2 Corinthians 8:16-24
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.…
1. We may look up, and give thanks to God for what they are.
2. We may look back, and give thanks to God for what they were. Now these two will very much consist together — the praising of Titus, and the praising of God for Titus.
I. IT IS MENTIONED TO THE PRAISE OF TITUS THAT HE HAD IN HIS HEART AN EARNEST CARE FOR THE CORINTHIANS. Observe, what service he did was from a principle within, from something in his heart; there is the fountain. Nor is any work of piety or charity properly a good work unless it be a heart work. It was a principle of care that actuated him in this service. The word οπουδη signifies a close application and intention of mind to the business he was employed in, a concern to have it done well, fear lest there should be any mistake or miscarriage in it, diligence, industry, and expedition in the prosecution of it. What Titus found to do for the glory of God, and the good of the souls of men, he did it with all his might, and made a business of it. We translate it an earnest care, his heart was upon, and he left no stone unturned to bring it to a good issue. Now in the earnest care that Titus had for the churches, we are to consider him both in general, as a minister of the gospel, and in particular, as an agent in the work of charity.
1. Let us consider him as an evangelist, for so Timothy and he and many others were. He was an assistant to the apostles, both in planting churches and in watering those that were planted. That which Titus is here commended for, is the earnest care he had for those of the Church of Corinth, and for their spiritual welfare. And concerning this we may observe —
(1) Though Titus was not under any particular obligation to the Corinthians, as their settled pastor, yet he had an earnest care for them, and they were very much influenced by his care, and were very observant of what he said to them. He did not ask, "What are they to me?" nor was he asked what he had to do to concern himself about them. God is no respecter of persons in His bounty, nor must he be so in ours. Titus had an earnest care in his heart to make himself a blessing wherever he comes, and such should we have; we must study to serve some good purpose in every place where Providence casts our lot. The more extensive our usefulness is, the more it resembles His goodness whose tender mercies are over all His works.
(2) Though Titus had many to take care of, many churches that he visited and interested himself in the affairs of, yet his care for each of them was an earnest care. The stream of his pious concern ran broad, and yet it ran deep. The extensiveness of his care abated nothing of the earnestness of it. Some are made careless by the greatness of their undertaking, they grasp at too much, and then think that will excuse them in their neglects. Though a wise man would not thrust himself into a hurry of business, nor have more irons in the fire than he can look after, yet a good man would covet a fulness of business, according as his capacity is, that whenever his Master comes he may be found doing.
(3) Though there were others who had the care of the Corinthians, and whose business it was to direct, exhort, and quicken them, yet Titus showed the same care for them that they did; not that he would intrude into other men's office, or take their work out of their hands, but he would strengthen their hands, and carry on their work, would second what they said, and add thereto many like words. He saw there was need of all the help that might be for the furtherance of the gospel there. Let us now see what improvement we may make of this part of Titus's care as a minister, thus in some measure copied out.
1. It sets a good example before ministers whose hearts should in like manner be full of earnest care about the work they have to do, and the great trust committed to them; and happy were it for the Church if they were all thus.
2. It lays an engagement upon people, who have been or are under the care, the earnest care, of faithful ministers.
(1) Examine yourselves how you have reproved under his earnest care for you, and whether your profiting has appeared m any proportion to the opportunities you have enjoyed; whether your growth in knowledge and grace has been answerable to the care that has been taken of you, and the pains that have been taken with you.
(2) If ministers have and should have such an earnest care for your souls, should not you much more have an earnest, a more earnest, care for your own souls?
(3) If ministers must have this earnest care for the souls of those under their charge, surely parents and masters of families ought to have some care, to have an earnest care, for the spiritual welfare of those under their charge, their children, their servants, to restrain them from that which would be to the prejudice and ruin of their souls, and to provide that for them which is necessary to their well-being.
2. We now come to consider Titus as an active instrument at this time in a work of charity that was on foot.
(1) It is easy to apprehend that herein he showed an earnest care for the poor saints at Jerusalem, for whose use this collection was made, and a great concern for them, that they should be speedily and plentifully relieved in their present distress; and they would have reason to say, "Thanks be to God, that put into the heart of Titus this care" for us and our families, for otherwise we might have perished. Titus heard what straits they were reduced to, and as one who put his soul into their souls' stead, laid out himself to get supply for them. Though Titus was a Greek, and was never circumcised, as Timothy was, and upon that account the saints at Jerusalem (many of whom retained too great an affection for the ceremonial law) were perhaps cool towards him, yet he was active to do them service, as Paul also was, though he was the apostle of the Gentiles, so our liberality must not be confined to those who are just of our own sentiment and way. This was the good work that Titus had this earnest care to help forward.
(2) It is as true, though not so easily apprehended, that Titus showed as earnest a care for the Corinthians, whom he persuaded to do good, as for the saints at Jerusalem, whom he desired that this good might be done to. Now Titus had an earnest care for the Corinthians, that they who came not behind in any gift, might not come behind in this gift; he was in care that they should not be slow in their contributions, because Paul had boasted of them, that Achaia was ready a year ago (2 Corinthians 9:2); and in care that they should not be illiberal in them, but that what was gathered should be considerable: he was in care that they should give like themselves. The Corinthians were generally a rich people, and lived great; whence it became a proverb, "Every man cannot pretend to live at Corinth." Now Titus was jealous of them, lest they should pinch their charity to feed their luxury. The particular kindness he had for this Church of Corinth did not put him upon contriving how he might excuse them from this good work, or make it easy to them, that it might be the more kind to him; but on the contrary, because he loved them, he was very earnest with them to do more than otherwise they would have done.I would endeavour, therefore, for the amending of this matter, to make it out that those are to be accounted your friends who, with prudence and discretion, propose to you proper objects of charity, and press you to give liberally to them.
(1) They would have you to do that which is your duty, a plain, necessary, and great duty, which God requires of all those whom He has entrusted with this world's goods.
(2) They would have you do that which will be your honour, and which will put a reputation upon you, and therefore it must be looked upon as an instance of their earnest care for your preferment.
(3) They would have you do that which you will have comfort in, and advantage by, in this world, and therefore you are to reckon them your friends who have a care for you.
(4) They would have you do that which will be fruit abounding to your account in the day of recompence.
II. IT IS MENTIONED TO THE PRAISE OF GOD, THAT HE PUT THIS EARNEST CARE INTO THE HEART OF TITUS FOR THEM; AND THANKS ARE GIVEN TO HIM FOR IT. Now thanks be to God, who by His providence brought Titus to Corinth, and by His grace excited and enabled him to do this good office there. See how solicitous blessed Paul is upon all occasions to ascribe the glory of all the good that was done, whether by others or by himself, to the grace of God, and to own in it the influences and operations of that grace.
1. That God can put things into men's hearts beyond what was expected. He is the Sovereign of the heart, not only to enjoin it what He pleases by His law, but to influence it, and to infuse into it by His providence and grace as He pleases. He has access to men's hearts. The way of man is not in himself, he cannot think what he will, but the wise God can overrule him. Let no man boast of his free thought, when whatever devices are in men's hearts, it is not their counsel, but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. See in this how God governs the world, by the hold He has of the consciences of men.
2. That whatever good is in the heart of any, it is God that puts it there. If Titus have in his heart an earnest care for the spiritual welfare of the Corinthians, though he is a very good man, and one whom much good may be expected from, yet even this is not of himself, it is not to be called a natural affection, it is a gracious one. If we have an earnest care for our own souls, and for their spiritual and eternal welfare, it is God that puts it into our hearts, that gives it to us, so the word here used signifies, it is He that plants it in us.
3. That Christ's ministers are in a particular manner all that, and that only, to His churches that He makes them to be. They are stars that shine with a borrowed light, and shed no other benign influences but what are derived from the Sun of Righteousness. If they have a care, an earnest care, a natural care, for the souls committed to their charge, it is God who has put it into their hearts, it is His grace in them that makes them blessings to the places where they are. We must therefore look up to God, by prayer, for that grace which is necessary to make the stewards of the mysteries of God both skilful and faithful.
4. That the grace of God is particularly to be seen and owned in the progress and success of any work of charity, as this here, which Titus was active in among the Corinthians. In this we may be tempted to think there needs no more but that common concurrence of the Divine Providence which is necessary to the negotiating of every other affair; but it seems by this we have as much need of the working of the Spirit and grace of God to enable us to give alms well, as to enable us to pray and preach well.Let us now close all with some inferences to these observations.
1. If this be so, then those who do good have nothing to glory in; for whatever good they do it was God that put it into their hearts to do it, and therefore He must have all the glory. Boasting is hereby for ever excluded. This forbids us to trust to our own good works, as if by them we could merit anything at the hand of God.
2. If this be so, then those who have any good done them, either for soul or body, must give thanks to God for it, who raised up those who were the instruments of it, and put it into their hearts to do it, and perhaps to do it with an earnest care. We ought indeed to acknowledge their kindness and to be grateful to them, but that must be in token of our gratitude to God, who, in making them His agents, made them His receivers. But we must look above and beyond them.
3. If this be so, let us hereby be engaged and quickened to do all the good we can in our places; to do the good the Corinthians did, that is, to contribute largely and freely for the support and encouragement of poor saints according to the ability God has given us; to do the good Titus did, that is, to solicit the cause both of the necessitous and of the deserving, and to procure assistance for them. Hereby we shall evidence that God, by His grace, has put some good into our hearts, which the good we do is the fruit and product of, and by which the tree is known. Hereby likewise we shall give occasion to many to praise God for us, and for the good which by His grace we are inclined and enabled to do.
4. This may be matter of comfort and support to us when useful instruments are removed from us.
Parallel VersesKJV: But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.