Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2Co 8:1-24. The Collection for the Saints; the Readiness of the Macedonians a Pattern to the Corinthians; Christ the Highest Pattern; Each Is to Give Willingly after His Ability; Titus and Two Others Are the Agents Accredited to Complete the Collection.
1. we do you to wit—we make known to you.
the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia—Their liberality was not of themselves naturally, but of God's grace bestowed on them, and enabling them to be the instrument of God's "grace" to others (2Co 8:6, 19). The importance given in this Epistle to the collection, arose as well from Paul's engagement (Ga 2:10), as also chiefly from his hope to conciliate the Judaizing Christians at Jerusalem to himself and the Gentile believers, by such an act of love on the part of the latter towards their Jewish brethren.
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
2. trial of affliction—The Greek expresses, "in affliction (or, 'tribulation') which tested them"; literally, "in a great testing of affliction."
abundance of their joy—The greater was the depth of their poverty, the greater was the abundance of their joy. A delightful contrast in terms, and triumph, in fact, of spirit over flesh.
their deep poverty—Greek, "their poverty down to the death of it."
abounded unto the riches of their liberality—another beautiful contrast in terms: their poverty had the effect, not of producing stinted gifts, but of "abounding in the riches of liberality" (not as Margin, "simplicity"; though the idea of singleness of motive to God's glory and man's good, probably enters into the idea); (compare Ro 12:8, and Margin; 2Co 9:11, Margin; see on 2Co 9:13; Jas 1:5).
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
3-5. they were willing—rather, supply from 2Co 8:5, the ellipsis thus, "According to their power … yea, and beyond their power, THEY GAVE."
of themselves—not only not being besought, but themselves beseeching us.
Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
4. that we would receive—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Translate therefore, "Beseeching of us … the grace and fellowship of (that is, to grant them the favor of sharing in) the ministering unto the saints." The Macedonian contributions must have been from Philippi, because Philippi was the only church that contributed to Paul's support (Php 4:10, 15, 16).
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.
5. And this they did, not as we hoped—Translate, "And not as we hoped (that is, far beyond our hopes), but their own selves gave they first to the Lord." "First," not indicating priority of time, but first of all, above all in importance. The giving of themselves takes precedency of their other gifts, as being the motive which led them to the latter (Ro 15:16).
by the will of God—not "according to the will of God," but "moved by the will of God, who made them willing" (Php 2:13). It is therefore called (2Co 8:1), "the grace of God."
Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
6. Insomuch that—As we saw the Macedonians' alacrity in giving, we could not but exhort Titus, that as we collected in Macedonia, so he in Corinth should complete the work of collecting which he had already begun there, lest ye, the wealthy people of Corinth, should be outdone in liberality by the poor Macedonians.
as he had begun—Greek, "previously begun," namely, the collection at Corinth, before the Macedonians began to contribute, during the visit to Corinth from which he had just returned.
finish in you the same grace—complete among you this act of grace or beneficence on your part.
also—as well as other things which he had to do among them [Alford].
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.
7. in faith—(2Co 1:24).
utterance—(See on 1Co 1:5). Not as Alford, "doctrine" or "word."
diligence—in everything that is good.
your love to us—literally, "love from you (that is, on your part) in us" (that is, which has us for its object; which is felt in the case of us).
I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
8. not by commandment—"not by way of commandment."
but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and &c.—rather, "But by (mention of) the forwardness of others (as an inducement to you), and to prove (literally, 'proving') the sincerity of your love." The Greek is "by means of," not "on account of the forwardness," &c. Bengel, Ellicott, and others translate, "By means of the forwardness of others, proving the sincerity of your love ALSO." The former is the simpler construction in the Greek.
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.
9. ye know the grace—the act of gratuitous love whereby the Lord emptied Himself of His previous heavenly glory (Php 2:6, 7) for your sakes.
became poor—Yet this is not demanded of you (2Co 8:14); but merely that, without impoverishing yourselves, you should relieve others with your abundance. If the Lord did so much more, and at so much heavier a cost, for your sakes; much more may you do an act of love to your brethren at so little a sacrifice of self.
might be rich—in the heavenly glory which constitutes His riches, and all other things, so far as is really good for us (compare 1Co 3:21, 22).
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.
10. advice—Herein he does not (as some misinterpret the passage) disclaim inspiration for the advice he gives; but under the Spirit, states that it is his "opinion" [Alford] or "judgment" [Ellicott, and others], not a command, that so their offering might be free and spontaneous.
this—my giving you an advice, not a command.
who have begun before—"seeing that ye have begun before" the Macedonian churches; "a year ago" should be connected with this clause.
not only to do, but also to be forward—There were three steps: (1) the forwardness, more literally, "the will"; (2) the setting about it, literally, "doing it"; (3) completion of it [Alford]. In the two former, not only the act, but the intention, the Corinthians preceded the Macedonians. Bengel explains, "Not only to do" FOR THE PAST YEAR, "but also to be forward" or willing FOR THIS YEAR. Ellicott translates, "already," instead of "before": "Ye began already a year ago, not only to do, but also to be forward." It appears hence, that something had been done in the matter a year before; other texts, however, show the collection was not yet paid (compare 2Co 8:11 and 2Co 9:5, 7). This agrees with one, and only one supposition, namely, that every man had laid by in store the fund from which he was afterwards to contribute, the very case which is shown by 1Co 16:2 to have existed [Paley, Horæ Paulinæ].
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.
11. perform—"complete the doing also" (see on 2Co 8:10).
a readiness to will—Greek, "the readiness of will"; referring to 2Co 8:10, where the Greek for "to be forward," ought to be translated as here, "to will."
performance—"completion" [Alford], The godly should show the same zeal to finish, as well as to begin well, which the worldly exhibit in their undertakings (Jer 44:25).
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.
12. For—Following up the rule "out of that which ye have" (2Co 8:11), and no more.
a willing mind—rather, as Greek, "the readiness," namely, to will, referring to 2Co 8:11.
accepted—Greek "favorably accepted."
according to that a man hath—The oldest manuscripts omit "a man." Translate, "According to whatsoever it have"; the willing mind, or "readiness" to will, is personified [Alford]. Or better, as Bengel, "He is accepted according to whatsoever he have"; so 2Co 9:7, The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." Compare as to David, 1Ki 8:18. God accepts the will for the deed. He judges not according to what a man has the opportunity to do, but according to what he would do if he had the opportunity (compare Mr 14:8; and the widow's mite, Lu 21:3, 4).
For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
13. For—Supply from 2Co 8:8, "I speak." My aim is not that others (namely, the saints at Jerusalem) may be relieved at the cost of your being "distressed" (so the Greek for "burdened"). The golden rule is, "Love thy neighbour as thyself," not more than thyself.
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:
14. by an equality—"by the rule of equality" [Alford]: literally, "Out of equality."
now at this time—Greek, "at the present juncture" or season.
that their abundance also—The Greek being distinct from the previous "that," translate, "in order that," namely, at another season, when your relative circumstances may be reversed. The reference is solely to temporal wants and supplies. Those, as Bengel, who quote Ro 15:27 for interpreting it of spiritual supplies from the Jews to the Gentiles, forget that Ro 15:27 refers to the past benefit spiritually, which the Jews have conferred on the Gentiles, as a motive to gratitude on the part of the latter, not to a prospective benefit to be looked for from the former, which the text refers to.
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
15. (Ex 16:18; Septuagint). As God gave an equal portion of manna to all the Israelites, whether they could gather much or little; so Christians should promote by liberality an equality, so that none should need the necessaries of life while others have superfluities. "Our luxuries should yield to our neighbor's comforts; and our comforts to his necessities" [J. Howard].
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
16, 17. Returning to the subject of 2Co 8:6.
for you—Translate, "Which put the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus," as was in myself. My care for you led me to "desire" him (2Co 8:6, 17, "exhortation," the same Greek); but Titus had of himself the same care, whence he "accepted (gladly) my exhortation" (2Co 8:17) to go to you (2Co 8:6).
For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
17. being more forward—more earnest than to need such exhortation.
he went—Greek, "went forth." We should say, he is going forth; but the ancients put the past tense in letter writing, as the things will have been past by the time that the correspondent, receives the letter. "Of his own accord," that is, it is true he has been exhorted by me to go, but he shows that he has anticipated my desires, and already, "of his own accord," has desired to go.
And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
18. the brother, whose praise is in the gospel—whose praise is known in connection with the Gospel: Luke may be meant; not that "the Gospel" here refers to his written Gospel; but the language implies some one well known throughout the churches, and at that time with Paul, as Luke then was (Ac 20:6). Not a Macedonian, as appears from 2Co 9:4. Of all Paul's "companions in travel" (2Co 8:19; Ac 19:29), Luke was the most prominent, having been his companion in preaching the Gospel at his first entrance into Europe (Ac 16:10). The fact that the person here referred to was "chosen of the churches" as their trustee to travel with Paul in conveying the contribution to Jerusalem, implies that he had resided among them some time before: this is true of Luke, who after parting from Paul at Philippi (as he marks by the change from "we" to "they," Ac 16:11) six years before, is now again found in his company in Macedonia. In the interim he had probably become so well known that "his praise was throughout all the churches." Compare 2Co 12:18; Phm 24. He who is faithful in the Gospel will be faithful also in matters of inferior importance [Bengel].
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:
19. not that only—not only praised in all the churches.
chosen—by vote: so the Greek.
of the churches—therefore these companions of Paul are called "messengers of the churches" (2Co 8:23).
to travel—to Jerusalem.
with this grace—Greek, "in the case of this grace," or "gift."
to the glory of the same Lord—The oldest manuscripts omit "same."
declaration of your ready mind—The oldest manuscripts read, "our," not your. This and the previous clause, "to the glory of the same Lord," do not follow "administered by us," but "chosen of the churches to travel," &c. The union of the brother with Paul in this affair of the collection was done to guard against suspicions injurious "to the glory" of the Lord. It was also done in order to produce a "readiness" on the part of Paul and the brother to undertake the office which each, by himself, would have been less ready to undertake, for fear of suspicions arising (2Co 8:20) as to their appropriation of any of the money.
Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
20. Avoiding—taking precautions against this.
in this abundance—in the case of this abundance.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
21. The Septuagint (Pr 3:4; Ro 12:17). The oldest manuscripts read, "For we provide."
honest things—"things honorable."
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.
22. This second brother, Birks supposes to be Trophimus: for a Macedonian is not meant (2Co 9:4) probably the same as was sent before with Titus (2Co 12:18); and therefore sent from Ephesus, and probably an Ephesian: all this is true of Trophimus.
oftentimes … in many things—Join and translate as in the Greek, "many times in many things."
upon the great confidence which I have in you—"through the great confidence WHICH HE HAS towards you" [Alford]. Bengel better supports English Version, "We have sent … through the confidence WHICH WE FEEL in regard to your liberality."
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.
23. fellow helper concerning you—Greek, "fellow worker towards you."
our brethren—the two mentioned in 2Co 8:18, 22.
messengers—rather, as the Greek, "apostles": in the less strict sense (Ac 14:14).
of the churches—sent by the churches, as we are by the Lord (Php 2:25). There was in the synagogue an ecclesiastical officer, called "the angel of the Church," whence the title seems derived (compare Re 2:1).
Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.
24. The oldest manuscripts read "[continue] manifesting to them in the face of the churches the manifestation of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf."