Bible GenevaThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Commendation of Titus

16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going[a] to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending[b] the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 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. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. 22 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. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers[c] of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to be as generous in giving to his fund for the church in Jerusalem as the churches in Macedonia were.

In today’s reading, Paul commends Titus to the Corinthians. Titus will be collecting their donations for the church in Jerusalem.

As false teachers in the church in Corinth were trying to besmirch Paul’s character in any and all ways possible, the Apostle is very careful in how he works with the congregation from a distance. Surely, some mischief maker will say that Paul is going to spend the money on himself or on something unworthy.

They already know and love Titus, because he has been delivering Paul’s letters to them. However, Paul wants to dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s to convey that everything regarding this fund is above board and acceptable.

As such, Paul thanks God for making Titus’s heart such that he cares for the Corinthians as much as he himself does (verse 16).

Paul adds that not only does Titus agree with the fundraising, he willingly wants to go to Corinth and collect the money himself (verse 17).

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

You see, Paul was the leader, the dominating force, this hard-driving man, this great mind, this visionary, this man able to embrace the whole of the redemptive purposes of God, the plan of God doctrinally, and also to embrace the whole of the church. He was bigger than life, but Titus was more like them. We never hear him preach. We don’t have any of his sermons in Scripture. We don’t see him leading any meetings. He’s just always serving, serving, serving. They must have seen him not as some kind of a powerful entrepreneurial man, some kind of great mover, and shaker, and motivator, and mobilizer, but as a man who loved God, who loved them, a man who knew the truth.

And so, Paul happily says to them, “Titus agrees with the plan.” How important that is. The whole enterprise for the benefit of the Jewish poor and the Corinthian church was not just Paul’s passion, it was no one-man concern. Paul wants them to know that Titus, whom they knew so well, and whom they loved so deeply, was wholeheartedly in agreement.

Paul then describes Titus’s travelling companion in glowing terms as being famous for preaching the gospel among all the churches (verse 18).

Not only that, but the churches have agreed to appoint this man to travel with Paul and Titus in administering these donations — ‘this act of grace’ — for the Lord’s glory and as a sign of good will (verse 19).

Who is he?

Matthew Henry says it was Luke:

He commends another brother, who was sent with Titus. It is generally thought that this was Luke.

However, MacArthur disagrees:

I’ve heard people say it might be Tychicus, or it might be Trophimus. Some have said it probably is Luke, because it says “whose fame in the gospel has spread through all the churches” – and they think it’s probably a reference to Luke’s gospel. The problem with that is Luke’s Gospel was not in circulation yet when 1 Corinthians was written, so the people wouldn’t have known of Luke’s Gospel. So, it’s not Luke. We don’t know who it is. The name is not given. But they would know who it is.

MacArthur says they would know who the man was because he accompanied Titus when the latter was delivering one of Paul’s letters:

… he would be standing there with Titus when he delivered the letter. They would know him, and they would recognize him. He didn’t need to give his name because he was well known. It says, “He’s the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.” He doesn’t name the man, and there’s no way to know who he was for us, but clearly the Corinthians knew him, and they knew him as a man who was famous for preaching the gospel. A distinguished preacher. Known and esteemed by all the churches. A prominent and unimpeachable brother who was sent with Titus to receive and transport the money.

Paul explains that he is sending these two men so that no one can cast aspersions on the donations (verse 20). Furthermore, he and they are aiming at what is honourable both in God’s sight and in man’s (verse 21).

Henry says:

He would not give occasion to any to accuse him of injustice or partiality in this affair, and thought it to be his duty, as it is the duty of all Christians, to provide for things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men; that is, to act so prudently as to prevent, as far as we can, all unjust suspicions concerning us, and all occasions of scandalous imputations. Note, We live in a censorious world, and should cut off occasion from those who seek occasion to speak reproachfully. It is the crime of others if they reproach or censure us without occasion; and it is our imprudence at least if we give them any occasion, when there may not be a just cause for them so to do.

A third brother in the faith will also be going to Corinth, a man who has been tried and tested and whose earnestness is even greater than ever because of his confidence in the Corinthians (verse 22).

Henry says this man could have been Apollos:

He commends also another brother who was joined with the two former in this affair. This brother is thought to be Apollos. Whoever he was, he had approved himself diligent in many things; and therefore was fit to be employed in this affair.

MacArthur says that we do not know who he was but the Corinthians would have known of him:

This is another one, and we don’t have his name either, but that would obviously be known to them as soon as he arrived. He describes him with some glowing terms, “Whom we have often tested” – that’s that word dokimazō which means to be approved after testing, like testing metals and having them come out proven. “We have tested him, and he has passed. We have found him diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.”

Just to take the extra precaution, here’s another one. Again, no name is given, but a great commendation, “whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things.” What does that mean? Diligent, it’s zealous, passionate. He’s just a – he’s a zealous person. Just in general, he’s passionate; he’s devout. “But now even more diligent, more zealous than normal because of his great confidence in you.” Perhaps he had heard the wonderful report of Titus in response to the severe letter and the restoration of their relationship to Paul. He heard that the Corinthians indeed proved to be teachable, responsive, responsible, repentant and loyal. He’d heard such good things, and he was now so encouraged he wanted to be a part of the whole enterprise.

So, now you’ve got Titus, and you’ve got the brother whose fame spread through all the churches because of his preaching, and now you’ve got a brother many times tested and found zealous and now committed to this whole process as well, with a greater zeal. Very, very careful accountability.

Paul winds up his commendation, saying that Titus is his partner working for the benefit of the Corinthians and that the two brothers are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ (verse 23).

MacArthur explains the words as written in Greek:

This is the summary of this little group, of this little financial committee. “As for Titus” – let’s go over it again – “he is my partner and fellow worker among you.” He’s my partner; he’s my koinōnos; he’s my close companion. “And he’s a fellow worker among you” – synergos; you know him; he’s been there; he’s worked with you, and you love him, and you know his character, and you know his heart. “As for our brethren” – these two brothers, the preacher and the man tested and proven – “they are messengers of the churches” – and again, that reminds us of back in verse 19, appointed by the churches – “they are messengers of the churches.”

I want to stop at that point and just make a couple of comments that are really very important. The word “messenger” here is apostolos, it’s apostles. They are apostles of the churches. What does that mean? Well, it’s a term used to refer to somebody who was officially authorized to be a representative. Likely the churches in mind here are the churches of Macedonia. Apostle or messenger is someone charged or commissioned with an official duty, and his role – listen – can only be understood by knowing who commissioned him and for what …

They were not commissioned by Christ to be witnesses of the resurrection and preach the gospel. They were commissioned by the churches to go with Paul and Titus to help secure the money and bring it all the way to Jerusalem.

So, they are messengers of the churches. So, you don’t include them with the apostles. They are official men commissioned by the churches, not Christ, and for the purpose of securing the money and taking it to Jerusalem.

But I want you to notice the caliber of men who were given to this task, the end of verse 23. This has got to be the single best, the single highest compliment ever given to a believer, “They are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Wouldn’t you like that on your epitaph? What more could be said? They are a glory to Christ. They bring glory to Christ by their holiness, by their virtue, by the excellencies of their spiritual commitment, by their obedience to the Word of God they bring honor to Christ. They are a glory to Christ. The best of men.

Paul ends by encouraging the Corinthians to give evidence of their love towards the churches and proof that these these men were correct in boasting about the congregation (verse 24).

MacArthur explains that verse’s message:

Therefore, give, and do it openly. Literally, the Greek says, “in the faces of the churches.” Let everybody see how generous you are; let everybody see how magnanimous you are; let them see the proof of your love.

You say you love? Prove it. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, if you have love one for another.” Let’s see your love. Put it on display for all the churches. This is the opportunity to give visible demonstration of our love for the saints, of your love for the Lord of the Church.

Paul has a bit more to say on this topic in 2 Corinthians 9.

Next time: 2 Corinthians 9:1-5