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The Epistles of Paul - 2 Corinthians Part 8: Communion, Not Tithes
After expounding at great length upon the affliction and the encouragement which the children of Israel have in the Gospel of Reconciliation to Yahweh their God, as well as Yahweh's plan of mercy for Israel in that reconciliation, in 2 Corinthians chapter 6 Paul illustrated the responsibility that the children of Israel have as recipients of that Gospel and that mercy. That responsibility requires the children of Israel to separate themselves from all of the sinners and from all of the unclean of the other races, and then Yahweh their God shall receive them and dwell with them. Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul had turned to express his gratitude that the Corinthians, being grieved, had chosen to repent from the problems which Paul had addressed in his first epistle to them, and the joy which Titus had transmitted to him on account of their repentance and their abiding in Christ. Here in this eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul turns to the more worldly tasks related to the fulfillment of his ministry, which in this case include the collections he had been taking on behalf of the poor of the saints in Jerusalem.
Upon the completion of the initial year and a half which he had spent in Corinth, Paul had a brief sojourn in Ephesus. Then upon his departure from there, after promising the Ephesians that he would soon return to them, if indeed Yahweh desired it, we then see Luke record in Acts chapter 18: “22 And coming back into Caesareia, going up and greeting the assembly he went down into Antiocheia. 23 And spending some time he departed, passing through successively the land of Galatia and Phrugia, confirming all of the students.” Paul of Tarsus had written his epistle to the Galatians shortly before his actual visit there, and after he had seen the apostles in Antioch during the travels which Luke records in that passage of Acts 18. After those travels he did return to Ephesus, where he remained for three years.
Writing to the Galatians shortly after seeing the apostles in Antioch, in Galatians chapters 1 and 2 Paul had given an account of his visit, where among the other things which he explained concerning this meeting he had said: “9 and knowing the favor being given to me, Iakobos and Kephas and Iohannes, those reputed to be pillars, had given right hands of fellowship to me and to Barnabas, that we are for the Nations, and they for the circumcised; 10 only that we should remember the poor, the same thing which I had then been anxious to do.”
So from this time it is evident in both the records of the Book of Acts and in several of his other epistles that Paul had conducted collections for the poor in Jerusalem throughout the assemblies of Christians in the areas where he ministered. Ostensibly, Paul had written another later epistle to the Galatians which had contained instructions for them in regard to those same collections, as he had said in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 that “concerning the collection for the saints” he had “given order to the churches of Galatia”. There in that chapter it also seems that the Christians at Corinth were already familiar with the instructions that Paul had transmitted to the Galatians in this regard, but which are now lost.
Perhaps about six months after Paul wrote this second epistle to the Corinthians, he was arrested in Jerusalem. Making a defense before the Roman governor Felix, as Luke records in Acts chapter 24, Paul had said “17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.” Those offerings which he had brought to Judaea must have also included these same collections for the saints which Paul is discussing here in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, and which he had previously mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 16.
8:1 Now we make known to you, brethren, the favor of Yahweh which has been given in the assemblies of Makedonia;
The assemblies of Macedonia would have included those of Philippi, Thessalonika and Beroia, which are all mentioned in Acts chapters 16 and 17. In chapter 7 of this epistle, Paul had previously explained that he had many troubles and challenges during his latest journey through Macedonia. Luke only briefly mentioned this in Acts chapter 20 where he had written “2 And when he had gone over those parts [referring to Macedonia], and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, 3 And there abode three months.” However upon examining the other epistles which Paul had written during this same time in his ministry, we found that in 1 Timothy Paul had mentioned two men, Humenaios and Alexandros, concerning whom he said that he had “surrendered to the Adversary in order that they would be disciplined, not to blaspheme.” That same epistle informs us that Paul had only recently left Timothy in Ephesus before he had written to him, and it is obvious that he had written the letter to him before seeing him in Nicopolis the following winter where this epistle was written and Timothy was with him. Therefore it can be ascertained that the troubles with Humenaios and Alexandros were certainly related to the trials which Paul had faced in Makedonia.
Here, in spite of those troubles whereby Paul had given the Makedonians “much exhortation”, as Luke called it, we see Paul extol the Makedonians for the favor of Yahweh God with which they had been blessed. It seems that among the Makedonians were found the most generous of the Christian assemblies of Paul's time. For instance, in the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Philippians, who were among the assemblies in Makedonia, Paul commends them for their having provided for him where he says “15 But you, Philippesians, also know that in the beginning of the good message, when I had come out from Makedonia, not one assembly had shared with me one thought of giving and receiving except you only”. Then again in chapter 11 of this epistle, Paul reproaches the Corinthians as he once again commends the Makedonians where he says that “8 I have deprived other assemblies, taking provisions for your service. 9 And being present with you and wanting, I had burdened no one, (indeed my need had been filled by the brethren who came from Makedonia,) and in everything I have kept and will keep myself unburdensome to you.” By having received his support from the Makedonians while he had ministered to the Corinthians, Paul tells the Corinthians that he had deprived other assemblies so that he may serve them. In ancient Greece, even teachers of pagan philosophies were generally supported by those whom they taught, as well as by patrons.
2 because with quite a test of tribulation, the abundance of their joy, and contrary to their copious poverty, they have advantage in the riches of their sincerity.
The Makedonians were not only generous towards Paul, but they were sincerely generous. Even the enemies of our God have some capacity for generosity, but many are generous for worldly reasons, seeking worldly acknowledgments and worldly rewards. Therefore their generosity is not sincere. Christ Himself advises in Matthew chapter 6 “4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” However we must take issue with the King James and other versions here which have liberality rather than sincerity.
The Greek word which we have translated as sincerity here is ἁπλότης (Strong's # 572), which, according to Liddell & Scott, is “singleness: simplicity, frankness”, from the word ἁπλόος (Strong's # 573), which according to the same source means “single...simple, natural, plain, sincere, frank”. The word ἁπλόος appears in Matthew 6:22 and Luke 11:34, and in each place the King James Version has single. That version has the words of Christ recorded at Luke 11:34 to read “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.” This word ἁπλότης also appears in Romans 12:8 where the King James Version has simplicity, and in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 where the King James Version has singleness, and where on each occasion the Christogenea New Testament has simplicity. The King James Version also translates this word ἁπλότης as simplicity where it appears in 2 Corinthians 11:3, where Paul made a reference to “the simplicity that is in Christ”, and in the Christogenea New Testament it is sincerity in that passage.
From these passages it can be told that the King James translators understood ἁπλότης to mean sincerity or simplicity or something similar. Yet where the same word appears here in 2 Corinthians 8:2, and in 9:11 and 9:13, the subject of the discussion is money, and in those places the King James Version translates the word as liberality, bountifullness, and liberal respectively. But the word does not bear any such meanings. One cannot imagine that such a translation coming from a government-sponsored denominational organization had been perpetrated without a cause. And the King James Version of the Bible was indeed made by such an organization. The translations amount to theft. Here in the Christogenea New Testament, on these three occasions the word is translated as sincerity. A distinction must be maintained between giving with sincerity, and giving liberally, or bountifully, as the government-mandated Anglican church which is responsible for the King James translation would have its supporters believe, and which many other versions have since followed.
3 Because by ability, I attest, even beyond ability, they are volunteers 4 asking of us with much exhortation the favor and the fellowship of the service of that which is for the saints.
While Paul of Tarsus both deserved and anticipated support from the people to whom he had taught the Gospel of Christ, something which was customary even in the pagan philosophies of the time, Paul did not demand compulsory tithes from Christian assemblies. As we have already cited from chapter 11 of this very epistle to the Corinthians, Paul informed them that although he was being supported by the Makedonians he purposely kept himself from burdening the assembly in Corinth.
So here he commends the Makedonians for their voluntary and sincere contributions, which he attests were beyond what could have ever been expected, while he only asks the Corinthians to contribute to the cause of the poor in Jerusalem. While it is an indirect lesson, it serves to demonstrate that Paul expected Christians to be supportive and giving, but that he did not require mandatory tithes.
Paul explained this same thing in another manner in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 where he said “11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.”
Paul accepted the voluntary support of the assemblies. But if Paul demanded tithes of his students, his glorying would be made void. Christians should give, and give with sincerity, not expecting worldly rewards even if that is the promise of Christ, and certainly not expecting the worldly honor of men. However Christian giving is voluntary, and should never be placed under a burden of guilt. Therefore Paul had also said in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, in reference to his preaching the gospel: “18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
Preparing for this very presentation, one of my own supporters had sent me a link to a program on tithing which was very recently done by a pair of other so-called Christian Identity pastors, who abused the account of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts chapter 5 in order to burden their listeners with guilt in relation to tithes. That is not Christian, and it is not the example set for us by the apostles. The context of the story of Ananias and Sapphira is found in Acts chapter 4, where it says of the apostolic Christian community: “32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” When Ananias and Sapphira joined such a community, they were therefore expected to turn their property over to the community. They were punished when they withheld a portion for themselves, because they attempted to deceive God while they had agreed to join the community. The clowns who are now using this account to lay burdens of guilt upon Identity Christians in relation to tithing, should be liable to the same penalty, because they are using the scripture as a false witness for their own enrichment.
5 And not exactly as we had expected, rather they had given of themselves first to the Prince [P46 has “God”], and to us through the will of Yahweh, 6 for which to summon Titos to us, in order that just as he had begun before, in that manner then would he accomplish this favor with you also.
Paul must have resolved the problems with the assemblies in Makedonia which he described here in chapter 7 of this epistle where he wrote “5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” However precisely what he is referring to here where he says of them that “they had given of themselves first to the Prince” is beyond our reach because we have no records of exactly what had transpired there. So we can only say that perhaps Paul refers to the Makedonians' having resolved their issues and having remained faithful to the Gospel in Christ.
In the opening verses of the surviving epistle of Paul to Titus, we see the statement “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.” However while Paul wrote reminding Titus of his purpose in Crete, that does not mean that Titus was still in Crete when he received the letter.
Rather, Paul reveals here in chapter 7 of this epistle to the Corinthians that Titus had come to Nikopolis from Corinth, where he wrote that upon Titus' having come to him in Nikopolis, “6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7 And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.” and then a little later “13 Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.”
Ostensibly, Titus is the Titios Ioustus, or in some manuscripts the Titos Ioustus of Acts 18:7 whom Paul had met in the assembly of the Judaeans in Corinth, and who stayed with Paul after Paul had separated those following Christ from the Judaeans in Corinth who had rejected Christ. It is further evident that Titus must have accompanied Paul to Antioch after Paul had left Corinth, which is recorded in Acts 18:18-23, since when Paul had written his epistle to the Galatians he had spoken of Titus' presence at his meeting with the apostles in Galatians chapter 2 where he wrote: “3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised”. With this we also have additional proof which establishes our chronology of the writing of the epistle to the Galatians.
So Paul is in Antioch, and he travels on foot through Galatia and Phrygia as far as Ephesus, where his arrival is recorded by Luke in Acts chapter 19. Titus must have accompanied Paul on that journey as well, and then some time during his three years in Ephesus, Paul along with Titus must have made a trip to Crete which is not recorded by Luke, during which Paul left Titus in Crete. Leaving Ephesus some time later, Paul had hoped to find Titus in the Troad, but Titus was not there and Paul moved on through Makedonia to Nikopolis, writing his letter to Titus in the interim. From this passage we see that Paul had “summoned Titus to us”, meaning to himself and Timothy, something which we see in the final chapter of the epistle to Titus. But only from this epistle do we learn that Titus is in Corinth when that happened, since Corinth is not mentioned in the epistle to Titus.
Perhaps Paul, writing to Titus while he was in Corinth, had repeated the instructions by which Titus had organized the Christian assemblies in Crete so that Titus would have an understanding to make certain that the Christian assemblies in Corinth were organized in that same manner. The need for such organization is evident in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where we see that they had taken to sectarianism and could not even make decisions or appoint judges to settle matters of difference among themselves. Titus would then bring this epistle to the Corinthians in advance of Paul's final visit there. Evidently, during that time Titus would also see that the Corinthians had prepared whatever offerings they may have set aside for the poor of the saints in Jerusalem.
We feel a need to explain all of these things in detail, because the usual perspectives of these things found in most commentaries and articles are simplistic and crude, and are often very inaccurate. The common perception is that Titus lived out his life as the bishop of Crete, and that is certainly not true. Rather, Titus had organized assemblies and had overseen the selection of bishops in Crete, and had then moved on to other places, where from Paul's letters we see him with Paul in Antioch, Galatia, Phrygia and Ephesus, and also by himself not only in Crete, but in the Troad and in Corinth.
7 But just as in everything you have advantage, in faith, and in word, and in knowledge, and in all diligence, and in that love from us in you, see that also in this favor you would have the advantage.
The Codices Sinaiticus (א), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text have this verse to read in part “and in that love from you in us”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codex Vaticanus (B).
Paul is encouraging, but not demanding, that the Corinthians be generous in their contributions to the poor in Jerusalem. Paul calls their contributing a favor, where the King James and other versions translate the word χάρις (Strong's # 5485) as grace. Yet as Liddell & Scott explain in their Greek-English Lexicon, χάρις means a favor done or returned, a grace or favor felt in regards to some action, whether it be kindness or goodwill on the part of the doer of the act, or thankfulness or gratitude on the part of the receiver of the act. Among other similar things, the corresponding verb χαρίζομαι is to offer willingly, to give cheerfully or to give freely, according to Liddell & Scott. Here in Paul's exhortation we see that all of these things are expected in Christian communion.
8 I do not speak in the way of a command, but through the diligence of others and testing the legitimacy of your love.
True Christian love is evident in one's Christian communion. As Christ gave His life for His brethren, Christians are to follow Him and do the same. That does not necessarily mean dying for one's brethren, although at times that may be necessary. But rather it means dedicating one's life for one's brethren, and that principle is the foundation for true Christian communion.
From Mark chapter 10: “17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
9 Now you know the favor of our Prince, Yahshua Christ, that for the sake of you [C has “us”], He being wealthy had been in need, in order that in that [D has “His”] need you would be enriched.
As it says in Isaiah chapter 9, “6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever....” Yahshua Christ being God incarnate but being born into poverty and in need, Paul says that He was indeed wealthy and nevertheless put Himself in need for the sake of the children of Israel. In this manner Christians should share their own wealth for the good of their brethren, as Christ our God is also our model of conduct.
10 And in this I give an opinion, this to you is beneficial: whoever not only would do, but also to be willing have begun before, from last year.
Paul gives an opinion: he is not using scripture in order to compel anything from the Corinthians. But he also informs them that they will have the greater favor in Christ if they comply willingly.
As we had exhibited when we had presented 2 Corinthians chapter 7, at verse 5 of that chapter, this second epistle to the Corinthians must have been written at least 7 or 8 months after the letter which we now know as his first epistle to the Corinthians. In that first epistle Paul mentioned that he had hoped to remain in Ephesus until Pentecost, so it must have been written before Pentecost of 56 AD. Now he is writing this epistle during the winter at Nicopolis, so it must be either January or February of 57 AD. Therefore, the phrase “from last year” must be a reference to the time of Paul's prior instructions to the Corinthians concerning a collection for the saints in Jerusalem, which were also mentioned in the closing portion of 1 Corinthians, in chapter 16 of that epistle. So we see that from his initial instructions until this time, the Corinthians did indeed have a year to prepare their offering. Those who were willing to do so had started at that time.
11 But now also accomplish the doing, so that just as there is the readiness to be willing, so also from that have the completion. 12 If that readiness is set forth, according to whatever one would have is acceptable, not according to that which one does not have.
Under the Old Covenant, tithes were mandatory because the Levites who received of them had no land, and in that manner the Levites were sustained. All of the other tribes of Israel received their land freely, and could expect to be sustained by their land. But the Levites were the administrators of the Kingdom and therefore it was to be expected that they would be maintained by the Kingdom in the manner of mandatory tithing. But tithing is no longer mandatory.
In the New Covenant, communion is greater than tithes, but tithes are not a law. In fact, Paul had stated in his epistle to the Hebrews (chapter 7) that “5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham”. Then later in that same chapter he also stated that “12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Then further on he said “18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”
However Christian communion is greater than tithes, and Christians should give according to whatever they can spare, which is the example that Paul makes here. Paul does not demand tithes, and Paul made no demands at all of the Corinthians for his own ministry. Paul only asked that the Corinthians be willing to do whatever they could, and to put into execution what they had agreed to do willingly.
As it is recorded in Luke chapter 19, passing through Jericho Yahshua Christ had been accosted by a tax collector named Zacchaeus: “1 Then entering in He passed through Iericho, 2 and behold, a man by name called Zakchaios, and he was chief tax-collector and he was wealthy. 3 And he sought to see Yahshua, who He is, and was not able because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 Yet running ahead to the front he went up into a mulberry tree that he may see Him, since He was about to pass through there. 5 And as He came by the place, Yahshua looking up said to him: 'Zakchaios! Hurry, you must come down! For today it is necessary for Me to stay at your house!' 6 Then hurrying he came down and welcomed Him rejoicing. 7 And all those seeing it murmured, saying that 'With a sinful man He has entered in to lodge!' 8 Then stopping Zakchaios said to the Prince: 'Behold, half of my property, Prince, I give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything of anyone, I return it fourfold!' 9 And Yahshua said to him that 'Today has preservation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham! 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which has been lost!'”
13 Not in order that there is relaxation for others, and pressure for you, but from equality, 14 at the present time your abundance for their deficiency, in order that also their abundance would be for your deficiency, that in some way there would be equality. 15 Just as it is written, “The great have not had excess, and the small have not been diminished.”
Here Paul quotes from Exodus 16:18, and in order to understand what he was referring to we shall read a greater portion of that passage. Because the language of the King James Version is quite archaic in this instance, we will read from the New American Standard Bible: “11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God. 13 So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, What is it? For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded, Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent. 17 And the sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. 19 And Moses said to them, Let no man leave any of it until morning.”
Those of the children of Israel who did not attempt to save any excess food put their faith in Yahweh their God that they would be provided for on the next day. So those who had a great ability to gather much nevertheless relinquished what they did not need to those with poor ability who gathered little. This is not a law that Christians must follow, but rather it is an example for Christians to learn from. While Paul had illustrated that teachers of the Gospel could expect to be provided for by Christian assemblies, Paul never demanded any tithes. Rather, when he did not receive enough for his provisions he went to work to support himself, which he explained at length using his own conduct as an example in 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Furthermore, before his own interests Paul had asked that the assemblies in Corinth contribute to the poor of their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. Therefore Christians who have excess should also follow this example which Paul has set.
Paul did not ask, however, that Christians give of their own sustenance. He only asked that they give of their excess, at a level which they themselves were comfortable with giving. The equality Paul describes is not a communist utopia, but only that all Christians in their time of need should indeed have their basic needs fulfilled by the members of the greater body of Christ. We had earlier cited the account of the rich young man in Mark chapter 10, who being wealthy and desiring the Kingdom of Heaven had offered nothing, except to keep the law, and he became grieved when Yahshua suggested that he give away everything. However Zacchaeus, the wealthy old tax collector, had happily offered half of his riches along with recompense for whatever he may have cheated others, and Yahshua had justified him for it. Zacchaeus would remain wealthy compared to most men, but would be less wealthy than he had once been. Therefore Christian communion is greater than tithes, but tithes are not demanded of Christians. Christianity is based on volunteerism. Christian communion is based on love and a willingness to help one's brethren along with a desire for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
In Deuteronomy chapter 8 Yahweh explains that He provides the children of Israel with wealth so that His covenant is established. Therefore when one is blessed with wealth, it is for the benefit of the Kingdom of God: “11 Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: 12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; 13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; 14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; 17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” When Abraham prevailed against the king of Sodom, he voluntarily tithed Melchizedek who had blessed him. Christ now holds the priesthood of Melchizedek, and Christians should follow the example of Abraham.
16 Now gratitude is to Yahweh, by whom that same diligence is being given in the heart of Titos on your behalf, 17 seeing that the encouragement he indeed has received, now being more diligent, voluntarily he has gone out to you.
The diligence Paul speaks of is Titus' diligence in organizing the task for which he was selected, which is the collection and maintenance of the contributions to the poor which Paul is requesting. Titus has not yet returned to Corinth, but will indeed deliver this letter. So Paul writes as if Titus is already there because he will be there when the letter is read. The verse which follows makes this even further evident:
18 And we have sent along with him that brother of whom there is approval in the good message throughout all of the assemblies; 19 and not only, but our fellow traveler has also been hand picked by the assemblies to be endued with this favor, in which he would serve under us to the honor of the Prince Himself [B, C, and D want “Himself”; the text follows P 46, א, and the MT]; and our eagerness 20 is avoiding this: not a one would find fault with us in this strength which is serving under us.
By the phrase “this strength” Paul once again refers to the unnamed brother who had been chosen by the assemblies to represent them by bringing their gifts to Jerusalem. Paul evidently calls this man “our fellow traveler” because it is evident that this man was selected for the purpose of going to Jerusalem with him. Paul had instructed this earlier, in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 where he had written: “3 And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem”. Here it is evident that Titus must have brought this individual to Nikopolis when he went there to meet Paul, since Paul is writing as if the man is there with him.
Many commentaries attempt conjectures as to the identity of this man, and the majority of opinions seem to lean towards Luke, which is foolish since Acts chapter 20 shows that Luke is in Philippi until after Paul arrives in the Troad. Where Luke is with Paul, he writes in the first person plural, as is evident from Acts chapter 16, and in the first four verses of Acts chapter 20 where Luke describes Paul's journeys this winter he writes in the third person singular, as was his custom where he was not with Paul but only recording what pertained to Paul. Verses 5 and 6 of Acts 20 show that Luke and others had sailed from Philippi to meet Paul in the Troad. Therefore where Paul says that he has sent Titus to Corinth, carrying this very epistle, and sent along with him the unnamed brother in question, it certainly cannot be a reference to Luke. The pair are mentioned again in this context in 2 Corinthians 12:18.
From the instructions which Paul had given the Corinthians at 1 Corinthians 16:3, this unnamed brother must be someone from among the Christians at Corinth. The epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad after Paul had departed from Corinth some time around the end of March, perhaps two months or so after this epistle had been written. From the rather incomplete lists of those who were with Paul at this time, which are found in the final verses of the epistle to the Romans and in Luke's description of Paul's arrival in the Troad in Acts 20:4-6, only one of the persons mentioned can be identified with Corinth, and that is “Erastus the chamberlain of the city”, as he is identified at Romans 16:23. Many commentators believe Erastus was from Corinth. However from the records of Paul's ministry in Ephesus it is apparent that Erastus originally may have been from Ephesus rather than Corinth, although he is mentioned again in 2 Timothy chapter 4, where he is said to have gone to abide in Corinth. If Erastus was from Corinth, he is very possibly the unnamed brother being discussed here.
21 Indeed we have noble intentions not only in the presence of the Prince [P46 has “God”], but also in the presence of men. 22 Now we have sent our brother with them, whom we have approved to be very diligent in many things, and now much more diligent in the great confidence which is in you.
Paul had insisted that the Corinthians choose one of their own to convey their gift to Jerusalem, as he had instructed them in 1 Corinthians chapter 16. Ostensibly, he did this so that his own noble intentions are manifest before them, that he was not intending to mistreat their charity and proved that by having them choose one of their own to convey it. The great confidence in the Corinthians was the confidence they had shown by choosing this particular individual to accompany Paul with their charity. So here Paul is attesting that he and Timothy also approved of their choice.
23 Whether concerning Titos, my partner and a colleague to you, or our brethren, to be ambassadors of the assemblies is an honor of the Anointed.
This concludes Paul's stated acceptance of the choice of the Corinthians in this particular brother, where he stresses the importance with which Christians should esteem the ministries, or services, that they choose to fulfill.
24 Therefore the proof of your love, and of our boasting concerning you, is being displayed to them in the presence of the assemblies.
The Codices Sinaiticus (א), Ephraemi Syri (C) and 0285 have the end of verse 24 to read “you should display to them in the presence of the assemblies.” The text follows the Codices Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D).
Paul had spoken well of the Corinthians to the assembly in Makedonia, and the Corinthians have not disappointed him.