Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

We do you to wit - Greek, 'BUT we make known to you:' while "I have confidence in you" (2 Corinthians 7:16) I acquaint you with the Macedonians' liberality, which ye ought to imitate.

The grace of God bestowed on (literally, in: in the case of) the churches of Macedonia. Their liberality was not of themselves, but of God's grace bestowed on them, whereby they became instruments of "grace" to others (2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:19). The importance given to the collection arose from Paul's engagement (Galatians 2:10), and chiefly from his hope to conciliate the Judaizing Christians at Jerusalem to himself and to Gentile believers by an act of love on the part of the latter toward their Jewish brethren.

Verse 2

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

Trial of affliction - `in affliction which tested them;' literally, 'in a great testing [ dokimee (G1382)] of affliction' (Acts 16:20, etc.; 17:5; 1:6; 2:14).

Abundance of their joy - in giving: flowing from their possession of the heavenly treasure amidst 'trials,' and going side by side with

Their deep poverty - literally, 'their poverty down to the depth.' Their very 'depth of poverty' combined with their "joy" in making them abundantly liberal. A delightful paradox, and triumph, in fact, of spirit over flesh.

Abounded unto the riches ... - another beautiful paradox; their poverty, instead of producing stinted gifts, "abounded unto the riches of their liberality:" margin, 'simplicity:' singleness of motive to God's glory and man's good enters into the idea: genuine liberality (cf. Romans 12:8, margin; 2 Corinthians 9:11, note; 2 Corinthians 9:13; James 1:5; James 2:5).

Verses 3-5

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

They (were) willing - rather supply from 2 Corinthians 8:5, 'According to their power ... yea, and beyond their power, THEY GAVE.

Of themselves - not only not being besought, but voluntarily beseeching us.

Verse 4. That we would receive - omitted in 'Aleph (') B C Delta G f g, Vulgate. 'Beseeching of us ... the grace and fellowship of (i:e., to grant them the favour of sharing in) the ministering unto the saints.' The Macedonian contributions must have been from Philippi, because it was the only church that contributed to Paul's support (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:15-16).

Verse 5. And (this they did,) not as we hoped. Translate, 'And not as we hoped (i:e., far beyond our hopes), but their own selves gave they first to the Lord and to us;' "first" not indicating priority of time, but first of all in importance. The giving of themselves takes precedency of their other gifts, being the motive which led them to these (Romans 15:16).

By the will of God - not 'according to,' 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."

Verse 6

Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

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 collection which he had already begun there, lest ye of wealthy Corinth should be outdone in liberality by the poor Macedonians.

As he had begun, [ proeneerxato (G4278)] - 'previously begun;' namely, the collection at Corinth during his former visit. [Alford explains pro (G4253), before the Macedonians had contributed. But previously is contrasted with his subsequently finishing the collection.]

Finish in you the same grace - complete among you this act of beneficence on your part.

Also - as in other graces ye abound (2 Corinthians 8:7).

Verse 7

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 - Greek, 'But' [ alla (G243)]: I foreknew ye would not disappoint my good opinion of you. 'BUT as,' etc.

In faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Utterance (note, 1 Corinthians 1:5) - not 'doctrine.'

Knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Diligence - in everything that is good.

Your love to us - literally, 'love from you (i:e., on your part) in us' (i:e., which is felt in the case of us).

Verse 8

I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

Not by commandment - `not by way of commandment.'

By occasion of [ dia (G1223) with the genitive, by means of, not on account of]

The forwardness of others ... - `but by (mention of) the forwardness of others (as an inducement to you), and to prove (literally, proving) the sincerity of your love.' Bengel, etc., 'By means of the forwardness of others, proving the sincerity of your love ALSO.' The former is simpler.

Verse 9

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.

Ye know the grace - the gratuitous love whereby the Lord emptied Himself of His heavenly glory (Philippians 2:6-7) for your sakes.

Became poor. Yet this is not demanded of you (2 Corinthians 8:14), but merely that, without impoverishing yourselves, you relieve others with your abundant. If the Lord did so much more, at such a cost, for you; much more may you do an act of love to your brethren at so little a sacrifice. Olshausen, 'As Christ by becoming poor made you rich, ye can thus bestow of your abundance upon others, for to this end ye were placed in this condition.'

Might be rich - in heavenly glory, and in all other things that are really good for us (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21-22).

Verse 10

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.

Advice. Herein he does not disclaim inspiration, but, under the Spirit, states his sentiment or 'judgment' [ gnoomeen (G1106)], not a command, that so their offering might be free.

This - my giving an advice.

Is expedient for you - it is your own good that ye will thereby promote.

Who have begun before - `seeing that ye have begun before;' i:e., already.

Not only to do, but also to be forward (willing) - not only to do the outward act of preparing the collection, but also to be forward (heartily-willing) in doing it. Bengel, "Not only to do," FOR THE PAST YEAR, "but also to be forward" or willing FOR THIS YEAR. But only one collection is spoken of throughout, begun in Titus' former visit, and now to be completed. Something had been done a year before: other texts show the collection was not yet paid (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 9:7). They had done so far as to lay by in store: they has not yet paid in what was laid by. This agrees exactly with Paul's injunction (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Verse 11

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.

Perform - `but now also complete the doing' (note, 2 Corinthians 8:10).

A readiness to will - Greek, 'the readiness of willing;' referring to 2 Corinthians 8:10 (Greek for "to be forward," as here, "to will").

Performance - `completion.' There had been already a doing flowing from willing, in their laying by in store as God prospered them each first day of the week: that doing needed now to be completed by their paying in their charity. The godly should show the same zeal to finish as to begin well which the worldly exhibit in their undertakings (Jeremiah 44:25).

Verse 12

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 - following up "out of that which ye have" (2 Corinthians 8:11), and no more.

A willing mind - Greek, 'the readiness,' namely, to will (2 Corinthians 8:11).

Accepted - Greek, 'favourably accepted.'

According to that a man hath. 'Aleph (') B Delta G omit [ tis (G5100)] "a man." Translate, 'according to whatsoever IT have:' the willing mind, or "readiness" to will, personified (Alford, after Vulgate). Better, as Bengel, 'He is accepted according to whatsoever he have' (so 2 Corinthians 9:7: cf. as to David, 1 Kings 8:18). God judges not according to what a man has not the opportunity to do, but according to what he does when he has it, and what he would do if he had it (cf. Mark 14:8, and the widow's mite, Luke 21:3-4).

Verse 13

For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

For - supply from 2 Corinthians 8:8, "I speak." My aim is not that the saints at Jerusalem be relieved at the cost of your being 'distressed' (literally, 'that to others (there should be) relief to you distress'). "Love thy neighbour as thyself," not more than thyself.

Verse 14

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:

By an equality - literally, out of (from the principle of) equality.

Now at this time - Greek 'at the present opportune season ' Now at this time - Greek, 'at the present opportune 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 interpret 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.

Verse 15

As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

Exodus 16:18; Septuagint As God gave equal 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 necessaries while others have superfluities. 'Our luxuries should yield to our neighbour's comforts, and our comforts to his necessities' (J. Howard). Love creates the only true 'liberty, fraternity, and equality:' the only attainable 'community of goods' without revolution (Acts 2:44).

Verses 16-17

But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

Returning to 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, parakalesai (G3870), and 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).

Being more forward - more earnest than to need such exhortation.

Of his own accord - i:e., 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," was going.

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.

Verse 18

And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;

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" 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 at his first entrance into Europe (Acts 16:10). The fact that the person referred to was "chosen of the churches" as their trustee to convey, with Paul, 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 16:1-40) six years before, is now again found in his company in Macedonia. In the interim he probably had become so well known that 'his praise was throughout all the churches.' Compare 2 Corinthians 12:18; Philemon 1:24. He who is faithful in the Gospel will be faithful also in earthly matters.

Verse 19

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:

Not that only - not only praised in all the churches.

Chosen - by vote [ cheirotoneetheis (G5500)].

Of the churches. Therefore these companions of Paul are called "messengers of the churches" (2 Corinthians 8:23).

To travel - to Jerusalem.

With (B C, Vulgate 'in' - i:e., in the case of; 'Aleph (') Delta G, "with")

This grace - `gift.'

To the glory of the same Lord. So 'Aleph ('). But B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit "same."

(Declaration of) your ready mind. 'Aleph (') B C Delta G, Vulgate, read 'our,' not your. Connect these clauses with "chosen of the churches to travel with us." The union of the brother with Paul in the collection was to guard against suspicions injurious "to the glory" of the Lord. It was also in order to produce (not 'to the declaration of') a 'readiness' in Paul and the brother for 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 mal-administration of the money.

Verse 20

Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:

Avoiding - taking precautions against this.

In (the case of) this abundance.

Verse 21

Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

The Septuagint (Proverbs 3:4; Romans 12:17) 'Aleph (') B Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'For we provide.' But C, "Providing."

Honest things - `things honourable.'

Verse 22

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.

This second brother (Birks) was 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-probably an Ephesian: all this is true of Trophimus (Acts 20:4).

Oftentimes proved diligent in many things - Greek, 'many times in many things.'

Upon the great confidence which I have in you - `now more diligent through the great confidence WHICH HE HAS toward you, owing to what he heard from Titus concerning you' (Alford). The English version is better, 'We have sent, etc., through the confidence WHICH WE FEEL in regard to your liberality.'

Verse 23

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.

Fellow-helper concerning you - Greek, 'fellow-worker toward you.'

Our brethren - the two (2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:22).

Messengers - rather, as 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, apostoloon (G652)]. There was in the synagogue an officer, "the angel of the church," whence the title seems derived (cf. Revelation 2:1).

The glory of Christ. Christ's glory is represented by them; so that whatever treatment ye give them, ye really give Him (1 Corinthians 2:7; Matthew 25:40).

Verse 24

Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

Show ye. So 'Aleph (') C. But B Delta G f g read '(continue) manifesting [ endeiknumenoi (G1731)] to them in the face of the churches the manifestation [ endeixin (G1732)] of your love, and of (the truth of) our boasting on your behalf.'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.