We read in the Book of Acts that the Christians at Antioch sent money to Jerusalem. Paul collected money as he traveled into Macedonia and into Greece proper. He refers to the one trip several times where, together with representatives of the Gentile churches, he went to Jerusalem to present this great offering. I suppose Paul thought of this as a testimony to the great unity of the Christian church. That is because here was a true, common brotherhood of those who had been born again and were brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ, showing a family concern for one another. So as Paul is writing to the Corinthians, he encourages them to give.

I suppose thousands of sermons have been preached on what the Lord Jesus Christ gave up in order that we might be saved. And thousands upon thousands more have been preached on our great spiritual blessings in Christ. All of that is right, of course. That is what the text is talking about. But it is most significant that in the context of the passage Paul is not talking about spiritual blessings, but rather very material ones, in particular, the obligation of the Christians at Corinth to give generously of their substance to God's work and for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. In other words, this text, which is so often spoken of spiritually, in an illustrative sense, says, "You should be great in your giving because your model is the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave everything he had for you."

At the very end of 2 Corinthians 8, the fourth thing I notice is that Paul tells the Corinthians how in spite of their sin he boasted about them to Titus and to other people. He must have said to Titus, "These Corinthians are Christians. When they get this letter, the Holy Spirit will work in them. They are far more mature than their behavior is indicating. They are going to repent of their sin and they are going to get back on the right course." At the same time he must have also said, "I sure hope that is an accurate analysis." When Titus returned and the report was good, Paul could say, "See, I was right. God is working in those men and women in Corinth. They are God’s people and they are going to make it. They are going to grow and mature in the Christian life." And Paul, as he tells about that, is not afraid to be vulnerable.

Another time Paul is most open and vulnerable is when he begins to talk about his comfort at the coming of Titus. We know from the earlier chapters that he was troubled on behalf of the Corinthians. He had sent them the first letter, but he did not know how it would be received. He had gone to Macedonia when, at first, Titus was not there. But finally, Titus came to see him. He says that he was comforted in that great period of trouble to have this fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, this companion in his labor, come and bear good tidings.

When Paul writes this letter, he is particularly vulnerable. He is very frank and open as he shares his experiences and feelings with the Corinthians. The keynote of this section is his reference to the word "hearts." In verse 2 he uses "your hearts," and in verse 3 he uses "our hearts." This section is a repetition of what he wrote in the previous chapter, verse 11: "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you"; then on that basis in verse 13 he says, "...open wide your hearts also." Here, in chapter 7, he says, "Make room for us in your hearts. ...I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you."