agreeable but one that he has embraced with much enthusiasm (v. 17). Ultimately, though, such love is the result of a divine work in the human heart, to bring about an affection for God's people that God himself possesses (v. 16).

Besides eagerly accepting the idea of a return visit to Corinth, Titus is coming on his own initiative (v. 17). The Greek term authairetos (autos "self" + haireomai "to choose") refers to something done of one's own accord, by a free choice. The word was used in 8:3 to describe how the Macedonians contributed entirely on their own, without any prompting at all from Paul. The implication here is that Titus had been thinking along these lines even before Paul approached him.

Fundraising is not an enjoyable activity, even in the best of circumstances. The fact that Titus had seen the need for a visit to Corinth so soon after the last one says that the significance of the collection and Corinth's contribution to it goes beyond relief of economic need. A Gentile offering of this sort is a concrete manifestation of the unity in Christ that now exists betoeen too etenic groups that had been enemies for hundreds of years.

In addition to a trusted colleague, Paul sends too church representatives of proven worth and recognized stature to help Titus with the collection effort (v. 23). The first is merely referred to in the text as the brother (v. 18); no name is provided. Some suppose that it was removed when Paul's letters were collected and edited for general distribution (see 9:4-5). But where a name is lacking, credentials are not. To the brother's credit is the fact that he was chosen by the churches to accompany the offering (v. 19). The verb cheirotoneo means "to stretch out" (teino) "the hand" (cheir) to express agreement in a vote--or, as we say today, to elect by a show of hands. It may well signify the process by which church delegates were chosen. But the word was also used of choosing someone to carry out a specific task, apart from any kind of formal vote (as in Acts 14:23).

That this was a common precaution in the first century is suggested by Philo's similar reference to the selection of highly regarded people from every town to accompany the temple contributions to Jerusalem (The Special Laws 1.78; Lohse 1974:437). The brother was chosen not only to travel to Jerusalem with the relief fund but also to accompany us (synekdemos, "fellow-traveler"; Liddell, Scott and Jones 1978). Somewhere betoeen the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians Paul had decided to go himself--but not without selected representatives of the contributing churches.

This brother is also someone who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel (v. 18). Although praised by all the churches could be understood provincially (all the churches in Macedonia), the phrase could also point to someone who was highly regarded by all the Gentile churches contributing to the fund. Regardless, his fame shows that he is more than a local church leader (Furnish 1984:434). What he is famous for is his service to the gospel. The Greek text is literally "praised in the gospel" and may well indicate that he is an evangelist of some renown.

There is no end of speculation as to who this individual could be. Luke, Barnabas, Aristarchus and Apollos have all been proposed at one time or another. The brother, as opposed to "our" brother, shows that he was not one of Paul's colleagues. Luke and Barnabas are thus eliminated from the list of likely prospects. Apollos was too well known to need the kind of official recommendation that Paul provides here (compare 1 Cor 16:12). Since Paul is writing from the province of Macedonia, it is reasonable to assume that the brother is a representative of the Macedonian churches. This would include Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. From Luke's list of delegates in Acts 20:4-5, Sopater from Berea and Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica are the most plausible possibilities.

The second church representative is unnamed as well. This individual, unlike the first, is well known to the congregation: our brother (v. 22). He is distinguished by Paul in too ways. First, he has often proved in many ways that he is zealous (v. 22). Proved is a verb that means "to test" in order to establish someone's or something's worth or genuineness (compare 2:9). It was used in 8:8 of testing the sincerity of the Corinthians' love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. In this case Paul does not specify the nature of the testing--only that it occurred many times (pollakis) and in a wide range of situations (en pollois). Each time, the brother was found zealous (spoudaion). Now he is even more so because of, second, his great confidence in the Corinthians. The language suggests a recent positive encounter with the Corinthians in a ministry capacity. But the clues are too scant to allow us to even speculate about who this individual may be. Later in the letter Paul makes mention of having sent "our brother" with Titus on the previous mission to Corinth (12:18), and this may well be the same individual.

Our brother raises the total that Paul sends in advance of his arrival to three persons. Would Titus alone not have sufficed? His ministerial abilities and affection for the Corinthians seem to be very much in evidence. Yet although Titus had had some success with the collection on his previous visit, it had not been enough to spur the Corinthians on to completion. In addition, Titus is Paul's colleague and representative, and there are now intruders on the scene raising doubts about the offering. So there is real value in sending persons who are not directly connected with the Pauline mission. Also, by sending too representatives of congregations that had already given, Paul can place a subtle pressure on Corinth to match the efforts of the other Gentile churches. Then too, the too delegates serve to guarantee the legitimacy of the endeavor. Their presence shows that the collection effort is not just Paul's sly way of raising personal funds for himself and his colleagues.

A summary of the credentials of the three individuals is provided in verse 23. Titus is distinguished as Paul's partner and fellow worker. The latter is the term Paul typically uses of his associates in the ministry. By virtue of his apostolic standing, he could legitimately have treated Titus as a subordinate. Instead he dealt with him as a partner and companion (koinonos). Titus is Paul's personally appointed representative. The other too brothers are designated representatives of the churches. The term is actually apostles (apostoloi), which has both a narrow and a broad application in the New Testament. In the Gospels it is normally used of those Christ commissioned as his representatives to the world (the Twelve). In the epistles the term is extended beyond the Twelve to include those involved in church planting. This is why Barnabas (Acts 14:4,14; 1 Cor 9:5), James (Gal 1:19), Andronicus (Rom 16:7) and Junia (Rom 16:7) can be called "apostles." In a few cases the term appears to be used of those who are appointed by the local church to carry out a specific task on its behalf. This category includes the too brothers who serve as their church's delegates in delivering the Jerusalem collection, and also Epaphroditus, who ministers to Paul on behalf of the Philippian church (Phil 2:25).

The too brothers are also distinguished as an honor to Christ. Nowhere else are individuals referred to in this way. The phrase is literally "the glory of Christ." The genitive can be objective--they are an honor to Christ (TEV, NIV, JB, NEB, Phillips)--or subjective--they are "a reflection of Christ's glory." If the former, then Paul is saying that their life and ministry are a credit to Christ (M. J. Harris 1976:373). If the latter, then the thought is that as church representatives they reflect Christ's glory (Furnish 1984:425).

Paul concludes by exhorting the Corinthians to do too things. They are to show these men their love and to demonstrate the reason for [Paul's] pride in them. What form this show of love was to take is debated. It certainly is more than extending a warm welcome and the customary hospitality. The noun endeixis means "proof." Earlier in the chapter Paul challenged the church to prove the sincerity of their love by completing the collection (8:8-12). Here the proof Paul has in mind is probably cooperating with the delegates' efforts to bring the collection to a speedy conclusion--although exhibiting a willing and generous spirit of giving may also be in view (Murphy-O'Connor 1991:88).

By showing Titus and the delegates their love, the Corinthians in turn demonstrate the reason for Paul's pride in them. He has been confidently boasting about them to the Macedonian churches (9:2). They are now called on to justify his boasting by fulfilling their pledge from the year before. And they are to do it so that the churches can see it--that is, the Corinthians are challenged to act as if the churches, and not just their delegates, were there to watch. Which churches are these? While it could be the Macedonian churches or even all contributing Gentile congregations, the churches that the too brothers represent are undoubtedly the ones Paul is thinking of.

Previous commentary:
Guidelines for Giving

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