Chapter 8:16-24 (ESV) - But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.
Question to consider: How did the Lord use this act of grace to unite the Jews and Gentiles in the church?
As I’ve mentioned before, God warned the church through Agabus that a famine was coming upon the land. Famines, like disease, are specifically mentioned in scriptures as judgments of God. Leviticus 26 gives God’s promise to Israel about the blessings they would receive in keeping His commandments and the curses God would bring upon them if they didn’t. Of course, in our day, mankind has so rebelled against God that we’ve even tried to take this prerogative and add to God’s judgments by boosting the effects of disease in a laboratory. Now God has to personally intervene just to stem the tide of our own destruction.
In the case of this particular famine, the warning given by God to the church was a blessing. Jerusalem was guilty before God of killing their Messiah among all their other sins. Along the pattern of judgments listed in Leviticus 26, famine was one of the progression of judgments which would end in complete destruction of the land. Jesus warned that this judgment would come upon that generation such that the entire temple would be thrown down. The church, however, was clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and this blessed warning from God let them provide for one another in the midst of the famine as well as get the reassurance and warning that Jerusalem’s destruction was coming quickly.
Blessing the Gentile churches in Macedonia and Achaia with the ability to “carry out this act of grace” to provide for their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem would bring glory to the Lord by uniting the church. Because of their actions, we can truly affirm Paul’s statement to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28)
So Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be a part of this great blessing of the Lord. In this single act, they would demonstrate to the churches that Paul was right in his boasts about them that they did indeed love the Lord and His church.
Dear Lord, teach us to be like the Corinthians who despite their failures demonstrated their love for You and for Your church. We recognize that the famines and wars in our own day are the birth pangs of judgment that will come upon the whole world. Stir up in us a desire to carry out Your acts of grace to those in need and turn hearts toward You so many can be saved from the wrath to come. Amen.