“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift”, 2 Cor 9. 15. Doubtless Paul’s words refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s greatest gift to mankind - “His Gift of gifts, all other gifts in one”, to which no other can compare. Paul describes it as an “unspeakable” gift, in which he uses a different word to Peter’s “joy unspeakable”. Both refer to what cannot be properly expressed, as another translation renders it, “his gift beyond words”. Try as we might, no language of ours could hope to match such a gift; it beggars description.
In chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians, Paul writes of the “grace” of Christian giving, which word (Greek chans’} he uses seven times in these chapters. “Gift” in 9. 15 means free gift (Greek dorea).
Paul’s object in these chapters was to encourage the Christians at Corinth to give of their substance for the benefit of Christians less fortunate than themselves at that time; see Romans 15. 26. To this end, he instanced the generosity of the Christians in Macedonia, who, although scarcely able to give, nonetheless gave richly out of their “deep poverty”, like the poor widow with her two mites. He also exhorted the Macedonians, by the generous example of the Corinthians, whose zeal had stirred up very many of them, 2 Cor. 9. 2.
Paul set great store by the principle of “equality”, 8. 14, that is, that churches whose members were liberally endowed should help those who were not, that “by an equality … your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply of your want; that there may be equality”. It was a practice which marked the early church, Acts 2. 44, 45; 4. 32, 34, 35. The example of generous giving by Christians can be an inspiration and incentive to others to make a like effort, as in the case of the Christians in Corinth and in Macedonia, but Paul made use of a more pointed argument and an infinitely greater example of generosity than that between fellow-Christians, in citing the supreme example of Christ Himself; “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich”. There could be no possibility of “equality” as between the Lord’s matchless giving and our own; we were in no position to relieve His poverty, or to reciprocate His generosity by any act on our part. The giving was all on His side. He pauperized Himself in order to enrich those who were spiritual paupers without means to enrich Him. He gave Himself without stint, that we might be enriched beyond measure. His giving was not “grudging” or sparse, or of “necessity” His generous giving is the greatest possible encouragement to generous giving among His people, for the relief of need wherever it exists among them.
In the same context of Christian giving, Paul introduces the phrase “thanks be to God” a second time, 8. 16. It concerned his appreciation of what Titus had done in connection with the generous giving of the church at Corinth. Paul desired that what Titus “had begun, so he would also finish in (them) the same grace also”. Titus himself was very ready to respond to Paul’s wish, indeed, it confirmed his own desire; “of his own accord he went.”. Paul could commend Titus to them in glowing terms as “my partner and fellowhelper concerning you”. It was a measure of Paul’s appreciation of Titus, and of the evident concern in him that matched his own, that caused Paul to exclaim, “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you”. Doubtless it was God’s work in the hearts of the Corinthians, and no less his work in the heart of Titus, that His purpose might be realized.
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