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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 9

 

 

Verse 1

This statement may seem at first view to suit ill, or not sufficiently well, with what goes before; for he seems to speak of a new matter, that he had not previously touched upon, while in reality he is following out the same subject. Let the reader, however, observe, that Paul treats of the very same matter that he had been treating of before — that it was from no want of confidence that he exhorted the Corinthians, and that his admonition is not coupled with any reproof as to the past, but that he has particular reasons that influence him. The meaning, then, of what he says now is this: “I do not teach you that it is a duty to afford relief to the saints, for what need were there of this? For that is sufficiently well known to you, and you have given practical evidence that you are not prepared to be wanting to them; (704) but as I have, from boasting everywhere of your liberality, pledged my credit along with yours, this consideration will not allow me to refrain from speaking.” But for this, such anxious concern might have been somewhat offensive to the Corinthians, because they would have thought, either that they were reproached for their indolence, or that they were suspected by Paul. By bringing forward, however, a most, suitable apology, he secures for himself the liberty of not merely exhorting them, without giving offense, but even from time to time urging them.

Some one, however, may possibly suspect, that Paul here pretends what he does not really think. This were exceedingly absurd; for if he reckons them to be sufficiently prepared for doing their duty, why does he set himself so vigorously to admonish them? and, on the other hand, if he is in doubt as to their willingness, why does he declare it to be unnecessary to admonish them? Love carries with it these two things, — good hope, and anxious concern. Never would he have borne such a testimony in favor of the Corinthians, had he not been fully of the mind that he expresses. He had seen a happy commencement: he had hoped, that the farther progress of the matter would be corresponding; but as he was well aware of the unsteadiness of the human mind, he could not provide too carefully against their turning aside from their pious design.

1.Ministering. This term seems not very applicable to those that give of their substance to the poor, inasmuch as liberality is deserving of a more splendid designation. (705) Paul, however, had in view, what believers owe to their fellowmembers. (706) For the members of Christ ought mutually to minister to each other. In this way, when we relieve the brethren, we do nothing more than discharge a ministry that is due to them. On the other hand, to neglect the saints, when they stand in need of our aid, is worse than inhuman, inasmuch as we defraud them of what is their due.


Verse 2

2.For which I have boasted. He shows the good opinion that he had of them from this, that he had, in a manner, stood forward as their surety by asserting their readiness. But what if he rashly asserted more than the case warranted? For there is some appearance of this, inasmuch as he boasted, that they had been ready a year before with it, while he is still urging them to have it in readiness. I answer, that his words are not to be understood as though Paul had declared, that what they were to give was already laid aside in the chest, but he simply mentioned what had been resolved upon among them. This involves no blame in respect of fickleness or mistake. It was, then, of this promise that Paul spoke. (707)


Verse 3

3.But I have sent the brethren. He now brings forward the reason — why it is that, while entertaining a favorable opinion as to their willingness, he, nevertheless, sets himself carefully to exhort them. “I consult,” says he, “my own good name and yours; for while I promised in your name, we would, both of us in common, incur disgrace, if words and deeds did not correspond. Hence you ought to take my fears in good part.”


Verse 4

4.In this confidence The Greek term being ὑπόστασις the Old Interpreter has rendered it substantiam , (substance.) (708) Erasmus renders it argumentum , (subject-matter,) but neither is suitable. Budaeus, however, observes, that this term is sometimes taken to mean boldness, or confidence, as it is used by Polybius when he says, ὀυχ οὑτω την δύναμιν ὡς τὴν ὑπόστασιν καὶ τόλμαν αὐτοῦ καταπεπληγμένον τῶν εναντίων — “It was not so much his bodily strength, as his boldness and intrepidity, that proved confounding to the enemy.” (709) Hence ὑποτατικός sometimes means one that is bold and confident. (710) Now every one must see, how well this meaning accords with Paul’s thread of discourse. Hence it appears, that other interpreters have, through inadvertency, fallen into a mistake.


Verse 5

5.As a blessing, not in the way of niggardliness In place of blessing, some render it collection. I have preferred, however, to render it literally, as the Greeks employed the term εὐλογίας to express the Hebrew word ברכה, (beracah,) which is used in the sense of a blessing, that is, an invoking of prosperity, as well as in the sense of beneficence. (711) The reason I reckon to be this, that it is in the first instance ascribed to God. (712) Now we know how God blesses us efficiently by his simple nod. (713) When it is from this transferred to men, it retains the same meaning, — improperly, indeed, inasmuch as men have not the same efficacy in blessing, (714) but yet not unsuitably by transference. (715)

To blessing Paul opposes πλεονεξίαν , (grudging,) which term the Greeks employ to denote excessive greediness, as well as fraud and niggardliness. (716) I have rather preferred the term niggardliness in this contrast; for Paul would have them give, not grudgingly, but. with a liberal spirit, as will appear still more clearly from what follows.


Verse 6

6.Now the case is this (719) He now commends alms-giving by a beautiful similitude, comparing it to sowing. For in sowing, the seed is cast forth by the hand, is scattered upon the ground on this side and on that, is harrowed, and at length rots; and thus it seems as good as lost. The case is similar as to alms-giving. What goes from you to some other quarter seems as if it were, diminishing of what you have, but the season of harvest will come, when the fruit will be gathered. For as the Lord reckons every thing that is laid out upon the poor as given to himself, so he afterwards requites it with large interest. (Proverbs 19:17.)

Now for Paul’s similitude. He thatsows sparingly will have a poor harvest, corresponding to the sowing: he that sows bountifully and with a full hand, will reap a correspondingly bountiful harvest. Let this doctrine be deeply rooted in our minds, that, whenever carnal reason keeps us back from doing good through fear of loss, we may immediately defend ourselves with this shield — “But the Lord declares that we are sowing. ” The harvest, however, should be explained as referring to the spiritual recompense of eternal life, as well as to earthly blessings, which God confers upon the beneficent. For God requites, not only in heaven, but also in this world, the beneficence of believers. Hence it is as though he had said, “The more beneficent you are to your neighbors, you will find the blessing of God so much the more abundantly poured out upon you.” He again contrasts here blessing with sparing, as he had previously done with niggardliness. Hence it appears, that it is taken to mean — a large and bountiful liberality.


Verse 7

7Every one according to the purpose of his heart. As he had enjoined it upon them to give liberally, this, also, required to be added — that liberality is estimated by God, not so much from the sum, as from the disposition. He was desirous, it is true, to induce them to give largely, in order that the brethren might be the more abundantly aided; but he had no wish to extort any thing from them against their will. Hence he exhorts them to give willingly, whatever they might be prepared to give. He places purpose of heart in contrast with regret and constraint. For what we do, when compelled by necessity, is not done by us with purpose of heart, but with reluctance. (720) Now the necessity meant you must understand to be what is extrinsic, as it is called — that is, what springs from the influence of others. For we obey God, because it is necessary, and yet we do it willingly. We ourselves, accordingly, in that case impose a necessity of our own accord, and because the flesh is reluctant, we often even constrain ourselves to perform a duty that is necessary for us. But, when we are constrained from the influence of others, having in the mean time an inclination to avoid it, if by any means we could, we do nothing in that case with alacrity — nothing with cheerfulness, but every thing with reluctance or constraint of mind.

For God loveth a cheerful giver He calls us back to God, as I said in the outset, for alms are a sacrifice. Now no sacrifice is pleasing to God, if it is not voluntary. For when he teaches us, that God loveth a cheerful giver, he intimates that, on the other hand, the niggardly and reluctant are loathed by Him. For He does not wish to lord it over us, in the manner of a tyrant, but, as He acts towards us as a Father, so he requires from us the cheerful obedience of children. (721)


Verse 8

8.And God is able Again he provides against the base thought, which our infidelity constantly suggests to us. “What! will you not rather have a regard to your own interest? Do you not consider, that when this is taken away, there will be so much the less left for yourself?” With the view of driving away this, Paul arms us with a choice promise — that whatever we give away will turn out to our advantage. I have said already, that we are by nature excessively niggardly — because we are prone to distrust, which tempts every one to retain with eager grasp what belongs to him. For correcting this fault, we must lay hold of this promise — that those that do good to the poor do no less provide for their own interests than if they were watering their lands. For by alms-givings, like so many canals, they make the blessing of God flow forth towards themselves, so as to be enriched by it. What Paul means is this: “Such liberality will deprive you of nothing, but God will make it return to you in much greater abundance.” For he speaks of the power of God, not as the Poets do, but after the manner of Scripture, which ascribes to him a power put forth in action, the present efficacy of which we ourselves feel — not any inactive power that we merely imagine.

That having all sufficiency in all things He mentions a twofold advantage arising from that grace, which he had promised to the Corinthians — that they should have what is enough for themselves, and would have something over and above for doing good. By the term sufficiency he points out the measure which the Lord knows to be useful for us, for it is not always profitable for us, to be filled to satiety. The Lord therefore, ministers to us according to the measure of our advantage, sometimes more, sometimes less, but in such a way that we are satisfied — which is much more, than if one had the whole world to luxuriate upon. In this sufficiency we must abound, for the purpose of doing good to others, for the reason why God does us good is — not that every one may keep to himself what he has received, but that there may be a mutual participation among us, according as necessity may require.


Verse 9

9.As it is written, He hath dispersed He brings forward a proof from Psalms 112:9, where, along with other excellencies of the pious man, the Prophet mentions this, too, — that he will not be wanting in doing good, but as water flows forth incessantly from a perennial fountain, so the gushing forth of his liberality will be unceasing. Paul has an eye to this — that we be not weary in well doing, (Galatians 6:9,) and this is also what the Prophet’s words mean. (722)


Verse 10

10.He that supplieth. A beautieth circumlocution, in place of the term God, and full of consolation. (724) For the person that sows seed in the proper season, appears when reaping to gather the fruit of his labor and industry, and sowing appears as though it were the fountainhead from which food flows forth to us. Paul opposes this idea, by maintaining that the seed is afforded and the food is furnished by the favor of God even to the husbandmen that sow, and who are looked upon as supporting themselves and others by their efforts. There is a similar statement in Deuteronomy 8:16

God fed thee with manna — food which thy fathers knew not: lest perhaps when thou hast come into the land which he shall give thee, thou shouldst say, My hand and my strength have gotten, me this wealth; for it is the Lord that giveth power to get wealth, etc.

Supply Here there are two different readings, even in the Greek versions. For some manuscripts render the three verbs in the future — will supply, will multiply, will increase. (725) In this way, there would be a confirmation of the foregoing statement, for it is no rare thing with Paul to repeat the same promise in different words, that it may be the better impressed upon men’s minds. In other manuscripts these words occur in the infinitive mood, and it is well known that the infinitive is sometimes used in place of the optative. I rather prefer this reading, both because it is the more generally received one, and because Paul is accustomed to follow up his exhortations with prayers, entreating from God what he had previously comprised in his doctrine; though at the same time the former reading would not be unsuitable.

Bread for food He mentions a two-fold fruit of the blessing of God upon us — first, that we have sufficiency for ourselves for the support of life; and, secondly, that we have something to lay up for relieving the necessities of others. For as we are not born for ourselves merely, (726) so a Christian man ought neither to live to himself, nor lay out what he has, merely for his own use.

Under the terms seed, and fruits of righteousness, he refers to alms. The fruits of righteousness he indirectly contrasts with those returns that the greater number lay up in cellars, barns, and keeping-places, that they may, every one of them, cram in whatever they can gather, nay, scrape together, so as to enrich themselves. By the former term he expresses the means of doing good; by the latter the work itself, or office of love; (727) for righteousness is taken here, by synecdoche, to mean beneficence. “May God not only supply you with what may be sufficient for every one’s private use, but also to such an extent, that the fountain of your liberality, ever flowing forth, may never be exhausted!” If, however, it is one department of righteousness — as assuredly it is not the least (728) — to relieve the necessities of neighbors, those must be unrighteous who neglect this department of duty.


Verse 11

11.May be enriched unto all bountifulness. Again he makes use of the term bountifulness, to express the nature of true liberality — when,

casting all our care upon God, (1 Peter 5:7,)

we cheerfully lay out what belongs to us for whatever purposes He directs. He teaches us (729) that these are the true riches of believers, when, relying upon the providence of God for the sufficiency of their support, they are not by distrust kept back from doing good. Nor is it without good reason, that he dignifies with the title of affluence the satisfying abundance of a mind that is simple, and contented with its moderate share; for nothing is more famished and starved than the distrustful, who are tormented with an anxious desire of having.

Which produces through you. He commends, in consideration of another result, the alms which they were about to bestow — that they would tend to promote the glory of God. He afterwards, too, expresses this more distinctly, with amplification, in this way: “Besides the ordinary advantage of love, they will also produce thanksgiving.” Now he amplifies by saying, that thanks will be given to God by many, and that, not merely for the liberality itself, by which they have been helped, but also for the entire measure of piety among the Corinthians.


Verse 12

By the term administration, he means what he had undertaken at the request of the Churches. Now what we render functionem (service), is in the Greek λειτουργία term that sometimes denotes a sacrifice, sometimes any office that is publicly assigned. (730) Either of them will suit this passage well. For on the one hand, it is no unusual thing for alms to be termed sacrifices; and, on the other hand, as on occasion of offices being distributed among citizens, (731) no one grudges to undertake the duty that has been assigned him, so in the Church, imparting to others ought to be looked upon as a necessary duty. (732) The Corinthians, therefore, and others, by assisting the brethren at Jerusalem, presented a sacrifice to God, or they discharged a service that was proper, and one which they were bound to fulfill. Paul was the minister of that sacrifice, but the term ministry, or service, may also be viewed as referring to the Corinthians. It is, however, of no particular importance.


Verse 13

13.By the experiment of that administration The term experiment here, as in a variety of other places, means proof or trial (733) For it was a sufficient token for bringing the love of the Corinthians to the test, — that they were so liberal to brethren that were at a great distance from them. Paul, however, extends it farther — to their concurrent obedience in the gospel. (734) For by such proofs we truly manifest, that we are obedient to the doctrine of the gospel. Now their concurrence appears from this — that alms are conferred with the common consent of all.


Verse 14

14.And their prayer He omits no advantage which may be of any use for stirring up the Corinthians. (735) In the first place, he has made mention of the comfort that believers would experience; secondly, the thanksgiving, by means of which God was to be glorified. Nay more, he has said that this would be a confession, which would manifest to all their unanimous concurrence in faith, and in pious obedience. He now adds the reward that the Corinthians would receive from the saints — good-will springing from gratitude, (736) and earnest prayers. “They will have,” says he, “the means of requiting you in return; for they will regard you with the love with which they ought, and they will be careful to commend you to God in their prayers.” At length, as though he had obtained his desire, he prepares himself (737) to celebrate the praises of God, by which he was desirous to testify the confidence felt by him, as though the matter were already accomplished.

 


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Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/2-corinthians-9.html. 1840-57.


Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 12th, 2018
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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