2Co 8:5-8 “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. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.”
“And this they did” is a powerful statement on its own. Most of us have experienced in our lives having a prompting of the Spirit and willfully disobeying that prompting. In this, we receive the grace of God in vain. However, the Macedonians at Philippi and Thessalonica (where Paul had preached before coming to Corinth) had not received God’s grace in vain: the Spirit had prompted them to desire fellowship in ministering to the needs of the saints “and this they did.”
Their response had far exceeded Paul’s expectations (“not as we hoped”). It all started with the churches of Macedonia committing themselves to the Lord and His leadership. They put their hope and trust in Him first (rather than in Paul and his companions). Then, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit according to the will of God, they gave themselves to Paul.
This does not indicate that the Macedonians considered Paul their savior, or that they would blindly follow Paul. By the will of God, they understood the truth that Paul and his companions had preached to them concerning Jesus Christ. Through this understanding, they were willing to follow Paul as long as he was faithful to follow Christ. This was Paul’s expressed desire (First Corinthians 11:1).
Paul’s language indicates that God had blessed Titus to begin to stir the hearts of the Corinthian brethren in being abundant in giving. Understanding that the church at Corinth was a recipient of the same grace as the other Macedonian churches, Paul and his companions encouraged Titus to continue in the ministration of this grace. Paul lends his weight to Titus’ efforts in this area by first pointing to the things the church at Corinth was abounding in; faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence, and love for the ministry. He then adds his encouragement that they apply the same abundance in giving to the needs of the saints.
We as God’s ministering servants need to be always diligent to recognize the grace of God in the efforts of others, as Paul did with Titus. Paul did not see that Titus was doing well and decide to rush in and finish the job. Instead, he encouraged Titus to continue in this labor. Since Paul had previously written to the church at Corinth and was seeing that his former instruction to them was bearing fruit by God’s grace, he made sure to recognize that fact as a direct encouragement to them.
As he added his encouragement to the work that Titus was doing, Paul was careful to be sure that the Corinthian brethren understood what he was doing. He was not requiring them (speaking by commandment) to be abundant in giving. Instead, he was encouraging them to prove that their love was unfeigned. He was sharing with them the report of what others were seeing in them and encouraging them to live up to the report of God’s abundant grace among them.
May we always be diligent to encourage each other, both individually and collectively, in the grace which God has given that we might abound in all things godly!