Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 8

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

[In this section Paul exhorts the Corinthians to proceed with the collection for the poor of the Jerusalem church. For Paul’s instructions in regard to this collection, and the reasons for it, see 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; and notes thereon.] Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia;

Verse 2

how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. [The only Macedonian churches known to us were those at Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea. The district of Macedonia had suffered in the three civil wars, and had been reduced to such poverty that Tiberius Cæsar, hearkening to their petitions, had lightened their taxes. But in addition to this general poverty, the churches had been made poor by persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:4). This poverty put their Christian character to the proof, and Paul wishes the Corinthians to know, that they may be benefited by the example, how nobly the Macedonians endured the proof. Despite their afflictions they were so filled with the grace of God that their joy abounded and worked positively in combination with their abysmal poverty, which worked negatively to manifest the extreme riches of their liberality.]

Verse 3

For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord,

Verse 4

beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints:

Verse 5

and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God. [The apostle here sets forth the liberality of the Macedonians, and shows that of their own accord, and without any entreaty on his part, they gave, not only according to their means, but even beyond their means. When he, recognizing that they were giving beyond their means, sought to restrain them, they laid siege to him with persistent entreaty, both that they might be allowed to exercise the grace of liberality which God had put in their hearts, and that they might have fellowship in so worthy a work as ministering to the needs of God’s people. The apostle, knowing their poverty, had hoped for but little from them, but they had exceeded all his expectations, for (and here was the secret of their liberality) they had surrendered their will to the will of God, so that before attempting to give their money they had first given themselves to the Lord, and to the apostle as the Lord’s servant.]

Verse 6

Insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he had made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace also. [Inspired by the example of the Macedonians, Paul was moved to exhort Titus to return to Corinth, that having begun the work of gathering an offering from the church there, he might continue until the Corinthians made a liberal offering.]

Verse 7

But as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

Verse 8

I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love. [Paul here speaks of liberality as a grace or gift of the Spirit. Paul testifies that the Corinthians abounded in spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). He here reminds them of some of these prominent gifts, and exhorted them to add thereto the gift of liberality, and to make it conspicuous among the other gifts by its perfection. He does not command them to give, for the very virtue or value of giving lies in its spontaneity, but, using the case of the Macedonians as an example or means of comparison, he measures or tests the love of the Corinthians by it.]

Verse 9

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich. [In making liberality the test of love, Paul is reminded of that supreme love of Christ and the test which it endured. The grace of liberality in Jesus caused him to lay aside his glory, and those other attributes of his divinity which were not compatible with his being made flesh, and took upon him our poor and despised humanity, that he might enrich it with all that he had surrendered. The words here should be compared with Philippians 2:5-11 . What Christ gave up for us becomes to us a criterion for giving. The love which promoted such a sacrifice should constrain us to sacrifice for others.]

Verse 10

And herein I give my judgment: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will. [I do not, as I have said, command you to give, but I think that, having undertaken the work, you should complete your collection. If it was a mere matter of doing, I would command you, but, as it is a matter of willing, I can only advise you, therefore I do advise you to willingly give (2 Corinthians 9:7). As Paul wrote soon after the beginning of the Jewish year, the phrase "a year ago" might mean only a few months. But the mention of this collection in Paul’s first Epistle shows that the Corinthians had had it in mind for more than six months.]

Verse 11

But now complete the doing also; that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be the completion also out of your ability.

Verse 12

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. [As you once had the willingness to give, let your will perfect itself in doing, and take up the collection according to your ability to give, for if a man is willing to give, God accepts the gift, not valuing it according to its magnitude, but according to the proportion which it bears to the means in the possession of the giver.]

Verse 13

For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed;

Verse 14

but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality [The apostle did not take money from the Corinthians for the purpose of impoverishing them and enriching the church at Jerusalem: his idea was that the abundance enjoyed by the Corinthians might be withdrawn from their side of the scales and placed in the Jerusalem side, so that the scales might balance--not a literal balancing, but such a one as would insure that those at Jerusalem would not suffer because of their poverty. And he did this with the expectation and understanding that whenever conditions were reversed, those at Jerusalem would donate their superfluity to the support of Corinth. That such equality is approved of God, was shown by the manner in which he meted out his manna, as appears by the citation in the next verse]:

Verse 15

as it is written [Exodus 16:17-18], He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack. [In the gathering of the manna some of the Israelites were able to find more than the others, but when they came to measure what they gathered, God’s providence so intervened and ordered that each found he had an omer. Now that which God effected by irresistible law under the old dispensation, he was now seeking to effect under the new dispensation through the gracious influence of brotherly love. Our differences in ability make it inevitable that some shall surpass others in the gathering of wealth; but as selfishness gives place to Christian love, the inequality in earthly possessions will become more even.]

Verse 16

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

Verse 17

For he accepted indeed our exhortation; but being himself very earnest, he went forth unto you of his own accord. [The apostle thanks God that he had given to Titus the same desire to benefit the Corinthians which animated Paul himself, so that Titus not only accepted the apostle’s exhortation to go back to Corinth and induce them to take up the collection, but was even ready of his own accord to undertake the work.]

Verse 18

And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches [Baynes, in his "Horæ Lucanæ," argues very conclusively that this was Luke. He was at Philippi about this time, and was among those who accompanied Paul from Macedonia (or perhaps Corinth) to Jerusalem (Acts 20:2-6). The phrase "In the gospel" can hardly be taken as indicating that at this time Luke had written his Gospel, but the Gospel which he wrote is evidently not the work of a day. No doubt at this time Luke was so versed in the gospel history as to be fittingly described by the words here used by Paul];

Verse 19

and not only so, but who was also appointed by the churches to travel with us in the matter of this grace, which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and to show our readiness [Paul is commending those whom he sent to gather the collections. Luke’s primary commendation is his general character revealed in his love for the gospel facts; his further qualification is his appointment by the churches in Macedonia to assist in this very work. He had resided in Macedonia for some six years, or since Paul had first come to Philippi, and so was well known and fully trusted by the Macedonians. He was appointed that the glory of Christ might not be tarnished by any suspicion that the money was raised for selfish purposes, and that Paul’s zeal to raise the money might not be regarded with evil surmises]:

Verse 20

avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us:

Verse 21

for we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. [Paul welcomed the appointment of assistance in this work, for their co-operation lifted him above suspicion, which was according to his desire, for he wished not only to have a good character in the sight of God, but also a fair reputation among men.]

Verse 22

And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times proved earnest in many things, but now much more earnest, by reason of the great confidence which he hath in you. [As to this third party, Alford well says, "Every possible person has been guessed." There is no means of determining who it was. Paul’s words show that he had been often used by the apostle because of his earnestness, and that he was employed in this work because he evidently knew and had great confidence in the Corinthians.]

Verse 23

Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and my fellow-worker to you-ward; or our brethren, they are the messengers of the churches, they are the glory of Christ.

Verse 24

Show ye therefore unto them in the face of the churches the proof of your love, and of our glorying on your behalf. [As a final commendation, and as one calculated to stop the mouths of all objectors, Paul describes Titus as a partner with himself in raising the contribution of Corinth, and he describes the other two who went with Titus as not only messengers of the churches in this behalf, but as men whose daily life glorified the Master whom they served. In view, therefore, of the fitness of those whom he sent to them, Paul asks the Corinthian church to raise the collection under their direction as an evidence of the general benevolence of their disposition, and as a proof that he spoke the truth when he boasted of their liberality.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.