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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
2 Corinthians 8

 

 

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Verses 1-24

THE CONTRIBUTION TO THE POOR SAINTS OR JERUSALEM

Having been exceedingly encouraged by the ministry of Timothy at Corinth at an earlier date, the report of Titus now in reference to the glorious success of his first letter, and the wonderful revival which had taken place under his ministry, transporting him with joy unutterable, he winds up the portion of the letter appertaining to those irregularities being satisfied with the reformations reported by Titus. And now he devotes a considerable space to the interest of the contributions they were raising throughout the entire churches for the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem, who had found it necessary to sell out their estates to support that great Pentecostal revival, and consequently needed financial help.

1. But we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God which was given in the churches of Macedonia, that amid a great trial of persecution the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” Paul was a wonderfully deep thinker on everything to which he gave his attention, showing up the nicest and most delicate distinctions and revealing occult facts which grosser minds would pass without recognition.

3. Because I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they are willing.

4. With much entreaty praying of us the grace and fellowship of the ministry toward the saints.” Here we see an astounding manifestation of Christian liberality in the fact that these Thessalonian Christians did not have to be solicited, but were actually running after Paul and his preaching comrades, and begging them to let them make contributions to the poor saints at Jerusalem.

5. And not as we hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us through the will of God, that we should exhort Titus, in order that as he previously began it, so also he may complete this benefaction even among you.” Paul here is stirring them up by telling them of the wonderful zeal in Macedonia, where they are not only anxious to give according to their ability, but even going ahead of their ability and entreating them to give them a chance to take part in this benefaction, but they are now exhorting Titus that as he has given attention of this enterprise among you, i. e., Corinthians, we must have him go ahead and complete it.

7. But as you abound in everything, in faith.” This is the fundamental grace in the plan of salvation, underlying every other like the great strata of the earth underlying and holding up the oceans, continents and mountain ranges. “And in word.” That is the grand, rich treasure which God gives to His people, the precious Word of life and salvation, which is bread, meat, milk, honey, wine, the fatted calf and all the delicious fruits of Canaan, and at the same time the sword of the Spirit with which we are to fight our way through the battlefields of earth till we stand on the mount of celestial triumph. “And knowledge.” That is one of the inestimable gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8) which shed light on the revealed Word, and qualify us to understand its deep spiritual meaning. Those Corinthians were wonderfully enriched with faith, word and knowledge, most invaluable gifts and graces. “And all zeal.” This was a necessary concomitant to their faith, word and knowledge. They are all on fire, studying the Word and proclaiming it to others, rolling the tide of salvation on all sides. “And the Divine love which is from you among us,” i. e., love which God has poured into your hearts and now running out toward us. The glowing report of Titus had flooded them with consolation in reference to the abounding love of the Corinthians in his behalf. “In order that you also may abound in this grace,” i. e., the grace of this philanthropy in behalf of the Jerusalem saints. He now stimulates them, by the consideration that they abound in everything else, that they may also add this beautiful star to the constellation of Christian graces, already large, bright and increasing into, the adornment of their Christian character.

8. I do not speak according to commandment, but through the zeal of others also proving the sincerity of your love.” He disclaims every disposition to make this duty mandatory, leaving it purely optionary and hortatory. From this we should learn a profitable lesson. All the castigations we find in the apostolical letters simply appertain to spiritualities, temporalities all being left optionary. Among the sad indices of ecclesiastical apostasy we find an undue emphasis laid on material interest, and a corresponding laxity on the spiritual. Here the whole church is stirred over one case of fornication. We learn from this that finances are always to be purely optionary, otherwise they forfeit all the grace of God. The current assessment systems are much out of harmony with the pure and disinterested Christian liberality taught in God’s Word. They are rendered entirely too imperative, thus forfeiting the sweet influences of the blessed Holy Spirit.

9. (“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He being rich, for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might be made rich.”) This verse is a beautiful allusion to the example of our Savior, who left the boundless riches of Heaven to be born in a stable, and live and die so poor that He had not a ace to lay His head. Here we see the only incentive that Paul gives them to inspire their liberality and secure a contribution. He simply refers them to the example of the Savior.

10. And I give my opinion in this.” The emphasis in this verse is in opinion in contradistinction to commandment in 2 Corinthians 8:8. So he disclaims the mandatory attitude in the matter altogether and modestly gives it as his opinion that they should make a contribution to the poor saints. Lord, help us all to follow Paul’s example, and when we want to raise money, instead of commanding the people, merely give them our modest opinion that they ought to do this, and refer them to the example of our Savior, who gave His Heavenly inheritance that we might be redeemed from the bankruptcy of sin.

11. And now indeed complete the enterprise in order that as there is first a promptitude of willingness, so also to finish it according to that which you have.

12. For if there is first a willing mind it is accepted according to that which he may have, and not according to that he may not have.” He reminds here that they had begun this enterprise a year ago, and now exhorts them to consummate it according to their resources, assuring them that God takes the will for the deed, and accepts the contribution, not according to what we have not, but simply that which we have. Hence all Christian giving is easy and delightful, no burden about it, but all glad and joyous privilege. Unless there is first a willing mind in the case God does not want a contribution, because He is not poor and does not need it, and if there is not first a willing mind it would not prove a blessing to the contributor. Hence the willing mind is the necessary antecedent to all contributions. Then the contribution is accepted, not according to what we have not, but simply according to what we have. Hence in case of financial inability, God always takes the will for the deed. A vast amount of the backsliding in popular churches results from the financial yokes laid on the people. It is all out of harmony with God’s Word and grievous to the Holy Spirit. It actually scandalizes God, advertising Him to the wicked as very poor and needy, which is utterly false, and abominable in the sight of God. He is not only infinitely rich, but infinitely good. So He is certain to take care of His own cause. He will feed’ the poor and support the gospel without any of your stingy contributions. He does not want them. They are an insult to His majesty.

13. For not that there is relief to others and burden to you, but that it may be according to equality, at the present your abundance corresponding to their deficiency,” i. e., your abundance of temporal things corresponding to the deficiency of the poor saints at Jerusalem.

14. In order that their abundance may correspond to your deficiency, in order that there may be equality.” The Corinthians had already become partakers of the abundant grace which God on the day of Pentecost had conferred on His saints at Jerusalem. It has rolled out a salvation wave over the Gentile world. Hence the pertinency that they may partake of the temporal abundance enjoyed by the Gentiles.

15. As has been written, He that abounded had no surplus, and he that gathered little lacked nothing.” A beautiful allusion to the gathering of manna in the wilderness, when they all had just what they needed, whether they gathered much or little. Hence a recognition of the community of God’s great family, all having an abundant supply regardless of their conditions in life, because our Heavenly Father is good, feeding all of His children like He feeds the birds.

16. Thanks be unto God, who giveth this zeal in your behalf in the heart of Titus.” See how beautifully Paul imputes all of their amiable philanthropy to God.

17. Because he received the exhortation, and, being more zealous, he came unto you of his own accord.” The preaching of Titus among them had gloriously toned them up on all lines, and literally enthused them in behalf of Paul and all of his enterprises.

18. We sent also along with him, whose praise in the gospel is in all the churches.” We do not know what brother this is so highly commended by Paul. Doubtless the verdict is in favor of Gains, Aristarchus or Trophimus, all prominent traveling companions of Paul, and his associate evangelists, and famous among all of the churches for their piety and godly zeal.

19. Not only so, but, having been elected by the churches our companion in this philanthropy ministered by us unto the glory of the Lord and our promotion.” Aristarchus accompanied Paul to Jerusalem when he carried those contributions, remained with him during his two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea, and sailed with him to Rome, passing through the shipwreck, and wintering on Mileta. Most probably he is the man here alluded to. Do not forget that Luke was all this time with Paul, serving as his amanuensis, but too modest to give us a hint with reference to himself. He accompanies Paul down to Corinth, and there, responsive to his dictations, wrote the letter to the Romans during the three months Paul spent there during the winter of A. D. 57-58, and journeyed with him to Jerusalem. Here Paul says this benefaction to the poor saints conduced to the glory of God and their advancement in the Divine life. Observe the word Paul uses throughout these writings to designate that contribution; that word is “grace”; the regular world charis, used one hundred and twenty times in the New Testament, where we have “grace.” Hence it involves the fact that they considered it “grace.” Such it was, both to donors and recipients.

20. Avoiding this that any one may blame us in this philanthropy which is ministered by us.” How important it is that we all deal carefully in church finances, diligently keeping clear of all censure. I have seen many preachers ruined by tinkering with money raised for public benefactions. You can not be too careful in those matters. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

21. We not only provide things beautiful before the Lord, but in presence of men.” The Greek word here describing the public transactions of Paul and comrades means having the beauty of holiness. Lord, help us to be sure that all of our transactions are characterized by the beauty of holiness.

22. Here we are utterly at sea again with reference to the brother who accompanied Titus. Several. would well answer the description, but there is no direct clue to any certain one. It illustrates how exceedingly spiritual the history of the New Testament churches. The Bible is a book of doctrines and facts rather than biography.

23. Whether concerning Titus, he is my companion and fellow-worker unto you. Whether our brethren, the apostles of the churches, they are the glory of Christ.

24. Showing unto them the proof of your Divine love and of our boasting in you in the face of the churches.” The original meaning of “apostle” is one sent out into a new field, i. e., the pioneer. Paul certainly here uses the word in that broad sense, including his comrades, such as Apollos, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus. “Apostles of the churches” evidently means their founders.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/2-corinthians-8.html.


Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 15th, 2018
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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