2Co 8:1-4 “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
We all appreciate experiencing the grace of God in our churches. We rejoice as we sing hymns of praise to Him. We are thankful when the preaching of the gospel stirs our hearts with understanding. We are humbled as we are moved to bow before His throne and pray for one another.
As much as all this means to us, it is also important to know the grace of God bestowed upon other churches. Paul has pointed out in this letter the many benefits the church at Corinth has experienced at the hands of the living God. He also wants them to know about the depth of God’s grace to the churches of Macedonia.
The purpose in understanding the grace shown to others is manifold. We are encouraged when we see our sister churches doing well. When we learn of great trial and hardship among them, we are often moved to pray in their behalf. Sometimes it may be that hearing of their trials and the grace of God toward them will spur us on to greater efforts in our own congregations.
The churches of Macedonia were greatly persecuted. There were both Jews and Greeks in the region that despised the gospel that Paul and his companions were preaching. However, there were also those who loved the truth of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace. While we find in Acts, Chapter 16 and 17, that Paul and his companions were beaten, imprisoned, and run out of town as it were, the truth had found a lodging place among some at Philippi and Thessalonica.
In this world today, people tend to think there has to be a correlation between their joy and the amount of riches they possess. The mindset is the more you have the happier you are. Paul clearly indicates here that joy and riches are not dependent on each other. The churches of Macedonia endured deep poverty according to Paul’s testimony. However, they also enjoyed an abundance of joy.
Their joy in the Lord was so great that they were moved to great generosity. Again, we often think of generosity as a trait of the wealthy. Is the man who, out of his great wealth, takes you to a fancy restaurant and feeds you a meal more generous than the man who, out of his meager funds, uses the last of those funds to take you grocery shopping so you can eat for a week? The widow who cast in her two mites was more generous all the wealthy who had made their offering before her (Mark 12:41-44).
Paul demonstrates that the giving by the saints in Macedonia was an example of miraculous force. They gave not only of what little they might have had in excess, but even of that which would have been considered necessary for their own survival. They had a great zeal to see the saints in other areas provided for, and they desired that Paul and his companions would allow them the fellowship of this ministry.
Now, let us look back at Paul’s first statement: “I want you to know the grace that God showed the churches of Macedonia.” Paul was praising God in this. The saints at Macedonia were praising God in their efforts. Paul was encouraging the church at Corinth to praise God in their efforts. None of this was done for the glory of man. Everything pointed to the grace of God given and the power of trusting in that grace.
May God strengthen us to trust in the miraculous power of His grace to enable to us give beyond our ability to the praise of His holy name!