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XIV.—AN EXHORTATION TO FINISH IT. MOTIVE: THE EXAMPLE OF THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES; AS A PROOF OF THEIR LOVE IN GIVING THEMSELVES TO CHRIST. PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY. COMMENDATION OF TITUS, AND HIS COMPANIONS IN THIS WORK
2 Corinthians 8:1-24
1Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of [we make known to you] the grace of2God [which has been] bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How [om. how] that in a great trial of affliction, [was] the abundance of their joy [;] and their deep poverty 3abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear [them] record,yea, and beyond1 their power they were willing of themselves; 4praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us [with much entreaty beseeching of us the favor (τὴν χάριν) and the participation in] the fellowship of the ministering 5to the saints.2 And this they did, [om. this they did] not as we [had] hoped, 3 but first gave their own selves [their own selves gave they first] to the Lord, and unto 6us by the will of God. Insomuch [so] that we [have] desired Titus, that as he had7begun, 3 so he would also finish in you the same [this] grace also. Therefore, [But] as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence,and in your love to us4see that ye abound in this grace also. 8I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of [om. occasion of] the forwardness of others, and to Proverbs 9:0; Proverbs 9:0[to prove also] the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though [when] he was rich, yet for your sakes 5 he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10And herein I give my advice, for this is expedient for you, who have begun before [them] not only to do, but also to be forward ayear ago [to will last year]. 11Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of [according to] thatwhich ye have. 12For if there be first [om. first] a willing mind, it is accepted [acceptable] according to that a man hath [it may have]6and not according to13that he [it] hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and7 ye burdened:14But by an equality, that now at [burdened, but by an equality at] this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply forYour want; that there may be equality: 15as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. But thanks be to God, which put [who is putting, διδόντι]8 the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord hewent unto you. 18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the19Gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with9 this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same [om. same] 10 Lord, and declaration of your [our] 11 ready mind:20Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered21by us: Providing [for we provide] 12 for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men. 22And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent23upon the great confidence which I have [he has] in you. Whether any do inquire of [As to] Titus he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you: or [as to] our brethren be inquired of, [om. be inquired of] they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf. [Since ye will show13 toward them proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf, ye will show14 it before the churches].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Corinthians 8:1-6.—But we make known unto you, brethren, the grace which God has granted among the churches in Macedonia.—The particle δε is here, as in many other places (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 15:1), merely transitional, as the Apostle is passing to a new section; for although the present section is introduced by the concluding sentence of the last chapter, it is not directly joined with that sentence. [We may even question whether the word has not something of an adversative signification. He had confidence in the Corinthians, he had now sufficiently discussed the subjects already brought up, and he was now of good courage in their presence, but he had another matter to introduce to their attention. He wished to present before them the important matter of the collections which were occupying the attention of the Macedonian churches. Stanley endeavors to show that γνωρίζω has always in Paul’s earlier Epistles the sense of, to remind, to call attention to (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1Co 15:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:11), but that in his later Epistles and when the word is in the passive (including Romans 16:26) it has the signification of, to discover. The evidence he adduces hardly proves this, and we see no sufficient reason for making this word an exception to verbs of this termination, which are causative and carry out the act which is proper to the noun from which they are derived. According to this, the active meaning of our verb would be‚ to make or cause to know. The word is used in Ephesians 6:21 et al. What Paul wished to make known to them for their encouragement was [not a matter of which they were already informed, and needed only to be reminded of, but] the great liberality of those Macedonian churches (Philippi, Beroea, Thessalonica) among which he was then laboring, in contributions for the impoverished Christians at Jerusalem. He says that this was altogether beyond their ordinary ability, and he gives the honor of it to the Divine Author of every grace. In calling it the grace which God had bestowed on these churches, he does not mean that the donation was extraordinarily large, nor to magnify the generosity which had been enkindled, but simply to awaken admiration for the grace which had enkindled it. Nor are we to suppose that he wished to imply that this was a grace confined to those churches, for it was the same general grace which was acting in other churches, but was especially powerful among them. We should not supply an ἐμοί after δεδομένην nor take ἐν in the sense of a dative. The idea is that Divine grace (χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ) was liberally communicated in the midst of these churches. Meyer confines the expression to the influence of grace in its distinctive character; as if the Apostle’s object had been to point out how gracious God had been in bestowing upon them such a generous spirit. [The word χάρις has in this section a special application doubtless to the gifts or contributions of the people, but these are so named always with reference to the Divine favor manifested in them. Every enlargement of heart among the people of a place may properly be characterized as a putting forth of Divine grace. And yet it requires some constraint to render the word as Stanley does in every instance of its occurrence in our section by the English term grace (see especially 2 Corinthians 8:16). In some instances it refers to human kindness, and some additional words (as τοῦ θεοῦ) are used to define the subject of its exercise. Chrysostom suggests that Paul here makes prominent its Divine origin to avoid all invidious human comparisons, and to stimulate the Corinthians by the hope of being sharers in the common grace. We may also remark that the use of the word ἐκκλησίαι instead of the more common ἀδέλφοι suggests that even at this early period Paul was aiming at an ecclesiastical unity. He attaches an importance to this collection in the churches quite disproportionate to its immediate relations. He evidently views it as an expression of the common fellowship of Jewish and Gentile Christianity. As such he uses it and urges it to break down the false views and exclusive prejudices which had sprung up on both sides. He here informs the Corinthians that the Macedonian Christians who had suffered much from the Jews (Acts 18:5 ff.), had surmounted these prejudices. In this way, too, he lets them see that he had not been a disappointed man or forsaken of God in his recent labors, and that he had some other work than that of correcting abuses and vindicating his Apostolic authority].—That in a great trial of tribulation they had an abundance of joy, and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their simplicity (2 Corinthians 8:2). The Apostle here specifies in greater detail what he had only asserted in 2 Corinthians 8:1. As his object was not to prove what he had there said, we must make ὅτι equivalent not to for, but to that. Critics, however, have been at a loss whether to construe this verse as two distinct sentences (supplying ἧν after περισσεία τ. χάρ. αὐτῶν [Syriac, Vulgate, fuit], so that the idea shall be that in a great trial of affliction there was an abundance of joy); or as only one [our English version]. The insertion of ἦν to complete the first of these sentences is by no means unnatural; and if we attempt to unite ἡ περισσεία τ.χάρ. αὐτῶν and ἡ πτωχ. αὐτων, so as to form one subject of a sentence, the whole appears harsh and stiff. We prefer the former construction. We are partially induced to do so because the two subjects harmonize so well with the two predicates which are then presented, and because the other construction requires us to combine together two such contrary things in a single subject, and to make such a word as περισσεία the nominative to a verb so cognate with itself as ἐπερισσεύσεν. But these are not our main reasons for this preference. For even if, by adopting the latter construction, we must unite such expressions as περισσεία τῆς χάρας and ἐπερισσεύσεν as subject and predicate (making the χάρα either the joyful preparation for the collection, as Meyer does, or the happy enjoyment of religion after conversion, as Osiander does), it seems nevertheless more appropriate to find expressed in the double subject of a single sentence those factors which complete one another in the περισσεύειν, and which unite and cooperate to prove that the grace of God and something higher than mere human kindness was moving the actors. This will be still more apparent as we proceed to explain the individual expressions. The first thing to which the Apostle draws attention is the condition or state of the congregations in which this liberality so abounded. They were in a great trial of affliction (ἐν πολλῇ δοκιυῇ θλἰψεως). This word δοκιμή which Paul uses in a number of other places in his Epistles (2 Corinthians 2:9; 2Co 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Philippians 2:22; Romans 5:4), in the sense of verifying or proving a thing to be real, has here rather the sense of subjecting a thing to a trial or test. It is true, indeed, that the verification or proof might be looked upon as the moral basis of their joy (Meyer), but it is more natural here to regard the affliction as that which tended to prevent their joy, and hence as showing that their joy must have been the result of a mighty faith triumphing over such hindrances. The δοκιμή, therefore, would be properly the trial which subjected them to a test. We allow, however, that in all other passages of the Apostle’s writings, the context requires that the word should mean, a verifying or proving a thing to be true. The idea is the same as that contained in 2 Corinthians 7:4, viz.: “in all our affliction.” With respect to this affliction, comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ff.; Acts 16:20 ff; Acts 17:5. Περισσεία τῆς χαρᾶς signifies, the overflowing or abundance of their joy, i.e., of the joy they had in the fellowship of Christ and in the assurance of their salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10; Philippians 4:4). This opened their hearts to contribute liberally for the relief of their brethren (comp. Melancthon in Osiander, p. 299), and so completely raised them above all thought of their persecutions and the poverty of their own means, that they went far beyond those who possessed a greater abundance. There was energy enough in this joyful faith to make deep poverty an abundant source of benevolent action. In the following words the joy and the poverty are represented as conspiring together for this result. The plural ἡ κατὰ βάθους πτωχεία signifies properly a poverty which goes down to the very depths, and it presents us the figure of a vessel which is almost empty and into which we must reach down deep. And yet this vessel is made to overflow as if it were full. [Adam Clarke: “Poverty and affliction can scarcely ever be spoken of in an absolute sense; they are only comparative. Even the poor are called to relieve those who are poorer than themselves; and the afflicted to comfort those who are more afflicted than they are.”] It abounds εἰς τὸν πλοῦτον τῆς ἁπλότητος αὐτῶν. The word ἁπλότης signifies not exactly goodness of heart, benignity generosity, but the disposition which includes true charitableness, or gives it an external form. Comp. Romans 12:8 (ὁ μεταδιδοὺς ἐν ἁπλότητι). It is the simplicity which is superior to all selfish considerations or interests, and confines its attention entirely to the wants of our brother, gives itself completely up to the will of God, delights to be the instrument of His merciful providence, and has no fears that God will ever allow such a one to be in want [comp. Trench Synn. 2 Part, p. 23]. The simplest explanation of ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς is that which makes it assert that the riches which in their simplicity they possessed, and the liberal contribution which in their simplicity they hail made, was in reality the overflowing stream of their deep poverty transformed by a joyful faith into an abundance. In 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 we have an explanation of this περισσεύειν. [Stanley remarks that “this sentence is completely shattered in passing through the Apostle’s mind. If restored to order it would be, ‘how that to their power and beyond their power, they voluntarily gave, not as we trusted the gift (or grace, τὴν χάριν, i.e., of their possessions), but their own selves’ ” But as the Apostle wrote this, his mind glowed more and more as it proceeded, and he attached to each phrase some additional thought, until the whole completely breaks down under the weight of extraneous matter.]—For according to their power, I bear witness, and beyond their power, of their own accord, with much exhortation beseeching of us the grace and fellowship of the ministration to the saints—(2 Corinthians 8:3-4). we might, indeed, regard ὅτι for as parallel to the same word in 2 Corinthians 8:2; “that they,” etc. But we think it better to regard 2 Corinthians 8:3 ff. as an explanation (a proof) of the way in which their deep poverty had abounded. Ὅτι would then be equivalent to, for. He proves that they gave κατὰ δύναμιν by inserting μαρτυρῶ in a parenthesis, thus implying
that he was well acquainted with their pecuniary ability. The reason they were so reduced in circumstances probably was, that they had been the victims of persecution and had found it difficult successfully to pursue their ordinary callings on account of the hatred of unbelievers. W. F. Besser: “They were poor for Christ’s sake, because the Macedonian Christians had been obliged to renounce all dishonest arts of trade (1 Thessalonians 4:6), and had been persecuted with the loss of employment, dismissal from service and apprehensions of complete destitution (Philippians 1:28). [Dr. Arnold mentions that Macedonia was the especial theatre of three successive civil wars not far from this time, that the people were heavily taxed by their conquerors, and that the mines from which much of their wealth was derived were in the possession of the government. So desolate had their fine country become, that it was fit only for pasturage. On the petition of the people for relief, they were transferred from the senatorial to the imperial jurisdiction that they might escape taxation. In the meantime Corinth, under the special favor of the emperors, since its revival under Julius Cæsar, had been growing rapidly in wealth. Comp. Stanley and Hodge]. And yet these Macedonian Christians had gone not merely up to, but beyond the ordinary measure of their power. Παρὰ δύναμιν has the same meaning as ὑπὲρ δύναμιν in the Textus Recep. (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:8), i.e., beyond their power (παρά signifies first, one thing going along by the side of another, then something not in contact with another, or rather something remaining external to another, and finally in opposition to another. Passow and de Wette). The only correct construction assumes that ἔδωκαν of 2 Corinthians 8:5 is the principal verb, to which all the other clauses form only a detailed qualification (and not αὐθαίρετοι with ἦσαν understood, since with this the preceding expressions would not agree; nor δεόμενοι with ἧσαν understood; nor yet καθὼς ἡλπίσαμεν with ἑγένετο or ἐποίησαν understood). After these quantitative phrases (κατὰ—καὶ παρα δύναμιν) we have those which are qualitative, i.e., describing the way or manner in which the gift was made: αὐθαίρετοι, freely, in opposition to over-persuasion or necessity [excluding all human, but not Divine influences]. Such an assertion is not inconsistent with what is said in 2 Corinthians 9:2 ff. For he does not, in this latter passage, say precisely that he had requested them at first to contribute, but that his boasting of them the year before had been the occasion which God had used (διὰ θελήμ. θεοῦ, 2 Corinthians 8:5), for exciting the churches of Macedonia of their own accord to resolve upon their action, and then that the zeal of these churches had reacted upon the Corinthians. The proof and the more full explanation of αὐθαίρετοι is given in 2 Corinthians 8:4. “We prayed not them, but they us.” Chrysostom. Δέομαι, with the genitive of the person entreated, and the accusative of the thing asked for, occurs not unfrequently in the classic writers, (among whom, however, the accusative is always a pronoun). The object of the prayer was the χάρις, by which was intended the favor or kindness. This is immediately defined more particularly by the phrase κοινωνίον τῆς διακον.—ἁγίους, which is connected with it by καί (“even”). The Apostle might have written: χάριν τῆς κοινωνίας but this would have been too great an accumulation of genitives. Διακονία has here the sense of, ministration, support (comp. Acts 6:1; Acts 11:29); and it is the same as the λογία spoken of in 1 Corinthians 16:1, where εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους is subjoined, and reveals what must have been the motive of the prayer here (Meyer). But the κοινωνία indicates a participation in the service. [The main idea of κοινωνια undoubtedly is that of a commonunity in sympathy, labors and responsibilities. But the ancient Greek expositors make especially prominent the idea that in all communications of assistance there was a mutual benefit. Thus Theophylact: “as if it were a common gain for both the givers and receivers;” and Oecumenius: “he calls almsgiving a κοινωνὶαν because those who give and those who receive are joint participants in a divine blessing.”] If we govern these accusatives (τ. χάριν κ. τ. κοινωνίαν) by ἔδωκαν (Bengel) the construction becomes unnecessarily confused, and we have no definition of the object of δεόμενοι. The true object of ἔδωκαν is easily understood from its own idea.—The free self-determination of the Corinthians is brought into very clear light here when it is said that they entreated with much importunity (μετὰ πολλῆς παρακλήσεως) as if it would be a favor or kindness to them, that they might have some part in the common work of relieving the impoverished members of God’s church (αγιους).—If we receive the reading of the Receptus: δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς (after ἁγίους); the meaning of χάρις (the favor) would be: the contribution; and in the subsequent sentences it will be shown to consist of collections taken up also in other congregations.—Finally, the apostle says—And not as we expected but themselves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (ver 5).—They gave beyond his expectations. [The middle and aorist ἠλπίσαμεν refers to the feeling as “belonging to the inner world of the agent” (Winer § 39. 3. Jelf. § 363. 5, 6), and shows in a lively manner how the apostle, after granting their prayer, had been busy in forming expectations and desires respecting the manner in which they would participate in the work. The verb expresses more than an anticipation (Crosby) or expectation (B. Bible Union); and it is not incorrectly translated in the English, the German (hofften), and the Vulgate (speravimus) versions. The positive reason for this surprise was, that “they gave their own selves.” This refers not to their conversion, which must have taken place some time before; nor does it imply that they then proposed themselves as the bearers of their alms; but it simply asserts that they surrendered themselves and all that they possessed to the disposal of God and the apostles. This was a self-dedication which involved a complete renunciation of all personal interests. They gave themselves, first to the Lord and then to His apostle; for they were anxious above all things thus to show their grateful love to Christ, their Redeemer. With this was inseparably united a desire to honor the man who had brought them to Christ and had originally suggested to them this charity (καί here means simply: and, and it implies the intimate connection of the two acts; comp. Exodus 16:31, Acts 15:28). Πρῶτον (first) is not designed to say that they did this before he asked them, for this had already been said in 2 Corinthians 8:4, and would require that πρῶτον should stand before ἑαυτούς; nor does it mean [as seems implied by the position of the word “first” in our Engl. A. V.] that they gave themselves before they gave their alms, and then left it to the apostle to determine the amount they should give; for to bring out such an idea something more needed to have been said. Moreover the Apostle does not mean that they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to him, making καί equivalent to ἔπειτα for not only would this imply an unsuitable separation of the two objects of the action, but no instance can be found in which καί stands for ἔπειτα. It is to be taken as in Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9 f. in the sense of a graduation. If anything is to be supplied it must be expressive of some relation to the objects of the bounty, [Osiander: “who were unknown and of no interest to them except through the Lord and the apostle.”] Διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ is added, not merely to explain καὶ ἡμῖν (as if he had said: God, who made me an Apostle, required them to give themselves to me also); but as a reason for the whole transaction, to show that they had been induced thus to surrender themselves by a regard for the will of God. Such a meaning of διά implies also the sense of κατά.—So that we have besought Titus, that as he had before begun, so he would complete among you the same grace (charity) also (2 Corinthians 8:6).—In this verse the apostle passes from the Macedonian to the Corinthian church, and shows how he was induced by what he saw among the former, to request Titus, etc. Εἰς τό does not designate here a continuation of what the Macedonians were praying, for there is no probability that they had any such design in their surrender of themselves. Nor need we even suppose that the apostle intended thereby to signify what was the divine will in the case. Εἰς merely expresses the product and the result; that which proceeds from or is reached by something (Passow, Εἰς v. 1, 4); it is therefore equivalent to ὥστε and is much the same as ἵνα. The thing requested, of Titus, and which is expressed here as if it was the object intended (ἵνα) was, that Titus would complete what he had commenced when he was before in Corinth, i.e., that he would complete this grace, this charity, or demonstration of their love. The καί before τὴν χάριν refers not to ταύτην, as if there was some other χάρις which Titus had begun and now Heeded to finish, but to this among other proofs of love which he was to bring to perfection. The προ in προενήρξατο has reference not to a priority to the παρακαλεῖν, nor to a priority to the efforts made to collect funds among the Macedonians and the earlier commencement of the Corinthian collection (for the latter idea would need to have been more distinctly expressed.) [Osiander: “but it probably contrasts the present journey of Titus bearing the epistle, with the former. Osiander also calls attention to the fact that “ἐναρχ. with its simple verb and several of its other composite forms, as ἐπαρχ., καταρχ., etc., is like the corresponding words connected with ἐπιτελεῖν, familiarly in use as sacrificial language. This would be appropriate to the idea here of a complete surrender of themselves to the service of the Lord and his church.] Εἰς ὑμᾶς either must mean, with respect to you, or must be equivalent to ἐν ὐμῖν, a concise expression for ἐλθων εἰς ὑμᾶς. The request must therefore refer to the time when the Apostle sent Titus again to Corinth with this epistle. [In 1 Corinthians 16:1, the Apostle had spoken of making collections for the saints, and it is probable therefore that Titus had then commenced a fund for this object among the Corinthians. This work had therefore been started in Corinth some months before it had been acted upon in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 5:10.). This request of the apostle to Titus could not refer to a former but to the present visit of Titus at Corinth. Chrysostom: “When the Apostle saw the Macedonians so vehement and fervent in all things even under great temptations, he sent Titus to quicken the action of the Corinthians, that they might be made equals. He does not indeed say this, but he implies it, and thus shows the greatness and delicacy of his love, which could not allow the Corinthians to be inferior.”]
2 Corinthians 8:7-15.—But as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and all diligence, and your love to us, abound also in this grace (2 Corinthians 8:7). The ἀλλ’ is not intended here to have the sense of but (Ger. sondern) which separates the following from the former part of the sentence, and negatives it (q. d., I knew, however, when I made this request that I should not be disappointed, but that you would be distinguished in this matter also); nor has it the sense of, rather (let not Titus be under the necessity of exciting you to activity, but rather, etc.), for both of these ideas are arbitrary interpolations. It is a sudden turn of expression, abruptly leaving the topic before spoken of, and it is equivalent to the Latin, at (Ger. aber). As if he had said: “But we need not assign reasons of this kind: for as ye have been remarkable in all that ye have done, so will ye be in this exhibition of your benevolence.” (The emphasis should be placed upon ταύτη; in this, as in other manifestations of your charity). There are other places in which ἀλλά makes a transition to a summons (Mark 16:7; Luke 7:7; Acts 9:6; Acts 10:20). No longer insisting upon those encouragements which the conduct of others supplied, he turns now to them, and calls upon them to show in this business also the preëminence they had exhibited in other things. Ἳνα περισσεύητε is a circumlocution for an imperative [Vulg.: videte ut], as in Ephesians 5:33; Mark 5:23. (In like manner we have in the older Greek more frequently ὅπως with a conjunction [Webster, Synt., p. 129]. To the Apostle’s thought it is necessary that we should supply here a summons to duty. It is therefore not indispensable that we should connect this expression with 2 Corinthians 8:8, for it is rather contrary to Paul’s manner to begin his corrections of others’ misapprehensions with an ον̓ λέγω (2 Co 7:30; 1 Corinthians 4:14). He makes his appeal to their sense of honor as Christians; though it is self-evident that such general commendation must be understood with individual exceptions. Ἐν παντί is a general phrase, which is explained immediately afterwards (Meyer: It is the general relation in which they had been distinguished for faith, etc.). Πίστις means here, not as in 1 Corinthians 12:9, but as in 2 Corinthians 1:24, a faithful adherence to Christian truth. Their abounding in this was their animation, assurance and activity in faith. With respect to λόγος and γνῶσις see on 1 Corinthians 1:5. [Hodge: “The former is Christian truth as preached, the latter truth as apprehended or understood]. The word σπουδή occurs in 2 Corinthians 7:11 f., and signifies an ardent zeal in the work of Christ. Πάση here means not that which is complete, but, in manifold aspects (it is extensive, not intensive). Ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐν ἡμῖν signifies that which proceeds from you, fastens upon us, and is received in our hearts; ἐν is not exactly equivalent to εἰς, Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:3. In 2 Corinthians 8:8 he meets in advance an objection which might be urged against the preceding demand—I say this not by way of commandment, but by means of the forwardness of others to prove the sincerity of your love.—A similar expression (οὐ κατ̓ ἑπιταγήν) is used in 1 Corinthians 7:6, and it here refers primarily to what he had said in the previous verse, but the positive details, beginning with ἀλλὰ etc., refer back to 2 Corinthians 8:1-6; for he must naturally have had the Macedonians in view when he spoke of the forwardness of others. Δόκιμαζειν does not signify here comprobare (to approve, or to establish by proof), nor is it equivalent to δόκιμον ποιεῖν (to make display), but, as in 1 Corinthians 11:28, it signifies, to make trial, to test, or examine. The zeal of the Macedonians ought to stimulate the Corinthians to a similar zeal, and thus it should be proved whether their love was genuine. The participle δοκιμάζων depends upon λέγων, which should be understood again after ἀλλά (but I speak as one who is making a trial of, or putting to a test your love); comp. 1 Corinthians 4:14. To show that he was justified in this δοκιμάζειν. and that he had good reasons for making such demands upon their fraternal liberality, he adduces the example of Christ, in that great act of mercy in which he gave up all things for their sakes.—For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor (ver 9). This reference is very significant; but in this connection forms a logical parenthesis; and while it was designed to incline them also to deny themselves for their brethren, it was intended to make their most self-denying charities appear utterly insignificant. The idea of an example is certainly subordinate in this place to that of the merit of Christ’s love, through which a corresponding love might be awakened in them. But the meaning is certainly not that Christ had made them spiritually rich (in love), and thus they had become possessed of the inclination to contribute and had been prepared to contribute of their (earthly) abundance (Olshausen). For πλουτεῖν cannot here signify that they were enriched in this sense, but that they possessed an abundance of those saving benefits which Christ had acquired for His people by His becoming poor (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:22; Matthew 5:5; Matthew 19:29). [The ancient Greek expositors took γινώσκετε as an imperative, and Chrysostom makes this prominent: “For, have in mind, says Paul, ponder and consider the grace of God, and do not lightly pass it by, but aim at realizing the greatness of it,” etc. The γαρ shows that this is inappropriate. The choice of this verb, and especially of the present, instead of the customary οἴδατε or εγνώκατε, seems strange, and almost implies a direct act of recognition, but it thus signifies that their apprehension of the fact must have been especially vivid and continued, instead of being indistinct and finished]. The Apostle reminds them of the spirit which, as they well knew, Christ had shown toward them, in that free (unmerited) act of grace, in which for their sakes He had become poor. To make this grace appear in a clearer light, its subject is here designated τοῦ κυρίου, in which the Divine dignity of Christ and His absolute right to His people (ἡμῶν) is expressed. The way in which this gracious, self-renouncing love was exhibited to men is presented in the epexegetical sentence: that for our sakes He became poor. The example is placed before us in a light corresponding to the object the Apostle had in view, and substantially agreeing with what is said in Philippians 2:7. When He was rich (πλούσιος ὥν, part. imperf.), must refer to His existence before He came to this world, when He was in possession of the Divine glory and had an abundance of possessions; and not to His existence on earth as the God-man, as the λόγος ἒνσαρκος; for in the latter case the ὤν and the ἔπτώχευσεν would have been in the same tense. The reference is not to the state in which He was humiliated, but as the aorist certainly makes more probable, to the act in which He divested Himself of His riches. Although the idea of “becoming poor” is not involved in the meaning of the verb itself [for it may possibly signify simply “being poor.” Jelf. (§ 330, 2, a.): “Verbs in εύω have generally an intransitive signification of being in some state, or in possession of some quality”], yet the aorist by its own nature essentially involves the idea of an intransitive action or state, like ἐπίστευσα and similar words. Πτωχεύειν in classical authors has the same sense of to beg, then to be a mendicant, and in all cases it implies a deep poverty in which one has nothing. [Webster Synn. under πένης and πτωχός, p. 227]. The word itself has reference neither to the comparative nor to the absolute poverty of Christ during His earthly life (Matthew 8:20), but to the relation which the human life He then entered upon bore to the life of glory which He was leaving. We recognize in it a κένωσις, by virtue of which He renounced His riches, not merely in the use (κατὰ χρῆσιν) but in the possession (κατὰ κῖησιν) of them. His incarnation was a becoming poor in the strictest sense, an entrance upon the state of a human creature, who possessed nothing in himself, but had to receive everything from God. This act was even repeated in His earthly condition when He submitted to receive the ministrations of His grateful disciples that He might live respectably with His people and yet share in their necessities. That the appellation [κυρ. Ἰης. χρ.] would not be unsuitable to the being who thus became poor, is manifest from what is said of the same exalted personage in Colossians 1:15 f. The ethical signification of such an instance is just as natural as it is in Philippians 2:6 ff.; but certainly the idea of an example is not here exclusively presented (see above). Πλουτεῖν is found in 1 Corinthians 4:8. Ἐκείνου is emphatic. Although the act here spoken of was for all men, the Apostle makes it more impressive by using the words, for your sakes (δι’ ὑμᾶς), and so giving it a special reference to those who were to read his words.—And I give an opinion in this matter; for this is expedient for you (2 Corinthians 8:10 a).—In these words he proceeds to give the detailed statement which had been interrupted by the motive presented in 2 Corinthians 8:9. In contrast with the command he here presents his opinion as in 1 Corinthians 7:25. The collocation of the words shows that the emphasis should be placed upon this word. In the causal sentence which follows it, we must therefore understand this (τοῦτο) as referring to γνώμην διδωμι, although ἐν τούτῳ must have referred back to the collection. As it stands at the head of the sentence it must be emphatic, but next to it the emphasis must be laid upon υμῖν. By means of συμφέρει (not=decet) he intended to say that this advice was better for them than a command would have been, inasmuch as they had for some time shown themselves willing to act as he wished without a command. Such persons Could derive greater moral advantage from a word of counsel than from any injunction. If τοῦτο is referred to the act of charity proposed, then σνμφέρει would have to be understood as relating to the benefits which result from every good action, to the advantages of a good reputation, and to the moral gain which might be expected, or finally the reward which God will give at the last day (promerere Deum).—Who began before them not only to do but also to be willing the last year. (2 Corinthians 8:10. b)—With οἵτινες (here, as in Romans 1:25, equivalent to, ut qui, such as), he introduces the reasons for saying that this was more profitable to them. It is remarkable that the doing should be mentioned before the willing, for we should naturally have expected the words in the reverse order. To attempt an inversion of the terms so as to make the sentence read: not only to will but also to do, would be arbitrary and plainly inadmissible. Some have endeavored to aid us by making θέλειν have the sense of, to be inclined to do; but this would make it inconsistent with 2 Corinthians 8:11, where, in the first place, the exhortation to complete the doing must of course be not simultaneous with, but subsequent to the willing (Meyer), or even the greater and more important of the two (Fritzsche); and secondly, the willing and the practical performance (ὅπως καθάπερ κ. τ. λ.) are so related that we must infer that the willing was an independent thing, by itself, and not equivalent merely to an inclination to do, and it must be an inherent element in the doing. Others have suggested that ποιῆσαι might refer to an actual commencement of the collection before the time of writing, and θέλειν to the disposition to give still further (the infinitive present, which on the previous explanation seemed strange, would be appropriate to this). Others still make the meaning to be, that many had then actually begun to make contributions, while some had declined to do so, and 2 Corinthians 8:11 would then be a calling upon them to carry into actual execution their further intentions, and so
to complete the collections which had been commenced. But on this interpretation we are obliged to give to θέλειν a fulness of meaning which it will not bear. The true way is probably that which makes the προ in προενήρξασθε refer, not to some time before the Apostle’s writing, but to the period of the collections in Macedonia. The idea then would be, that the Corinthians were in advance of the Macedonians, not only in the accomplishment, but also in the original purpose; in the preparation of those arrangements for the collection (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:2), the continuance of which seems implied in the infinitive of the present. Thus de Wette, Meyer, et al. Neander suggests, that “the will of a person may sometimes far exceed what he does, for he may desire to do more than he is able to perform. In this case the will is greater than the doing.” In ἂπὸ πέρυσι (from last year), the Apostle doubtless referred to the mode of reckoning yearly time which was customary among the Jews, and was also common and well known in the churches. This differed very little from the Macedonian method, for both commenced their year in September. The Apostle means not a year ago, but “the last year,” i.e. in the present case probably six months before.—But now complete the performance of it also; that as there was the readiness to will so there may be the performance according to what ye have (2 Corinthians 8:11).—Having thus disavowed any wish to command but only to counsel them in this matter, he here proceeds to call upon them at once to complete a work which he regarded as no less important than at first. The νυνὶ δέ in contrast with ἀπὸ πέρυσι, as also the aorist imperative, implies that the matter was rather pressing and urgent.—The final sentence also implies that such a course would be becoming in them, for otherwise the doing would not correspond with the willing. But for willing (θέλειν) he now substitutes the readiness to will (προθυμία τοῦ θέλειν), in which he more precisely expresses the completeness of their purpose (inclination, zeal), and encourages them with an avowal of his confidence. In like manner, for ποιῆσαι he substitutes ἐπιτελέσαι, which involves the entire performance or practical completion of what had been intended. The whole is more particularly defined by the subjoined phrase out of what ye have (ἐκ τοῦ ἔχειν), which is further explained afterwards. The ἐκ designates in this place the particular respect in which a thing is to be measured or regarded. It has the sense of: according to, or in conformity with, as in such phrases as ἐκ τῶν παρόντων, according to what a man has; according to his ability. Either ῃ or γίνηται must be understood (an ellipsis of the subjunctive of εἰμι which is very uncommon with Greek writers). The Corinthians would probably have said: we would contribute to this cause very willingly; and he now tells them that their performance should correspond with such a willingness, and that they should contribute according to their ability.—Further light is thrown upon ἐκ τοῦ ἔχειν in 2 Corinthians 8:12, where the Apostle defines how far an act of kindness is acceptable to God, viz.—For if there be the willing mind, it is acceptable, according to what it may have and not according to what it has not,—i.e. in proportion to the degree in which the free consent which the Apostle had all along presupposed, is actually in the heart. The preposition πρό in πρόκειται has here no reference to time [as is implied in the E. V.], but it simply signifies: lies before us, is present, is in sight. In the apodosis of this sentence προθυμία is the personified subject, and there was no need of inserting a τις. In εὐπρόσδεκτος, with ἐστιν understood, God was unquestionably in the writer’s mind. [Osiander: the word shows the sacrificial nature of the act.] Καθὸ ἐὰν ἔχῇ. κ. τ. λ. signifies: according to that it [i.e. ἠ προθυμία: the disposition] may have, and not according to that it hath not, i.e. God judges of them and has pleasure in them according to that which they had, etc., he does not call for what is beyond our power; but the small gifts of the poor man who would gladly give more, are as acceptable as the large gift of one who possessed an abundance (comp. Mark 12:44).—Ἐάν(—ἄν) signifies that certain conditions are supposed to be out of the question in the case of him who has not, which are implied in the case of him who has.—The idea expressed in 2 Corinthians 8:12 is further illustrated by what he proceeds to say in 2 Corinthians 8:13, with respect to the object of the collection proposed. In the first place he declares negatively:—For it is not that others may be eased and ye burdened but by an equality—He means that his object was not that others (here: the Christians ,of Jerusalem, not other churches, with whom he had nothing to do) should be relieved while they might be, or would be burdened (with ἦ or γίνηται understood as in 2 Corinthians 8:11) i.e. that others should not be called upon while they were burdened with such contributions. These were probably expressions made use of by those who disliked him at Corinth.—He then declares positively, that the principle from which the whole proceeding was derived, or the rule by which the whole scheme was governed (ἐκ in 2 Corinthians 8:11) was, that there might be an equality. Of course his aim was to adjust an even measure to all. These words have been variously construed and punctuated. The colon may be placed either after θλῖψις, or after ἰσότητος; and in either case the subject alluded to will be τουτο (=ἡ λογία) γινεται (1 Corinthians 16:2). According to the second mode of constructing the sentence, ἵνα γίνηται (that there should be) must be understood in connection with ἀλλ̓ ἐξ ἰσότητος. Or this whole sentence may be joined with what follows, without any words understood to complete the sense thus: but according to the law of equality your superabundance at this present time may extend (i.e. γίνεται) to their deficiency (Meyer). This construction is the easiest, inasmuch as very little needs to be supplied to complete the sense. But Osiander very correctly remarks that the sentence would thereby become much extended (two sentences with ἵνα before and after the principal sentence, and yet a third would be introduced by an ὅπως in connection with ἐξ ισότητος) notwithstanding its occurrence in the midst of a context more than usually lively and sententious. We therefore decide in favor of placing the colon after ἰσότητος. The word ἅνεσις probably meant, especially in the mind of a murmuring contributor, release, loosening from restraint, a careless freedom of enjoyment; whereas θγῖψις, on the other hand, meant that oppression of care which was the result of giving beyond their means. Ἰσοτης has not only the sense of equality, but also of equity or righteousness. Both significations here amount to very much the same thing. The point on which the Apostle speaks is not the equality between the gift and the ability of the giver, but the equality which should prevail between the givers and the receivers. The contribution should be so adjusted, that it might promote a general equality; that each one should have what he needed, without a superfluity in one portion of the church and a deficiency in another, but a communion of Christian love.—At the present time your abundance may extend to their want, that their abundance may also extend to your want, that there may be equality. (2 Corinthians 8:14)—Ἐν τῷ νῦν **καιρῷ is not to be connected with what precedes, but it intimates that a time might come when the state of things would be reversed. It does not apply to an earthly in opposition to a heavenly state (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:14). The words to be understood must be derived from the leading sentence, and they should be γίνεται or ἵνα γίνηται, signifying: should be; or, in this place: should become, or should amount to. According to common usage, γίνεσθαι εἴς τι would signify to become something, or to arrive at a place, and εἴς τινα would signify to fall to one’s share (thus Galatians 3:14). Here the deficiency is, as it were, local, and it is to be reached by the superfluity. The. word ἐκεῖνοι applies to the same persons as ἄλλοίς. Not only in ver 13, but also in 2 Corinthians 8:14, the περίσσευμα and ὑστέρημα must be understood of earthly possessions (the Catholics understand them of spiritual blessings). Gentile Christians had already been made partakers of the spiritual benefits of the Jews, comp. Romans 15:27. Nothing but a preconceived prejudice could have suggested the idea that Paul was here attributing to the Jewish Christians the performance of works of supererogation. With respect to the possibility of such a state of things as the Apostle here supposes, there is no necessity of referring what he says to any event immediately connected with Christ’s advent as, e.g., the restoration of Israel, for when that event shall take place we can hardly imagine that such inequalities of condition will exist; but we refer the words rather to those catastrophes which were expected on the near approach of the Parousia, when such a change of circumstances might be possible (comp. Osiander). If we adopt Meyer’s method of constructing the text, the phrase, that there may be equality (ὅπως γἐνηται ἰσότης) must refer exclusively to the member of the sentence which immediately precedes it (ἳνα—ὐμῶν ἰσότης, in order that if such an event should take place, there might be an equality between those who have much and those who have little); but if the text be arranged according to our construction, it must be referred to the two members of the sentence which precede it. This principle of equalization is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 8:15, by a quotation from the Scriptural account of the collection of the manna in Exodus 16:18.—As it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.—The quotation is from the Sept.; only the position of the clauses in the sentence is reversed, and συλλέξας is taken from the context of the passage there for the completion of the sentence ὁ τὸ πολὺ—ὁ τὸ ὁλίγον. The meaning is: Every one found in the collection what was proportioned to his wants; he who had collected much [who had the most] had nothing more, and he who had collected [the] little, had nothing less than what he needed. [On the ellipsis and the force of the article here, S. Winer § 66. 4, and Bengel]. God had thus given his sanction, when he supplied the wants of His people by miracle, to the law of equality, viz., that no portion of the people was to have a superfluity while another portion was destitute. [Wordsworth: “By the command of God, the manna, which the several members of the same tent (συσκήνιοι) had gathered, was to be put together (Sept.: συνηγμένον, συλλελεγμένον) into one common stock, and then be meted out with an homer. It was so ordered by Almighty God, that when the whole was measured out, each person had exactly an homer, neither more nor less.” “By ordering it to be measured out,” says Theodoret, “God provided that none should abuse his gift through selfishness,” and “by turning all superabundance into worms,” says Jerome, “He showed that what God gives, should be for the equal enjoyment of all.” Dr. A. Clarke, in his comment on Exodus 16:18, endeavors to show that each Israelite collected as much manna when he went forth to gather it as he he was able; but that on bringing it home and measuring it, if he found he had a surplus, he would send it to the supply of some larger family which had not been able, during the limited time, to collect enough, or which might be unable, through sickness or infirmity, to collect for itself. If, however, this distribution were not made, it could not be enjoyed, but it soon turned to corruption. A more striking illustration of a true Christian communism could scarcely be found; according to which, as Neander suggests, the distinction of property is abolished not by violence, but is equalized by the power of love].
2 Corinthians 8:16-24. But thanks be to God who is putting the same zeal for you into the heart of Titus.—[Having thus spoken of the example of others and of the principle of the collection] the Apostle now comes to speak of the persons whom he had sent to Corinth on the business of the collection. He first commends (2 Corinthians 8:16-17) the zeal of Titus in their behalf, but he gratefully gives the honor of awakening this zeal in Titus’ heart, to God. The words, the same (τὴν αὐτήν) cannot mean the same earnest care with that which the Corinthians had felt, since ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν shows that they themselves, their honor, their welfare, and the advantages which would result from such a charity (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:8 ff.) were the objects of Titus’ activity and care. Nor can it mean the same earnest care which the objects of their emulation, i.e., the Macedonian Christians, had exhibited, or the saints at Jerusalem might exhibit; for such a reference would have required a more distinct mention. It only remains therefore that we should refer it to the Apostle himself (the same earnest care which I have shown). The phrase διδόντι ἐν is a concise but significant expression (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:1). The present participle implies that the Divine influence and the consequent zeal was continued [and it was “as though the Apostle had before his eyes the working of Titus’ eagerness” Stanley]. The evidence of this zeal is given in 2 Corinthians 8:17.—For he accepted indeed the exhortation; but being himself more zealous, he has gone of his own accord unto you.—The τὴν παράκλησιν is the exhortation which had been mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:6. Having spoken of the delicacy and discretion which Titus had shown in giving so much time and attention to the matter involved in the Apostle’s request (τὴν παράκλησιν ἐδέξατο), he is careful to notice that Titus’ decision was entirely spontaneous and was not dependent upon his suggestion. These various aspects of the case are brought forward by means of such particles as μέν and δέ, which are not of the same force as οὐ μόνον—ἀλλὰ καί, since no climax or gradation of the thought was intended. Σπουδαιότερος implies that Titus was too zealous of himself to need any suggestion from another. [The comparative signifies either, more zealous than the Apostle, or more than the Apostle was to prompt him, or more than he had been before the suggestion. Probably the idea was, more zealous to engage in the service than I to put him upon it (Bloomfield)]. Both here and in subsequent parts of the Epistle, ἐξῆλθεν is used in the preterite, as was common in a concise style, because it anticipated the moment when the Epistle should be in the hands of the Corinthians. The whole idea intended was the following: Titus had not indeed opened his mind to Paul, and he had modestly allowed the Apostle to present to him the request to undertake this work; and yet it was evident that he needed no such request, inasmuch as his own free will was already inclined to undertake the affair. He now passes from Titus to those deputies who accompanied him. These are not named (2 Corinthians 8:18 ff.), but they are shown to be persons well adapted to their mission. The one first spoken of is designated by a reference to some work in which he had already been employed—And we sent with him the brother whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches (2 Corinthians 8:18): οὑ ὁ ἔπαινος ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ διὰ πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν, i.e., whose reputation in the promulgation of the Gospel is spread throughout all the churches. His reputation was universally recognized wherever churches had been planted. The importance of such a commendation was proportioned to the value one might attach to the opinion of all these churches; but to give force to this, the Apostle subjoins another reason for his commendation in connection with the business now in hand. This was the confidence which the (Macedonian) churches had exhibited when they chose him to accompany the Apostle in his journey to Jerusalem, with the contributions they had made (and not that only, but who was also appointed by the churches as our fellow traveller with this grace which is ministered by us (2 Corinthians 8:19). Instead of χειριοτονηθείς we should naturally have expected the accusative. It is to be construed as if the Apostle had previously written: who is praised, or, not only is he praised, but has also been chosen, etc. [οὐ μόνον δε ἐπαινούμενος ἐστιν, etc. ἀλλὰ καὶ—comp. Romans 9:10). The choice must have been made, either by the overseers of the churches on the nomination of the Apostle, or, as ὑπὸ τῶν ἐκκλ. rather intimates, by the general body of the members themselves when they were assembled in their churches, and (as the original meaning of the word perhaps implies) showed their choice by the uplifting of hands [Osiander suggests that the Apostle speaks of the choice of the people as though it were the only thing essential to the act. It is not an election to a permanent office, for these were only ἁπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν for a temporary purpose, and yet the case shows how thoroughly the democratic element pervaded the ecclesiastical life, especially in Greece]. The preposition ἑν specifies the object of the proceeding (in this case of the journey), in this work of charity, in the management of this benevolent enterprise. Although σύν has considerable authority in its favor, it is probably a gloss; but if it be accepted as genuine, χάρις (the grace or charity), in connection with it, would signify the money contributed, Διακονεῖν is used here as in 2 Corinthians 3:3.—For the glory of the Lord and the manifestation of our zeal. (2 Corinthians 8:19 b).—This clause expresses the object they had in view and must not be joined with what immediately precedes it; inasmuch as καὶ προθυμίαν ἡμῶν (which must here be taken as equivalent to: for the showing of our earnestness) would be plain enough by itself, and it would therefore seem feeble. Its proper place seems rather to be in connection with the main sentence commencing with χειροτονηθείς. It would follow from this choice and the coöperation of these men that the honor of Christ and the inclination of the Apostle (as well as of Titus) would be enhanced, inasmuch as the burden of cares spoken of in 2 Corinthians 8:20, would be lightened and the whole business would be more easily accomplished. If we read αὐτοῦ before τοῦ κυρίου, the effect will be to make κύριος more prominent, in contrast with his instruments.—The honor of God would be promoted in proportion to the degree in which his love was made known among the churches and in which he as their head inspired them with energy and a common active sympathy in this work; and because all danger of suspicion with respect to the management of the mission would thus be obviated.—Avoiding this; that no one should reproach us in this abundance which is ministered by us (2 Corinthians 8:20).—In this verse he makes a more direct reference to such suspicions. Στελλόμενοι must be connected with συνεπέμψαμεν in 2 Corinthians 8:18 (not with 2 Corinthians 8:19 instead of στελλομεθα γαρ). In this way 2 Corinthians 8:19 forms a parenthesis. Στέλλεσθαι does not signify to depart, as if τοῦτο were equivalent to ἐπὶ τοῦτο, but rather, to attend to this matter especially. And yet such a meaning does not here seem quite appropriate to the context. It has also the sense of: to withdraw one’s self (2 Thessalonians 3:6), to guard against something, to shun or to avoid it, comp. Malachi 2:5 Sept. (The reading ὑποστελλόμενοι is manifestly a gloss). [The Vulg. is: “Devitantes hoc,” and Erasmus suggests that the word is taken from nautical language, and refers to the act of sailors when they take in sail and turn their course lest they should strike upon rocks. Such is the meaning in the only other passage where the word is used in the New Testament, 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Paul about this time was making several voyages by sea, and was writing to a maritime people. Comp. Acts 20:20]. Τοῦτο is an emphatic word in anticipation of what was about to be said. Μωμεῖσθαι (to reproach) has been used before in 2 Corinthians 6:3, and it signifies here, the imputation that he had embezzled the funds, or that he had been unfaithful to his trust in the transaction of his business. Ἀδρότης presents us the idea of an abundance of the charitable contributions (ἁδρός is applied to fruits, children, trees, so as to mean that they are ripe, large, big; ἁδρὸν πινεῖν is to drink in full draughts) not of the χάρις in 2 Corinthians 8:19, nor of the zeal of those who contributed (Rückert). Ἐν has the sense of: in, and has reference to the object or reason for the reproach. Meyer: in puncto.—For we provide for what may be honorable not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of man (2 Corinthians 8:21).—He here gives us the principle by which he was guided in this matter (γάρ makes what follows a reason for στελλόμενοι). Προνοεῖν is equivalent to ἐπιμελεῖσθαι, and signifies to bear care, to be anxious about; it is generally found in the middle voice, as in Romans 12:17; Proverbs 3:4 (προνοοῦ καλὰ ἐνώπιον κυρίου καὶ ), a passage which the Apostle evidently had before his mind when he wrote. The Receptus therefore has προνοούμενοι, a combination of this passage and the original reading. In cod. C. (Tischendorf) we have προνοούμενοι γάρ. Καλά signifies honestas, that which is morally beautiful, noble, honorable. As he took care, to appear blameless and becomingly in the sight not only of that God before whom he was always manifest (2 Corinthians 5:11), but of men, he had adopted this precautionary measure.—And we have sent with them our brother whom we have many times and in many things have proved diligent but now much more diligent for the great confidence he has in you (2 Corinthians 8:22).—He here proceeds to commend the other deputies. He says συνεπέμψαμεν αὐτοῖς; and in 2 Corinthians 8:18 he had said μετ̓ ἀυτοῦ; but both expressions have the same object. In 2 Corinthians 8:18 the συν in συνεπέμψαμεν cannot refer to Timothy (we have sent with another). When he says in this place τὸν he no more means a natural brother of his, than in 2 Corinthians 8:18, a natural brother of Titus. In both instances he implies a relationship not merely as Christians but as united in the same office. He represents him whom he had sent with Titus and the others, as one whom he had often found to be zealous in many things but whom he had now found much more zealous (than before), inasmuch as his great confidence in the Corinthians had intensified his earlier zeal.—The various opinions which have been advanced with respect to these two men are more or less unworthy of confidence. Mark, Luke, Epenetus, Trophimus, Apollos, Silas, Barnabas15 and others have been mentioned as each likely to have been one of them. For the last three a subordinate position, as associate deputies with Titus, would not seem appropriate. In favor of Luke is the subscription to our Epistle, but we know that this has no original authority. In behalf of Mark is sometimes quoted the expression, ἐν τῷ εὐαγγ. in 2 Corinthians 8:18, but a written Gospel could not have been here meant. W. F. Besser says that “this brother must have been among the seven companions of Paul mentioned in Acts 20:4.” Both must have been introduced to the Corinthians by Titus, in case they had been unknown before the reading of Paul’s Epistle; and yet the name of the one first mentioned had probably been previously known to them, since he had been chosen by the Macedonian Churches to take charge of the collections.—as to Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker toward you; as to our brethren, they are the messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23).—In this verse the Apostle commended the three brethren collectively. The manner in which he speaks of them is here changed: εἴτε ὑπὲρ Τίτου—εἴτε . Whether I speak in behalf of Titus, he is, etc.; whether our brethren be spoken of (εἰσιν ὑπὲρ ὦν λέγω), they are, etc.. The intercession in favor of Titus was justified by the intimate relation in which he stood to the Apostle himself: he is my companion (in office); but particularly by the intimate relation in which he thus stood to the Corinthians: he is with respect to you my fellow-laborer (2 Corinthians 7:7). That they were bound to hold the other two in high esteem, he shows by adverting to the fact that they were the messengers of the (Macedonian) Churches, and were to be honored therefore in proportion to the honor which such representatives deserve. [Alford’s imputation (Sunday Mag., May, 1864) that the translators of our English version had some private reasons for rendering “ἀπόστολοι” by the word “messengers,” is not very clear. Even “the more general sense” of the word to which he refers as including apostolic men is not demanded here, for the persons are mentioned, not as sent of the Lord in any sense, but simply as ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν, with reference to a single benevolent mission or journey. It can surely have no reference here to a permanent office, and is used simply as a common noun, as in the instances to which he refers beside our passage (Philippians 2:25, and Acts 14:14; comp. with Acts 13:2)]. Indeed, their relation to Christ Himself was sufficient to entitle them to respect, for they were an honor to Christ (by their influence and probably by their daily life) inasmuch as Christ’s love and power were manifested in them and by their means (comp. δόξα in 1 Corinthians 11:7). [Calvin:—Whoever excels in piety is the glory of Christ, because he has nothing which is not Christ’s gift.] Having thus introduced 2 Corinthians 8:23 without a conjunction (for οὖν is not genuine), be proceeds with an οὖν to derive a practical inference from his commendation of the three brethren, or (more correctly) of the two last as ἀποστ. τῶν ἐκκλ.—since ye show toward them the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf, ye will show it before the churches (2 Corinthians 8:24).—The sentence, τὴν οὖν ἔνδειξιν—ἐνδεικνύμενοι (a way of speaking which may be found in Plato), stands in need of some verb to supply the ellipsis, and this may be either in the imperative, or (better) in the indicative (present or future) of the same verb: “since ye give to them the evidence of your love, and of our boasting in your behalf, ye thus show it, or ye will show it, in the face of the churches. Even if the future tense is preferred, an indirect exhortation is implied. [If the part. ἐνδεικνύμεγοι is construed as an imperative, as Alford and Stanley contend it frequently may be in St. Paul (Romans 12:9-19; Ephesians 3:18; Colossians 3:16), the English rendering of the passage will be the same as if the reading were that of the Recep. Meyer thinks that this throws the emphasis upon εἰς πρόςωπον τῶν ἐκκλ. more strongly than is required by the context, and that an indirect admonition, representing the thing as an affair of honor, but without making a formal demand, was more forcible: “since ye therefore will give a demonstration to them of your love, and that which we have boasted of you, ye do it, etc. In this way εἰς αὐτούς and εἰς πρόσωπον τ. ἐκκλ. correspond with respect to emphasis. and after the part. ἐνδεικν. we have supplied the second person of the present Indicative of the same verb]. Εἰς πρόσωπον, if the Indicative is used, will signify, in conspectu, presented to the face, or since the churches are looking upon you, this proof of affection will be seen by them; if the Imperative is preferred, that phrase will be equivalent to: εἰς τὰς ἐκκλησίας, and will mean towards the churches personally present, i.e., you should, or will give this proof to the churches themselves in the person of those representatives of whom I have just spoken (ἀπόςτ. τῶν ἐκκλ.). The last is preferable. Neander:—“So that the Macedonian Churches may perceive that what Paul had said in praise of the Corinthians was true.” Ἀγάπη here means their love, not merely to Paul, but to the brethren generally. On καύ χησις ἡμῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν comp. 2 Corinthians 7:14 (2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 9:3). Εἰς αὐτους is to be construed with ἐνδεικνύμενοι, and has εἰςπρόσωπον τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν for its correlative.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The profoundest inducement Christians can have for denying themselves to assist their fellow-men, is derived from the example of the Son of God when He gave up all things and became poor that we might become rich by His poverty. We were completely destitute of spiritual good, and altogether unable to extricate ourselves from our poverty. In His equality with God He was infinitely blessed and glorious in the possession of spiritual riches. But so completely did He renounce all this, and enter into the absolute poverty of sinful beings, that He was dependent upon others and was obliged to pray the Father through the Spirit which was given Him, for light, strength, courage, consolation, refreshment and whatever He needed each moment of his earthly career. This was entirely for our sakes, for no necessity of His own required it. It was to recover for us those spiritual possessions which we had lost by aspiring to independence. And now since His self-sacrifice, as our Head and Surety, has recovered them, we have a rich abundance to use as if it were our own. All who will honestly forsake the sins which occasioned our loss and made us unworthy of riches, all who will confidingly surrender themselves to Jesus, the source of their wealth, shall be put in full possession of this. But those who know this act of grace and consider how great it was and how vast are the benefits which condemned sinners have derived from it, will cheerfully deny themselves in like manner; the joy they feel in the possession of such a salvation will open their hearts to communicate freely to those whom Jesus regards as His brethren, that they may thus make some return of joy to Him who gave himself for us. Nothing they can do will be looked upon as too much, or enough, as a token of their grateful remembrance. The greatest favor they can ask will be, to be allowed to participate in the common work of beneficence. No one will find it needful to plead long for their assistance, and when they contribute to a great work, they will first give their own selves and make no nice calculations as to their own ability. They will be ready to go beyond their power and deprive themselves of ordinary comforts, when another’s greater necessity seems to require it.
2. In the department of Christian fellowship, there must be a consciousness of equality, for all are as sinners, poor; and, as God’s children, rich. This equality in spiritual things would be disturbed by a great inequality in worldly possessions, if one brother exalted himself above another and if the latter brother should to the same extent depreciate himself or become envious of his favored neighbor. But where the spirit of Christ prevails those who possess much will strive to equalize this matter, for they will allow none to be in want. By a simple style of living they will secure the means of helping those who need assistance. This may be so done that the recipients will not feel that they are receiving an alms, but an act of grateful love to Christ which finds its own satisfaction in ministering to his brethren. It will be much easier to do this if these recipients indulge in no spirit of envy for what God has bestowed upon their more favored brethren, and accept of the gift in the same simplicity with which it is given. It came from the infinite riches of their divine Master but through such hands and by such instruments as were calculated to strengthen the bonds of love and fellowship.
[3. “The sacred writers constantly recognize the fact that the freest and most spontaneous acts of men, their inward states and the outward manifestations of those states when good are due to a secret influence of the Spirit of God which eludes our consciousness. The believer is most truly self-determined when determined by the grace of God. The liberality of the Corinthians was due to the operation of the grace of God.” “The zeal of Titus was the spontaneous effusion of his own heart and was an index and element of his character, and yet God put that zeal into his heart. So congenial and congruous is divine influence, that the life of God in us is in the highest sense our own life.” Hodge.
4. A high excellence in one or more graces of the Christian character only makes more startling a serious deficiency in others (2 Corinthians 8:7). To have great knowledge of divine truth, and a free utterance as to duties and privileges, only exposes our inconsistency, when we lack practical benevolence. And it is one great aim of divine and pastoral discipline, to effect this completeness of character in all believers. Afflictions are sent by God (2 Corinthians 8:1), and opportunities and examples will be used by a skilful pastor, so as to prove (2 Corinthians 8:8) and to draw forth all graces in their season.
5. We have here a true system of Christian socialism. In the divine kingdom the Liberty of each citizen is so perfect, that its rulers and the Sovereign King himself will receive nothing from compulsion or by the dictation of authority; the Fraternity of all citizens is secured by a recognition of each believer and especially of each suffering believer as a brother of our Lord, and the sympathy of each Christian with his fellow Christians is the measure of his love to Christ; and universal Equality, not in outward circumstances which would be delusive, undesirable and impossible, but in the common poverty from which all are rescued and the common riches which are the inalienable birthright of every one. Each one has his peculiar capacity of enjoyment, beyond which he can enjoy nothing, whatever he may have in possession, and short of which he has a claim upon our assistance. The rights and duties of each individual may not be precisely defined by outward law, but the love of Christ and the Spirit of Christ universally diffused, will secure an equality, in which the rich bestow freely as much as the poor and suffering are willing to receive. Such an equality springs from “the feeling of a true and loving brotherhood; which makes each man say: My superabundance is not mine, it is another’s: not to be taken by force, or wrung from me by law, but given freely by the law of love.” F. W. Robertson.
6. The whole system of mendicancy, which has been derived from this chapter by ancient and modern ascetics (v. especially Estius), has really no support. Not a word can be found there implying, “that the less sanctified believer can derive assistance, even in another world, from the merits of the saints,” or that there is “such a virtue in almsgiving as to make the giver a participator in the merits of the receiver, (2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 8:14). Christ became poor not because poverty was in itself more meritorious than riches, but because it was the only condition in which He could reach the special object He had in view. Nor did He ever become strictly a mendicant. The evils of poverty and self-sacrifice were never chosen for any virtue He saw in them for their own sake. No outward condition, separate from the motive with which it is sought and the spirit in which it is endured was desirable to Him. The whole history of mendicant orders is a striking illustration not of the “higher perfection” of voluntary poverty, but of the injurious influence of such a state when chosen from self-righteous and unspiritual motives. And yet poverty and self-sacrifice are noble, when they are encountered for a noble object, or as a necessary discipline of providence, and are sustained in a Christian spirit.
7. The Apostolic system of charitable collections is admirably developed in this and the following section. The Duty of giving was pressed upon every Christian with earnestness and importunity. It was evidently no unimportant part of the church’s care. It was extensively used as a test of character and a means of usefulness and fellowship. The Motives, by which it was urged, were love to men as men, to Christians as brethren in Christ, and to Christ Himself. But although in the Collection of contributions, this duty and these motives were pressed with all the art and urgency of the most ardent benevolence, every one was scrupulously left to make his gift a token of his own conscientious conviction and affection. “There are several higher degrees of the acts of charity and other Christian virtues that are not in præcepto, and may be omitted without sinning, yet are in consilio; and the performance of them most highly acceptable to God” (Oxford old Paraphrase on 2 Corinthians 8:10.). We ought indeed to do for Christ all which is in our power and hence we can never exceed the measure of duty, but yet neither Christ nor his apostles would force by authority the higher tokens of our affection which derive all their preciousness from their freedom. In the persons selected for managing and disbursing these collections the utmost wisdom and the best characters were put in requisition. It is plain that if giving is an admirable test of a Christian’s benevolence, the management of charitable funds is one of the severest tests of his integrity and discretion.
8. “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?” Barnes.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Corinthians 8:1. We should copy after the good examples of our fellow Christians, for one reason why our Lord would have His people do good works, is that others may have the benefit of their light, and that God may be glorified (Matthew 5:16). When our hearts burn with Christian love, and we are prepared to assist those who need our aid, it is the special gift of God.—Spener:—Not only he who receives, but far more he who confers a favor is blessed, for what can be a greater benefit than to be filled with love, and to have the power to do good (Acts 20:35).
2 Corinthians 8:2. Hedinger:—Much tribulation, much joy! The Lord lays on us crosses, but fills us with pleasures. The faith of the pious poor works by love, and opens their hands to give cheerfully what they have. The three main elements in real goodness, are: to give cheerfully, without being importuned; liberally, according to ability; and sincerely, without a selfish motive (2 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Tob 4:9; Romans 12:8).
2 Corinthians 8:3. It may sometimes be a Christian’s duty to give alms to his own suffering. Even if you have no more than your neighbor, if his distress is greater, and your relief is speedier, easier and surer, you ought immediately to help him. Hedinger:—Though poor, yet rich! rich to give, rich to bless. Others lay up much; and it proves only as the foam of a boiling vessel. Grudge not the sweat of thy brow!
2 Corinthians 8:5. To give nothing but yourself when collections are made for the poor, proves that thou neither knowest God, nor doest His will (1 John 3:17).
2 Corinthians 8:6. A good work in one place should encourage the hope that it will stir up a similar activity in another place. Every Christian needs to be stimulated to benevolence, for the best will sometimes become dull.
2 Corinthians 8:7. Faith and God’s Word are as inseparable as food and health, and bodily strength. The only sure evidence that our knowledge of God and of Divine things is correct, must be in the fact that God’s Word is our standard, faith its medium, and practical beneficence its fruit.
2 Corinthians 8:8. God Himself condescended to minister to the poor, and His people should be enjoined to do the same, but to what objects, at what time, or how much they shall give, must be left to every one’s conscience. One of the first objects of a good minister should be to induce every one to perform his duty, but from his own free will, and from evangelical motives. God’s people are not left entirely to their own freedom with respect to doing good. It is a matter of command that they must love their fellow men, and they are enjoined to love in the only way in which true love can exist.
2 Corinthians 8:9. Hedinger:—Christ became poor to make others rich. Many become rich by making others poor. Can such persons have the Spirit of Christ.
2 Corinthians 8:10 f. We are never the poorer for the giving of alms. Be not weary in well doing, when God bids thee on.
2 Corinthians 8:12. If Christians have but little to give, even that little will be acceptable to God; a loving God will be pleased with little, even if it be but a cup of water, Matthew 10:42.
2 Corinthians 8:13. Hedinger:—Christ’s command is not that beggars should be rich, and the rich beggars; nor that one should have every thing while his brother has nothing. Love can impart, but it cannot receive too much. The rich and the poor should live together, that they may serve each other; but especially when famine threatens, lest the poor should perish. Thank God, there are always some kind and faithful ones who are ready to give help, and are bountiful to the poor, sometimes even to their own apparent loss.
2 Corinthians 8:17. Follow no man blindly. God’s Spirit in thine own heart will be thy guide. A willing heart will always please Him.
2 Corinthians 8:18 f. None but well tried and honest men, who walk honestly before God and men, not merely those who have a fair show and a glib tongue, are fit to have the control of our charities. Better than every thing else is, a good name for faith and the fear of God. If others praise us, we should never be lifted up, but let it pass, and be stimulated to greater goodness.
2 Corinthians 8:20 f. Hedinger:—Avoid not only the reality, but even the appearance of evil! Strive to have an honorable name as well as a good conscience; thy neighbor demands that, God this.
2 Corinthians 8:22. In matters of importance we cannot watch ourselves too carefully. In pecuniary affairs we should be so especially circumspect, that malice itself can find no occasion to reproach us. Men who have been tried and have passed through great varieties of experience, should be held in great esteem, for they can be profitably employed in almost any station.
2 Corinthians 8:23. Those who are employed in the same church are partners and brethren, but even the most exalted and most accomplished should never despise their fellows.
Berlenb. Bible:—The church consists of many members who are bound to assist one another, according to their ability and wants. God has left the actual performance of this duty almost entirely to every one’s free will; He actually requires it, but in such a way as best to exercise our faith and love. This is especially true of the care of the poor.
2 Corinthians 8:1. The obedience which grace produces, is especially cheerful and free from mercenary views. It will always be the fruit of a genuine conversion. Opportunities for it will seem to a Christian a personal favor from the Giver of all good (James 1:17).
2 Corinthians 8:2. In urging the example of others we should guard against a servile imitation. We should be careful to present not merely the outward action, but the true spirit and idea of it.—It is astonishing how much good may be concealed under a little suffering. It is altogether beyond the sight of the thorough man of the world, who is unworthy of it; but such suffering only clarifies the spiritual man’s eye to recognize the wonders of the cross. None but the spiritual man can know what it is to rejoice and to suffer at the same moment. In these very troubles, which give no pleasure, and are ominous, only of destruction to the flesh, the spiritual Christian not unfrequently finds nothing but joy (James 1:2; Romans 5:3). A covetous man is poor even in his riches, for he is the slave of his own possessions, and can make no profitable use of them, either for himself or others. A poor man, living in simplicity, is rich, for he is satisfied with what he has, and can share even a little with a neighbor. This is a delight to him, for all he has is sweetened by the Divine hand from which he receives it. The ancients used to say that “the angels rejoiced when one poor man did a kindness to another.”
2 Corinthians 8:3. The works of the Spirit must be spontaneous and unconstrained by authority.
2 Corinthians 8:5. Those are truly good works which are the fruit of an entire consecration of soul to God. The alms which are of this nature, are therefore called charitable offerings, because they are entirely surrendered to God’s hands. It is something for a man to give what he possesses to God or for God’s sake. But far more is it for him to give up his entire self as a living sacrifice to God. There may be men who condemn it, but in the sight of God it is of great price. Though men may condemn it, is of much value.
2 Corinthians 8:6. The true apostolic spirit presses on toward perfection in every thing. The word grace shows: 1, that we are by nature covetous, and would never perform acts of goodness without Divine grace; and 2, that what we give is ours only by free grace.
2 Corinthians 8:7. We cannot accept of one part of Christianity without another. When we commend any thing in it, we must except nothing in connection with it.
2 Corinthians 8:8. No man must be forced to give in charity, but there is no man who does not need sometimes to be admonished and stimulated to give of his own free act.
2 Corinthians 8:9. If we know aright the grace which had compassion on us, we shall proportionately know the grace which sanctifies us; for such love will fill us with shame, and draw us to true repentance, and to a corresponding love and duty. How can a knowledge of such amazing love fail to awaken within us a similar spirit of self-sacrifice? The Christian, as such, with nothing but Christ is rich.
2 Corinthians 8:10 f. It is no easy thing to admonish a brother well. Much wisdom and skill are needful to select and present those motives which are likely to produce the best result. Good works which are merely external and forced, differ essentially from those which spring from evangelical principles, and come spontaneously from the heart. Those who know what it is to work, are the ones to have something for the needy (Ephesians 4:28).
2 Corinthians 8:12. Where love is in the heart it will do nothing without consideration, and its gifts will be accepted by God and His people with pleasure. The Gospel demands only what has been received.
2 Corinthians 8:13 ff. We must help those who are in distress now, for our turn may soon come. Such a stroke is not unfrequently needful to drive indolent slumbers even from the believer’s heart. God allows men to live side by side, some with superfluities and others in want, that they may be bound together by offices of mutual kindness.
2 Corinthians 8:16. Fix not your eye entirely upon the instruments, but look beyond to the God who gives all things, and thank Him.
2 Corinthians 8:18. It is essential to Christianity that all its places should be arranged with careful foresight and order. It should provide especially that its ministers should be pure and blameless before men, and avoid everything which might awaken suspicion.
2 Corinthians 8:22. Every form of goodness, even such virtues as diligence, zeal and watchfulness, must be encouraged and thrive under the influence of Christianity.
2 Corinthians 8:23. Every Christian might be a glory to Christ, if he would have Christ formed within his heart, and would honor Christ especially in works of charity.
2 Corinthians 8:24. We should do it for the glory of God, and for the awakening of our fellow men.
2 Corinthians 8:1 ff. Divine grace is always in the heart when we are inclined to acts of charity, and those who thankfully enjoy the gift will not forget the Divine Giver.—Our own wants, and perilous times will often be an excuse for neglecting works of kindness, but God’s word reverses this, and makes them a motive for activity in them. Let any man become aware by experience of the little comfort which earthly things can give, and of the mighty aid which grace can give under every variety of condition from sources he never dreamed of, and he will never settle down under the pretence of holding together what he has, but will let it go to the relief of others, and with heartfelt simplicity commit himself to the wonderful care of God.
2 Corinthians 8:4. The name of saint, is always a sufficient motive to give liberally and cheerfully.
2 Corinthians 8:9. The whole earthly life of our Saviour was as lowly as it was different from everything which the world loves. And yet at every step He was cheered by the tokens of His heavenly Father’s love (Matthew 4:4). He thus showed that there are better treasures than can be found on earth; that we can be rich in God, but poor on earth; that one may have every bond which binds him to this world sundered and yet be rich toward God, and that our highest nobility consists in a title to a Divine inheritance.
2 Corinthians 8:10 ff. Everything we have should be looked upon as committed to us in trust that we may give to those who need it. Why should not the profitless penny laid up for a wet day be invested in the Lord’s fund (Proverbs 19:19)?
2 Corinthians 8:14 f. In an unfallen state when men loved God and one another with a pure heart, God’s gifts were enjoyed by all creatures alike. But since man has fallen and mutual envies and wrongs make it needful that each one should have his peculiar possessions and rights of property, great inequalities have been produced by the right of inheritance and other arbitrary arrangements. And though the mingling of the rich and the poor in common society has been overruled for many advantages, we should strive to prevent great inequalities in human condition, and by offices of mutual love equalize as much as possible the bounties of Providence.—How happy would it be, if every man would regard and use his earthly goods as the Israelites did their manna, rather as a Divine gift than as a product of human toil, for the supply of his absolute wants rather than for the indulgence of his passions, and for consumption along his journey rather than for a permanent accumulation!
2 Corinthians 8:21. O God, give me an honest heart, a pervading desire to perform every duty under the direction not merely of some prescriptive forms and outward letter, but of an enlightened conscience, and as nearly as possible according to that image of love which belonged originally to man, and which is renewed by grace in his heart!
2 Corinthians 8:2. Persecutions and crosses give life to the church. They impart to us that firmness and courage which are so indispensable to offices of fellowship and charity. Melancholy and gloom on the other hand contract the heart.
2 Corinthians 8:3 f. Christian love regards the gifts which it bestows, as of small consequence compared with the spiritual benefit it derives from the objects of its bounty. Hence it “prays with much entreaty.”
2 Corinthians 8:5. True love when it gives, gives as it were its whole self.
2 Corinthians 8:7. The richer one is in moral excellence, the nobler should he appear in kind consideration for all around him. Penuriousness and selfishness would bedim all his virtues, as rust will destroy the lustre of the most brilliant metal. Where real benevolence is wanting among a people, there can be no true life.
2 Corinthians 8:8. Example is far more effective than precept, and every work of love should stimulate to something higher.
2 Corinthians 8:10. The tenderer a Christian’s heart is the freer his soul should be; he needs the less your commands, and only hints and opportunities. Precise precepts are for children, but a freer choice is better for the mature youth. We have a right to expect that a congregation of Christians will be of a mature age.
2 Corinthians 8:11. The good purpose should never waver when we come to the performance. To fail in doing is especially disgraceful to him who has willed it.
2 Corinthians 8:12. Love is never so unreasonable as to demand what is impossible, but neither will it refuse compliance from some apprehension of a remote and only possible danger.
2 Corinthians 8:13 ff. The inequalities which God permits should be adjusted only in His own way. True charity is a practical recognition of man’s equality. But where inequalities exist, as they will, we should never murmur against God, even when they burn with indignation against the oppressor.—Our highest enjoyment of life depends not upon the possession of an abundance; a very moderate portion is enough.
2 Corinthians 8:20 f. Even those who are conscious of moral purity, should never be indifferent to that which might draw upon them the suspicions of their fellowmen, but strive to maintain an untarnished reputation before the world.
W. F. Besser:
2 Corinthians 8:1. “To do good and to communicate” are of grace (Hebrews 13:16). This idea stands at the head of all that the Apostle says in this section, and he thus closes the door against all foolish fancies about human merit. Every blossom of the tree of life is thus protected against the poisonous blight of self-righteousness.
2 Corinthians 8:2. This gracious source from which the stream of charity flows to the world is also a source of joy to the heart.
2 Corinthians 8:3 f. Seldom do we meet with those who give according to their ability; for we seldom find those who calculate with simplicity what their ability is; but still more uncommon are those who give beyond their power, for very uncommon is that love which seeks not its own, which cheerfully bears its own wants, and which therefore can spare anything from its means of self-gratification.
2 Corinthians 8:9. May each of us have the mind which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:9)! Our Lord’s grace in becoming poor is set before us that we may imitate Him.—The Scriptures never speak of voluntary poverty as a merit, but they rather commend that voluntary service in which a man uses what he has and of course ought to have, as though he possessed it not (1 Corinthians 7:30).
2 Corinthians 8:10 f. There is such a thing as the outward performance without the hearty willing of an act of charity especially among those who have an abundance. They may give from a sudden excitement of sympathy, from the example of the multitude, or from the necessity of their position.
2 Corinthians 8:12. Even the widow’s mite (Mark 12:43) should not be kept back from God’s treasury. If there be a willing mind it is acceptable to God and will be estimated in each case according to what it has, and not according to what it has not. God’s pleasure in the free offerings of his people is not proportioned to the extent of their possessions, for some of them have small possessions but large hearts. In such cases the willing among the rich would be more acceptable than the willing among the poor. “In God’s sight,” says Gregory the Great, “no man’s hand is without a gift who has a treasury of good desires in his heart.”—Christ’s example should be imitated by doing, not what its outward form might seem to require, but what Christ’s Spirit taught His disciples (John 13:15).
2 Corinthians 8:13 f. The system of communism and socialism which some have devised are only servile imitations of the true fellowship of the saints, and wherever they have been carried out there are no traces of that equality which Christian love produces. As a stream by its own law, must necessarily descend, so the essential spirit of Christian love inclines the heart of the rich toward them who are in want. Those inequalities of social life, in which the rich and the poor must dwell together, give employment to the love of the members of the Christian household, as they endeavor to equalize the comforts of all and to give enough to all. To this extent the community of goods among the first Christians is an authoritative example for all subsequent ages.
2 Corinthians 8:15. The wonderful arrangement which the heavenly Householder ordained for His great family in the wilderness, should be affectionately imitated by His stewards upon earth, that there may be no inequalities in the house of God. As the manna which was carefully kept in store, was soon filled with worms, so the superfluous abundance which is kept back from the supply of a brother’s wants will have no blessing.
2 Corinthians 8:19. Those who would banish from the church all such things as a choice of spiritual officers, on the ground that they are too secular and legal, may have a great appearance of spirituality, but the Scriptures know nothing of a spiritualism which proudly exalts itself above all external and necessary order, generally to introduce tyranny instead of love, and finally to degrade the body of the church to a machine in the hands of a few.
[Christian beneficence: I. Its proper incentives. 1. It is an indication of divine grace (2 Corinthians 8:1). 2. It has an admirable example commended by the Apostle himself. The Macedonians gave without solicitation (2 Corinthians 8:3), to brethren in some respects opposed to them, (Jewish Christians), when tried by deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2) and yet up to and beyond their power (2 Corinthians 8:3), with overflowing joy (2 Corinthians 8:2), without an overvaluation of what they did (2 Corinthians 8:4), and with a complete surrender of themselves (2 Corinthians 8:5). 3. It is like Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9), who, unlike the Macedonians, was rich, but gave Himself and all His wealth to enrich guilty men. 4. It is needful to our own consistency, for a clear faith, and much knowledge and power (2 Corinthians 8:7), a sincere love (2 Corinthians 8:8), and an already announced purpose (2 Corinthians 8:10), should be carried out into benevolent action. 5. It is needful to an equal distribution of providential favors (vv.13–15). II. Its needful precautions. Not to present before men a false show of goodness nor to silence vain talkers, but, 1. Against giving from wrong motives, as under authority (2 Corinthians 8:8), and without inward conviction (2 Corinthians 8:12) 2. Against intrusting the work to weak or dishonest men (vv.18–24). 3. Against plausible objectors (2 Corinthians 8:21). 4. Against unequal burdens (2 Corinthians 8:13).]
2 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Corinthians 8:3.—Rec. has ὑπέρ, but the predominance of testimony is in favor of παρά. Meyer thinks the former an explanatory gloss. [Bloomfield defends ὑπὲρ here as in 2 Corinthians 1:8, on the ground that it is the more difficult idiom and so likely to be corrected to make it purer Greek.]
2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:4.—Rec. has δέξασθαι ἡμᾶς, but it was unquestionably an addition, and should be thrown out.
2 Corinthians 8:5; 2 Corinthians 8:5.—Lachmann following Cod. B. has ἡλπίκαμεν instead of ἡλπίσαμεν. He also has on similar authority ἐνήρξατο instead of προενήρξατο. His authority however is quite insufficient.
2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 8:7.—Lachmann has ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐν ὑμῖν instead of ἐξ ὐμῶν ἐν ἡμῖν. His authority however is feeble, and his reading is probably an attempted amendment of the text. [He is sustained only by Cod. B with 10 cursives and the Syr. and Arm. versions and one Slav. MSS. Origen has in the Lat.: nostra in vos, and Ambrst. has: in nobis et vobis. The common reading is sustained by C. D. E. F. G. K. L. Sin. et al. It was more to the Apostles purpose to speak of the love awakened by him in the Corinthians.]
2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 8:9.—The authorities for ἡμυᾶς instead of ὐμᾶς are much the feeblest.
2 Corinthians 8:12; 2 Corinthians 8:12.—Rec. has τις after ἔχη, against the best authorities. It is an interpolation. [For ἐὰν we have ἀν in B. F. G. L. Sin., one MSS. of Chrys. and Damasc.]
2 Corinthians 8:13; 2 Corinthians 8:13.—Lachmann following B. C. and some other less important MSS. throws out δὲ after ὑμῖν. Meyer agrees with him on the ground that it was inserted to bring out the contrast with the preceding. [The authority of Sin. (1st Cor.) has since been added in favor of δὲ. Tisch. in his 7th ed. inserts it. Alford puts it in brackets.]
2 Corinthians 8:16; 2 Corinthians 8:16.—Many MSS. in some respects of importance have δόντι instead of διδόντι, but the change can be explained by an attempt to match the following aorists (Meyer). [C. also adds ἡμῖν.]
2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 8:19.—Rec. has σύν for ἐν, but it is not well sustained, and it is doubtless a gloss. [And yet it has for it D. E. F. G. K. L. and the more powerful Sin. and it is defended by Reiche and Osiander as the more free and appropriate but more uncommon word]
2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 8:19.—Rec. and Tisch. have αὐτοὐ before τοῦ κυρίου. The weight of authority however is against it. Meyer thinks it has come in by writing the τοῦ twice. [It has Sin. in its favor, with D. (2d and 3d Cor.) K. and L. the Syr., Chrys., Theodt. and Damasc. Some cursives have αὐτην.]
2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 8:19.—Rec. has ὑμῶν, but it is not well sustained, and was probably so written because ἡμῶν seemed unsuitable.
2 Corinthians 8:21; 2 Corinthians 8:21.—Rec. has προνοούμενοι, but it is rather feebly supported. Tischendorf after C. and some MSS. of less weight gives προνοούμενοι γαρ. But the best evidence is in favor of προνοοῦμεν γάρ. [Alford: “Meyer thinks that προνοούμενοι was originally a mere mistake, arising from στελλόμενοι above; and thus the γάρ which was at first retained from oversight, as in C, was at last erased. Probably προνοούμενοι was introduced from Romans 12:17, where the same words occur.” Bloomfield still defends Tischendorf’s reading, as the simplest and best confirmed by internal evidence. Wordsworth also thinks the first person plural too direct a self-condemnation.]
2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 8:24.-—Rec. has ἐνδείξασθε for ἐνδεικνύμενοι. It is doubtless a gloss. [It is sustained by C., Sin., many cursives of considerable authority and the Vulgate. Wordsworth defends it.]
2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 8:24.—Rec. has καὶ before εἰς πρόσωπον, but it is an interpolation [for it has only an ancient Slav. MS. in its favor. And yet it is edited by Griesb. and Scholz.
[Chrysostom speaks decidedly for Barnabas, as the brother mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:18, but. we have no evidence that he ever travelled with Paul after the separation mentioned in Acts 15:39, and his age and position forbid his subordination to the much younger Titus. Origen and Jerome give us a much more ancient and prevalent tradition in favor of Luke. Indeed, probabilities are all in favor of this. The use or absence of the pronoun “we” in the Acts indicate that Luke was with Paul on his first journey through Macedonia as far as Philippi (Acts 16:10-11), but not with him again until Paul returned from Troas to Philippi, when we find him accompanying Paul in his later travels (Acts 20:5, etc). It seems fair to conclude, therefore, that Luke was employed in evangelical labors in Macedonia and Greece, and thus acquired a reputation “in the Gospel” among the Macedonian Churches. Jerome tells us that Luke composed his Gospel “in. Achaiae Boeotiaeque partibus” (Cat. Ser. Ecc. c. 7). We do not thus assume that Paul had necessarily any reference to a written Gospel in our passage. Wordsworth’s idea that Paul had by inspiration a proleptic reference to the future celebrity of Luke’s written Gospel seems to us unworthy of serious defence. If all reference to a written Gospel be removed, we have no occasion to think of Mark, who was not probably Paul’s companion after his separation from Barnabas. We never read of. Apollos as under Paul’s direction or influence after Acts 19:1. Beyond Titus and Luke, then, we have no means of determining with any probability who among Paul’s company (Acts 20:4) were these deputies].
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25