In the previous chapter 2 Corinthians 7 the apostle had expressed his entire confidence in the ready obedience of the Corinthians in all things. To this confidence he had been led by the promptitude with which they had complied with his commands in regard to the case of discipline there, and by the respect which they had shown to Titus, whom he had sent to them. All that he had ever said in their favor had been realized; all that had ever been asked of them had been accomplished The object of his statement in the close of 2 Corinthians 7 seems to have been to excite them to diligence in completing the collection which they had begun for the poor and afflicted saints of Judea. On the consideration of that subject, which lay so near his heart, he now enters; and this chapter and the following are occupied with suggesting arguments, and giving directions for a liberal contribution.
Paul had given directions for taking up this collection in the first Epistle; see 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff; compare Romans 15:26. This collection he had given Titus direction to take up when he went to Corinth; see 2 Corinthians 7:6-17 of this chapter. But from some cause it had not been completed, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. What that cause was, is not stated, but it may have been possibly the disturbances which had existed there, or the opposition of the enemies of Paul, or the attention which was necessarily bestowed in regulating the affairs of the church. But in order that the contribution might be made, and might be a liberal one, Paul presses on their attention several considerations designed to excite them to give freely. The chapter is, therefore, of importance to us, as it is a statement of the duty of giving liberally to the cause of benevolence, and of the motives by which it should be done. In the presentation of this subject, Paul urges upon them the following considerations.
He appeals to the very liberal example of the churches of Macedonia, where, though they were exceedingly poor, they had contributed with great cheerfulness and liberality to the object, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.
From their example he had been induced to desire Titus to lay the subject before the church at Corinth, and to finish the collection which he had begun, 2 Corinthians 8:6.
He directs them to abound in this, not as a matter of commandment, but excited by the example of others, 2 Corinthians 8:7-8.
He appeals to them by the love of the Saviour; reminds them that though he was rich yet he became poor, and that they were bound to imitate his example, 2 Corinthians 8:9.
He reminds them of their intention to make such a contribution, and of the effort which they had made a year before; and though they had been embarrassed in it, and might find it difficult still to give as much as they had intended, or as much as they would wish, still it would be acceptable to God. For if there was a willing mind, God accepted the offering, 2 Corinthians 8:10-12.
He assures them that it was not his wish to burden or oppress them. All that he desired was that there should be an equality in all the churches, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.
To show them how much he was interested in this, he thanks God that he had put it into the heart of Titus to engage in it. And in order more effectually to secure it, he says that he had sent with Titus a brother who was well known, and whose praise was in all the churches. He had done this in order that the churches might have entire confidence that the contribution would be properly distributed. Paul did not wish it to be entrusted to himself. He would leave no room for suspicion in regard to his own character; he would furnish the utmost security to the churches that their wishes were complied with. He desired to act honestly not only in the sight of the Lord, but to furnish evidence of his entire honesty to people, 2 Corinthians 8:16-21.
To secure the same object he had also sent another brother, and these three brethren he felt willing to recommend as faithful and tried; as people in whom the church at Corinth might repose the utmost confidence, 2 Corinthians 8:22-24.
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit - We make known to you; we inform you. The phrase "we do you to wit," is used in Tyndale's translation, and means "we cause you to know." The purpose for which Paul informed them of the liberality of the churches of Macedonia was to excite them to similar liberality.
Of the grace of God ... - The favor which God had shown them in exciting a spirit of liberality, and in enabling them to contribute to the fund for supplying the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. The word "grace" (χάρις charis) is sometimes used in the sense of gift, and the phrase "gift of God" some have supposed may mean very great gift, where the words "of God" may be designed to mark anything very eminent or excellent, as in the phrase "cedars of God," "mountains of God," denoting very great cedars, very great mountains. Some critics (as Macknight, Bloomfield, Locke, and others) have supposed that this means that the churches of Macedonia had been able to contribute largely to the aid of the saints of Judea. But the more obvious and correct interpretation, as I apprehend, is that which is implied in the common version, that the phrase "grace of God," means that God had bestowed on them grace to give according to their ability in this cause. According to this it is implied:
(1) That a disposition to contribute to the cause of benevolence is to be traced to God. He is its author. He excites it. It is not a plant of native growth in the human heart, but a large and liberal spirit of benevolence is one of the effects of his grace, and is to be traced to him.
(2) it is a favor bestowed on a church when God excites in it a spirit of benevolence. It is one of the evidences of his love. And indeed there cannot be a higher proof of the favor of God than when by his grace he inclines and enables us to contribute largely to meliorate the condition, and to alleviate the needs of our fellowmen. Perhaps the apostle here meant delicately to hint this. He did not therefore say coldly that the churches of Macedonia had contributed to this object, but he speaks of it as a favor shown to them by God that they were able to do it. And he meant, probably, gently to intimate to the Corinthians that it would be an evidence that they were enjoying the favor of God if they should contribute in like manner.
The churches of Macedonia - Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea. For an account of Macedonia, see the Acts 16:9 note; Romans 15:26 note. Of these churches, that at Philippi seems to have been most distinguished for liberality Philippians 4:10, Philippians 4:15-16, Philippians 4:18, though it is probable that other churches contributed according to their ability, as they are commended (compare 2 Corinthians 9:2) without distinction.
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.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.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;For to their power - To the utmost of their ability.
I bear record - Paul had founded those churches and had spent much time with them. He was therefore well qualified to bear testimony in regard to their condition.
Yea, and beyond their power - Beyond what could have been expected; or beyond what it would have been thought possible in their condition. Doddridge remarks that this is a noble hyperbole, similar to that used by Demosthenes when he says, "I have performed all, even with an industry beyond my power." The sense is, they were willing to give more than they were well able. It shows the strong interest which they had in the subject, and the anxious desire which they had to relieve the needs of others.
Of themselves - (αὐθαίρεται authairetai). Acting from choice, self-moved, voluntarily, of their own accord. They did not wait to be urged and pressed to do it. They rejoiced in the opportunity of doing it. They came forward of their own accord and made the contribution. "God loveth a cheerful giver" 2 Corinthians 9:7; and from all the accounts which we have of these churches in Macedonia it is evident that they were greatly distinguished for their cheerful liberality.
Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.Praying us with much entreaty - Earnestly entreating me to receive the contribution and convey it to the poor and afflicted saints in Judea.
And take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints - Greek, "that we would take the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." They asked of us to take part in the labor of conveying it to Jerusalem. The occasion of this distress which made the collection for the saints of Judea necessary, was probably the famine which was predicted by Agabus, and which occurred in the time of Claudius Caesar; see note on Acts 11:28. Barnabas was associated with Paul in conveying the contribution to Jerusalem; Acts 6:30. Paul was unwilling to do it unless they particularly desired it, and he seems to have insisted that some person should be associated with him; 2 Corinthians 8:20; 1 Corinthians 16:3-4.
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.And this they did ... - They did not give what we expected only. We knew their poverty, and we expected only a small sum from them.
Not as we hoped - Not according to the utmost of our hopes. We were greatly disappointed in the amount which they gave, and in the manner in which it was done.
But first gave their ownselves to the Lord - They first made an entire consecration of themselves and all that they had to the Lord. They kept nothing back. They felt that all they had was his. And where a people honestly and truly devote themselves to God, they will find no difficulty in having the means to contribute to the cause of charity.
And unto us by the will of God - That is, they gave themselves to us to be directed in regard to the contribution to be made. They complied with our wishes and followed our directions. The phrase "by the will of God," means evidently that God moved them to this, or that it was to be traced to his direction and providence. It is one of the instances in which Paul traces everything that is right and good to the agency and direction of God.
Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.Insomuch - The sense of this passage seems to be this, "We were encouraged by this unexpected success among the Macedonians. We were surprised at the extent of their liberality. And encouraged by this, we requested Titus to go among you and finish the collection which you had proposed and which you had begun. Lest you should be outstripped in liberality by the comparatively poor Macedonian Christians, we were anxious that you should perform what you had promised and contemplated, and we employed Titus, therefore, that he might go at once and finish the collection among you."
The same grace also - Margin, "Gift;" see the note on 2 Corinthians 8:1. The word refers to the contribution which he wished to be made.
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.Therefore as ye abound in everything - see the note, 1 Corinthians 1:5. Paul never hesitated to commend Christians where it could be done with truth; and the fact that they were eminent in some of the Christian duties and graces, he makes the ground of the exhortation that they would abound in all. From those who had so many eminent characteristics of true religion he had a right to expect much; and he therefore exhorts them to manifest a symmetry of Christian character.
In faith - In the full belief of the truth and obligation of the gospel.
And utterance - In the ability to instruct others; perhaps referring to their power of speaking foreign languages; 1 Corinthians 14.
And knowledge - The knowledge of God, and of his truth.
And in all diligence - Diligence or readiness in the discharge of every duty. Of this, Paul had full evidence in their readiness to comply with his commands in the case of discipline to which so frequent reference is made in this Epistle.
See that ye abound in this grace also - The idea here is, that eminence in spiritual endowments of any kind, or in any of the traits of the Christian character should lead to great benevolence, and that the character is not complete unless benevolence be manifested toward every good object that may be presented.
I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.I speak not by commandment - This does not mean that he had no express command of God in the case, but that he did not mean to command them; he did not speak authoritatively; he did not intend to prescribe what they should give. He used only moral motives, and urged the considerations which he had done to persuade rather than to command them to give; see 2 Corinthians 8:10. He was endeavoring to induce them to give liberally, not by abstract command and law, but by showing them what others had given who had much less ability and much fewer advantages than they had. People cannot be induced to give to objects of charity by command, or by a spirit of dictation and authority. The only successful, as well as the only lawful appeal, is to their hearts and consciences, and sober judgments. And if an apostle did not take upon himself the language of authority and command in matters of Christian benevolence, assuredly ministers and ecclesiastical bodies now have no right to use any such language.
But by occasion of the forwardness of others - I make use of the example of the churches of Macedonia as an argument to induce you to give liberally to the cause.
And to prove the sincerity of your love - The apostle does not specify here what "love" he refers to, whether love to God, to Christ, to himself, or to the church at large. It may be that he designedly used the word in a general sense, to denote love to any good object; and that he meant to say that liberality in assisting the poor and afflicted people of God would be the best evidence of the sincerity of their love to God, to the Redeemer, to him, and to the church. Religion is love; and that love is to be manifested by doing good to all people as we have opportunity. The most substantial evidence of that love is when we are willing to part with. our property, or with whatever is valuable to us, to confer happiness and salvation on others.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.For ye know ... - The apostle Paul was accustomed to illustrate every subject, and to enforce every duty where it could be done, by a reference to the life and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The design of this verse is apparent. It is, to show the duty of giving liberally to the objects of benevolence, from the fact that the Lord Jesus was willing to become poor in order that he might benefit others. The idea is, that he who was Lord and proprietor of the universe, and who possessed all things, was willing to leave his exalted station in the bosom of the Father and to become poor, in order that we might become rich in the blessings of the gospel, in the means of grace, and as heirs of all things; and that we who are thus benefitted, and who have such an example, should be willing to part with our earthly possessions in order that we may benefit others.
The grace - The benignity, kindness, mercy, goodness. His coming in this manner was a proof of the highest benevolence.
Though he was rich - The riches of the Redeemer here referred to, stand opposed to that poverty which he assumed and manifested when he dwelt among people. It implies:
(1) His pre-existence, because he became poor. He had been rich. Yet not in this world. He did not lay aside wealth here on earth after he had possessed it, for he had none. He was not first rich and then poor on earth, for he had no earthly wealth. The Socinian interpretation is, that he was "rich in power and in the Holy Spirit;" but it was not true that he laid these aside, and that he became poor in either of them. He had power, even in his poverty, to still the waves, and to raise the dead, and he was always full of the Holy Spirit. His family was poor; and his parents were poor; and he was himself poor all his life. This then must refer to a state of antecedent riches before his assumption of human nature; and the expression is strikingly parallel to that in Philippians 2:6 ff. "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation," etc.
(2) he was rich as the Lord and proprietor of all things. He was the Creator of all John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, and as Creator he had a right to all things, and the disposal of all things. The most absolute right which can exist is that acquired by the act of creation; and this right the Son of God possessed over all gold, and silver, and diamonds, and pearls; over all earth and lands; over all the treasures of the ocean, and over all worlds. The extent and amount of his riches, therefore, is to be measured by the extent of his dominion over the universe; and to estimate his riches, therefore, we are to conceive of the scepter which he sways over the distant worlds. What wealth has man that can compare with the riches of the Creator and Proprietor of all? How poor and worthless appears all the gold that man can accumulate compared with the wealth of him whose are the silver, and the gold, and the cattle upon a thousand hills?
Yet for your sakes - That is, for your sakes as a part of the great family that was to be redeemed. In what respect it was for their sake, the apostle immediately adds when he says, it was that they might be made rich. It was not for his own sake, but it was for ours.
He became poor - In the following respects:
(1) He chose a condition of poverty, a rank of life that was usually that of poverty. He "took upon himself the form of a servant;" Philippians 2:7.
(2) he was connected with a poor family. Though of the family and lineage of David Luke 2:4, yet the family had fallen into decay, and was poor. In the Old Testament he is beautifully represented as a shoot or sucker that starts up from the root of a decayed tree; see my note on Isaiah 11:1.
(3) his whole life was a life of poverty. He had no home; Luke 9:58. He chose to be dependent on the charity of the few friends that he drew around him, rather than to create food for the abundant supply of his own needs. He had no farms or plantations; he had no splendid palaces; he had no money hoarded in useless coffers or in banks; he had no property to distribute to his friends. His mother he commended when he died to the charitable attention of one of his disciples John 19:27, and all his personal property seems to have been the raiment which he wore, and which was divided among the soldiers that crucified him. Nothing is more remarkable than the difference between the plans of the Lord Jesus and those of many of his followers and professed friends. He formed no plan for becoming rich, and he always spoke with the deepest earnestness of the dangers which attend an effort to accumulate property. He was among the most poor of the sons of people in his life; and few have been the people on earth who have not had as much as he had to leave to surviving friends, or to excite the cupidity of those who should fall heirs to their property when dead.
(4) he died poor. He made no will in regard to his property, for he had none to dispose of. He knew well enough the effect which would follow if he had amassed wealth, and had left it to be divided among his followers. They were very imperfect; and even around the cross there might have been anxious discussion, and perhaps strife about it, as there is often now over the coffin and the unclosed grave of a rich and foolish father who has died. Jesus intended that his disciples should never be turned away from the great work to which he called them by any wealth which he would leave them; and he left them not even a keepsake as a memorial of his name. All this is the more remarkable from two considerations:
(a) That he had it in his power to choose the manner in which he would come. He might have come in the condition of a splendid prince. He might have rode in a chariot of ease, or have dwelt in a magnificent palace. He might have lived with more than the magnificence of an oriental prince, and might have bequeathed treasures greater than those of Croesus or Solomon to his followers. But he chose not to do it.
(b) It would have been as right and proper for him to have amassed wealth, and to have sought princely possessions, as for any of his followers. What is right for them would have been right for him. People often mistake on this subject; and though it cannot be demonstrated that all his followers should aim to be as poor as he was, yet it is undoubtedly true that he meant that his example should operate constantly to check their desire of amassing wealth. In him it was voluntary; in us there should be always a readiness to be poor if such be the will of God; nay, there should he rather a preference to be in moderate circumstances that we may thus be like the Redeemer.
That ye through his poverty might be rich - That is, might have durable and eternal riches, the riches of God's everlasting favor. This includes:
(1) The present possession of an interest in the Redeemer himself. "Do you see these extended fields?" said the owner of a vast plantation to a friend. "They are mine. All this is mine." "Do you see yonder poor cottage?" was the reply of the friend as he directed his attention to the abode of a poor widow. "She has more than all this. She has Christ as her portion; and that is more than all." He who has an interest in the Redeemer has a possession that is of more value than all that princes can bestow.
(2) the heirship of an eternal inheritance, the prospect of immortal glory; Romans 8:17.
(3) everlasting treasures in heaven. Thus, the Saviour compares the heavenly blessings to treasures; Matthew 6:20. Eternal and illimitable wealth is theirs in heaven; and to raise us to that blessed inheritance was the design of the Redeemer in consenting to become poor. This, the apostle says, was to he secured by his poverty. This includes probably the two following things, namely,
(a) That it was to be by the moral influence of the fact that he was poor that people were to be blessed he designed by his example to counteract the effect of wealth; to teach people that this was not the thing to be aimed at; that there were more important purposes of life than to obtain money; and to furnish a perpetual reproof of those who are aiming to amass riches. The example of the Redeemer thus stands before the whole church and the world as a living and constant memorial of the truth that people need other things than wealth; and that there are objects that demand their time and influence other than the accumulation of property. It is well to have such an example; well to have before us the example of one who never formed any plan for gain, and who constantly lived above the world. In a world where gain is the great object, where all people are forming plans for it, it is well to have one great model that shall continually demonstrate the folly of it, and that shall point to better things.
(b) The word "poverty" here may include more than a mere lack of property. It may mean all the circumstances of his low estate and humble condition; his sufferings and his woes. The whole train of his privations was included in this; and the idea is, that he gave himself to this lowly condition in order that by his sufferings he might procure for us a part in the kingdom of heaven. His poverty was a part of the sufferings included in the work of the atonement. For it was not the sufferings of the garden merely, or the pangs of the cross, that constituted the atonement; it was the series of sorrows and painful acts of humiliation which so thickly crowded his life. By all these he designed that we should be made rich; and in view of all these the argument of the apostle is, we should be willing to deny ourselves to do good to others.
And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.And herein I give my advice - Not undertaking to command them, or to prescribe how much they should give. Advice will go much further than commands on the subject of charities.
For this is expedient for you - (συμφέρει sumpherei). That is, this will be of advantage to you; it will be profitable; it will be becoming. The idea is, that they were bound by a regard to consistency and to their own welfare, to perform what they had purposed. It became them; it was proper, and was demanded; and there would have been manifest disadvantages if it had not been done.
Who have begun before - Who commenced the collection a year before; see 2 Corinthians 8:6. It had been commenced with fair prospects of success, but had been interrupted probably by the dissensions which arose in the church there.
Not only to do - Not merely to accomplish it as if by constraint, or as a matter of compulsion and drudgery.
But also to be forward - Margin, "Willing." So the Greek τὸ θέλειν to thelein. They were voluntary in this, and they set about it with vigorous and determined zeal and courage. There was a resolute determination in the thing, and a willingness and heartiness in it which showed that they were actuated by Christian principle. Consistency, and their own reputation and advantage, now demanded that they should complete what they had begun.
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.As there was a readiness to will - Now accomplish the thing, and be not satisfied with having begun it. Do not suppose that the intention was sufficient, or that you are now released from the obligation. A year indeed has elapsed; but the necessity of the aid for the poor has not ceased. The sentiment here is, that if we have felt it our duty to aid in a cause of benevolence, and have commenced it, and have then been interrupted in executing our purpose, we should seize the first favorable opportunity to accomplish what we had designed. We should not regard ourselves as released from our obligation, but should, from a regard to consistency and our obligation to God, accomplish what we had intended.
Out of that which ye have - According to your ability; see 2 Corinthians 8:12. It should be in proportion to your means.
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.For if there be first a willing mind - If there is a "readiness" (προθυμία prothumia), a disposition to give; if the heart is in it, then the offering will be acceptable to God, whether you be able to give much or little. A willing mind is the first consideration. No donation, however large, can be acceptable where that does not exist; none, however small, can be otherwise than acceptable where that is found. This had relation as used by Paul to the duty of almsgiving; but the principle is as applicable to everything in the way of duty. A willing mind is the first and main thing. it is that which God chiefly desires, and that without which everything else will be offensive, hypocritical, and vain; see the note, 2 Corinthians 9:7.
It is accepted - Doddridge, Rosenmuller, Macknight, and some others apply this to the person, and render it," he is accepted;" but the more usual, and the more natural interpretation is to apply it to the gift - it is accepted. God will approve of it, and will receive it favorably.
According to that a man hath ... - He is not required to give what he has not. His obligation is proportioned to his ability. His offering is acceptable to God according to the largeness and willingness of his heart, and not according to the narrowness of his fortune - Locke. If the means are small, if the individual is poor, and if the gift shall be, therefore, small in amount, yet it may be proof of a larger heart and of more true love to God and his cause than when a much more ample benefaction is made by one in better circumstances. This sentiment the Saviour expressly stated and defended in the case of the poor widow; Mark 12:42-44; Luke 21:1-4. She who had cast in her two mites into the treasury had put in more than all which the rich people had contributed, for they had given of their abundance, but she had cast in all that she had, even all her living. The great and obviously just and equal principle here stated, was originally applied by Paul to the duty of giving alms. But it is equally true and just as applied to all the duties which we owe to God. He demands:
(1) A willing mind, a heart disposed to yield obedience. He claims that our service should be voluntary and sincere, and that we should make an unreserved consecration of what we have.
(2) secondly, he demands only what we have power to render. He requires a service strictly according to our ability, and to be measured by that. He demands no more than our powers are suited to produce; no more than we are able to render. Our obligations in all cases are limited by our ability. This is obviously the rule of equity, and this is all that is anywhere demanded in the Bible, and this is everywhere demanded. Thus, our love to him is to be in proportion to our ability, and not to be graduated by the ability of angels or other beings. "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;" Mark 12:30. Here the obligation is limited by the ability, and the love is to be commensurate with the ability. So of repentance, faith, and of obedience in any form. None but a tyrant ever demands more than can be rendered; and to demand more is the appropriate description of a tyrant, and cannot pertain to the ever-blessed God.
(3) thirdly, if there is any service rendered to God, according to the ability, it is accepted of him. It may not be as much or as valuable as may be rendered by beings of higher powers; it may not be as much as we would desire to render, but it is all that God demands, and is acceptable to him. The poor widow was not able to give as much as the rich man; but her offering was equally acceptable, and might be more valuable, for it would be accompanied with her prayers. The service which we can render to God may not be equal to that which the angels render; but it may be equally appropriate to our condition and our powers, and may be equally acceptable to God. God may be as well pleased with the sighings of penitence as the praises of angels; with the offerings of a broken and a contrite heart as with the loud hallelujahs of unfallen beings in heaven.
For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:For I mean not that other men be eased ... - I do not intend that others should be eased in order to relieve you. Literally, "Not that there should be rest (ἄνεσις anesis, a letting loose; remission, relaxation) to others, but affliction (θλίψις thlipsis) to you." Probably the Corinthians were able to contribute more than many other churches, certainly more than the churches of Macedonia 2 Corinthians 8:2, and Paul therefore presses upon them the duty of giving according to their means, yet he by no means intended that the entire burden should come on them.
But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:But by an equality - On just and equal principles. "That now at this time," etc. That at the present time your abundance may be a supply for their needs, so that at some future time, if there should be occasion for it, their abundance may be a supply for your needs. The idea is this. Corinth was then able to give liberally, but many of the other churches were not. They were poor, and perhaps persecuted and in affliction. But there might be great reverses in their condition. Corinth might be reduced from its affluence, and might itself from its affluence, and might itself become dependent on the aid of others, or might be unable to contribute any considerable amount for the purposes of charity. The members of the church in Corinth, therefore, should so act in their circumstances of prosperity, that others would be disposed to aid them should their condition ever be such as to demand it. And the doctrine here taught is:
(1) That the support of the objects of benevolence should be on equal principles. The rich should bear an equal and fair proportion, and if more frequent demands are made on their benefaction than on others they should not complain.
(2) Christians should contribute liberally while they have the means. In the vicissitudes of life no one can tell how soon he may be unable to contribute, or may even be dependent on the charity of others himself. A change in the commercial world; losses by fire or at sea; lack of success in business; loss of health, and the failure of his plans, may soon render him unable to aid the cause of benevolence. While he is prospered he should embrace every opportunity to do good to all. Some of the most painful regrets which people ever have, arise from the reflection that when prospered they were indisposed to give to benefit others, and when their property is swept away they become unable. God often sweeps away the property which they were indisposed to contribute to aid others, and leaves them to penury and want. Too late they regret that they were not the liberal patrons of the objects of benevolence when they were able to be.
That there may be equality - That all may be just and equal. That no unjust burden should be borne by anyone portion of the great family of the redeemed. Every Christian brother should bear his due proportion.
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.As it is written - see Exodus 16:18.
He that had gathered much ... - This passage was originally applied to the gathering of manna by the children of Israel. The manna which fell around the camp of Israel was gathered every morning. All that were able were employed in gathering it; and when it was collected it was distributed in the proportion of an omer, or about five pints to each man. Some would be more active and more successful than others. Some by age or infirmity would collect little; probably many by being confined to the camp would collect none. They who had gathered more than an omer, therefore, would in this way contribute to the needs of others, and would be constantly manifesting a spirit of benevolence. And such was their willingness to do good in this way, such their readiness to collect more than they knew would be demanded for their own use, and such the arrangement of Providence in furnishing it, that there was no want; and there was no more gathered than was needful to supply the demands of the whole.
Paul applies this passage, therefore, in the very spirit in which it was originally penned. He means to say that the rich Christians at Corinth should impart freely to their poorer brethren. They had gathered more wealth than was immediately necessary for their families or themselves. They should, therefore, impart freely to those who had been less successful. Wealth, like manna, is the gift of God. It is like that spread by his hand around us every day. Some are able to gather much more than others. By their skill, their health, their diligence, or by providential arrangements, they are eminently successful. Others are feeble, or sick, or aged, or destitute of skill, and are less successful. All that is obtained is by the arrangement of God. The health, the strength, the skill, the wisdom by which we are enabled to obtain it, are all his gift. That which is thus honestly obtained, therefore, should be regarded as his bounty, and we should esteem it a privilege daily to impart to others less favored and less successful.
Thus, society will be bound more closely together. There will be, as there was among the Israelites, the feelings of universal brotherhood. There will be on the one hand the happiness flowing from the constant exercise of the benevolent feelings; on the other the strong ties of gratitude. On the one hand the evils of poverty will be prevented, and on the other the not less. though different evils resulting from superabundant wealth. Is it a forced and unnatural analogy also to observe, that wealth, like manna, corrupts by being kept in store? manna if kept more than a single day became foul and loathsome. Does not wealth hoarded up when it might be properly employed; wealth that should have been distributed to relieve the needs of others, become corrupting in its nature, and offensive in the sight of holy and benevolent minds? Compare James 5:2-4. Wealth, like manna, should be employed in the service which God designs - employed to diffuse everywhere the blessings of religion, comfort, and peace.
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.But thanks be to God - Paul regarded every right feeling, and every pure desire; every inclination to serve God or to benefit a fellow mortal, as the gift of God. He, therefore, ascribes the praise to him that Titus was disposed to show an interest in the welfare of the Corinthians.
The same earnest care - The earnest care here referred to was that the Corinthians might complete the collection, and finish what they had proposed. Titus was willing to undertake this, and see that it was done.
For you - For your completing the collection. Paul represents it as being done for them, or for their welfare. The poor saints in Judea indeed were to have the immediate benefit of the contribution, but it was a privilege for them to give, and Paul rejoiced that they had that privilege. A man who presents to Christians a feasible object of benevolence, and who furnishes them an opportunity of doing good to others, is doing good to them, and they should esteem it an act of kindness done to them.
For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.For indeed he accepted the exhortation - He cheerfully complied with the exhortation which I gave him, to wit, to visit you, and excite you to this good work.
But being more forward - More disposed to do this than I had supposed. The idea here is, that he was very ready to engage in this; he was more ready to engage in it than Paul was to exhort him to it; he anticipated his request; he had already resolved to engage in it.
Of his own accord he went ... - He went voluntarily and without urging. The ground of Paul's thankfulness here seems to have been this, He apprehended probably some difficulty in obtaining the collection there, He was acquainted with the distracted state of the church, and feared that Titus might have some reluctance to engage in the service. He was therefore very agreeably surprised when he learned that Titus was willing to make another journey to Corinth and to endeavor to complete the collection.
And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;And we have sent with him the brother - It has been generally supposed that this anonymous brother was Luke. Some have supposed however that it was Mark, others that it was Silas or Barnabas. It is impossible to determine with certainty who it was; nor is it material to know. Whoever it was, it was some one well known, in whom the church at Corinth could have entire confidence. It is remarkable that though Paul mentions him again 2 Corinthians 12:18, he does it also in the same manner, without specifying his name. The only circumstances that can throw any light on this are:
(1) That Luke was the companion and intimate friend of Paul, and attended him in his travels. From Acts 16:10-11, where Luke uses the term "we," it appears that he was with Paul when he first went into Macedonia, and from Acts 16:15 it is clear that he went with Paul to Philippi. From Acts 17:1, where Luke alters his style and uses the term "they," it is evident that he did not accompany Paul and Silas when they went to Thessalonica, but either remained at Philippi or departed to some other place. He did not join them again until they went to Troas on the way to Jerusalem; Acts 20:5. In what manner Luke spent the interval is not known. Macknight supposes that it might have been in multiplying copies of his gospel for the use of the churches. Perhaps also he might have been engaged in preaching, and in services like that in the case before us.
(2) it seems probable that Luke is the person referred to by the phrase "whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches." This would be more likely to be applied to one who had written a gospel, or a life of the Redeemer that had been extensively circulated, than to any other person. Still it is by no means certain that he is the person here referred to, nor is it of material consequence.
Whose praise - Who is well known and highly esteemed.
Is in the gospel - Either for writing the gospel, or for preaching the gospel. The Greek will bear either construction. In some way he was celebrated for making known the truths of the gospel.
And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:And not that only - Not only is he esteemed on account of other services which he has rendered by his preaching and writings; but he has had a new mark of the confidence of the churches in being appointed to convey the collection to Jerusalem.
Chosen of the churches - Chosen by the churches. Many concurred in the choice, showing that they had entire confidence in him. Paul had been unwilling to have charge of this contribution alone (1 Corinthians 16:3-4; compare 2 Corinthians 8:20), and he had procured the appointment of some one to undertake it. Probably he expected that the church at Corinth would concur in this appointment.
With this grace - Margin, "Gift;" see 2 Corinthians 8:1. The word here refers to the alms, or the collection which had been made.
Which is administered by us - That is, which is undertaken by us. Paul had been the instrument of procuring it.
To the glory of the same Lord - The Lord of us all. The design was to promote the glory of the Lord by showing the influence of religion in producing true benevolence.
And declaration of your ready mind - That is, to afford you an opportunity of evincing your readiness to do good to others, and to promote their welfare.
Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:Avoiding this - That is, I intend to prevent any blame from being cast upon me in regard to the management of these funds. For this purpose Paul had refused to have the entire management of the funds (see 1 Corinthians 12:3-4), and had secured the appointment of one who had the entire confidence of all the churches.
That no man should blame us - That no one should have any occasion to say that I had appropriated it to my own use or contrary to the will of the donors. Paul felt how dangerous it was for ministers to have much to do with money matters. He had a very deep impression of the necessity of keeping his own character free from suspicion on this subject. He knew how easy it might be for his enemies to raise the charge that he had embezzled the funds and appropriated them to his own use. He therefore insisted on having associated with him some one who had the entire confidence of the churches, and who should be appointed by them, and thus he was certain of being forever free from blame on the subject. A most important example for all ministers in regard to the pecuniary benefactions of the churches.
In this abundance ... - In this large amount which is contributed by the churches and committed to our disposal. Large sums of money are in our time committed to the ministers of the gospel in the execution of the objects of Christian benevolence. Nothing can be more wise than the example of Paul here, that they should have associated with them others who have the entire confidence of the churches, that there may not be occasion for slander to move her poisonous tongue against the ministers of religion.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.Providing for honest things - The expression used here occurs in Romans 12:17; see the note on that place. In that place, however, it refers to the manner in which we are to treat those who injure us; here it refers to the right way of using property; and it seems to have been a kind of maxim by which Paul regulated his life, a "vade mecum" that was applicable to everything. The sentiment is, that we are to see to it beforehand that all our conduct shall be comely or honest. The word rendered "providing for" (προνωύμενοι pronōumenoi) means foreseeing, or perceiving beforehand; and the idea is, that we are to make it a matter of previous calculation, a settled plan, a thing that is to be attended to of set design. In the middle voice, the form in which it occurs here, it means to provide for in one's own behalf; to apply oneself to anything; to practice diligently - Robinson. The word rendered "things honest" (καλὰ kala) means properly beautiful, or comely.
The idea which is presented here is, that we are to see beforehand, or we are to make it a matter of set purpose that what we do shall be comely, that is, just, honorable, correct, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of mankind. Paul applies this in his own case to the alms which were to be entrusted to him. His idea is, that he meant so to conduct in the whole transaction as that his conduct should be approved by God, but that it should also be regarded as beautiful or correct in the sight of people. He knew how much his own usefulness depended on an irreproachable character. He, therefore, procured the appointment of one who had the entire confidence of the churches to travel with him. But there is no reason for confining this to the particular case under consideration. It seems to have been the leading maxim of the life of Paul, and it should be of ours. The maxim may be applied to everything which we have to do; and should constantly regulate us.
It may be applied to the acquisition and use of property; to the discharge of our professional duties; to our contact with others; to our treatment of inferiors and dependents; to our charities, etc. - in all of which we should make it a matter of previous thought, of earnest diligence, that our conduct should be perfectly honest and comely before God and man. Let us learn from this verse also, that ministers of the gospel should be especially careful that their conduct in money matters. and especially in the appropriation of the charities of the church, should be above suspicion. Much is often entrusted to their care, and the churches and individual Christians often commit much to their discretion. Their conduct in this should be without reproach; and in order to this, it is well to follow the example of Paul, and to insist that others who have the entire confidence of the churches should be associated with them. Nothing is easier than to raise a slanderous report against a minister of the gospel; and nothing gratifies a wicked world more than to be able to do it - and perhaps especially if it pertains to some improper use of money. It is not easy to meet such reports when they are started; and a minister, therefore, should be guarded, as Paul was, at every possible point, that he may be freed from that "whose breath outvenoms all the worms of Nile" - Slander.
And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.And we have sent with them our brother - Who this was is wholly unknown; and conjecture is useless. Some have supposed that it was Apollos, others Silas, others Timothy. But there are no means of ascertaining who it was; nor is it material. It was some one in whom Paul had entire confidence.
Whom we have oftentimes proved diligent - Of whom we have evidence that he has been faithful. It is evident, therefore, that he had been the companion and fellow-laborer of Paul.
But now much more diligent ... - Who will now prove himself much more diligent than ever before.
Upon the confidence ... - Margin, "he hath." The margin is doubtless the more correct reading here. The idea is, that this brother had great confidence in the Corinthians that they would give liberally, and that he would, therefore, evince special diligence in the business.
Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.Whether any do inquire of Titus - It is to be observed that the words "any do inquire" are not in the original; nor is it clear that these are the most proper words to be introduced here. The Greek may mean either, "if any do inquire about Titus," or it may mean "if anything is to be said about Titus." The sense of the passage may either be, that some of the faction at Corinth might be disposed to inquire about the authority of Titus to engage in this work, or that Paul having said so much in commendation of the persons who went with Titus, it seemed proper also to say something in his favor also. The idea is, "If any inquiry is made from any quarter about him, or if it is necessary from any cause to say any thing about him, I would say he is my partner," etc.
He is my partner ... - He partakes with me in preaching the gospel, and in establishing and organizing churches; compare Titus 1:5. To the Corinthians this fact would be a sufficient commendation of Titus.
Or our brethren be inquired of - That is, the brethren who accompanied Titus. If any inquiry was made about their character, or if it was necessary to say anything in regard to them.
They are the messengers of the churches - They have the entire confidence of the churches, having been selected and appointed by them to a work of labor and responsibility; compare Philippians 2:25. The words here rendered "messengers of the churches," are in the original "apostles of the churches," (ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν apostoloi ekklēsiōn). The word "apostles" here is used evidently in its proper sense, to denote one who is sent out to transact any business for others, or as an agent or legate. These persons were not apostles in the technical sense, and this is an instance where the word is applied in the New Testament to those who had no claim to the apostolic office. It is also applied in a similar way to Apollos and Barnabas, though neither, strictly speaking, were apostles.
And the glory of Christ - That is, they have a character so well known and established for piety; they are so eminent Christians and do such honor to the Christian name and calling, that they may be called the glory of Christ. It is an honor to Christ that he has called such persons into his church, and that he has so richly endowed them. Every Christian should so live as that it would appear to all the world that it was an honor and glory to the Redeemer that he had such followers; an honor to his gospel that it had converted such and brought them into his kingdom. It is sufficient honor, moreover, to any man to say that he is "the glory of Christ." Such a character should be, and will be, as it was here, a recommendation sufficient for any to secure them the confidence of others.
Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.Wherefore show ye to them ... - By a liberal contribution in the cause in which they are engaged and for which they have come among you now, furnish the evidence that you love me and the Christian cause, and show that I have not boasted of you in vain.
The proof of your love - Your love to me, to God, to the cause of religion; see the note on 2 Corinthians 8:8.
And of our boasting ... - My boasting that you would give liberally to the object; see the note, 2 Corinthians 7:14. Let it now be seen that my boasting was well founded, and that I properly understood your character, and your readiness to contribute to the objects of Christian benevolence.
1. Let us bear in mind that a disposition to be liberal proceeds only from God, 2 Corinthians 8:1. The human heart is by nature selfish, and indisposed to benevolence. It is only by the grace of God that people are excited to liberality; and we should therefore pray for this as well as for all other graces. We should beseech God to remove selfishness from our minds; to dispose us to feel as we should feel for the needs of others, and to incline us to give just what we ought to give to relieve them in trouble, and to promote their temporal and eternal welfare.
2. It is an inestimable blessing when God gives a spirit of liberality to the church, 2 Corinthians 8:1. It should be regarded as a proof of his special favor; and as an evidence of the prevalence of the principles of true religion.
3. People are often most liberal when in circumstances of distress, perplexity, and affliction, 2 Corinthians 8:2. Prosperity often freezes the heart, but adversity opens it. Success in life often closes the hand of benevolence, but adversity opens it. We are taught to feel for the sufferings of others by suffering ourselves; and in the school of adversity we learn invaluable lessons of benevolence which we should never acquire in prosperity. If you lack the tear of sympathy: if you want aid in a good cause, go to a man in affliction, and his heart is open. And hence, it is that God often suffers his people to pass through trials in order that they may possess the spirit of large and active benevolence.
4. If Christians desire to be generous, they must first devote themselves to God, 2 Corinthians 8:5. If this is not done they will have no heart to give, and they will not give. They will have a thousand excuses ready, and there will be no ground of appeal which we can make to them. True liberality is always based on the fact that we have given ourselves wholly to God.
5. When Christians have honestly devoted themselves to God, it will be easy to contribute liberally to the cause of benevolence, 2 Corinthians 8:5. They will find something to give; or if they have nothing now they will labor and deny themselves in order that they may have something to give. If every professed Christian on earth had honestly given himself to God, and should act in accordance with this, the channels of benevolence Would never be dry.
6. We should compare ourselves in the matter of benevolence with the churches here referred to, 2 Corinthians 8:3. They were poor; they were in deep affliction, and yet they contributed all in their power, and beyond their power. Do we do this? Do we give according to our ability? Do we deny ourselves of one comfort? withhold one gratification? curtail one expense which fashion demands, in order that we may have the means of doing good? O! if every Christian would give according to his ability to the sacred cause of charity, how soon would the means be ample to place the Bible in every family on the globe, to preach the gospel in every country, and to maintain all the institutions which the cause of humanity needs in this and in other lands.
7. The Christian character is incomplete unless there is a spirit of large and liberal beneficence, 2 Corinthians 8:7. This is indispensable to the proper symmetry of the Christian graces, and this should be cultivated in order to give beauty and completeness to the whole. Yet it cannot be denied that there are true Christians where this is lacking. There are those who give every other evidence of piety; who are people of prayer, and who evince humility, and who are submissive in trials, and whose conversation is that of Christians, who are yet sadly deficient in this virtue. Either by an original closeness of disposition, or by a defect of education, or by lack of information in regard to the objects of Christian benevolence, they are most stinted in their benefactions, and often excite the amazement of others that they give so little to the cause of benevolence. Such persons should be entreated to carry out their Christian character to completion. As they abound in other things, they should abound in this grace also. They are depriving themselves of much comfort, and are bringing much injury on the cause of the Redeemer while they refuse to sustain the great objects of Christian charity. No Christian character is symmetrical or complete unless it is crowned with the spirit of large and comprehensive benevolence toward every object that tends to promote the temporal and eternal welfare of man.
8. The sincerity of our love should be tested, and will be, by our readiness to deny ourselves to do good to others, 2 Corinthians 8:8. The love of the Lord Jesus was tested in that way; and there can be no true love to God or man where there is not a readiness to contribute of our means for the welfare of others. If we love the Redeemer. we shall devote all to his service; if we love our fellow-men we shall evince our "sincerity" by being willing to part with our earthly substance to alleviate their woes, enlighten their ignorance, and save their souls.
9. Let us imitate the example of the Lord Jesus, 2 Corinthians 8:9. He was rich, yet he became poor; and, o how poor! Let the rich learn to copy his example, and be willing to part with their abundant and superfluous wealth in order that they may relieve and benefit others. That man is most happy as well as most useful, who most resembles the Redeemer; that man will be most happy who stoops from the highest earthly elevation to the lowest condition that he may minister to the welfare of others.
10. Charity should be voluntary, 2 Corinthians 8:12. It should be the free and spontaneous offering of the heart; and the first promptings of the heart, before the pleadings of avarice come in, and the heart grows cold by the influence of returning covetousness, are likely to be the most correct.
11. Charity should be in an honest proportion to our means, 2 Corinthians 8:12. It should be according to what a man hath. God hath left the determination of this proportion to every individual, responsible to him alone. He has not told us how much we shall give, or in what proportion we shall give; but he has left it for every individual to decide what he may give, and what he ought to give.
12. If people do not give according to their means they must answer for it to God. Every man may have opportunity to contribute to relieve others if he will open his heart and ears to the cries of a suffering and a dying world. No man can complain that he has no opportunity to give; or that he may not procure for his own soul all the blessings which can be produced by the most large and liberal benevolence.
13. People have no excuse for being lost, 2 Corinthians 8:12. If God required more of them than they could render they would have excuse. They would not be to blame. They might be sufferers and martyrs in hell, but no one would blame them. But the sinner can never have any such excuse. God never required anymore of him than he had power to render; and if he dies it will be his own fault, and the throne of God will still be spotless and pure.
14. God's government is an equal, and just, and good government, 2 Corinthians 8:12. What can be more equitable than the principle that a man is accepted according to what he has? What ground of complaint can the sinner have in regard to this administration?
15. The churches should bear their just proportion in the cause of Christian beneficence, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. There are great interests of charity which must be sustained. The world cannot do without them. Not only must the poor be provided for, but the cause of temperance, and of Sunday schools, and of missions must be sustained. Bibles must be distributed, and people must be educated for the ministry, and the widow and the fatherless must be the objects of Christian benevolence. These burdens, if they are burdens, should be equally distributed. The rich should furnish their fair proportion in sustaining them; and those in more moderate circumstances must do their fair proportion also in sustaining them. If this were done, all the objects of Christian benevolence could be sustained, and they would in fact not be burdensome to the churches. With infinite ease all might be contributed that is necessary to send the gospel around the world.
16. Ministers of the gospel should have as little as possible to do with money matters, 2 Corinthians 8:19-21. While they should be willing, if it is necessary, to be the almoners of the churches, and should esteem it a privilege to he the means of conveying to the poor and needy, and to the great cause of benevolence, what the churches may choose to commit to them, yet they should not covet this office; they should not show any particular desire for it; nor should they do it unless, like Paul, they have the most ample security that the voice of slander can never be raised in regard to their management. Let them see to it that they have persons associated with them who have the entire confidence of the churches; people who will be responsible also, and who will be competent witnesses of the manner in which they discharge their duty. In all things ministers should be pure. On few points is there more danger that the enemy will endeavor to take advantage, and to injure their character, than in regard to their abuse of.
17. Let all Christians so live that it may be honestly said of them they are "the glory of Christ," 2 Corinthians 8:23. Let them aim so to live that it will be esteemed to be an honor to the Redeemer that he called them into his kingdom, and that he so richly endowed them by his grace. This would be a commendation to all people where they might go; to say this is enough to say of any man. None can have a higher character than to have it said with truth of him "he is the glory of Christ; he is an honor to his Redeemer and to his cause."