The apostle reminds them of charitable contributions for the poor saints. (1-6) Enforces this by their gifts, and by the love and grace of Christ. (7-9) By the willingness they had shown to this good work. (10-15) He recommends Titus to them. (16-24)
Verses 1-6 The grace of God must be owned as the root and fountain of all the good in us, or done by us, at any time. It is great grace and favour from God, if we are made useful to others, and forward to any good work. He commends the charity of the Macedonians. So far from needing that Paul should urge them, they prayed him to receive the gift. Whatever we use or lay out for God, it is only giving him what is his own. All we give for charitable uses, will not be accepted of God, nor turn to our advantage, unless we first give ourselves to the Lord. By ascribing all really good works to the grace of God, we not only give the glory to him whose due it is, but also show men where their strength is. Abundant spiritual joy enlarges men's hearts in the work and labour of love. How different this from the conduct of those who will not join in any good work, unless urged into it!
Verses 7-9 Faith is the root; and as without faith it is not possible to please God, ( Hebrews 11:6 ) , so those who abound in faith, will abound in other graces and good works also; and this will work and show itself by love. Great talkers are not always the best doers; but these Corinthians were diligent to do, as well as to know and talk well. To all these good things the apostle desires them to add this grace also, to abound in charity to the poor. The best arguments for Christian duties, are drawn from the grace and love of Christ. Though he was rich, as being God, equal in power and glory with the Father, yet he not only became man for us, but became poor also. At length he emptied himself, as it were, to ransom their souls by his sacrifice on the cross. From what riches, blessed Lord, to what poverty didst thou descend for our sakes! and to what riches hast thou advanced us through thy poverty! It is our happiness to be wholly at thy disposal.
Verses 10-15 Good purposes are like buds and blossoms, pleasant to behold, and give hopes of good fruit; but they are lost, and signify nothing without good deeds. Good beginnings are well; but we lose the benefit, unless there is perseverance. When men purpose that which is good, and endeavour, according to their ability, to perform also, God will not reject them for what it is not in their power to do. But this scripture will not justify those who think good meanings are enough, or that good purposes, and the mere profession of a willing mind, are enough to save. Providence gives to some more of the good things of this world, and to some less, that those who have abundance might supply others who are in want. It is the will of God, that by our mutual supplying one another, there should be some sort of equality; not such a levelling as would destroy property, for in such a case there could be no exercise of charity. All should think themselves concerned to relieve those in want. This is shown from the gathering and giving out the manna in the wilderness, ( Exodus 16:18 ) . Those who have most of this world, have no more than food and raiment; and those who have but little of this world, seldom are quite without them.
Verses 16-24 The apostle commends the brethren sent to collect their charity, that it might be known who they were, and how safely they might be trusted. It is the duty of all Christians to act prudently; to hinder, as far as we can, all unjust suspicions. It is needful, in the first place, to act uprightly in the sight of God, but things honest in the sight of men should also be attended to. A clear character, as well as a pure conscience, is requisite for usefulness. They brought glory to Christ as instruments, and had obtained honour from Christ to be counted faithful, and employed in his service. The good opinion others have of us, should be an argument with us to do well.
2 Corinthians 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 ( 2 Corinthians 8:6 2 Corinthians 8:19 ). The importance given in this Epistle to the collection, arose as well from Paul's engagement ( Galatians 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.
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 Romans 12:8 , and Margin; 2 Corinthians 9:11 , Margin; James 1:5 ).
3-5. they were willing--rather, supply from 2 Corinthians 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.
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 ( Philippians 4:10 Philippians 4:15 Philippians 4:16 ).
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 ( Romans 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" ( Philippians 2:13 ). It is therefore called ( 2 Corinthians 8:1 ), "the grace of God."
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].
7. in faith--( 2 Corinthians 1:24 ). Not as ALFORD, "doctrine" or "word."
knowledge--( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ).
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).
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.
9. ye know the grace--the act of gratuitous love whereby the Lord emptied Himself of His previous heavenly glory ( Philippians 2:6 Philippians 2:7 ) for your sakes.
became poor--Yet this is not demanded of you ( 2 Corinthians 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 1 Corinthians 3:21 1 Corinthians 3:22 ).
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 2 Corinthians 8:11 and 2 Corinthians 9:5 2 Corinthians 9:7 ). 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 1 Corinthians 16:2 to have existed [PALEY, Horæ Paulinæ].
11. perform--"complete the doing also"
a readiness to will--Greek, "the readiness of will"; referring to 2 Corinthians 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 ( Jeremiah 44:25 ).
12. For--Following up the rule "out of that which ye have" ( 2 Corinthians 8:11 ), and no more.
a willing mind--rather, as Greek, "the readiness," namely, to will, referring to 2 Corinthians 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 2 Corinthians 9:7 , The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." Compare as to David, 1 Kings 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 Mark 14:8 ; and the widow's mite, Luke 21:3 Luke 21:4 ).
13. For--Supply from 2 Corinthians 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.
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 Romans 15:27 for interpreting it of spiritual supplies from the Jews to the Gentiles, forget that Romans 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.
15. ( Exodus 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].
16, 17. Returning to the subject of 2 Corinthians 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 ( 2 Corinthians 8:6 2 Corinthians 8:17 , "exhortation," the same Greek); but Titus had of himself the same care, whence he "accepted (gladly) my exhortation" ( 2 Corinthians 8:17 ) to go to you ( 2 Corinthians 8:6 ).
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.
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 ( Acts 20:6 ). Not a Macedonian, as appears from 2 Corinthians 9:4 . Of all Paul's "companions in travel" ( 2 Corinthians 8:19 , Acts 19:29 ), Luke was the most prominent, having been his companion in preaching the Gospel at his first entrance into Europe ( Acts 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," Acts 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 2 Corinthians 12:18 , 1:24 . He who is faithful in the Gospel will be faithful also in matters of inferior importance [BENGEL].
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" ( 2 Corinthians 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 ( 2 Corinthians 8:20 ) as to their appropriation of any of the money.
20. Avoiding--taking precautions against this.
in this abundance--in the case of this abundance.
21. The Septuagint ( Proverbs 3:4 , Romans 12:17 ). The oldest manuscripts read, "For we provide."
honest things--"things honorable."
22. This second brother, BIRKS supposes to be Trophimus: for a Macedonian is not meant ( 2 Corinthians 9:4 ) probably the same as was sent before with Titus ( 2 Corinthians 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."
23. fellow helper concerning you--Greek, "fellow worker towards you."
our brethren--the two mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:18 2 Corinthians 8:22 .
messengers--rather, as the Greek, "apostles": in the less strict sense ( Acts 14:14 ).
of the churches--sent by the churches, as we are by the Lord ( Philippians 2:25 ). There was in the synagogue an ecclesiastical officer, called "the angel of the Church," whence the title seems derived (compare Revelation 2:1 ).
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."