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2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 8
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul extolleth the liberal contributions of the Macedonian churches for the relief of the brethren in Judea,
2 Corinthians 8:6-8 and recommendeth the like charity to the Corinthians, as well beseeming their other graces,
2 Corinthians 8:9 enforced by Christ’s example,
2 Corinthians 8:10-12 consistent with the alacrity they had already expressed therein,
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 and a precedent which might in time be of use to themselves.
2 Corinthians 8:16-24 He letteth them know the willingness of Titus to come and further this good work among them; and commendeth him to their love, together with the brethren, men of special worth, who were sent with him on the same errand.
The apostle in this chapter proceedeth to a new argument, viz. the pressing of this church to acts of charity. This is that which he here calleth
the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, putting the cause for the effect. Bounty or liberality to the poor saints and members of Christ, as such, floweth from that habit of love by which men are taught of God to love one another; for though men, from a natural goodness, or habits of moral virtue, may relieve men as men, compassionating persons in misery; yet none, from any such principle, do good to any members of the household of faith, as such; such rather feel from them the effects of their hatred, in taking what is their own from them.
In a great trial of affliction; how great the afflictions of the churches in Macedonia were, both from the Jews and pagans, may be read in Acts 16:1-40 and Acts 17:1-34. Afflictions are called trials, because under them God maketh a trial of our faith, patience, and constancy; and the devil also, ordinarily, by them trieth to draw out our lusts and corruptions.
The abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded into the riches of their liberality; God made their inward peace and joy in the Holy Ghost so to abound in them under their trials, that though they were poor, (deeply poor), yet they abounded in the riches of liberality; not ministering to the necessities of their poor brethren in proportion to their abilities, or as might have been expected from men under their circumstances, but showing themselves rich in their liberality, though poor in their estates, and as to what they had of this world’s goods.
Two things the apostle commendeth in the charity of the churches of Macedonia:
1. The quantity of their gift, which, he saith, was to their power, yea, ( on his knowledge), beyond what they were able.
2. Their freedom in the action; so as they did not need the apostle’s exhortations and arguments, but did it of themselves freely and cheerfully.
Bringing what they had freely collected amongst themselves to the apostles, and importuning them to receive it at their hands, and to take upon them the work of distributing it.
We might have hoped for something from them, though they were in that poor afflicted condition; but what they brought was much beyond what we could hope for, or expect from them. Or else this phrase may refer to what followeth: they did not only bring us their gift, but they also gave up themselves to us, to be disposed of for the good of the church, according to the will of God; for they first gave themselves up to the Lord, devoting themselves to his service and glory, and then to us, the will of God so ruling and directing them.
The same grace, in this place, signifieth no more than the same gift, or the same good work, in collecting in the church of Corinth. If by grace here be understood the grace of God, the cause is put for the effect (as we had it in the first verse); but του yeou being not here added, possibly it had been better translated gift, or free contribution; for how a minister should finish the grace of God, is hard to conceive; and the phrase is at best very hard, but he may be an instrument for completing a good work, which is done from a habit of Divine grace, by exhortations and arguments, which he may use to press the performance of it. Titus (it seemeth) had been diligent in some other places to make this collection; going to Corintlh the apostle presseth him to go on with it there also.
Though the apostle made little use of oratory in his ordinary discourses and epistles, yet he knew how to use it when it might be of probable advantage for the ends which he aimed at, viz. the glory of God, and the good of the souls that were under his care. He did not turn divinity into mere words and rhetorical flourishes; yet he made use of these sometimes, as a waiting maid to divinity. Being therefore to press upon these Corinthians this great duty of charity, he insinuateth himself into them, by telling them, that they abounded in all other spiritual habits:
Faith, by which they had both steadily assented to the truth of gospel propositions, and also received Christ.
Utterance, by which they were enabled either to speak with tongues, or to God in prayer. For to men by prophecy and exhortation.
Knowledge, both of things Divine and human. And in love to the ministers of the gospel, which, if it did not appear in all, yet it did in many of them. And from hence he fetcheth an argument to press them to be complete in this habit of grace. The force of the apostle’s argument lies, in the duty of all Christians to strive after perfection, and that natural desire, which is in all ingenuous people, to be perfect in that good of which they have a taste in less perfect degrees.
I do not speak in an imperious way, as one that commandeth you; or rather, God hath no where given an express command as to the quantum of what you should give; but the forwardness of others makes me thus speak to you, as not being willing you should in good works come behind any churches; and that I might
prove the sincerity of your love, to God, to me, and to the poor afflicted saints that are in Judea. Though God hath not directed the particular sums we should give to those that are in need, yet he hath given us general rules; That we should give as God hath prospered us, 1 Corinthians 16:2; and so as there may be some equality, as the apostle speaketh, 2 Corinthians 8:14. So, as the sincerity of our love to God dependeth in some measure upon the proportion of what we give at his command, so doth also the sincerity of our love to those poor members of Christ that are in want; that there may be a moderate supply for their want, from our abundance.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; call to mind the free love of your Lord and Master Jesus Christ, which you know, believing the gospel, which gives you a true account of it, and having in your own souls experienced the blessed effects of it:
He was rich, being the Heir of all things, the Lord of the whole creation, Hebrews 1:2, all things were put under his feet.
Yet for your sakes he became poor; yet that he might accomplish the work of your redemption, and purchase his Father’s love for you, he took upon him the form of a servant, stripped himself of his robes of glory, and clothed himself with the rags of flesh, denied himself in the use of his creatures, had not where to lay down his head, was maintained from alms, people ministering to him of their substance.
That ye through his poverty might be rich; and all this that you might be made rich, with the riches of grace and glory; rich in the love of God, and in the habits of Divine grace; which was all effected by his poverty, by his making himself of no reputation, and humbling himself. If after your knowledge of this, by receiving and believing the gospel, and experiencing this, in those riches of spiritual gifts and graces and hopes of glory which you have, you shall yet be found strait hearted in compassionating the poverty and afflicted state of his poor members, or strait-handed in ministering unto them, how will you in any measure answer this great love, or conform to this great example?
Giving to those that were in want, was matter of precept (it being what the law of God and nature did require); but giving as the Macedonians had given, not only to, but beyond, their ability, was not so. Or, possibly, the apostle’s saying,
I give my advice, doth not suppose what he advised to be no commanded duty; friends may advise us to what is our duty to do.
For, saith the apostle, this is expedient for you; for your profit, or for your honour and reputation. A precept alone ought to oblige us to this doing of the thing commanded, but the profit, credit, and honour of the action adds an edge to the duty, and layeth us under a double obligation; the first, of obedience to God; the second, of being wise for ourselves.
Who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago: the apostle proveth the expediency of it from the concern of their reputation in it; that they might not be thought to have gone backward, or to become weary of well doing, in regard they had begun this charitable work some time before.
Objection. But how cometh he here to put doing before willing (for so it is in the Greek, not only to do, but also θελειν, to will)? Some tell us these hysterologies, or putting things after which should in order be before, are usual in holy writ; but possibly it is better answered by others, that θελειν here doth not signify the mere inclination of the will, but a forwardness, (thus our translators understood it, and therefore translate it to be forward), or a spontaneous willingness, without arguments used by others to persuade them to it. So as the sense is this: You not only began to do the thing a year ago, but you did it of your own accord, without our exhortations and arguments, of your own free mind and will; so as if you should now be behind hand, it would be a reproach to you. This sense is favoured by the next verse, what he here calls a willing, he there calls a readiness to will.
Ye showed yourselves some time since free to will the thing which I am now pressing you unto, you have now opportunity to do it, and the example of other churches going before you in the doing of it; show yourselves now constant by
the doing of it; that seeing God hath given you something of this world’s goods, and that in proportions beyond your poor brethren, as you pretended a great readiness a great while since to relieve them, so you may by your performance justify that it was not all a mere pretence.
He had before directed them to give out of that which they had, that is, in a proportion to what God had blessed them with; for he tells them that it is the willing mind which God accepteth, not the quantity of the gift. God doth not require of people things not in their power, yet bare velleities, or pretended willings, are not accepted; there must be an acting according to our power to justify the sincerity of our willing mind, and men vainly pretend to will that towards the performance of which they never move. Though God requireth not of us things that are not within our power, yet he requireth of us the putting forth of our power in doing what he hath commanded us, so far as we are able; which indeed can alone justify the willingness of our mind to be more than a mere pretence. A present impotency, if contracted by our own fault, will not excuse us from the performance of those acts as to which it doth extend, to which some are bound by the just laws of God or men; but it is very unreasonable to think it should excuse as to those acts to which it doth not extend, and as to which it cannot be pleaded.
I do not press you to such proportions in giving as should make your afflicted brethren rich, and you poor.
But by an equality; but only to bring you and them to some equality, that they might not starve while you have plenty, and what you may well enough spare.
That now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want; I do not urge you to make your necessaries a supply for others’ wants; I would only have a supply for their wants out of your abundance.
That their abundance also may be a supply for your want: some by their abundance understand their aboundings in the good things of this life: they are now in distress by reason of the great famine that is in Judea, or by reason of the great storm of persecution that is there raised against Christians; yet God may turn the scales, he may send a famine in those parts where you live, and there may be plenty in Judea; then their abundance may supply your wants. Others interpret their abundance of the aboundings of their grace, which may quicken them up to pray for you, for the supply of such grace to you as you stand in need of.
That so there may be an equality, they being instruments of spiritual blessings to you, as you are instruments of temporal blessings and good things to them.
This quotation would incline us to think, that the abundance mentioned in the latter part of the former verse, as also the equality mentioned in the end of it, is rather to be understood with reference to the good things of this life, than with reference to spiritual blessings, or to temporal and spiritual put together, balancing one another to make an equality. For certain it is, that this quotation referreth to manna, which was the bread God afforded for the bodies of his people in the wilderness, though, considered typically, it is rightly by the apostle called spiritual meat, 1 Corinthians 10:3; signifying that bread which came down from heaven, which Moses could not give, as Christ tells us, John 6:32,John 6:58. These words are quoted from Exodus 16:18, though more agreeably to the Septuagint than to our translation. The history is this: The manna being fallen, the text saith, Exodus 16:17, that some gathered more, some less; but it so fell out, by the providence of God ordering it, that when they came and measured what they had gathered, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack. Now of this the apostle makes an argument to press the Corinthians to this charitable act. The force of which lies in this: As it was in the case of manna; there were some that gathered more, others that gathered less, yet all had enough; so it will be as to the riches of the world that men gather, though some gather more, and others gather less, yet men will find, that those that have gathered little, (have less estates than others), using what they have to the glory of God, and according to the Divine rule, will have no lack; and those that have gathered much, if they do not distribute it according to the will of God, will find that they have nothing over; God will shrink their heap into some equality to those whom at God’s command they would not relieve: Ecclesiastes 5:10; He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver. The wisdom of the Divine providence hath not ordained levelling, nor made all men equal in their portions of the good things of this life; but he hath willed such an equality as every one may eat, (unless he or she that will not work), either from the sweat of their own faces, or from the charity of others. Besides, nature craveth no great things, but is satisfied with a little; so that he that hath gathered little shall have no lack, if he can but moderate the excesses of his appetite; and he that hath gathered much hath nothing over, what is either necessary for himself and his family, or what he ought to part with for the relief of others at the command of God.
The apostle, by his exhortation, put Titus upon this employment of making at Corinth an extraordinary collection for the poor Christians that were in Judea; but it should seem, that when he did it, Titus let him know, that he was before resolved upon it: so as, though he went at the entreaty of the apostle, yet he went also of his own accord, having resolved upon the work before the apostle spoke to him of it. To let us know, that we are not sufficient of ourselves so much as to think one good thought, he gives
thanks to God for putting this
earnest care into the heart of Titus.
Who this other brother was, whether Luke, or Barnabas or Silas, or Apollos, or Mark, is not much material; it is plain, whoever he was, that he was a brother and a minister one who had a good repute for preaching the gospel.
And that he was chosen by the churches to go along with Paul and Titus, to carry the charity of other churches to the distressed Christians in Judea; which charity is here again called grace, for the reason before mentioned, 2 Corinthians 8:1. He declares that their end in this administration, was the glory of God, and the proof and
declaration of these Corinthians’ sincerity of brotherly love, and
ready mind to yield obedience to the will of God declared to them.
I have sent more than one as witnesses of what is done in this service, that none might reflect upon those trusted with the charity of divers churches, as if they converted any part of it to their own private use, and did not distribute it to those for whom it was given. The apostle here commendeth to all ministers and Christians, a prudent foresight of such scandalous imputations, as they may be exposed to (be their sincerity what it will) from the men of the world, who have no good will towards them; and a provision against them. Paul could have trusted Titus in the distribution of these alms, but he did not know what the world might say, had he discharged the trust alone; he therefore takes in one with him, to be a witness of his actions.
He had said the same, Romans 12:17. In both places he instructeth us, what is the great duty of all Christians, but of ministers especially, (who are as cities built upon a hill, and cannot be hid, and against whom ill men are much more ready to open their mouths, than against private Christians of a more obscure condition), viz. to provide things honest, not only in the sight of God, ( having an eye, that in our actions we do nothing which God hath forbidden us, nor omit any thing which God hath commanded us), but also looking that in our conversation we (as much as in us lies) do those things which have a good report amongst men, Philippians 4:8. For besides that we are obliged to give no offence to Jews or Gentiles, nor any way to alienate them from the ways of God, we are also obliged to do what in us lieth to win and gain them to Christ; to which, the doing of actions which they account dishonest (though, it may be, some are not so upon a strict inquiry) is no fitting mean.
This brother is uncertainly guessed at, nor is it at all material for us to know whether it were Epenetus, or Apollos, or Sosthenes, or any other; it is sufficient for us to know, that he was a brother, and one of whose diligence and faithfulness the apostle, and the churches where Paul now was, had had experience; and that he was now very ready and forward to be employed in this service, upon the apostle’s recommendation of this church unto him.
This verse contains the apostle’s credential letters, given to Titus, and the other two persons, sent about the business of making this collection in the church of Corinth. Many, in matters where the drawing of their purses is solicited and concerned, are very scrupulous and inquisitive, seeking all advantages to excuse themselves; one while pleading their own poverty, another while objecting against the state, or want, or quality of those for whom they are solicited; again, questioning whether their charity shall ever come to those persons for whom it is desired, objecting against the persons intrusted with the conveyance or distribution of it. The apostle having, therefore, before obviated some objections, he here obviateth the last mentioned, letting them know, that the persons intrusted with this service were unexceptionable persons. He calleth Titus his
partner and fellow-helper concerning them, that is, in the business of the gospel, and promoting the salvation of their souls. For the others, he tells them they were such as
the churches had thought fit to make their
messengers; so had the credit of the churches, whose messengers they were, who would not have intrusted them if they had not judged them faithful. He calleth either the churches, or them,
the glory of Christ. If the words be to be understood of the messengers. (which seemeth the fairest application of them), the meaning is, that they were instruments of the glory of Christ: or persons who, by their grace, did bring much glory to Christ. Every one that excelleth in the habits or exercise of grace, is the glory of Christ, because without Christ he can do nothing of that nature: I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me, Galatians 2:20. The acts and exercises of grace are indeed our acts, but the power by which we do them is from Christ: we glory in Christ, and by our holy conversations glorify Christ; and Christ glorieth in every pious and holy person, as God did concerning Job, Job 1:8; Job 2:3.
The chapter concludeth with an exhortation to their liberality, backed with a heap of arguments.
1. It would be an evidence of their love to God, to their afflicted brethren, and to the apostle.
2. It would be a proof of it to those messengers of the churches, and to the churches whose messengers they were.
3. It would evidence that the apostle had not, to Titus and others, boasted on their behalf in vain.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25