The need in Jerusalem was great. The saints there were under the heavy hand of persecution. And their persecution created among them a great poverty. The churches in Macedonia, though not the wealthiest of believers themselves, “overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (2Cor. 8:1-3). They begged for the opportunity to extend such grace (8:4) to those in need in Jerusalem because they had themselves known the over-the-top generous grace of the Lord Jesus who “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (8:9). And so Paul sought to encourage the Corinthians to also provide financial assistance to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and thus participate too in “this act of grace” (8:6, 7, 19).
And Paul, ever mindful of wanting all things to be done above reproach and beyond any accusation, arranges for a team of men, led by Titus, to handle the collection, the delivery, and the distribution of the funds. And it’s in reading the details of this practical arrangement that my attention was grabbed by a famous nobody.
But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 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. (2Corinthians 8:16-19 ESV)
Titus was well known as one of Paul’s closest associates and fellow laborers (8:23). And he was asked of Paul to take charge of the gift for Jerusalem. But in order that there be no hint of any mishandling of the funds, Paul asks two other men to work with Titus. One of them is described by Paul in 8:18 as “the brother who is famous among all the churches.”
All the churches praised him as a preacher of the Good News (NLT). A dynamic speaker, I imagine. When this brother proclaimed the Word, the Spirit showed up. An itinerant preacher whose reputation preceded him. I’m guessing he drew big crowds. Paul didn’t even have to name him in writing to the Corinthians. He was just “the brother who is famous.” And that, apparently, was enough for them to know who Paul was talking about.
But the fact that he is not named causes me to pause. Though Paul would not have understood that this second letter he was writing to the Corinthians would eventually become Holy Writ and part of the Canon of Scripture, the Spirit who inspired Paul to write was well aware of it. And so you might think that the Spirit would have ensured that Paul named this brother so that those through the ages would know who this famous preacher was. Evidently not.
And I’m thinking that the fact that this guy was a famous nobody is instructive.
This well known, but unidentified itinerant had been called to “carry out this act of grace” not to enhance his resume, but “for the glory of the Lord Himself” (v.19). Just as he had preached the gospel, not for his prestige but because it was the power of God for salvation, he would serve in this act of grace so that others would know that the Great Shepherd cares for the needs of His people. The only name that needed to be remembered by anybody was that Name Above All Names, Jesus. This brother who was famous would gladly be a nobody, if through his faithful service, Jesus might be introduced to somebody . . . and His name exalted by everybody who had been called to be saints.
And how I need to be content to be a nobody . . . famous or otherwise. To be like John the Baptist, ever mindful that Christ must increase “but I must decrease” (John 3:30). To rest in the fact that, while no one else might know my name, Jesus does — both the name by which He called me to Himself and the new name which He will give to me in that day (Rev. 2:17, 3:12). To know that, should no one sing my praise or remember my name, just to hear the risen Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” will be more than enough . . . and that, all because of His abundant grace.
To Him be the glory . . . now and forevermore!