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The Historical Part of this Chapter, is in relation to the Provision Paul recommended, for the poor Saints in the Church. He speaks sweetly of Christ, and shews the Fulness, and Suitability of the Lord, to his People.
(1) Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; (2) How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. (3) For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; (4) Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (5) And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. (6) Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. (7) Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. (8) I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. (9) For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
The Apostle opens the Chapter with a very high commendation of the liberality of the Churches of Macedon, which is Philippi. And to be sure, what he saith of those people, gives one a very delightful idea, how truly the grace of Jesus must have wrought upon their minds. But Paul shows the foundation of all that love, and zeal, when tracing it to the source: they first had given themselves to the Lord, and therefore, they might well give of their substance, or even if needful, the whole of their substance, to the Lord's poor family. I do entreat the Reader to attend to this, for it is in my view most interesting. Neither do I find in the whole Bible, anything which throws a clearer light, on what may be called the true spirit of the Gospel. If God the Holy Ghost, when regenerating my fallen nature, opened to my spiritual apprehension, a full sense, of the nothingness of everything out of Christ; and of the fulness, and all-sufficiency, in Christ; so as to make me out of love with all but Jesus; and Jesus, and his people, became all that was dear to me: what is there, after such views, that a child of God could count dear, or withhold from Christ; in his distressed members?
I cannot do a single act, either of praise, or of service, to shew my attachment to Christ. My praise, cannot add to his glory, no more than my tears could swell his sea. And the services of men, or angels, do not benefit God. So that Christ in his Person, is beyond the reach of all receiving. But Christ in his poor members, is capable of receiving, even the cup of cold water; and hath declared, that the act, when done with an eye to Him, is costly in his view. But it should seem, that notwithstanding everyone who reads his Bible knows this, and believes it; yet perhaps no man, from the beginning of the world to this hour, ever did, fully, and upon every occasion, act up to it. At least, I plead guilty for myself; I have not. And I would go on pilgrimage many a mile, to see the follower of Jesus who hath; and who in every circumstance of life, hath been invariably acting up to this principle!
But, when the Reader hath carried this doctrine to the highest extent the imagination can conceive; and pictured to his view some beautiful representation of a child of God, beholding Christ in everyone of his members, and acting up to that view, in taking part in all their distresses; let him call off his attention, to what the Apostle hath here said, of Jesus himself; and lose all recollection of tenderness, and compassion, in the members of Christ to one another, in contemplating the Son of God, as Paul hath represented him. Ye know (saith he) the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor; that ye, through his poverty, might be rich. Reader! pause over the wonderful account! We were before considering, the greatness of that man's mind, that in the consciousness of the love of Christ, and an interest in Christ, could give of his substance to any extent, to the relief of any of Christ's family; and take no account of his possessions, from an attention to Christ and his people. But when we look at Jesus, who though Lord of all, became servant of all: who though Lord of heaven and earth, and rich beyond all calculation of riches, yet made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant; and became poor, that his redeemed, through his poverty, might be made rich: this is a precedent unheard of, an example unparalleled; and which leaves at an infinite distance, all that can be mentioned of liberality, in the whole creation of Genesis and can be said of none but Him, who is One with the Father over all God blessed forevermore. Amen!
Reader! do not hastily pass away from the wonderful subject. Think of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was rich. Yes! so rich, that as God, all divine perfections were his, in common with the Father, and the Holy Ghost. And, as God-Man, in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. All government His, in his Universal Empire and Dominion; through all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory. All things were made by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. All these were, and are, His by right, by possession, essentially and truly his own, underived, eternal, and unchangeable. Now behold his vast humiliation. Though he was thus rich, beyond the utmost imagination of riches; yet, for our sakes, he became poor. So poor, that he had not where to lay his head. He was despised and rejected of men, a man or the man of sorrows; as if, and which was in reality the case, no sorrow, nor all the sorrows of the human state, could be brought into comparison with his, Lamentations 1:12 .
And all this, that his people through his poverty might be made rich. And, what tends to enhance the mercy still more, is the persons for whom this love of Christ was thus shewn. Not angels, nor holy men, but sinners, and those of the deepest dye; yea, enemies of God, by wicked works, who had done no one thing to merit divine favor; but done everything to merit divine displeasure. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us! Reader! do you know this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Many read of it. Many talk of it. But Paul tells the Church of the Corinthians, that they knew it: that is, God the Holy Ghost had taught them to know it, in the blessed effect of it upon their souls, by regeneration: by which they knew the truth of it: and their interest in it. For having been once desperately poor, and ruined by sin; they knew themselves now immensely rich, in Christ, both my Reader know it, and from the self-same cause?
And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. (11) Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. (12) For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. (13) For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: (14) But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: (15) As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
I pass over everything in these verses of a personal nature, either as referring to the Corinthians, to whom Paul was writing, or of himself, or of any other, to attend to a sweet view, which is given, us in one of these verses, respecting the Church of God in the Wilderness; and indeed the Church of God in the present hour, both as it concerns God's providences, and God's grace.
The Apostle, in recommending an equality of contribution to the poor saints, according to their respective ability, refers to a well known fact in the Church's history, which was little short of a daily miracle, in the Israelite's food. The Lord rained down upon them manna from Heaven: and which they were commanded to gather, new and pure every morning, the Lord's day excepted: But such was the wonderful ordination of a wonder-working God, that when each man came to measure, what he had gathered, and to mete it with an omer, he that gathered much, had nothing over, and, he that gathered little, had no lack, Exodus 16:18 . Now this was in the very nature of things, a matter impossible; had not the hand of the Lord been in it. But hence arose several weighty instructions.
First: it preached Christ in his providence. It is blessed to behold our Lord as the glorious Head of all things, in a way of dominion; while we more especially contemplate him in a more dear, and intimate manner, as the head of union to his body the Church. He is indeed the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:22-23 . Now, it is the Lord Jesus which orders, regulates, appoints, and provides, for all his creation. To speak in the language of his own most holy word: he openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness, Psalms 145:16 . And hence in the camp of Israel, all Israel as a nation, as well as the Israel of God yea; all the mixed multitude which went up with Israel from Egypt, were supplied in this common providence, with the bread that perished, Exodus 12:37-38 . So now in like manner, there is a common providence in the dispensation of the bread of life, where all gather in common, in the mixed multitude which attend the word. Our Lord's parable of the Sower is in proof. See Matthew 13:23 and Commentary.
Secondly. It preached Christ's wisdom, in the equality of his providence. Nothing could be more in proof of the divine wisdom, that there should be no waste, in this apparently promiscuous, distribution of the manna, in the camp of Israel, than that, when all had gathered, and came to measure, he that gathered much, had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack. So that in fact there was neither want, nor superfluity. A thing impossible, speaking after the manner of men, but for a divine superintendence. And hereby the Lord taught also a sweet lesson, even to the carnal part of Israel, as well as to his spiritual Israel, both then, and now; namely, what a folly is it for a man to gather more than his wants require, which when those wants are answered, leave him literally nothing that he can either want, or use. He is like the rich fool in the Gospel, having more goods than he can consume, or that he knows what to do with; and yet not rich towards God. See Luke 12:21 and Commentary.
Thirdly. By the portion of the manna which some of the Israelites left until the morning, and which bred worms, and stank; beside thereby the Lord's honoring his Sabbath, which the manna laid up for that day, in remaining sweet and pure, became a proof of it; the Lord taught the awfulness of that conduct, which by leaving of their substance to their heirs and descendants, breed sorrow, disappointment, vexation, and trouble. Oh! who shall calculate the root of bitterness, which accumulated treasure, descending from father to son, hath planted, and brought forth its deadly fruit, in many generations. Solomon hath drawn a striking, but melancholy portrait or such characters as these: Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 .
But, fourthly, and above all by the Apostle's beautiful comment its this place of Israel's history of the Manna, gathered by them in the Wilderness; we are taught, a sweet spiritual lesson, of Christ it his grace. That Christ, the bread of life, was represented by the Manna, is too plain to need observation. But the gathering of it every morning, is not so discernible, as referring to Christ, but by his people. As Israel was never at a loss, morning by morning, for his manna: so neither are God's Israel now of Christ. And as he that made the largest gathering in the camp of Israel, found no more than he needed, when meted out to him by the omer: so the soul that gathers most largely of Christ, hath nothing to spare when his wants of Jesus are measured out to him; but he finds a grace to help in every time of need. And, in like manner, the least gatherer hath enough for his want; for the smallest portion of Christ exceeds all the desires of nature. Oh! how precious, to have a Christ to live upon, in time, and to all eternity!
(16) But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. (17) For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. (18) And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; (19) And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: (20) Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: (21) Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. (22) And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. (23) Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. (24) Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.
I would here again pass by all lesser considerations, in the several subjects suggested to the Church in these verses, to attend to one, which, according to my view, is of the highest nature, and meriting the closest regard of all the lovers of our Lord Jesus. The subject to which I refer, is opened to us in that passage, where the Apostle gives an answer to any question which might be demanded, concerning his brethren, which were the messengers of the Churches. Tell them, (saith Paul) that they are the glory of Christ.
There is an uncommon degree of blessedness, in this statement of the Apostle, concerning Jesus. And I pray the Reader's indulgence for the moment, to dwell upon it. It were easy, comparatively speaking, to conceive, how Christ is the glory of his people Israel for in every sense of the word, and in every way, Christ is the all in all to his spouse the Church. Hence, the Prophet was taught by the Holy Ghost, to tell the Church as much, when he called him, thy God, thy glory! Isaiah 60:19 . Precious Lord Jesus! thou art indeed our God, our glory, our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. And thou art, and must be so, and all this, and if possible infinitely more; that he that glorieth, may glory in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:30 . But say, thou dear Lord, how is it possible, by any way, or by any means, thy Church, in all the millions of thy people, can bring glory to thee? Surely Lord, thine Essential glory, as God, in all the divine attributes and perfections, which thou eternally possessest, in common with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, can derive no additional glory from, or by, any of thy creatures. Neither can thy Personal glory as God-man, independent of thy Church and people, be made more glorious than it is, in its own stature, by all the praises of thy intelligent creation. Neither can the accomplishment of thy office-work as God-Man-Mediator, which hath been wrought wholly by thyself, (for of all the people there was none with thee, Isaiah 63:3 .) be increased in glory, by all the Hallelujah's of thy redeemed, Will our dear Lord say then, how Christ, as Christ, is rendered glorious by his people; and in what sense it is to be understood, that the Churches are the glory of Christ?
Thy people do glorify thee, 0 Lord, Or it is her desire to glorify thee, by proclaiming thy love, thy grace, thy favor; in telling of thy salvation, from day to day; yea, in spewing forth thy praises, for that thou hast betrothed thy Church to thyself, before all worlds; redeemed her from her shameful fall, during the present time-state of her being; and in bringing her out of darkness, and the shadow of death, and breaking her bands asunder. These blessings thy people both in heaven and earth, must unceasingly proclaim, if these can tend to glorify the Lord Jesus: for the very stones of the earth might cry out, if they were silent; since Jesus, the Son of God, hath magnified the riches of his love towards his Church from everlasting, and caused his grace to shine on poor worms of the earth, whom he hath taken into union with himself, and made them Kings, and Priests, unto God, and the Father, But can these proclamations of praise, though from millions of redeemed beings, bring honor to Christ? Can the Church of Christ, on this account, he said to be Christ's glory, who hath eternal glory, which can neither receive increase, nor decrease, with the Father and the Holy Ghost inhabiting eternity: and who is One with the Father and the Holy Ghost; the King eternal, immortal, invisible; the only wise God?
But if we cannot (as indeed we cannot) add to our Redeemer's; glory, by our active praises; can it be said, that the Church of Christ is Christ's glory, when we passively receive from him, and our wants afford occasion for his giving out of his fulness, and grace for grace? Is it in this sense Paul meant to tell the Church, they were Christ's glory? It is indeed said in Scripture, that he shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied, Isaiah 63:11 . And it must be the satisfaction for the soul-travail of Christ, when redeemed receive everlasting life from him. When the Lord beholds his members regenerated front the Adam-nature of the fall, their sins pardoned, their persons justified in his blood, their nature sanctified, and made holy in his righteousness; and they themselves, brought into all the blessings of fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit, through his personal labors, sufferings, and death. These, which are the fruits of his redemption-work, must be as scripture hath stated it, to the satisfaction of Jesus when accomplished. But are these things, which are so precious to the members, precious to the Head also? And is it in this sense, we are to understand the expression of the Apostle, when he said, if our brethren be enquired of, they are the glory of Christ!
Precious Lord Jesus! (I would say for myself and Reader) Nay sure it is, that thy glory, as Son of God, in thine own eternal power and Godhead, cannot receive increase, neither suffer diminution. For thy nature, and essence, being infinite, and unchangeable; so must be thy glory. To this, nothing can be added, or taken from. But if the Son of God, in his infinite condescension, hath taken into union with himself his Church; (as that he hath to the praise of his grace and our joy most mercifully done,) may we not hope, that the felicity of the members, is the glory of the Head? And, though in thy Person, there is such an infinite fulness, as can receive no increase; (for in thee dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily: Colossians 2:9 ), yet in thine headship, and office-character, our Lord may he glorified, whenever his members are made happy, from his communications! Is it then in this sense the Apostle spake, when he said, the Church is the glory of Christ? And did the Prophet mean the same, when he said: Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end? Isaiah 9:7 . Reader! if it be so, think what a strength it gives our faith, to look up to all the Persons of the Godhead, for all the promised blessings of the Covenant: in that the child of God, is not only made happy in receiving all grace from Christ; but Christ is made glorious, in giving out all blessings to his people. And while the members of Christ's mystical body, derive everything of blessedness from him, their glorious Head; Jesus receives honor from them in all his relative offices and characters. If our brethren (saith Paul) be enquired of, say, they are the messengers of the Churches, and the glory of Christ.
What a lovely view those Churches of Macedon exhibit, of the real love of Christ, in their hearts, in their liberal attention to the wants of Christ's members. Not only in proportion to their power, but beyond their power, the Apostle testifieth, of their willingness to help them. But Reader! while paying all due respect to those faithful members of Christ's body; look beyond all and every other consideration of charity, to contemplate that unequalled grace of Jesus, who throws back at an infinite distance, all comparison.
Blessed Lord! in the sweet view of the Israelites, gathering day by day of their perishing food; let my soul learn, how to gather every day, and all the day, of that bread, which endureth to everlasting life. Precious Jesus! he that gathers the least of thee, hath that which empires cannot purchase. Lord! give me largely of thy fulness; and even in the smallest portion, I shall have no lack.
Praises to thy great name, 0 Lord! for the sweet discovery thy servant hath here made, of thine inheritance in thy Church. While thou art all the glory of thy people, they are thy glory in giving out of thy fulness. And while they are made everlastingly blessed, and happy in thee, thou art everlastingly glorified in their salvation. Now do I see a beauty in that Scripture, which God the Holy Ghost makes blessed to my view. Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord; and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Amen,
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28