Sat, 4 April 2009
Returning from his quick diversion to stress that God's people must be consecrated to the holy and sacred (cf. 6:14-7:1), Paul writes, ''I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed'' (7:4). He continues by accounting his troubles in Macedonia and how he received comfort from Titus and the Macedonian church. He recounts how he regreted, at the time, having to write his ''tearful letter'' to the Corinthians, but upon seeing how it moved them to repentance, he no longer has regrets (cf. v. 8). Paul masterfully illustrates how a healthy amount of grief which can lead to repentance, in contrast to the evil of worldly grief (cf. v. 9-11).
To get an insight into the mind of Paul, consider ''So although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all'' (v. 12-13). He used to boast to Titus of his own band's apostolic efforts, and now he boasts in the fruit of Titus' apostolate. He repeats a previous statement to conclude the seventh chapter, ''I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you'' (v. 16). His confidence in them, however, will not be nearly as apparent throughout the rest of the epistle.
In the eighth chapter, he addresses the collection to Jerusalem and how the poor Macedonian Christians gave abundantly for the needy within the City of David. He commends the Corinthians to likewise give alms with a number of arguments and illustrations (cf. v. 7 ff.). He then explains that Titus will be arriving shortly to assist with this collection and exhorts them to generosity by adding, ''So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.'' (9:5-8). Paul promises that this almsgiving will benefit the saints, the giver, and the glory of God. The abundant charity of the first Christians is a worthy of emulation by Christ's faithful in every age.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Minoetto I-III, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com