And this they did, not as we expected, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
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By giving themselves to God first and then to their fellow believers, the Macedonians demonstrated their sincere desire to be made perfect. Paul quoted their example in the hope of persuading the Corinthians to do likewise. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
Not as we hoped They gave much more than we expected.
But first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us. They first surrendered themselves to the will of God and then to ours, to do and give whatever I wished.
Observe here that they who give alms ought, if they are to do it properly, first to give their hearts to God, and in token that they have so surrendered themselves to Him, they ought then to give alms, as tribute paid to Him.
By the will of God. God wishes people to follow our directions, and regard our wish as His, and us as the interpreters of His will, so what we will God also wills to be done by those under us. He Himself says: "He that heareth you heareth Me" (Anselm and Theophylact).
They gave their own selves. That is, they resigned themselves and families to the care of Providence for the necessaries of life, begging that the apostle would receive their alms, which exceeded even their means. (Calmet)
And by the will of God they also gave themselves to us, that we might dispose of them, and of all that belonged to them, as we should judge proper. (Bible de Vence)
The secret of the Macedonians’ zeal was that first, they gave themselves to the Lord. Everything else flowed from that. As a result, when they showed mercy they were not filled with pride but rather displayed great humility and heavenly wisdom.
And this, not as we hoped. This he says with reference both to the amount and to their afflictions. 'For we could never have hoped,' he says, 'that while in so great affliction and poverty, they would even have urged us and so greatly intreated us.' He showed also their carefulness of life in other respects, by saying,
But first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God.
'For in everything their obedience was beyond our expectations; nor because they showed mercy did they neglect the other virtues,' but first gave themselves to the Lord. What is, gave themselves to the Lord? 'They offered up [themselves]; they showed themselves approved in faith; they displayed much fortitude in their trials, order, goodness, love, in all things both readiness and zeal.' What means, and to us? 'They were tractable to the rein, loved, obeyed us; both fulfilling the laws of God and bound unto us by love.' And observe how here also he again shows their earnestness , saying...