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2 Corinthians 8:1-5
The grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.
The grace of liberality
I. True liberality is a Christian grace--as truly a grace as knowledge, diligence, and love. What light this throws upon the whole subject of church finances!
1. Failing to see that liberality is a grace, we have made it a burden. As a grace in the heart, liberality struggles for an outlet in acts of benevolence; as a duty or a burden, it needs to be urged. Hence all this claptrap machinery for raising church money.
2. This grace, like any other, may be obtained--
(1) By consecration. No man is prepared to receive it until he has “first given himself to the Lord.” Paul enforces such a consecration (2 Corinthians 8:9).
(2) By prayer. What reflections would arise in the mind of one praying for the grace of liberality! What views of responsibility would the Spirit of all grace flash upon his mind! How would the claims of self dwindle into insignificance in the presence of the claims of Christ.
II. This grace leads men to give according to their ability; yea, beyond.
1. Neither the scanty income of “deep poverty,” nor the increasing demands of accumulating wealth, nor the claims of fashionable life, will prevent such a man from being liberal “according to that which he hath,” etc. He will never begin to retrench at the church, because he knows that God can retrench upon him in a thousand ways.
2. The reason “God loves a cheerful giver” is because such giving can only flow from grace, and such giving is always a means of grace. Instead of a collection dissipating all religious feeling, our “joy” ought “to abound unto liberality.” If liberality is a Christian grace, and giving is a means of grace, why should not a man feel as religious while giving as he does while singing and praying?
3. Ordinary poverty is generally considered a lawful excuse for not giving. But “the deep poverty of the Macedonians abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). The offering is sanctified by its motive and spirit. It is not the intrinsic value of the contribution, but the love of the contributor and his relative ability to give, that makes the contribution acceptable to God.
4. There are three classes who fail to do their duty--
(1) Those who give largely, but not “according to their means”; if they did, they would give hundreds instead of tens, and thousands instead of hundreds.
(2) Those who give nothing because they are too poor.
(3) A class made up of rich and poor, whose religious joy is so seraphic that it always soars above the financial wants of the Church. They are always trembling lest the pastor should drive all religion out of the Church by taking so many collections! blow, what is wanting in all these classes is this grace of liberality. This would lead the rich and the poor to give “according to their means.”
III. The grace of liberality, like any other, may be cultivated (2 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 16:1).
1. Here is systematic beneficence. The grace of liberality needs exercise just as much as faith and love. Besides, the Churches need money now--every week. This systematic way of giving by weekly instalments keeps the duty of self-denial before the mind. Such a system of beneficence would soon develop the grace of liberality and increase the funds of the Church to a point where she would have an ample fund “laid by” all the time, ready to meet all the claims at home and abroad!
2. Those who wait to give largely, when they do give, usually let the grace of liberality die for the want of exercise; so that, when the time comes when they are able to give largely, they have neither the grace nor the desire to do so. And those who give but little or nothing through life, and give largely when they come to die, rarely ever give enough to pay the interest on what they ought to have given under a life course of systematic beneficence.
3. It is only those who enjoy the grace of liberality as a growing principle in the soul that can realise the saying of Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (J. M. Bolland, A. M.)
The grace of liberality
The Christians of the Jerusalem Church were in sore trouble. A feeble folk at the best, they were now reduced to an extremity of famine. At this juncture the advantage of Christian fellowship was brought into clear light. Paul and Barnabas took it upon themselves, by Divine appointment, to call upon the more favoured brethren for help (Acts 2:27-30). They received prompt contributions from the Churches in Achaia, also from those in Macedonia (Romans 15:26). A strong appeal was made to the churches of Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1). The congregation at Rome, made up largely of Gentiles, some of whom were wealthy and influential, was exhorted to do its part (Romans 15:27). And in the Scripture before us the matter is presented to the Corinthian Christians in a way to stir their deepest and most substantial sympathy. It was a splendid opportunity for displaying the genuineness of Christian unity. In appealing to the Corinthian Church the apostle makes mention of the liberality of their brethren in Macedonia, hoping thus to provoke them to good works. At the very time when these Macedonians were sending their gifts to Jerusalem, they themselves were groaning under a twofold yoke of poverty and persecution. Nevertheless they furnished forth a pattern of benevolence. First, they gave voluntarily. They gave with spontaneity, with good cheer, with abandon. They gave not as a deep well gives to the toiler at the windlass, but as a fountain gives to the wounded hart that stands panting at its brink. Second, they gave largely--“to their power, yea, and beyond it.” Self-denial is the first step in consecration. The virtue of sacrifice lies largely in the cost of it. Third, they gave from principle. The beginning of their generosity and its motive and inspiration lay in this, that “they first of all gave their own selves to the Lord.” After that everything was easy. Let us note some of the reasons why God’s people, “as they abound in everything, in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in diligence, and in brotherly love, should abound in this grace also.”
I. Because giving is a grace. It is not a mere adjunct or incident of the Christian life, but one of its cardinal graces. Whether a disciple of Christ shall make a practice of giving or not is no more an open question than whether he shall pray or not. The rule of holy living is never selfishness, but always self-forgetfulness. This was the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and this must be the disposition of those who follow him.
II. It is in the line of common honesty. We are stewards of the gifts of God. The silver and the gold are His.
III. Giving is a fruitful source of happiness.
IV. Giving is a means of getting. Let us observe the testimony of Scripture on this point. “Honour the Lord with thy substance and with the first-fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”
V. This is the noblest end of money-marking. Some men get to hoard. Others get to spend. Still others get to give.
VI. Our giving is God’s method for the conversion of the world. It is God’s purpose that all nations should be evangelised. Our wealth must furnish the sinews of the holy war.
VII. The example of Christ teaches us to give. He was the greatest of givers. He gave everything He had for our deliverance from sin and death. (D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-24 mention was made of a contribution which the Corinthians were systematically to store up for the poor brethren at Jerusalem. Paul here renews the subject and records the largeness of the sum contributed by the churches of Macedonia, and urges the Corinthians to emulate their example. Note--
I. The nature of Christian liberality.
1. It was a grace bestowed from God (verses 1, 6). Now there are many reasons which make liberality desirable.
(1) Utility. By liberality hospitals are supported, missions established, social disorders healed. But St. Paul does not take the utilitarian ground; though in its way it is a true one.
(2) Nor does he take the ground that it is for the advantage of the persons relieved (verse 13). He takes the higher ground: it is a grace of God. He contemplates the benefit to the soul of the giver.
2. It was the work of a willing mind (verse 12).
(1) The offering is sanctified or made unholy in God’s sight by the spirit in which it is given.
(2) A willing mind, however, is not all. “Now therefore perform the doing of it.” Where the means are, willingness is only tested by performance. Test your feelings and fine liberal words by self-denial. Let it be said, “He hath done what he could.”
3. It was the outpouring of poverty (verse 2). As it was in the time of the apostle, so it is now. It was the poor widow who gave all. Generally a man’s liberality does not increase in proportion as he grows rich, but the reverse.
(1) Let this circumstance be a set-off against poverty. God has made charity easier to you who are not the rich of this world.
(2) Let it weaken the thirst for riches. Doubtless riches are a good; but remember that the Bible says, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare.”
4. It was exhibited to strangers. Gentile and Jew were united to each other by a common love. There is nothing but Christianity which can do this. Think of the old rancours of the heathen world. Philanthropy is a dream without Christ. Why should I love the negro or the foreigner? Because we are one family in Christ.
II. Its motives.
1. Christian completeness (verse 7). It is the work of Christ to take the whole man, and present him a living sacrifice to God.
2. Emulation. Compare verses 1 to 8 and Romans 11:11. Ordinary, feeble philanthropy would say, “Emulation is dangerous.” Yet there is such a feeling in our nature. So St. Paul here took advantage of it, and exhorts the Corinthians to enter the lists in honourable rivalry. Emulation, meaning a desire to outstrip individuals, is a perverted feeling; emulation, meaning a desire to reach and pass a standard, is the parent of all progress and excellence. Hence, set before you high models. Try to live with the most generous, and to observe their deeds.
3. The example of Christ (verse 9).
(1) Christ is the reference for everything. But
(2) it is in spirit, and not in letter, that Christ is our example. The Corinthians were asked to give money for a special object. But Christ did not give money, He gave Himself. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The grace of liberality
I. Giving is a Christian grace. It is a recognition of that great duty of service which is obligatory throughout the kingdom of Christ.
II. Naturally enough, then, we find giving treated in this passage as the duty of all. The churches of Macedonia in their deep poverty are commended for their giving. Giving is of as wide obligation as the observance of the Sabbath. Much the same reasons could be urged for excusing the poor from the observance of the Sabbath as from the duty of giving. The Sabbath might be transmuted into money. The poor might use the day to earn additional wages.
III. A third lesson of this paragraph is that giving should be voluntary and cheerful. The Macedonian churches are here commended that they gave of their own accord and besought Paul with much entreaty to accept their gift for the needy at Jerusalem.
IV. Giving, we are to notice, is also an act of fellowship. The Macedonians in sending their contribution to the Christians at Jerusalem were enjoying “fellowship in the ministering to the saints.” Fellowship is an interflow of hearts and a cooperation with others. Now giving is one of the simplest and easiest methods of expressing fellowship. It is at the outset a recognition of the brotherly relation of man to man. It is an effort to share the burdens of others. We are filled with amazement at the discoveries of modern science. To-day power can be sent along a wire through our streets and into the country and utilised wherever we please. It is a blessing of much the same character that our gifts can fly here and there over the whole world as a force to relieve distress and elevate character. We cannot always go ourselves.
V. We must recognise Christian giving as the outcome of personal consecration. The wonderful liberality of the Macedonian Christians was due to the fact that “first they gave their own selves to the Lord.” A friend lately received the gift of a house; what did that include? The rent, of course, that certain tenants were paying for the use of the house. The original owner, after he had given this house to another, could no longer collect the rents for himself. If we have truly given ourselves up to God in a complete consecration, that includes anything and everything of ours. If we have property, it is His; time, abilities, influence--all are His.
VI. The passage declares that giving is a proof of love. It is no trial to us to advance the cause of Christ by our gifts if we love the Lord Jesus supremely.
VII. The passage urges us to give in imitation of Christ. The apostle reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.
VIII. Once more let us notice that giving is measured by willingness, not by amount. “If the readiness is there,” wrote the apostle, “it is acceptable according as a man hath and not according as he hath not.” We are often discouraged by the smallness of our gifts, but we need not be. (Addison P. Foster.)
Ancient charity the rule and reproof of modern
A puny faith begets a sickly charity. In nothing is the faith of our day set in stronger contrast with the faith of the first Christians than in this its most essential fruit. You are accustomed for the confirmation of your faith, your discipline, your worship, to go back to the first ages and to find your pattern there. Are you as ready to go back to them to learn the rule and practice of true charity? The gospel is the revelation of the perfect will of God, made, once for all, to all mankind. It has but one rule, then, for every place and for all ages. Until self is conquered nothing is accomplished. “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price,” is the first lesson in the Christian school. How can it be otherwise? When did love ever seek its own? The case of the Macedonian Christians teems with instruction for us all. The first reception of the gospel was visited everywhere with persecution. Saint was synonymous with sufferer. Wherever the storm raged highest, love was the most lavish of its treasures. Distance made no difference. The “one faith” made for all “one heart.” At this time the poor Christians at Jerusalem were the objects of especial interest. The apostle’s tender heart yearned to his brethren of the flesh, and, writing to the Church at Corinth, he pleads their cause with all his own inimitable eloquence. He writes from Macedonia. Compared with that at Corinth, the churches in this province at Philippi, at Thessalonica, at Berea, were poor in this world’s goods, But they were “rich in faith.” He holds them up, therefore, as an ensample to their rich brethren, “to provoke them to good works.”
1. That a charitable disposition is the gift of God--“the grace of God bestowed on the churches”--who sends His Holy Ghost, and pours into all hearts that will receive it, “that most excellent gift of charity.”
2. That it is a source of pure and rich enjoyment to its possessor, “the abundance of their joy,” the apostle calls it, “twice blessed,” in the phrase of our great poet.
3. That its exercise, where it exists, is not repressed by poverty, not even “deep poverty, in a great trial of affliction.”
4. That it waits not to be asked, but is “willing of itself.”
5. That its tendency is always to exceed, rather than to fall short, of the true measure of ability, overflowing in the riches of its liberality, not only “according to” its power, but “beyond” its “power.”
6. That it counts the opportunity of exercise a favour done to it, “praying us, with much entreaty, that we would receive the gift.”
7. That this will only be so when the heart has been surrendered, as “living sacrifice,” and then will always be, first giving “their own selves to the Lord, and” then “to us, by the will of God.” (Sermons by American Clergymen.)
This is as much a doctrine as any taught in God’s Word, although it may not be so popular as some others.
I. How did the Macedonians give?
1. In affliction.
2. In poverty.
3. In self-abnegation. They gave more than they were able to give.
4. In willingness. Not grudgingly--“Praying us with much entreaty.”
5. Beyond expectation--“Not as we hoped.”
II. To whom did they give?
1. To Corinth; that was Home Missions.
2. To Jerusalem; that was Foreign Missions.
III. What did they give?
1. Their own selves.
2. Their money.
IV. Why did they give?
1. They were moved by what Christ had sacrificed for them.
2. They “gave to God.” (Homilist.)
Money is usually a delicate topic to handle in the Church, and we may count ourselves happy in having two chapters from the pen of St. Paul, in which he treats at large of a collection. We see the mind of Christ applied in them to a subject that is always with us, and sometimes embarrassing; and if there are traces here and there that embarrassment was felt even by the apostle, they only show more clearly the wonderful wealth of thought and feeling which he could bring to bear upon an ungrateful theme. Consider only the variety of lights in which he puts it, and all of them ideal. “Money,” as such, has no character, and so he never mentions it. But he calls the thing which he wants “a grace,” “a service,” “a communion in service,” “a munificence,” “a blessing,” “a manifestation of love.” The whole resources of Christian imagination are spent in transfiguring, and lifting into a spiritual atmosphere, a subject on which, even Christian men are apt to be materialistic. We do not need to be hypocritical when we speak about money in the Church; but both the charity and the business of the Church must be transacted as Christian, and not as secular affairs. (J. Denney, B. D.)
2 Corinthians 8:2-4
How that in a great trial … the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty.
The poverty of the Macedonians
The condition of Greece in the time of Augustus was one of desolation and distress. It had suffered severely by being the seat of the successive civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, between the Triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and, lastly, between Augustus and Antonius. Besides, the country had never recovered from the long series of miseries which had succeeded and accompanied its conquest by the Romans; and between those times and the civil contest between Pompey and Caesar, it had been again exposed to all the evils of war when Sylla was disputing the possession of it with the general of Mithridates The provinces of Macedonia and Achaia, when they petitioned for a diminution of their burdens, in the reign of Tiberius, were considered so deserving of compassion that they were transferred for a time from the jurisdiction of the Senate to that of the Emperor (as involving less heavy taxation). (T. Arnold, D. D.)
The best law of liberality
“It has been frequently wished by Christians,” says the late Dr. Payson, of America, “that there were some rule laid down in the Bible, fixing the proportion of their property which they ought to contribute to religious uses. This is as if a child should go to his father, and say, ‘Father, how many times in the day must I come to you with some testimonial of my love? How often will it be necessary to show my affection for you?’ The father would of course reply, ‘Just as often as your feelings prompt you, my child, and no oftener.’ Just so, Christ says to His people, ‘Look at Me, and see what I have done and suffered for you, and then give Me just what you think I deserve. I do not wish anything forced.’” (Christian Herald.)
2 Corinthians 8:5
.. first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
The best donation
Here we see Paul disappointed, though he was never discontented. “This they did, not as we hoped.” Paul’s disappointment was concerning money, although that was a thing the apostle never cared about at all. But his expectations were not realised on this occasion because they were exceeded. He had only hoped that they would give a little, for they were not rich people; but their liberality was up to the utmost limit of their power, “yea, and beyond their power.” Our gifts are not to be measured by their amount, but by the surplus kept in our own hand. Not only did these Macedonian believers give much, but “they were willing of themselves.” The apostle did not have to organise a “Fancy Fair” to wheedle the money out of them, nor even to urge them to their duty. But these Macedonians gave more than money: they gave themselves. This was the best donation; better even than the two mites of the poor widow. She gave her living; but they gave their life.
I. These people are an example to us. The great works of the world are not done by the great people of the world; but as the tiny coral insects, patiently working unseen, produce large results, it often happens that the weakest brethren bestow large blessings. They are an example because--
1. They followed the right order. They did the first thing first. “They first gave their own selves to the Lord.” It spoils even good things when you reverse the right order, and put the cart before the horse. Did you ever hear of the servant who first dusted the room and then swept it? This is the first thing, because--
(1) It is of the first importance. If you are Christ’s, join Christ’s people; but the first thing is, see to it that you are Christ’s. Everything else is a poor second in comparison with this.
(2) It makes the second thing valid. If it does not come first, the second is good for nothing. The man who gives himself to the people of God, before giving himself first to God, does wrong to God, to the Church, and to himself, and is thus a threefold offender.
(3) It leads to the second. These Macedonians would never have given themselves to the Church if they had not first given themselves to God; for in those days to join the Church meant shame, persecution, and frequently death.
2. They were free in what they did. They “first gave.” The only pressure put upon them was that which made them willing in the day of God’s power. The religion which is pressed by surroundings, friends, or the demands of society is not worth having. They gave themselves, also, wholly and unreservedly. This is proved by the fact that their money followed the gift of their own selves.
3. They acted in obedience to “the will of God.”
(1) They felt that it was right to give themselves to the Lord first, because Christ had bought them with His blood. This is the apostle’s argument (chap. 14, 15).
(2) They felt the same thing about giving themselves to the apostle, and the Church. It is the will of God that you who love Him should be numbered with His people. It is for your comfort, growth, preservation. You owe something to the Church. By its means the preaching of the gospel has been kept alive in the world. Through its preaching you have been converted.
(3) So also in regard to helping the poor. Christ is the poor man’s truest Friend; and those who give themselves to Christ must give of their substance to the poor, and thus lay up “treasure in heaven.”
II. Let us follow their example.
1. Give yourself to the Lord. Do not wait to make yourself better, or to feel better. Until you have given yourself to Him, He cannot accept any other offering. Unless you are really Christ’s, you cannot be truly happy. Nor can we be safe. Only His power can save us from our adversary, the devil. Some of us gave ourselves to Christ forty years ago, some thirty; some twenty; some ten; some only quite lately. Well, do you wish to run back?
2. Give yourself to the Church.
(1) Not that you will find it perfect. If I had waited till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and if I had found one, it would not have been perfect after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.
(2) How else is there to be a Church in the earth? If it is right for any one to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for every one, and then the testimony of God would be lost to the world.
(3) It is due to our fellow-workers. Some of them are fainting for want of helpers. It is a hot autumn day, and a man is reaping; the sweat pours from his face, and he fears that he will never get to the end of the field; and all the time you are pleasantly occupied leaning over a gate, and saying to yourself, “That is an uncommonly good labourer.” Or, perhaps, instead of doing that, you are saying, “Why, he does not handle the sickle properly! I could show him a better way of reaping.” The work of the Church is generally left to a few earnest folk. Is that right?
(4) Think again, what a lack of fellowship there will be if those who have given themselves to the Lord do not also give themselves to His people. Possibly you ask, “What should I gain by joining the Church?” That is a miserable question to put. Do you know how much you will lose by not joining the Church? You will lose--
(a) The satisfaction of having done your Lord’s will.
(b) The joy of fellowship with your brethren.
(c) The opportunity of helping by your example the weak ones of the flock.
3. Give yourself both to the Lord and to His Church. Put the two together, and thus begin to place yourself wholly in the line of God’s will. Do this--
(1) That you may bear witness for Christ. Here are certain people who, with all their faults, are the true followers of Christ. Join them, and say, “I, too, am a follower of Christ.” That is what church membership means.
(2) To spread the gospel. Everybody is needed in this service to-day; for the clear light of the gospel is sadly obscured in many places.
(3) To maintain the Church. Nothing in the world is dearer to God’s heart than His Church; therefore, being His, let us also belong to it, that by our prayers, gifts, labours, we may strengthen it.
(4) That you may grow in love, and continue to prove your love to your Lord and His Church. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Dedication of ourselves to God
I. To consider what is necessarily supposed in the exercise here mentioned.
1. We would observe that this giving of ourselves to the Lord must certainly suppose our having cordially believed on and embraced the Lord Jesus Christ, with our whole heart and soul, in all His saving offices and relations.
2. It supposeth our having, by grace, made a free and hearty choice of God in Christ as our God and portion (Psalms 73:26; Psalms 16:1).
3. It supposeth our hearty approbation and embracing of God’s well-ordered Covenant (2 Samuel 23:5).
II. What may be implied in giving ourselves unto the Lord. And on this we would notice--
1. That there are some things which cannot, strictly speaking, be said to be this giving of ourselves to the Lord.
2. What of ourselves we are to give unto the Lord; and--
3. Upon what grounds and principles we should thus give ourselves unto the Lord.
1. It cannot properly be said that we can, by any act or disposition of our own, make ourselves to be God’s creatures; for no creature can give existence to itself; He made us, and not we ourselves.
2. Neither can we, by any act of our own wills or exercise of our own power, make ourselves God’s redeemed.
3. Neither can we, by any act of our own, make ourselves more to be God’s than we were before, nor add anything to the moral obligations we were under, antecedent to any such giving of ourselves; for, by our very nature, we should be wholly for God.
1. It implieth our giving all the powers and faculties of our souls to God.
2. It implieth that we give our hearts to God.
3. It implieth that we give our consciences to God--give them up wholly to His will and authority. Some give their consciences to their friends.
4. All real Christians give their wills to God to be wholly directed and influenced by His authority, and they firmly resolve to have no will but His.
5. Real Christians give all the authority, power, and influence God has given them wholly to His service, whether it be as a head of a family, an elder, a minister, or a magistrate, to be all employed in the service and on the side of religion.
6. We should, and all real Christians do, give their name and reputation to the Lord.
7. Real Christians give their walk and conversation to the Lord, aiming by grace to conform their external walk to the letter of the law, and their internal walk agreeably to the Spirit of God’s holy law.
8. Real Christians give their spirits to the Lord, that is, the temper, frame, and disposition of their souls. Oh, how many are a disgrace to religion by their haughty, stiff, untractable spirits and dispositions.
9. Real Christians will give unto the Lord all they have--all the substance the Lord has made them stewards of.
10. As said before, real Christians give their bodies, and all the members thereof, to the Lord.
11. Christians should, and real Christians do, give their time to the Lord; for as all the time they have is from the Lord, it is surely their duty to dedicate it to Him, to be employed in His service.
III. Which was to consider upon what ground real Christians give themselves unto the Lord. And--
1. Real Christians give themselves to the Lord upon the ground of God’s giving Himself in Christ unto them, to be their God and portion; “I will be your God.”
2. Real Christians give themselves to the Lord, on the ground of God Incarnate giving Himself for them; “He suffered the just for the unjust.”
3. They give themselves to the Lord, upon the ground of a three-one God giving Himself to them.
4. They give themselves to the Lord on the ground of the Covenant, fulfilled in all its legal conditions, as ratified in and with the blood of Christ (Ezekiel 16:6; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 55:3-4).
5. They give themselves to the Lord upon the ground of the promise.
6. Real Christians give themselves to the Lord on the ground of the sweet, efficacious, and powerful influences of the Spirit of all grace.
7. Real Christians give themselves unto the Lord on the ground of its being the will and command of the Lord, and in obedience to His authority; and without this all the other grounds would be to no purpose.
IV. The manner in which the Christian is to give himself unto the Lord. And--
1. The Christian is to give himself unto the Lord in faith.
2. The Christian must do it with knowledge and understanding.
3. The Christian is to do this evangelically, that is, upon gospel principles, in a gospel spirit, and to gospel uses and ends.
4. Real Christians give themselves to the Lord in love. It is not a work of their understandings only, but also of the heart--of the whole soul.
5. They do it publicly, openly, and avowedly.
1. Hence we may learn who they are, who we may expect will give themselves unto the servants of the Lord, and yield a cordial subjection to every ordinance of the Lord. They are just such as have first given themselves unto the Lord.
2. Hence we may learn in what sense, and upon what grounds, and how far Christians are to give themselves unto the servants of the Lord, even to the Apostles of the Lord, in conformity with His will and command. They are to do so in so far, and no farther than as they keep by the will of the Lord revealed in His Word.
3. We may learn that as real Christians ought not, so neither will they be averse to, nor backward in giving themselves unto the Lord. (Alex. Dick.)
Self-dedication to God
Such is the instructive representation here set before us of the faithful servants of Jesus Christ in Macedonia. The contrast stated in the second verse of this chapter, between their inward feelings and their outward circumstances, is inimitably beautiful, and shows what mighty things the grace of God can accomplish. Here your contemplations are naturally directed to the powerful influence of the gospel at the promulgation of Christianity. You behold the heathen nations lying in darkness and the shadow of death. They awake to newness of life; they rise to active exertions in the cause of God.
I. To set before you the example of these macedonian churches.
1. This giving of themselves to Him implies unfeigned reliance on His infinite merits, or the unreserved surrender of their heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, to be by Him redeemed, renewed, and sanctified. These men of Macedonia, before their conversion to Christ, were in a state of distance and estrangement from the Divine favour.
2. Giving themselves to the Lord implies sincere dedication of their time and talents to the honour and service of that blessed Redeemer in whom they have believed.
3. Giving themselves to the Lord implies an unreserved surrender of their lot to His unerring disposal.
II. To recommend to your imitation the example of the macedonian churches.
1. Your giving yourselves to the Lord is your duty. Jesus is worthy.to receive all blessing, dominion, and glory.; therefore it is acting a wise part to give yourselves to Him who waits to be gracious, and who most justly challenges your supreme veneration. In Himself He possesses every excellence. Angels adore Him. United with His personal excellence, contemplate the wonders of His redeeming love.
2. Your giving yourselves to the Lord is a privilege, and connected with your best interests here and hereafter. He well knows all your circumstances, weaknesses, and wants, and is able to help you in every time of need. Give yourselves then to the Lord, and He will strengthen your heart. Perhaps you may ere long be called to difficult duties and arduous services. If you have given yourself to the Lord, you are warranted to triumph.
3. Having urged your imitation of the example mentioned in my text, from the motives of wisdom and of safety, I have only to add that solid comfort and exalted hopes are the happy consequences of giving yourselves to the Lord.
I conclude by addressing myself in the improvement of this discourse.
1. To the young, vigorous, and healthy. Give yourselves this day to the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. To those who have received Christ Jesus the Lord. Renew this day your dedication of yourselves to Him.
3. To those who have devoted themselves to the God of their salvation. Resign all your interests to His unerring disposal. (A. Bonar.)
On dedication to God
I. What is implied in giving ourselves to the Lord?
1. He has a natural and unalienable right to us as the author of our existence. Besides this, He has redeemed us. Yet He expects that we should confirm His right to us by our own voluntary surrender.
2. We had sold ourselves to sin, and the world had too much reason to claim us for its own. To give ourselves to the Lord implies that we renounce all former dependence and attachments, and that thus disengaged from all rivals, we present our bodies and spirits an unreserved sacrifice to God.
II. How we are to give ourselves to the Lord.
1. With humility and reverence. Remember that you are engaged with the greatest Being in the universe.
2. Deliberately; with the prudence and caution of those who know what they are doing. Rash promises are seldom observed. Zeal without knowledge soon becomes cold.
3. Cheerfully; not by constraint, but willingly. Consider yourselves as going to receive, not confer, a favour; and let gratitude and joy mingle with all that you do.
4. Immediately. How long halt ye between two opinions?
III. Why this should be our first and principal concern. Because--
1. God has the first and indisputable claim to us.
2. It may otherwise never be done. How common is it for men, when their consciences urge them to this self-dedication, to put it off to a more convenient season!
3. All other things will then succeed better. It is the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich. (S. Lavington.)
I. First, we must give our own selves. Does that mean that I am to say my prayers, read my Bible, come to Church, and do what is kind and good? Certainly. Yet you may do all this and your own self not be given. The giving of ourselves to God is, first, the present of a thoughtful mind. But, more, the giving of ourselves is the present of a loving heart. The Macedonians gave money and gave effort, but the essential point is that they “first, gave their own selves to the Lord.” An earnest Christian says: “Nearly four years ago, I was to spend the day in a large city. Before starting I said to my dear invalid sister, now in glory, ‘Can I buy anything for you, dear? I do want so much to bring you something from the city.’ She interrupted the question, saying, with such a sweet, yearning look, ‘Nothing, dear. Do not bring anything. I only want you. Come home as soon as you can.’” She goes on to say: “The tender words rang in my ears all the day, and oh, how often since her bright entrance within the gates have her touching words and loving look returned to my memory.” Let us ask ourselves if this is not what our Saviour desires of us. Christ knows that if He gets any one’s love He gets that one’s self and service. If we give the heart it follows that we have made a present of ourself once for all. Is it not a shabby thing when giving a present to be thinking how much you will need to give and how much you may keep for yourself? Is it not even more shabby when you have once given to be seeking back what you have given? There is nothing of that when the gift really comes from love. The heart given, and once for all, without reserve, then there may follow all the active effort we desire to give.
II. The reason why we should give ourselves.
1. Because it is right. “We are not our own, we are bought with a price.”
2. It is for our highest happiness. To be sure, there is renunciation in consecration, but there is also rich compensation.
3. For the world’s good and happiness. The Macedonians first gave their own selves, then their liberality and good works abounded towards others. The world needs heart-enlisted Christians. (The Preacher’s Assistant.)
2 Corinthians 8:7-8
Therefore, as ye abound in everything.
The grace of liberality
I. WHY we ought to give a portion of our substance to the lord. It is a duty clearly enjoined in Scripture. The practice of giving to the Lord began very early, for we read that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord, and that Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof. And why is this duty enjoined in Scripture? There are three reasons for this.
1. To remind us of our dependence on God as our Creator and bountiful benefactor.
2. To remind us of our obligation to God as our Redeemer.
3. To promote our spiritual welfare. We are naturally selfish, and wish to retain in our own possession whatever gifts God has conferred upon us.
II. What or how much we should give. Whatever we may think of the tenth or of the fifth, or of the early Christian examples, one thing is certain, that if our giving is to be acceptable to God it must cost us something. The measure with too many is what they can give without self-denial, or without in any way affecting their comforts or luxuries. This tenet giving in the Scriptural sense. Let us take the Divine measure, “as God hath prospered us,” and use it faithfully with the hand of love.
III. When we should give. Is there any Scriptural rule or suggestion on this point? (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some people profess to despise system in religious matters, and look upon it as savouring of legality. In worldly affairs system is called “the soul of business and the secret of success.” If, then, we recognise its value in everything else, why despise it in giving to the Lord?
IV. How or in what spirit we should give. (T. Moir, M. A.)
Consider the duty of consecrating a portion of our substance to purposes of benevolence.
I. The reason of the duty.
1. It is the natural issue of the spirit of benevolence. God is love, and he that is begotten of Him in His own image must have a loving heart. Love delights to give--it is its nature to give; it needs no specific commandment--it is a commandment unto itself.
2. To the same result are we led, I remark further, by a regard for God’s glory.
3. This brings us to mention, as another incentive to Christian liberality, the love of God’s truth.
4. I add here another motive--it is that of gratitude.
5. It is a further plea for the duty before us that it benefits those who perform it. A bountiful spirit leads to temporal advantage. It favours industry, for he who delights in giving liberally will the more readily toil that he may have something to give. For a like reason it is conducive to economy. Selfishness more or less deranges our powers, and, among other harms, it puts the judgment in peril. Benevolence restores the balance of the mind. Many a man has become a bankrupt who, if the sweet spirit of charity had ruled him, raising him above grovelling aims, presenting things in their true relative importance, and allaying the fever of financial ambition, would have gone in comfortable solvency to his grave. Habits of beneficence secure, besides, the goodwill of men. But of far greater consequence is the influence of Christian liberality on our spiritual well-being. It is a precious means of grace.
II. From the reason of the duty before us we pass now to the manner of performing it.
1. We should give intelligently.
2. We should give cheerfully.
3. Of great importance is it that we give frequently.
4. We should give systematically.
III. We advert, in the last place, to the measure of our benevolence. The language of our text is, “see that ye abound in this grace.” What a man can do, and what abounding is, must depend on three conditions, jointly considered--his capital, his income, and his necessary expenses. (A. D. Smith, D. D.)
To prove the sincerity of your love.--
The test of love
I. That love is the essence of real religion. What we see is like the fruit of the vine, but there is a root. The gracious principle, though hidden, lives, grows, and operates. Observe--
1. Love Divine enkindles it.
2. The state (if the world expands it.
3. The Divine glory inflames it.
II. That the genuine character of Christian love is tested by circumstances. These circumstances are like balances to the coin, a storm to the ship, the fire to metal, or a battle to the soldier. E.g., there is--
1. The necessity of self-denial and bearing the cross. Remember Paul’s conversion and subsequent life. We cannot serve God and mammon.
2. The rival claims of the world and the worship of God. There are earthly claims. Must not be allowed to stand in opposition, nor to monopolise that which belongs to God.
3. The requirement of means for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
1. Let us fairly prove the state of our hearts.
2. Let us carefully test all our performances.
3. Let us contemplate the decisions of the judgment day. (Congregational Pulpit.)
Love to Christ proved
I. The claim of Christ to our love. It is founded--
1. On His Divine excellence; and the relation of all that excellence to us in the character of our Saviour.
2. On His deeds of benevolence and mercy, His mediatorial work and office.
3. By the personal benefits we have derived and are daily deriving from Him.
4. It is discerned in the provision He has made for our everlasting happiness and perfection.
II. The nature of the love He claim’s from us.
1. It must be supreme.
2. It must be constant.
3. It must be practical. “Let us not love in word only, but in deed and in truth.”
III. How Christ tries the love of His people.
1. By the doctrines and precepts of His Word. Proud reason finds it hard to bow to some truths.
2. By the circumstances of His cause in the world.
3. By the condition of some of His people. Many of them are in want and sickness and mental distress.
4. Our love to Christ is tried by the special circumstances of our own lot.
IV. The marks which prove our love false and inadequate. We can have no true love to Christ--
1. If we have not committed our souls to Him.
2. If we are cherishing secret sin.
3. If our attachment to any earthly object causes us to violate His commands.
4. If we are unwilling to deny ourselves for His honour or the service of His cause.
5. If we are unwilling to depart from this life that we may be for ever with Him. (The Evangelist.)
2 Corinthians 8:9
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich.
What we know through knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
I. How do we know it. “Ye know.”
1. There are records which establish the fact--the gospels, epistles, etc., the burden of all of which is, “He was rich, yet for your sakes,” etc. The contents may be classified thus--
(1) Earthly facts in the realm of history (Acts 10:38).
(2) Antecedent facts in the realm of testimony (John 16:28).
(3) The meaning of the facts in the realm of inspiration (1 Timothy 1:15).
(4) The after issues of the facts in the realm of experience (Ephesians 2:13).
2. There are the fathers who accepted and expounded the fact.
3. Through all the entanglements of controversy in the history of the Church this fact and doctrine remains undisturbed.
4. The continuity of the Church has no other solution but this. “He was rich,” etc.
II. What is the fact which we know.
1. The person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. His pre-existence (John 17:5)--rich in the Father’s love and in the plenitude of power.
3. His incarnation (John 1:14). “He became poor.” He descended into the lowest rank amongst created intelligences, and in that rank was the poorest of the poor.
4. The purpose. “That we might be made rich.” He descended from His throne that we might ascend to it.
5. This was all prompted by grace. Infinite love finds its highest joy in giving itself to enrich others.
III. What do we come to know through knowing this? There are many truths which are valuable, not merely in themselves, but also on account of the further knowledge we acquire through them--e.g., to know how to secure the best microscope is of value in this sense, so with the telescope. There are four fields of knowledge opened up by our knowledge of the grace of Christ.
1. The infinite love of God (Romans 5:8).
2. The value of man in the eye of Heaven.
3. The Divine consecration of self-sacrifice.
4. The Divine lever by which God would lift the world.
IV. This addition to our knowledge ought to be the means of greater fulness in our life. Knowing this fact our response should be--
3. Elevation and holiness.
4. Earnestness in commending it to others. (C. Clemance, D. D.)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
I. The original greatness of Christ. “He was rich.” When? Not during His life upon the earth. It could not be said that He was born rich. Neither did He acquire wealth. It must have been then at some other time. We take, therefore, the term “rich” to designate “the glory which Christ had with the Father before the world was.” Not His Godhead, but its manifested splendour. When Peter the Great wrought as a common shipwright he did not cease to be the autocrat of Russia, but his royalty was veiled. So the Lord did not lay aside His deity, but the advantages of it.
II. The lowliness of His after lot. Marvellous condescension!
III. His purpose. Three things are implied--
1. That men are poor in respect of the spiritual riches. Intellectually the mind of the sinner may be well furnished, but he has no knowledge of God, no peace with God, no portion in God.
2. Christ became poor in order to enrich men, to bring us pardon, purity, peace, and happiness.
3. These riches come to us through the poverty which Christ endured. He could not have enriched us if He had not thus emptied Himself, for our poverty had its root in our sin, and that sin had to be atoned for before we could be blessed (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21)
. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The grace of Christ
I. A fact stated. That Christ being rich became poor.
1. He was rich in the possession of the ineffable glory which He had with the Father before all worlds (John 17:5; John 1:1; Hebrews 2:14-16). Though He could not change the attributes of His nature, He suspended their glorious manifestation. This was a voluntary act; He existed in such a mode that He had the power to lay aside His effulgence.
2. He was rich not only in glory but in virtue. He was the object of supreme complacency with the Father for His immaculate perfection. This character could not be put off, yet His relative position to law was altered. Though He could not become poor in the sense of being a sinner, He did in the sense of being treated like one. He was regarded by the law as a debtor, and His life was the forfeit of such moral poverty.
II. The design to be accomplished. “That we through His poverty might be made rich.”
1. We were poor--
(1) In having lost the glory and dignity with which we were originally invested.
(2) In being sunk in positive and practical sin.
(3) In the sense that we had nothing to pay. We were bankrupts as well as debtors. We could not answer the demands of law.
2. Christ became poor, and so made us rich--
(1) By laying the foundation for our pardon in His sacrificial and vicarious death.
(2) By affording a ground in virtue of which the Holy Spirit is dispensed, by whom we are renewed in righteousness and true holiness after the image of Him who created us.
(3) By giving us a hope of being richer in the next world than we can be in this. We now know something of “the riches of His grace,” but we read also of His “riches in glory.”
III. The knowledge which you are supposed to possess of all this. “Ye know.”
1. You know it is true. This is an appeal to judgment and reason, guided by evidence in support of the truth.
2. You know it in yourselves, as enriching you now. You have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
3. You know it as the ground on which all your hopes are built for futurity, the source from which you derive grace upon earth, and to which you feel yourselves to be indebted for all the honour and glory which eternity will disclose.
This is an appeal to Christian consistency, for it is only the consistent Christian that can feel the confidence that he is standing upon this rock, who can look forward now in time to what eternity will disclose. In conclusion, learn--
1. The importance which it becomes us to attach to all matters which are matters of pure revelation, of which this subject is one.
2. The actual necessity that there is for the doctrines of the Cross to give coherency and consistency to the whole system of revealed truth.
3. How grace is exercised towards us; and then you learn the claims which Christ has upon our affections and our gratitude.
4. The necessity that there is for your examining into the extent, the accuracy, and the influence of your knowledge of religious truth. What a shame it would be if, when the language were addressed to you, “You know this,” you were to reply, “No, I do not know it; I have never read nor thought of it.”
5. That Christian morality is animated and sustained by purely Christian motives. It is very observable how Paul associates almost every moral virtue, in some way or other, with our obligations to Christ.
6. That the riches of the Church throughout eternity wilt bear a proportion to the poverty by which they were obtained. The Church shall be lifted so high, and her riches shall be so transcendent, as the poverty of Christ was extreme and aggravated. (T. Binney.)
Poverty and riches
It can scarcely be needful that I should bid you give your attention to these words. For we prick up our ears the moment we catch the slightest sound that seems to hold out a promise of making us rich. Will any of you tell me that you have no wish to be richer than you are? Happy are you. You must be truly rich; and you must have gained your riches in the only way in which true riches can be gained, through the grace and the poverty of Christ.
I. Christ was rich
1. When He was with God, even from the beginning, sharing in the Divine power and wisdom and glory, and showing forth all this in creating the worlds.
2. When He said, “Let there be light.” The light which has been streaming ever since in such a rich, inexhaustible flood, was merely a part of His riches.
3. When He bade the earth bring forth its innumerable varieties of herbs and plants and trees, and peopled it with living creatures, equally numerous.
4. When He made man, and gave him the wonderful gifts of feelings, affections, thought, speech, etc., when He gave him the power of knowing Him who was the Author of all things, and of doing His will. This was the crowning work in which Christ showed forth His riches; and yet in this very work before long we find a mark of poverty. For man, though made to be rich, made himself poor. He made himself poor in that he, to whom God had given the dominion over every creature, made himself subject to the creature, and chained his soul to the earth, as a dog is chained to its kennel; in that, instead of opening his soul to receive the heavenly riches wherewith God had purposed to fill it, he closed it against that riches, while he gave himself up to acquiring what he deemed far more valuable; in that, instead of lifting up and spreading out his heart and soul in adoration to God, he dwarfed and cramped them by twisting and curling all his thoughts and feelings around the puny idol, self.
II. He became poor. How? In the very act of taking our nature upon Him, in subjecting Himself to the laws of mortality, to the bonds of time and space, to the weaknesses of the flesh, to earthly life and death. Even if He had come to reign over the whole earth He would have descended from the summit of power and riches to that which in comparison would have been miserable poverty. But then He would not have set us an example how we too are to become rich. Therefore He to whom the highest height of earthly riches would have been poverty, vouchsafed to descend to the lowest depths of earthly poverty. And at His death He vouchsafed to descend into the nethermost pit of earthly degradation, to a death whereby He was “numbered among the transgressors.”
III. He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich. Note that our poverty was twofold--that which haunted us through life in consequence of our seeking false riches, whereby we are sure to lose true riches; and that to which we become subject in death, an eternal poverty, which awaits all such as have not laid up treasure in heaven. Now--
1. The example of Christ’s life, if we understand it and receive its blessings into our hearts, will deliver us from that poverty which arises from our seeking after false riches. For that poverty results in no small measure from the mist which is over our eyes which keeps us from discerning the true value of things, and deludes us by outward shows. It results from our supposing that riches consists in our having worldly wealth. Yet what is the real value of this under any grievous trial? Assuredly we may say to the things of this world, “Miserable comforters are ye all.” Therefore had it been possible for our Lord to be deluded by the bribe of the tempter, He would only have sunk thereby into far lower poverty than before. For He would thereby have lost that heavenly riches which lay in cleaving to the Divine word, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,” etc. He would have lost the riches and the power of that word which was mightier than all the kingdoms of the earth; for it made the devil depart from Him, and angels come and minister to Him, which all the armies of all the kingdoms of the earth could not have done. This, our Lord teaches us, is true riches. Moreover our Lord’s example teaches us that true riches, while it does not consist in what we have of the things of this world, does consist in what we give. Nor is this to be measured by the amount given, but by the heart which gives it. The poor widow was rich in some measure after the pattern of our Saviour Himself. She had the riches of love, of freedom from care, of a full trust in Him who feeds the fowls of the air, and clothes the grass of the field. Here you may see plainly how the poorest of you may become rich through Christ’s poverty.
2. By the sacrifice of His death. One of His first declarations was, that the poor are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Now they who have an inheritance in this are rich not for a few days or years, but to eternity. But something more is needed in order to attain it beside the mere fact of being poor. For we do not enter into that kingdom through our own poverty, but through Christ’s. But when we remember Christ’s poverty, when we feel that He died in order that we might live, when we know that through His precious sacrifice we are reconciled to the Father, and that, poor as we are in ourselves, and destitute of every grace, He has obtained the power of the Spirit for us, and through Him will give us grace for grace--then for the first time we find out that in Him we are truly rich. When we consider ourselves apart from Christ we are always poor--in strength, in grace, in hope. But when we have been brought by His Spirit to feel ourselves at one with Him, when we think, and pray, and act, not in our own strength, but in His, then we become partakers of those infinite riches He came to bestow. (Archdeacon Hare.)
The riches and poverty of Christ
I. The native riches of Christ. They are the riches of God. Whatever God is, and has, “the Only-begotten of the Father” possesses.
1. These riches were first displayed in the things which He made (John 1:2; Colossians 1:15-17). He is the hidden spring, the open river, and the ocean fulness of universal life and being.
2. But, whilst He is the presupposition of all things, He is also the prophecy of all things. All things look to, move towards, and only rest in Him. Creatures have latent powers that they cannot exercise, desires that they never satisfy. Man is felt and seen to be the crown of nature. But among the sons of men there is no complete man. When “the Word became flesh,” human nature first became complete and crowned.
3. What then must His riches be who is the wealth of God? Riches among men are distributed. To one is given genius; to another force of character; to another social eminence; to another worldly abundance. But the native riches of our Lord is the wealth of all wealth. In Him it pleases the whole fulness of God to dwell. Consider first the earth in all its wealth of land and ocean; its production of life in all its forms; the riches of its hidden wisdom in the prevailing order of its silent forces; and the wealth of goodness displayed in the designed beneficence that constrains all things to subserve the well-being of all creatures. Then call to mind the wealth which flows in the stream of human life. From the earth we must rise to the starry heavens, and thence to the infinite unseen beyond, before we can begin to estimate the native riches of Him of whose grace our text speaks; the “unsearchable riches” which He had with the Father before all worlds, by the possession of which it became His great work to “cause all to see,” etc. (Ephesians 3:9-10), The riches of our Lord will only be seen in the end.
II. The poverty He chose. To be poor, never having been anything else, can scarcely be regarded as an evil; but to become poor--how great a calamity! Yet He who was rich in all the wealth of God became poor. Consider the poverty of--
1. His nature. “The Word became flesh,” the frailest and most corruptible of all the forms of life. He who had life in Himself became dependent for life, and breath, and all things. He whom angels worshipped was made so much lower than they as to welcome their ministrations. He who was the bread of God became dependent upon the bread of the world. He, the Eternal Son, having “life in Himself,” became partaker of a life subject to all the laws of developed existence. He who was the Wisdom of God grew in knowledge. He who was possessed of “all power” craves the sustaining fellowship of men. And He to whom all pray became Himself a man of prayer, whose prayers were agonies unto blood-sweating.
2. His circumstances.
(1) The time of His birth was poor--when the degradation of His nation was complete, when Judaea wore a foreign yoke.
(2) The place of His birth was in keeping with the time.
(3) As He was born in poverty, so in poverty He was brought up, and in poverty He lived and died.
3. His experience. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Now there is nothing makes us feel how utterly poor we are like sorrow. We only weep when we are at our wits’ end, and our last resource has been exhausted. Jesus was “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted”; “He was numbered with transgressors.”
III. The wealth of His poverty. It is through His poverty that we are made rich. His riches flow to us, and become ours, through His poverty. His riches require poverty as the medium through which alone they can be given to the poor. Note--
1. Its voluntariness. He became poor. By His own act “He became poor,” the act of His eager love and obedience (Hebrews 10:5-7). No one took from off His brow the crown of heaven, He laid it aside; no one stripped Him of His royal robes, He unrobed Himself; no one paralysed the arm of His power, of Himself He chose our weakness; He laid down the life of heaven for the life of earth, as He laid down the life of earth for the life of heaven.
2. Its vicariousness. His riches were not laid aside for the sons of light; or for the angels who kept not their first estate, but for the dust-clothed and sinful children of earth. Had our circumstances and condition, calling for His help, been the result of misfortune or ignorance, His pity were not so strange. But He became poor for sinners, for rebels, hard and unrelenting in their rebellion. “Hereby perceive we the love of God,” “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Through such poverty flow riches enough to quicken the dead in trespasses and sins.
3. The beneficence of its purpose. He does not contemplate our deliverance merely, nor our restoration to man’s primitive state. He became poor that we may be rich in all the filial correspondences of the Father’s wealth. “My God shall supply all your need,” etc.
4. The fittingness of His poverty for the communication of His riches. We must become that which we would bless. The father makes himself a child that he may win the child’s heart; the teacher makes himself one with his scholars that he may the better teach them. We must weep with those who weep if we would comfort them, and lie under the sins of sinners if we would save them from their sins. The riches of Christ’s grace could only be communicated through the poverty which brought Him under our condition. “He who was rich became poor,” “was compassed with our infirmity,” “touched with our feeling,” “tempted in all points as we are,” “that we might find grace to help in every time of need,” and that He might become our “eternal salvation.”
5. The capacity for wealth contained in poverty. Only a nature capable of great riches can be subject to great poverty. But the depth of poverty measures the experience of the riches which deliver from its destitution. Only a creature made in the image of God, and constituted a partaker of the Divine nature, could suffer the loss of God and be “without hope in the world.” And only on those who have suffered from the want of God could there be the display of His innermost riches. The deepest wants in man are met by the innermost “needs be” in God. Sin opens up and explores in the creature solemn and awful depths, but the awful depths of sin become filled with God’s mercy towards sinners. (W. Pulsford, D. D.)
The great renunciation
Here we are reminded of the manifestation of the Divine love in Jesus Christ, and of the grand design of that manifestation.
1. Christ became poor in character. In the past eternity He dwelt in a holy universe; was circled about with holy hosts; He was Himself the light in which there was no darkness at all. But He “became poor.” He condescended to dwell with sinners; to become the substitute and representative of a guilty race. “He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” Here is the heart of the text. “He was made sin for us who knew no sin.” We all heard a few years ago of the island in the South Seas called Leper Island; all who became infected with the terrible disease in any of the adjoining islands were banished to Leper Island, and there ultimately they miserably perished. And then we were told of a priest who out of pure pity went to live in the plague spot. He was not a leper, but he cut himself off from civilisation, and was willing to share the lot of the sufferers so that he might minister to them, living with them, being buried with them. The conduct of that missionary was a reflection of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Catholic missionary consenting to live with the leprous community could not communicate his health to them--that was utterly beyond his design and power; the fact is the priest became infected with the leprosy himself and died of it. But Christ came to heal us of our direful malady, to make us share His strong and beautiful life, to touch our lips with cleansing, to banish our corruptions, to send heavenly health through all our veins, to give to our whole being the vitality and bloom of righteousness. What is more clear than the fact that Christ has enriched the race with a new, a higher, a more powerful righteousness? When the incarnation came the world was poor enough in character. The nations had wasted their substance in riotous living, and Jew and Greek were alike hopeless and corrupt. But let us not lose ourselves in generalities. “For your sakes.” The apostle individualises. Let us personally claim that grace, and although we are poor and blind and naked and defiled, He shall cleanse us from every spot, and make our raiment to be of gold and fine needlework.
2. Christ became poor in dominion. In the eternity of the past Christ sat on the throne. He was the Creator, Ruler, Heir of all things. But for “our sakes He became poor.” The fact of His poverty is seen in that it was possible for Him to be tempted. He took upon Himself the form of a slave and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. “That we might become rich.” That, slaves as we were, the lost kingship might be restored to us. Christ restores us to self-government. This crown of self-government has fallen from our head. We are tyrannised over by vile passions--intemperance, anger, pride, avarice--all these vices triumph over us, and make a show of us openly. Christ once more puts the fallen crown upon our head. He restores in us the government of God. Christ gives to us self-mastery--first and grandest of coronations. Christ restores to us the government of nature. In the beginning man was the vicegerent of God. But that dominion has been broken, and instead of man ruling nature, nature has ruled man, affrighted him, crushed him. But as man recovers self-rule he mysteriously acquires power over all things. Do we not see this in the progress of our Christian civilisation? As men master themselves their relation to nature is changed, they lift themselves out of the stream of physical forces, and attain a wider freedom. Science is only possible through character, and as Christ makes us free from the power of evil we lay our hand on the sea, direct the lightning, and inherit the riches of the world. Christ restores us to an abiding government in the kingdom of the future. We read much in the New Testament about the saints reigning as kings. Christ is to be King in the world of the future, and all who are loyal to Him shall share in the undisputed and everlasting sovereignty.
3. Christ became poor in blessedness. Revelation brings the Deity before us as infinitely blissful. In God is the unutterable bliss springing from perfect knowledge, absolute will, ineffable love, everlasting righteousness. Here, once more, for “our sakes He became poor.” And how profoundly poor! He became poor “that we might become rich.” What an extraordinary gladness throbbed in the apostles--everywhere in the New Testament we feel the pulsations of a mighty joy! And so it is still with all those whose lives are hid with Christ in God. In the midst of a world of sorrow and death He brings to us the blessedness of celestial worlds. A little while ago I read of a gentleman in the heart of a great city listening to a telephone, when he was surprised to hear the rich music of forest birds. It seemed that the wire passed through the country, and so some way caught the music of the far-away woods and transmitted it to the heart of the black toiling city. Christ has restored the missing chords between heaven and earth, and now in a world of care and conflict, of suffering and tears, we are delighted to catch the echoes of far-off music, to taste the joy unspeakable and full of glory which belongs to the perfect universe. Many of us are poor enough in joy, but it is not our own fault. If we would only claim more of that glorious grace which Christ gives, our peace should flow as a river, our hearts be as a watered garden whose waters fail not.
4. Christ became poor in life. He was rich in life. “He only hath immortality.” But for “our sakes He became poor.” He shared our mortality. The Rose of Sharon faded as other roses do; the Lily of the Valley withered as lilies nipped by the frost. He did not even attain the poor threescore years and ten. The text assumes the poverty of humanity. Yes, we are poor, paupers indeed. There is a deep destitution under all our displays of knowledge, power, happiness, character. The enrichment of humanity is through the humiliation of Christ. In Him the riches of eternity are poured into the bankrupt life of man. There is no other way to true riches but through Him. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Poverty and riches with Christ
I. Christ became poor.
1. This cannot mean that He ceased to be the owner and Lord of all things. That sort of limited ownership which the law gives me over what is mine I can renounce. Not so with the absolute ownership of God. The use of them He may lend; His own proprietorship in them He cannot alienate. Still less is it possible to strip oneself of those moral and personal qualities which make up the wealth of one’s very nature. Could a Divine Person cease to carry in Himself the unsearchable riches of Divine power, or wisdom, or goodness?
2. Christ became poor in the sense of forbearing to claim His wealth or to avail Himself of it. The nobleman, e.g., who leaves behind him his estates, conceals his rank, and goes abroad to maintain himself on what he can earn by daily labour, becomes poor, not by loss indeed, but by renunciation. What motive could be purer than this, “For your sakes”? What design nobler than this, “That ye through His poverty might be rich”? So Christ’s poverty was not an outward condition so much as an inward act. At the most the outward condition only mirrored the inward act. All things were not less truly His own than before; only He refused to assert His right to them, or to enjoy their benefit. And why? That He might make Himself in all things like unto us, His human and fallen brethren.
(1) We are creatures who hang upon God with absolute dependence. Is not that poverty--to be derived from, sustained, and led by another? To this Christ stooped. Though inherently equal to the Father, He consented to occupy the position of a creature’s inferiority: “My Father is greater than I.” Though Maker of the universe, He consented to receive His ability from God: “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” Of the infinite treasures which were His, He would not turn so much as a stone to bread to feed His own hunger.
(2) There are restrictions under which we are bound to act--the confining bonds of law. No man is free to do whatever he likes. Against this curbing and prescribing law, whether of morals or of social custom, all men fret; and Jewish men in particular were saddled with a yoke of ancient prescriptions peculiarly vexatious. To all this Christ submitted. He became too poor to have a will of His own or be a law unto Himself, for He was “made under the law.”
(3) Sin has wrought for us a deeper poverty than God meant for men. There is no shame in having nothing but what our Father gives; no shame in being free only to do His will. But there is shame in wearing a life forfeit to the law through criminal transgression. This is poverty indeed. Yet Jesus walked on earth with a forfeited life because He had devoted it to the law. Here was the acme of self-impoverishment. He held not even Himself to be properly His own. On the contrary. He held Himself to be a ransom for our transgression, a price due, a Person doomed.
II. it is this spontaneous abnegation which gives us the moral key to that mysterious atoning life and death of the Son of God. In this act there lay the perfection both of that love which gives and of that humility which stoops and veils itself. It forms the most consummate antithesis to the immoral attitude taken up by our fallen world. This world, being indeed helpless and dependent, yet renounces God, asserts itself, dreams of self-sufficiency. For an answer to such sinful folly, the Son of God, being indeed rich, becomes as poor as the world is. He stoops to show us men our true place. We shall reap no profit from this adopted poverty of His unless we learn of Him how to be poor in spirit before God. For me as for Him the pathway is one of renunciation. My would-be independence of God I must frankly abandon. God’s claims I must own as Jesus Christ owned them in my name. The sentence which righteously condemns me I must accept as He accepted it for me. The sacrifice of His costly life I must regard as the due equivalent for my own life, forfeit for my guilt. Then I, too, am poor. I, too, owe everything to God. I am so poor that I am not even my own any more, but His who gave Himself for me; so poor that I do not live any more, for I died in His death; or, if I live, it is no more I, but Christ who liveth in me.
III. This Christ-like path conducts to true enrichment. Compare the Jesus whom John describes in chap. 19 with the Jesus whom John describes in Revelation
1. On the pavement, in the praetorium, and on the Cross, He let them strip Him. Was ever man stripped so poor as this one, buried at last in a borrowed grave? Look up and see the vision of Patmos. The same Man; but His eyes are a flame of fire, etc. Has not His path through uttermost poverty been a path to boundless wealth? Ponder this comment of St. Paul, and you will know what I mean (Php 6:6-11). Such glory as He had with the Father before the world was, He first laid aside that He might be made like unto us, inglorious in all things. Then when He stood among us as our priestly Head on the night when He was betrayed, He asked the Father to give Him back of His grace that same glory which He would not claim by right, saying, “Now, O Father, do Thou glorify Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was!” Why does He thus stoop to be a petitioner for His own? Because He would receive it on such terms that He may share it with us. Hear Him add (as one who believes that he has what he has asked), “The glory which Thou hast given to Me, I have given to them.” (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
The poverty of Christ the source of heavenly riches
I. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The term “grace” is of common use in the Scriptures, the meaning of which is determined by its connection. It sometimes implies wisdom, “Let no corrupt communication,” etc. (Ephesians 4:29). It also signifies power, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” etc. (2 Corinthians 12:9). But generally it imports benevolence, favour, love, or goodwill (Romans 5:20; 1 Timothy 1:14). This grace is--
1. Free and generous in its nature. Grace must be liberal and spontaneous, otherwise it is no more grace. Had the conduct of Christ towards man been the result of any overwhelming necessity, it could not, with any propriety, have been denominated grace. All the movements of the Deity are voluntary and free. God never acts necessarily.
2. Unsolicited and unsought on the part of man.
3. Disinterested in its character. Human beings are selfish in their actions. Self-interest sways the multitude, and it is difficult to divest ourselves of this principle: we have generally some interest in all we do, either present pleasure or the expectation of future reward. But the Lord Jesus is the supreme and eternal God, who is infinitely removed from all those low and sordid views by which man is actuated. His actions are perfectly disinterested.
4. Distinguishing in its operations. Two orders of intelligent beings offended their Maker, angels and men. But the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was displayed to man--fallen, miserable, rebellious man.
5. This grace was made known. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God hath gloriously displayed it. It was made known to our primitive parents almost as soon as sin entered into the world. It was revealed to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah, and all the prophets; for “to Him,” namely, to Christ, “give all the prophets witness” (Acts 10:43).
II. Consider the display of this grace. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.
1. He possesed all the incommunicable perfections of the Deity.
2. He possessed all the moral perfections of the Deity. Now thus think upon Christ.
(1) Consider the grandeur of His abode.
(2) Consider the extent of His dominion.
(3) Consider the dignity of His titles.
(4) Consider the number and splendour of His attendants.
(5) Consider the profusion of His liberality. See how He scatters His bounty in every direction. There is not a particle of animated matter that He does not feed.
The riches of Christ are widely different from the riches which men possess.
(a) His riches are His own, exclusively and eternally. Ours are derived from others. The riches of Christ are His, not derived, not procured, but essential to His nature.
(b) Christ’s riches are undiminishable and inexhaustible. Ours may be squandered and exhausted.
(c) The riches of Christ are illimitable and incomprehensible.
But He “became poor,” that is--
1. He assumed our nature in its lowliest and most degraded state.
2. He suffered the penalty due to our sin.
III. The design for which the grace of Christ was displayed.
1. That we might be rich in grace; rich in all the fruits of righteousness.
2. Rich in glory. We shall inherit a glorious place (2 Peter 1:11). We shall be associated with glorious society, and be invested with glorious privileges. These are the true riches in opposition to those of the world, which are treacherous, false, and deceitful. Satisfactory, in opposition to earthly wealth, which cannot satisfy the infinite desires of the mind (Luke 12:15). Imperishable, in opposition to those which wax old and perish in the using. They are riches attainable by all. The good things of this world are possessed by few. The connection between the poverty of Christ and the riches of the Christian may be easily discovered.
(1) By the humiliation, sufferings, and death of Christ an atonement was made for sin, and a way of access to God made plain. God is the chief good: man by sin became an alien from Him.
(2) By the atonement of Christ all the blessings of grace and glory are procured for us.
(a) From the subject before us we infer how deeply we are indebted to Christ.
(b) We see with what confidence we may come to Christ.
(c) We discover from the text that it is our privilege, no less than our duty, to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (R. Treffry.)
In the context we have three facts in relation to Christian philanthropy.
1. That true love for humanity is essentially associated with piety. Paul is speaking of the kindness which the church at Macedonia had shown to the sufferings of the mother-church at Jerusalem. The affection that binds to God will bind to the race.
2. That true love for humanity is an earnest element of character. These Macedonians seem to have been poor and afflicted, probably the subjects of persecution (verse 2). Their benevolence was not a mere sentiment.
3. That true love for man has in Christianity the highest example. “Ye know the grace,” etc. Note that genuine philanthropy--
I. Is identical with the love developed by Christ. This grace of Christ was--
1. All-embracing. There are some who sympathise with the physical woes of man and overlook the spiritual; some feel for a few, and are regardless of others. But Christ regards the bodies and souls of all men.
2. Perfectly disinterested.
II. Sacrifices the material for the spiritual.. “He who was rich,” etc.
III. Aims supremely at the promotion of spiritual wealth. “That ye through His poverty might be rich.” Spiritual wealth is--
1. Absolutely valuable. Material wealth is not so. In some countries and ages it is not of much value. Of what advantage would a handsome fortune be to a savage? But spiritual wealth is valuable here, everywhere, and for ever.
2. Is essentially connected with happiness. There is often great trial in the getting and the keeping of worldly wealth.
3. Is within the reach of all; earthly wealth is not. Conclusion: Observe--
(1) That to promote moral wealth requires the sacrifice of secular wealth. Let us suppose that Jesus had not become poor. What would have been the result? The material must be given up to the spiritual.
(2) That no sacrifice is too great to promote spiritual wealth. “Christ gave Himself.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)
On the benefits derived from the humiliation of Jesus Christ
I. Let us consider the original condition of the person here mentioned. “He was rich.”
II. How this illustrious person accomplished the plan of our redemption. “He became poor.”
III. To consider the persons for whom these sufferings were endured. “For your sakes He became poor.”
IV. The benefits which flow through the humiliation of Christ.
1. The view which has been taken of Divine grace should awaken your gratitude.
2. The view taken of Divine grace is calculated to beget your confidence.
3. The view taken of Divine grace should constrain you to the diligent use of all the appointed means of grace and salvation. (W. Thornton.)
Christ’s motive and ours
(text and Philippians 1:29):--
1. The true test of any action lies in its motive. Many a deed, which seems to be glorious, is really ignoble because it is done with a base intention; while other actions, which appear to be poor, are full of the glory of a noble purpose. The mainspring of a watch is the most important part of it; the spring of an action is everything.
2. The less of self in any effort, the nobler it is. A great work, undertaken from selfish motives, is much less praiseworthy than the feeble endeavour put forth to help other people.
3. We are often told that we should live for the good of others, and we ought to heed the call; but there is so little in our fellow-men to call forth the spirit of self-sacrifice, that if we have no higher motive, we should soon become tired of our efforts on their behalf. Consider--
I. The motive of Christ’s work. “For your sakes.”
1. The august person who died “for your sakes.” He was God. “Without Him was not anything made that was made.” All the powers of nature were under His control. He might truly say, “If I were hungry I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof.” Hymned day without night by all the sacred choristers, He did not lack for praise. Nor did He lack for servants; legions of angels were ever ready to do His commandments. It was God who came from heaven “for your sakes.” It was no inferior being, no one like yourselves. If I were told that all the sons of men cared for me, that would be but a drop in a bucket compared with Jehovah Himself regarding me. If it were said that all the princes of the earth had fallen at some poor man’s feet, and laid aside their dignities that they might relieve his necessities, such an act would not be worthy to be spoken of in comparison with that infinite condescension and unparalleled love which brought the Saviour from the skies.
2. The insignificant clients on whom all this wealth of affection was poured. If our whole race had been blotted out, He had but to speak the word, and myriads of creatures prompt to obey His will would have filled up the space. But we are not only insignificant, we are also iniquitous. As sinners, we deserve nothing but God’s thunderbolts. Many of us, also, were peculiarly sinful. Some of us feel inclined to dispute with Saul of Tarsus for the title, “chief of sinners.” It will ever remain a wonder to me that the Son of God should have condescended to die for me.
3. The wondrous work which this master-motive inspired. “For your sakes” the Son of God took into union with Himself our nature, without which He could not have suffered and died. “He became poor.” The poverty of a man is reckoned in proportion to the position of affluence from which he has come down. When the Christ of God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, was forsaken by His Father, deserted by His friends, and left alone to suffer “for your sakes,” that was the direst poverty that was ever known. See your Lord beneath the olives of Gethsemane. Then see Him before Herod, Pilate, and Caiaphas. Behold Him, as they lift Him up to suffer the death of the Cross! All this Christ suffered “for your sakes.” What love and gratitude ought to fill your heart as you think of all that Jesus bore on your behalf! There is a story of an American gentleman who was accustomed to go frequently to a tomb and plant fresh flowers. When some one asked why he did so, he said that, when the time came for him to go to the war, he was detained by some business, and the man who lay beneath the sod became his substitute and died in the battle. Over that carefully-kept grave he had the words inscribed, “He died for me!” There is something melting in the thought of another dying for you; how much more melting is it when that One is the Christ of Calvary!
4. The comprehensive motive for which He wrought the wondrous work. Everything He was and did was “for your sakes.”
II. The motive which should inspire all our service for Him. “For His sake.” What are we that we should be allowed the high honour of suffering “for His sake”? It is a great privilege to do, or to be, or to bear anything for Him. The thought expressed in these words may be enlarged, and assume six or seven phases.
1. “For righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). If a man suffers as a Christian for doing that which is right, he is suffering for Christ’s sake.
2. “For the gospel’s sake” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Now, if you are put to any shame for the sake of the gospel, you suffer “for His sake”; and if you labour to spread the gospel you are doing something “for His sake.”
3. “For His body’s sake, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24). We ought to do much more than we do for God’s people.
4. “For the elect’s sakes” (1Ti 9:10), i.e., not only those who are in the Church as yet, but those who are to be. Happy is that man who spends his time in seeking out poor wanderers, that he may bring in God’s elect.
5. “The kingdom of God’s sake” (Luke 18:29). No one who has left aught for it shall fail of present and eternal reward.
6. “For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us” (2 John 1:2). It is not merely the gospel we are to defend, but that living seed which the Holy Ghost has put into us, that truth which we have tasted, and handled, and felt; that theology which is not that of the Book only, but that which is written on the fleshy tablets of our hearts. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Now, therefore, perform the doing of it.--
There is an eloquence of promise in many men. In the commercial world they excel in promissory notes. In the social world they are the generous distributors of vague invitations guiltless of date. Men stop as pilgrims at the inn of Good Intent, and their position is that of “almost Christians.” Notice promises--
I. In relation to the kingdom of evil. Men do not like to lose sight of the City of God. There is a purpose to be true to Christ some day. They mean well. Mean well! What slave of vice does not do that? But let the soul be brought face to face with the necessity of endeavour, and then De Quincey, when an opium eater, is not more powerless. There is no hope in, “I’ll think about it,” in a convenient season, in the promise, “when I change my neighbourhood.” Now, perform the resolution like a man, for “Now is the accepted time.”
II. In relation to responsibilities.
1. Of gift. “I would give if I were rich.” No; if you do not yield God a fair measure of your income now you would not then. It is as easy to be miserly with a hundred a-year as it is with a thousand. God performs. He promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and we see the triumph over evil in the Cross. Christ has promised a prepared place, and our departed ones are now confessing that it was all true.
2. Of service. Service is of many kinds, but there is always a “now” about it. Moreover, performance once honestly commenced tempts out more and more of loyal effort. It is compensative, too, and brings surely its own blest reward. Never mind the initial difficulties. All great men have found them and have mastered them. Begin.
III. In relation to the example of Christ (verse 9). In His incarnation He “performed the promise made to our forefathers.” His life was one long performance. He performs still. Be ye imitators of Him.
IV. In relation to the bountifulness of God. Meditating on our redemption we sing, “Love so amazing,” etc. Perform, then, the doing of it.
V. In relation to influences. Actions speak louder than words. (W. M. Statham.)
The laws of Christian liberality
I. Readiness, or a willing mind. What is given must be given freely; it must be a gracious offering, not a tax. This is fundamental. The O. T. law is re-enacted. “Of every man whose heart maketh him willing shall ye take the Lord’s offering.” What we spend in piety and charity is not tribute paid to a tyrant, but the response of gratitude to our Redeemer, and if it has not this character He does not want it. If there be first a willing mind, the rest is easy; if not, there is no need to go on.
II. According as a man has. Readiness is the acceptable thing, not this or that proof of it. If we cannot give much, then a ready mind makes even a little acceptable. Only let us remember this, that readiness always gives all that is in its power. The readiness of the Macedonians was in the depths of poverty, but they gave “themselves” to the Lord; yet this moving appeal of the apostle has been profaned times innumerable to cloak the meanest selfishness.
III. Reciprocity. Paul does not write that the Jews may be released and the Corinthians burdened, but on the principle of equality. At this crisis the superfluity of the Corinthians is to make up what is wanting to the Jews, and at some other the situation will be exactly reversed. Brotherhood cannot be one-sided; it must be mutual, and in the interchange of services equality is the result. This answers to God’s design in regard to worldly goods, as that design is indicated in the story of the manna. To be selfish is not the way to get more than your share; you may cheat your neighbour by that policy, but you will not get the better of God. In all probability men are far more nearly on an equality in respect of what their worldly possessions yield, than the rich in their pride, or the poor in their envious discontent would readily believe; but when the inequality is patent and painful--a glaring violation of the Divine intention here suggested--there is a call for charity to redress the balance. Those who give to the poor are cooperating with God, and the more a community is Christianised, the more will that state be realised in which each has what he needs. (J. Denney, B. D.)
2 Corinthians 8:12
If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath.
The Christian accepted according to his advantages
We are led to judge of our own merits by considering what we would do if we were in situations different from that in which we have been placed. Had we unbounded wealth, we say, how would we use it for the benefit and happiness of mankind! Had we our place among the mighty of this world, what a field should we have for doing good! Thus we lose ourselves in vain imaginations, in mere dreams of fancied usefulness. And why is this but because we forget the words of the apostle, God accepts a man “according to that which he hath, not according to that which he hath not.” Thus, then, it seems that it is a mistake for a man to dwell upon what he “hath not”; let him rather apply himself seriously to consider what he “hath.” And here every one will most surely find that he has enough. And some things there must be which every man hath; some of the duties of life must be in the power of every one; he is a son, or a parent, and then how much opportunity he has for forbearance, and succour, and self-denial: or he has friends, or he has enemies, and this enables him to exercise the Christian graces of forgiveness. But while he sees in it abundant matter of serious self-examination, it suggests also equally strong motives of consolation. God accepts according to what a man hath, not according to what he hath not. If it be asked, why we are thus accepted in the sight of God, we may be assured that it is not for the works’ sake. When we have done all, be it more or less, we can only say we are unprofitable servants. And yet there is One, for whose sake they are accepted, as the tests and fruits of faith. “A willing mind,” this is the sacrifice required on our part; and what does this expression imply? In the meaning of Scripture, more perhaps than we should at first suppose; it implies a sincere disposition to submit to God in all things, to be led by Him, without any reference to the degree in which such conduct may interfere with our own selfish inclinations and objects. The absence of a willing mind is seen in the case of those who say that they intend at some future time to repent. We have all our opportunities and means of serving God. We have seen that those opportunities may be greater or less. If they are greater, our responsibilities will also be greater. (H. W. Sulivan, M. A.)
God’s acceptance of His people’s will for the deed
I. Want of power to do more shall not mar the acceptance of what is done from a willing mind according to power. In that case God will accept of His people’s will for the deed.
1. In what particular eases God accepts His people’s will for the deed.
(1) Where there is a sincere will to serve Him in a piece of work requiring some external abilities which are wanting (Acts 3:6).
(2) When doing the best we can through grace, our work after all is attended with many blemishes.
(3) Going as far as we have access in a work, but meeting with a providential stop (Hebrews 11:17). There is a great difference betwixt the stops men make and those which God makes; the former argues an unwilling mind, but the latter not so.
(4) Services that one really desires, and fain would perform for God, but have not opportunity (2 Chronicles 6:8; Philippians 4:10).
(5) Services performed with a real desire of success for God’s honour and men’s good; the Lord accepts the good will to the success denied, as if it had succeeded according to their wish (Isaiah 49:4; 2 Corinthians 2:15).
2. Why does God accept such will for the deed?
(1) The sincere will to a work is present, which God mainly regards.
(2) We have a merciful High Priest to present that will for acceptance, notwithstanding all the weaknesses, blemishes, providential hindrances, want of opportunity, and failure of success, that it may be attended with (Hebrews 4:15-16).
3. We have a merciful Father to deal with (Psalms 103:13-14). (T. Boston, D. D.)
2 Corinthians 8:13-15
For I mean not that other men should be eased and ye burdened.
I. The spirit in which Paul urged it. The apostle spoke strongly: not in the way of coercion, but of counsel and persuasion (2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 8:10). Note the difference between the dictatorial authority of the priest and the gentle helpfulness of the minister (2 Corinthians 1:24). There is not a minister or priest who is not exposed to the temptation which allures men to try to be a confessor and director to his people, to guide their conscience, to rule their wills, and to direct their charities. But observe how entirely alien this was from St. Paul’s spirit. According to the apostle, a Christian was one who, perceiving principles, in the free spirit of Jesus Christ, applied these principles for himself. As examples of this, remember the spirit in which he excommunicated (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) and absolved (2 Corinthians 2:10), and remark, in both these cases--where the priestly power would have been put forward, if anywhere--the entire absence of all aim at personal influence or authority. St. Paul would not even command Philemon to receive his slave (Philemon 1:8-9; Philemon 1:13-14). And in the case before us he would not order the Corinthians to give even to a charity which he reckoned an important one. He wanted them to be men, and not dumb, driven cattle.
II. The motives he brought to bear.
1. The example of Christ (verse 9). To a Christian mind Christ is all; the measure of all things: the standard and the reference.
2. The desire of reciprocity (verses 13-15). This is the watchword of Socialists, who cry out for equality in circumstances. But think, Paul’s principle is that the abundance of the rich is intended for the supply of the poor; and the illustration of the principle is drawn from the manna (verse 15). If any one through greediness gathered more than enough, it bred worms, and became offensive; and if through weakness, or deep sorrow, or pain, any were prevented from collecting enough, still what they had collected was sufficient. In this miracle St. Paul perceives a great universal principle of human life. God has given to every man a certain capacity and a certain power of enjoyment. Beyond that he cannot find delight. Whatsoever he heaps or hoards beyond that is not enjoyment but disquiet. E.g., if a man monopolises to himself rest which should be shared by others, the result is unrest--the weariness of one on whom time hangs heavily. Again, if a man piles up wealth, all beyond a certain point becomes disquiet. How well life teaches us that whatever is beyond enough breeds worms, and becomes offensive! We can now understand why the apostle desired equality, and what that equality was which he desired. Equality with him meant reciprocation--the feeling of a true and loving brotherhood; which makes each man feel, “My superabundance is not mine: it is another’s: not to be taken by force, or wrung from me by law, but to be given freely by the law of love.” Observe, then, how Christianity would soon solve the problems of the rights of the poor and the duties of the rich. After how much does possession become superabundance? When has a man gathered too much? You cannot answer these questions by any science. Socialism cannot do it. Revolutions will try to do it, but they will only take from the rich and give to the poor; so that the poor become rich, and the rich poor, and we have inequality back again. But give us the spirit of Christ. Let us love as Christ loved. Give us the spirit of sacrifice which the early Church had, when no man said that aught of the things he possessed was his own; then each man’s own heart will decide what is meant by gathering too much, and what is meant by Christian equality. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
But by an equality.--
New Testament equality
The word ἰσότης means here neither reciprocity nor equity, but equality, as the illustration in verse 15 shows. The ἐκ, as in verse 11, expresses the rule or standard in giving. The rule is equality; we must give so as to produce, or that there may be, equality. This is not agrarianism, nor community of goods. The New Testament teaches on this subject--
I. That all giving is voluntary. A man’s property is his own. It is in his own power to retain or to give away; and if he gives, it is his prerogative to decide whether it shall be much or little (Acts 5:4). Giving is the fruit of love. It is of course obligatory as a moral duty, and the indisposition to give is proof of the absence of the love of God (1 John 3:17). Still it is one of those duties the performance of which others cannot enforce as a right belonging to them. It must remain at our own discretion.
II. That the end to be accomplished by giving is relieving the necessities of the poor. The equality therefore aimed at is not an equality as to the amount of property, but equal relief from the burden of want.
III. That whilst all men are brethren, and the poor as poor, whether Christians or not, are the proper objects of charity, yet there is a special obligation resting on the members of Christ to relieve the wants of their fellow-believers (Galatians 6:10). All the directions in this and the following chapter have reference to the duty of Christians to their fellow-believers. There are two reasons for this.
1. The common relation of believers to Christ as members of His body, so that what is done to them is done to Him, and their consequent intimate relation to each other as being one body in Christ Jesus.
2. The assurance that the good done to them is pure good. There is no apprehension that the alms bestowed will encourage idleness or vice.
IV. The poor have no right to depend on the benefactions of the rich because they are brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Thus do the Scriptures avoid, on the one hand, the injustice and destructive evils of agrarian communism, by recognising the right of property and making all almsgiving optional; and on the other, the heartless disregard of the poor by inculcating the universal brotherhood of believers, and the consequent duty of each to contribute of his abundance to relieve the necessities of the poor. At the same time they inculcate on the poor the duty of self-support to the extent of their ability. They are commanded “with quietness to work, and to eat their own bread.” Could these principles be carried out, there would be among Christians neither idleness nor want. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
2 Corinthians 8:16-24
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus.
Thanksgiving to God for ministerial care
1. We may look up, and give thanks to God for what they are.
2. We may look back, and give thanks to God for what they were. Now these two will very much consist together--the praising of Titus, and the praising of God for Titus.
I. It is mentioned to the praise of Titus that he had in his heart an earnest care for the Corinthians. Observe, what service he did was from a principle within, from something in his heart; there is the fountain. Nor is any work of piety or charity properly a good work unless it be a heart work. It was a principle of care that actuated him in this service. The word οπουδη signifies a close application and intention of mind to the business he was employed in, a concern to have it done well, fear lest there should be any mistake or miscarriage in it, diligence, industry, and expedition in the prosecution of it. What Titus found to do for the glory of God, and the good of the souls of men, he did it with all his might, and made a business of it. We translate it an earnest care, his heart was upon, and he left no stone unturned to bring it to a good issue. Now in the earnest care that Titus had for the churches, we are to consider him both in general, as a minister of the gospel, and in particular, as an agent in the work of charity.
1. Let us consider him as an evangelist, for so Timothy and he and many others were. He was an assistant to the apostles, both in planting churches and in watering those that were planted. That which Titus is here commended for, is the earnest care he had for those of the Church of Corinth, and for their spiritual welfare. And concerning this we may observe--
(1) Though Titus was not under any particular obligation to the Corinthians, as their settled pastor, yet he had an earnest care for them, and they were very much influenced by his care, and were very observant of what he said to them. He did not ask, “What are they to me?” nor was he asked what he had to do to concern himself about them. God is no respecter of persons in His bounty, nor must he be so in ours. Titus had an earnest care in his heart to make himself a blessing wherever he comes, and such should we have; we must study to serve some good purpose in every place where Providence casts our lot. The more extensive our usefulness is, the more it resembles His goodness whose tender mercies are over all His works.
(2) Though Titus had many to take care of, many churches that he visited and interested himself in the affairs of, yet his care for each of them was an earnest care. The stream of his pious concern ran broad, and yet it ran deep. The extensiveness of his care abated nothing of the earnestness of it. Some are made careless by the greatness of their undertaking, they grasp at too much, and then think that will excuse them in their neglects. Though a wise man would not thrust himself into a hurry of business, nor have more irons in the fire than he can look after, yet a good man would covet a fulness of business, according as his capacity is, that whenever his Master comes he may be found doing.
(3) Though there were others who had the care of the Corinthians, and whose business it was to direct, exhort, and quicken them, yet Titus showed the same care for them that they did; not that he would intrude into other men’s office, or take their work out of their hands, but he would strengthen their hands, and carry on their work, would second what they said, and add thereto many like words. He saw there was need of all the help that might be for the furtherance of the gospel there. Let us now see what improvement we may make of this part of Titus’s care as a minister, thus in some measure copied out.
1. It sets a good example before ministers whose hearts should in like manner be full of earnest care about the work they have to do, and the great trust committed to them; and happy were it for the Church if they were all thus.
2. It lays an engagement upon people, who have been or are under the care, the earnest care, of faithful ministers.
(1) Examine yourselves how you have reproved under his earnest care for you, and whether your profiting has appeared m any proportion to the opportunities you have enjoyed; whether your growth in knowledge and grace has been answerable to the care that has been taken of you, and the pains that have been taken with you.
(2) If ministers have and should have such an earnest care for your souls, should not you much more have an earnest, a more earnest, care for your own souls?
(3) If ministers must have this earnest care for the souls of those under their charge, surely parents and masters of families ought to have some care, to have an earnest care, for the spiritual welfare of those under their charge, their children, their servants, to restrain them from that which would be to the prejudice and ruin of their souls, and to provide that for them which is necessary to their well-being.
2. We now come to consider Titus as an active instrument at this time in a work of charity that was on foot.
(1) It is easy to apprehend that herein he showed an earnest care for the poor saints at Jerusalem, for whose use this collection was made, and a great concern for them, that they should be speedily and plentifully relieved in their present distress; and they would have reason to say, “Thanks be to God, that put into the heart of Titus this care” for us and our families, for otherwise we might have perished. Titus heard what straits they were reduced to, and as one who put his soul into their souls’ stead, laid out himself to get supply for them. Though Titus was a Greek, and was never circumcised, as Timothy was, and upon that account the saints at Jerusalem (many of whom retained too great an affection for the ceremonial law) were perhaps cool towards him, yet he was active to do them service, as Paul also was, though he was the apostle of the Gentiles, so our liberality must not be confined to those who are just of our own sentiment and way. This was the good work that Titus had this earnest care to help forward.
(2) It is as true, though not so easily apprehended, that Titus showed as earnest a care for the Corinthians, whom he persuaded to do good, as for the saints at Jerusalem, whom he desired that this good might be done to. Now Titus had an earnest care for the Corinthians, that they who came not behind in any gift, might not come behind in this gift; he was in care that they should not be slow in their contributions, because Paul had boasted of them, that Achaia was ready a year ago (2 Corinthians 9:2); and in care that they should not be illiberal in them, but that what was gathered should be considerable: he was in care that they should give like themselves. The Corinthians were generally a rich people, and lived great; whence it became a proverb, “Every man cannot pretend to live at Corinth.” Now Titus was jealous of them, lest they should pinch their charity to feed their luxury. The particular kindness he had for this Church of Corinth did not put him upon contriving how he might excuse them from this good work, or make it easy to them, that it might be the more kind to him; but on the contrary, because he loved them, he was very earnest with them to do more than otherwise they would have done.
I would endeavour, therefore, for the amending of this matter, to make it out that those are to be accounted your friends who, with prudence and discretion, propose to you proper objects of charity, and press you to give liberally to them.
(1) They would have you to do that which is your duty, a plain, necessary, and great duty, which God requires of all those whom He has entrusted with this world’s goods.
(2) They would have you do that which will be your honour, and which will put a reputation upon you, and therefore it must be looked upon as an instance of their earnest care for your preferment.
(3) They would have you do that which you will have comfort in, and advantage by, in this world, and therefore you are to reckon them your friends who have a care for you.
(4) They would have you do that which will be fruit abounding to your account in the day of recompence.
II. It is mentioned to the praise of God, that He put this earnest care into the heart of Titus for them; and thanks are given to Him for it. Now thanks be to God, who by His providence brought Titus to Corinth, and by His grace excited and enabled him to do this good office there. See how solicitous blessed Paul is upon all occasions to ascribe the glory of all the good that was done, whether by others or by himself, to the grace of God, and to own in it the influences and operations of that grace.
1. That God can put things into men’s hearts beyond what was expected. He is the Sovereign of the heart, not only to enjoin it what He pleases by His law, but to influence it, and to infuse into it by His providence and grace as He pleases. He has access to men’s hearts. The way of man is not in himself, he cannot think what he will, but the wise God can overrule him. Let no man boast of his free thought, when whatever devices are in men’s hearts, it is not their counsel, but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. See in this how God governs the world, by the hold He has of the consciences of men.
2. That whatever good is in the heart of any, it is God that puts it there. If Titus have in his heart an earnest care for the spiritual welfare of the Corinthians, though he is a very good man, and one whom much good may be expected from, yet even this is not of himself, it is not to be called a natural affection, it is a gracious one. If we have an earnest care for our own souls, and for their spiritual and eternal welfare, it is God that puts it into our hearts, that gives it to us, so the word here used signifies, it is He that plants it in us.
3. That Christ’s ministers are in a particular manner all that, and that only, to His churches that He makes them to be. They are stars that shine with a borrowed light, and shed no other benign influences but what are derived from the Sun of Righteousness. If they have a care, an earnest care, a natural care, for the souls committed to their charge, it is God who has put it into their hearts, it is His grace in them that makes them blessings to the places where they are. We must therefore look up to God, by prayer, for that grace which is necessary to make the stewards of the mysteries of God both skilful and faithful.
4. That the grace of God is particularly to be seen and owned in the progress and success of any work of charity, as this here, which Titus was active in among the Corinthians. In this we may be tempted to think there needs no more but that common concurrence of the Divine Providence which is necessary to the negotiating of every other affair; but it seems by this we have as much need of the working of the Spirit and grace of God to enable us to give alms well, as to enable us to pray and preach well.
Let us now close all with some inferences to these observations.
1. If this be so, then those who do good have nothing to glory in; for whatever good they do it was God that put it into their hearts to do it, and therefore He must have all the glory. Boasting is hereby for ever excluded. This forbids us to trust to our own good works, as if by them we could merit anything at the hand of God.
2. If this be so, then those who have any good done them, either for soul or body, must give thanks to God for it, who raised up those who were the instruments of it, and put it into their hearts to do it, and perhaps to do it with an earnest care. We ought indeed to acknowledge their kindness and to be grateful to them, but that must be in token of our gratitude to God, who, in making them His agents, made them His receivers. But we must look above and beyond them.
3. If this be so, let us hereby be engaged and quickened to do all the good we can in our places; to do the good the Corinthians did, that is, to contribute largely and freely for the support and encouragement of poor saints according to the ability God has given us; to do the good Titus did, that is, to solicit the cause both of the necessitous and of the deserving, and to procure assistance for them. Hereby we shall evidence that God, by His grace, has put some good into our hearts, which the good we do is the fruit and product of, and by which the tree is known. Hereby likewise we shall give occasion to many to praise God for us, and for the good which by His grace we are inclined and enabled to do.
4. This may be matter of comfort and support to us when useful instruments are removed from us. (Matthew Henry.)
The collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem
(text and chap. 9.):--
I. The mode of collecting the contribution.
1. St. Paul entrusted this task to three messengers: to Titus, who was himself eager to go; to a Christian brother whom the churches had selected as their almoner; and to another whose zeal had been tested frequently by St. Paul himself.
2. The reasons for sending these messengers.
(1) To give the Corinthians time (2 Corinthians 9:3). Observe the tender wisdom of this proceeding. Every one knows how different is the feeling with which we give when charity is beforehand, from that with which we give when it comes side by side with debts and taxes. The charity which finds us unprepared is a call as hateful as that of any creditor whom it is hard to pay.
(2) To preserve their reputation for charity. For if the Corinthians were not ready, their inability to pay would be exhibited before the messengers. Observe--
(a) The just value which the apostle set on Christian reputation. For the inability of the Corinthians would be like insolvency, and would damage their character. We all know how insolvency damages the man, how he feels humbled by it, and “ashamed” before men.
(b) The delicacy of the mode in which the hint is given: “We (that we say not, ye) may not be ashamed.” St. Paul makes it a matter of personal anxiety. Thereby he appealed not to their selfish feelings, but to everything which was noble or high within them. The Corinthians would feel, We cannot bear that Paul should be disgraced. This is a great principle. Appeal to the highest motives, whether they be there or no, for you make them where you do not find them. Arnold trusted his boys, and all attempt at deceiving him ceased forthwith. When Christ appealed to the love in the heart of the sinful woman, that love broke forth pure again.
(3) To preserve his own reputation. If so large a sum had been entrusted to him alone he might have been suspected of appropriating a portion to himself (verses 20, 21). In this is to be observed St. Paul’s wisdom. He knew that the world would scan his every act and word, and attribute all conceivable and even inconceivable evil to what he did in all honour. Now, because the bare conception of malversation was impossible to him, we might have expected him to forget that the world would not think it equally impossible. For to the pure all things are pure. It is to such--men guileless of heart--that Christ says, “Be ye wise as serpents.” Consider how defenceless St. Paul would have been had the accusation been made! Moreover, though he were to be acquitted, a charge refuted is not as if a charge had never been made: Years after, the oblivious world, remembering only the accusation, and forgetting the fulness of the refutation, asks, “But were there not some suspicious circumstances?” No innocence will shield, no honour, nor integrity bright as the sun itself, will keep off altogether the biting breath of calumny. Therefore it is that he says, “Let not your good be evil spoken of.” Therefore it is that he, avoiding the possibility of this, sent messengers to collect the money, “providing for things honest in the sight of all men.”
II. The measure of the amount. The apostle did not name a sum to the Corinthians, but counselled them to be--
1. Liberal: “As a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” He did not speak as we often preach--in an impassioned manner in order to get a large collection. Yet he plainly told them that a large contribution was what God asked. In the multitudinous charities for which you are solicited, give liberally somewhere, in God’s name, and to God’s cause. But the cases must depend on yourselves, and should be conscientiously adopted.
2. Deliberate: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart.” Distinguish this deliberate charity from giving through mere impulse. Christian charity is a calm, wise thing; it has, too, courage to refuse. A Christian man will not give to everything; he will not give because it is the fashion; because an appeal is very impassioned, or because it touches his sensibilities. He gives as he “purposeth in his heart.” Here I remark that often the truest charity is not giving but employing.
3. Cheerful: “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”
III. The measure of the reward. As in all spiritual rewards it is exactly proportioned to the acts done. The law of the spiritual harvest is twofold.
1. In reference to quantity: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.” Hence may be inferred the principle of degrees of glory hereafter (cf. the Parable of the Talents)
. The right hand and left of Christ in His kingdom are given only to those who drink of His cup and are baptized with His baptism.
2. In reference to kind. The reward of an act of charity is kindred with the act itself. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” A harvest of wheat comes not from sown barley, etc. Thus also is it in the spiritual world. Now here often a strange fallacy arises. Men sow their carnal things--give their money, for example, to God, and expect to reap the same. In pagan times fishermen or farmers sacrificed their respective properties, and expected a double fishery or harvest in return. The same pagan principle has come down to us. Some persons “lend to the Lord,” in order that He may repay them with success in business, or an advance in trade. The fallacy lies in this: the thing sown was not money, but spirit, e.g., the poor widow gave two mites, but God took account of sacrifice. The sinful woman gave an alabaster box of ointment, valued by a miserable economist at three hundred pence. God valued it as so much love. Now God is not going to pay these things in coin of this earth. He will repay them with spiritual coin in kind. In the particular instance now before us, what are the rewards of liberality which St. Paul promises to the Corinthians? They are--
(1) The love of God (verse 7).
(2) A spirit abounding to every good work (verse 8).
(3) Thanksgiving on their behalf (verses 11, 12, 13).
A noble harvest! but all spiritual. Give, and do not expect your money to be returned, like that of Joseph’s brethren in their sacks’mouths. When you give to God, sacrifice, and know that what you give is sacrificed, and is not to be got again, even in this world; for if you give, expecting it back again, there is no sacrifice; charity is no speculation in the spiritual funds, no wise investment, to be repaid with interest either in time or eternity! (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.--
Twelve causes of dishonesty
Only extraordinary circumstances can give the appearance of dishonesty to an honest man. Usually, not to seem honest, is not to be so. The quality must not be doubtful like twilight, lingering between night and day and taking hues from both; it must be daylight, clear and effulgent. No one has honesty without dross, until he has honesty without suspicion.
1. Some men find in their bosom from the first a vehement inclination to dishonest ways. Knavish ways are inherited from dishonest parents.
2. A child naturally fair-minded may become dishonest by parental example. He may be taught to be sharp in bargains, and vigilant for every advantage. Little is said about honesty, and much about shrewd traffic. Whatever profit breaks no legal statute--though gained by falsehood--is considered fair.
3. Dishonesty is learned from one’s employers.
4. Extravagance is a prolific source of dishonesty. The desire to be thought affluent; to outrival others in display.
5. Debt is an inexhaustible fountain of dishonesty. The debtor learns cunning tricks, concealments, excuses.
6. Bankruptcy, although a branch of debt, deserves separate mention.
7. There is a circle of moral dishonesties practised because the law allows them. Gentlemen who can break the whole of God’s law so adroitly as to leave man’s law unbroken.
8. Political dishonesty breeds dishonesty of every kind. The idea that all is fair in politics has to be smitten.
9. A corrupt public sentiment produces dishonesty.
10. Financial agents are especially liable to the temptations of dishonesty. Their whole attention falls directly upon naked money. The hourly sight of it whets the appetite.
11. Executive clemency, by its frequency, has been a temptation to dishonesty. Who will fear to be a culprit when a legal sentence is the prelude of pardon?
12. Criminal speculations are prolific of dishonesty. Speculation is the risking of capital in enterprises greater than we can control, or in enterprises whose elements are not all calculable. (H. W. Beecher.)
The double standard of duty
The language is peculiar; as though the human standard were a step higher than the Divine; as though a Christian were in more danger of coming short of honesty before men than before God. St. Paul really means, however, that we are to keep both standards in view.
I. The human standard of duty.
1. It partly serves to interpret the Divine law, not fully, but in important measure.
2. It restrains us from reading the law according to our own interests, which is a constant danger. “Private interpretation” has danger in it.
3. It is a law over us that we are more or less stringently held to obey. Its penalty is visible; and so it educates us to obedience.
II. The Divine law.
1. It is stricter than man’s law. We may well say to ourselves if men demand this, God demands more.
2. The Divine law considers our motives in all their extent, and holds us to account according to our intent, our power, and opportunity.
3. The Divine law demands our best; men will take less; God asks honesty and fidelity as we know them, not as men define them. (Homiletic Monthly.)
Wherefore shew ye to them … the proof of your love.--
Expected proof of professed love
1. In every believer’s heart there is--
(1) Love to God. He cannot else be a child of God.
(2) Love to Christ. How could he be a Christian otherwise? As a consequence of this.
(3) Love to the brotherhood.
2. Where there is true love in the heart it becomes a working principle. It is a vital principle, and out of its growth there comes fruit.
I. What is the excellence of this love that we should be so anxious to prove it? It is--
1. Divine in its origin. We should never have loved if God had not first loved us. It is, therefore, a precious thing, and we ought to take heed that we assuredly possess it, and so to live that others may be convinced that it rules our spirits.
2. Surpassing in its energy, for true love to God exceeds all other love. This affection, like Aaron’s rod, must swallow up all others, and must therefore produce its own proof. If it were some minor passion we might not be so particular about it.
3. Vital in its necessity. If a man does not love God, Christ, and His people, then the life of God does not dwell in him. Hence the importance that the proofs of our love should be unmistakable.
4. Warranted by the facts of the case. Love to God--I will not spend a word in justifying it. Love to Christ--how can it be needful to commend it to you? “Love so amazing, so Divine,” etc.
5. Eminent in its achievements. It makes Christians strong. Faith laughs at impossibilities, and cries, “It must be done”; but love performs the deed, for “faith worketh by love.” What have not men done out of love to Christ?
II. What is this proof? As regards--
1. God and Christ. If you love Him you will keep His commandments, seek to honour Him, be anxious to extend His rule, long for communion with Him, grieve when you grieve Him, long to be like Him.
2. God’s ministers. If they speak well of you, do not let them have cause to retract their holy boasting, and to say with tears, “I was deceived in these people.” If any have brought you to Christ, be an honour to them and to the gospel that they preach.
3. God’s people.
(1) Go and join them. Do as she did who said, “Whither thou goest, I will go;… thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
(2) When you have joined the church, show a proof of your love by hearty fellowship.
(3) Unite with them in service.
4. The ungodly. Try to snatch the firebrands from the flame. If you can preach Christ. Speak of Him to your companions.
III. Why is this proof called for?
1. True love always longs to prove itself. It does not need a command to do it. It is waiting for an opportunity. It is so with your domestic life. In a far higher degree, what a delight it is to a Christian to do something for Jesus!
2. That it may become a blessing to other people. It would be of no use for the Corinthians to sing a hymn about charity while the poor saints at Jerusalem had not a loaf to eat.
3. It is reasonable that you should do so. God did not love you and keep it to Himself; He gave His Son.
IV. Who it is that calls for this proof of our love. I will leave out everybody else and say, it is your Lord, your own dying, living Saviour who says, “Show Me the proof of your love.” I will tell you how He is saying it.
1. Affliction has come into your house. There is a dear one dead; and Jesus says, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these dear ones? If so, thou wilt part with them and not complain.”
2. Perhaps you have had a difference lately with one to whom you ought to be united in friendship. Now your Lord and Master says to you, “Show Me the proof of your love. Forgive him for My sake even to seventy times seven; and if you have wronged him confess the wrong, and humble yourself for My sake.”
3. But possibly there are some here who have had in their minds the project of doing something unusual for Jesus, or the church, or the poor, or for missions to the heathen. Jesus says, “I have prospered you: when others have failed in business I have taken care of you. Show Me the proof of your love.” Will you not hear His call? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Corinthians 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25