In a great trial of affliction - The sense of this verse is the following: The Macedonians, though both poor and persecuted, rejoiced exceedingly that an opportunity was afforded them of doing good to their more impoverished and more persecuted brethren. We can scarcely ever speak of poverty and affliction in an absolute sense; they are only comparative. Even the poor are called to relieve those who are poorer than themselves; and the afflicted, to comfort those who are more afflicted than they are. The poor and afflicted Churches of Macedonia felt this duty, and therefore came forward to the uttermost of their power to relieve their more impoverished and afflicted brethren in Judea.
How that, in a great trial of affliction - When it might be supposed they were unable to give; when many would suppose they needed the aid of others; or when it might be supposed their minds would be wholly engrossed with their own concerns. The trial to which the apostle here refers was doubtless some persecution which was excited against them, probably by the Jews; see Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5.
The abundance of their joy - Their joy arising from the hopes and promises of the gospel. Notwithstanding their persecutions, their joy has abounded, and the effect of their joy has been seen in the liberal contribution which they have made. Their joy could not be repressed by their persecution, and they cheerfully contributed largely to the aid of others.
And their deep poverty - Their very low estate of poverty was made to contribute liberally to the needs of others. It is implied here:
(1)That they were very poor - a fact arising probably from the consideration that the poor generally embraced the gospel first, and also because it is probable that they were molested and stripped of their property in persecutions (compare Heb). Acts 10:34);
(2)That notwithstanding this they were enabled to make a liberal contribution - a fact demonstrating that a people can do much even when poor if all feel disposed to do it, and that afflictions are favorable to the effort; and,
(3)That one cause of this was the joy which they had even in their trials.
If a people have the joys of the gospel; if they have the consolations of religion themselves, they will somehow or other find means to contribute to the welfare of others. They will be willing to labor with reference to it, or they will find something which they can sacrifice or spare. Even their deep poverty will abound in the fruits of benevolence.
Abounded - They contributed liberally. Their joy was manifested in a large donation, notwithstanding their poverty.
Unto the riches of their liberality - Margin, “Simplicity.” The word ( ἁπλότης haplotēs) used here means properly sincerity, candor, probity; then Christian simplicity, integrity; then liberality; see Romans 12:8 (Margin,); 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13. The phrase “riches of liberality,” is a Hebraism, meaning rich, or abundant liberality. The sense is, their liberality was much greater than could be expected from persons so poor; and the object of the apostle is, to excite the Corinthians to give liberally by their example.
How the Macedonian Church Responded—Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.” WM 205.1
There had been a famine at Jerusalem, and Paul knew that many of the Christians had been scattered abroad, and that those who remained would be likely to be deprived of human sympathy and exposed to religious enmity. Therefore he exhorted the churches to send pecuniary assistance to their brethren in Jerusalem. The amount raised by the churches exceeded the expectation of the apostles. Constrained by the love of Christ, the believers gave liberally, and they were filled with joy because they should thus express their gratitude to the Redeemer and their love for the brethren. This is the true basis of charity according to God's Word.—Testimonies for the Church 6:271, 272. WM 205.2
According to Our Entrusted Talents—Of the church in Macedonia we read that “in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” Then, shall any of us who profess to be Christians think that we shall be excused in doing nothing for the truth because we are poor? We regard the precious light of truth as an inexpressible, inexhaustible treasure. We are to exert an influence in proportion to our entrusted talents, be we rich or poor, high or low, ignorant or learned. We are servants of Jesus Christ, and the Lord expects us to do our best.—The Review and Herald, September 4, 1894. WM 205.3Read in context »
In the days of the apostles, men went everywhere preaching the word. New churches were raised up. Their love and zeal for Christ led them to acts of great denial and sacrifice. Many of these Gentile churches were very poor, yet the apostle declares that their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. Their gifts were extended beyond their ability to give. Men periled their lives and suffered the loss of all things for the truth's sake. 3T 413.1
The apostle suggests the first day of the week as a proper time to review the course of Providence and the prosperity experienced, and in the fear of God, with true gratitude of heart for the blessings He has bestowed, to decide how much, according to His own devised plan, shall be rendered back to Him. 3T 413.2
God designs that the exercise of benevolence shall be purely voluntary, not having recourse even to eloquent appeals to excite sympathy. “God loveth a cheerful giver.” He is not pleased to have His treasury replenished with forced supplies. The loyal hearts of His people, rejoicing in the saving truth for this time, will, through love and gratitude to Him for this precious light, be earnest and anxious to aid with their means in sending the truth to others. The very best manner in which to give expression to our love for our Redeemer is to make offerings to bring souls to the knowledge of the truth. The plan of redemption was entirely voluntary on the part of our Redeemer, and it is the purpose of Christ that all our benevolence should be freewill offerings. 3T 413.3Read in context »
A beautiful illustration of that spirit of love and self-sacrifice which the grace of Christ implants in the heart is given in the experience of the Macedonian Christians. The apostle Paul writes of them: “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.... Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5). And wherever the Spirit of Christ abides the same fruits will be manifested. HP 304.2Read in context »
Through circumstances some who love and obey God become poor. Some are not careful; they do not know how to manage. Others are poor through sickness and misfortune. Whatever the cause, they are in need, and to help them is an important line of missionary work. 6T 271.1
All our churches should have a care for their own poor. Our love for God is to be expressed in doing good to the needy and suffering of the household of faith whose necessities come to our knowledge and require our care. Every soul is under special obligation to God to notice His worthy poor with particular compassion. Under no consideration are these to be passed by. 6T 271.2
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.” 6T 271.3Read in context »