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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
2 Corinthians 8

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

Ver. 1. Of the grace of God] It is a favour, yea, an honour to us, that we may relieve poor Christ in his necessitous members, Psalms 16:2. When therefore he sets us up an altar, be we ready with this sacrifice, Hebrews 13:16.


Verse 2

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

Ver. 2. In a great trial of affliction] For affliction tries what metal we are made of. Alchemy gold will not endure the seventh fire as true gold will. Affliction (the trial of our faith) is more precious than gold, 1 Peter 1:7. What then is faith itself so tried? Revelation 3:18.

The abundance of their joy] While the spirit of glory and of God rested upon them, 1 Peter 4:14. Well may grace be called the divine nature; for, as God brings light out of darkness, riches out of poverty, &c., so doth grace: it turns dirt into gold, &c. The world wonders (said that martyr) how we can be so merry in such extreme misery. But our God is omnipotent, which turneth misery into felicity. {See Trapp on "2 Corinthians 7:4"}

Their deep poverty] Gr. η κατα βαθους πτωχεια, their poverty being now at the very bottom, and having little left beside hope; they were even exhausted, and yet gave liberally. Giles of Brussels, martyr, gave to the poor whatsoever he had, that necessity could spare, and only lived by his science, which was of a cutler. {a} Some he refreshed with his meat, some with his clothes, some with his household stuff. One poor woman there was brought to bed, and had no bed to lie in; to whom he brought his own bed, himself content to lie in the straw.

Unto the riches of their liberality] Gr. απλοτης, of their simplicity, in opposition to that crafty and witty willingness of the covetous to defend themselves from the danger of liberality; wherein also they are utterly mistaken; for not getting, but giving is the way to thrive. {See Trapp on "Matthew 6:4"}

{a} One who makes, deals in, or repairs knives and similar cutting utensils. ŒD


Verse 3

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

Ver. 3. Yea, and beyond their power] One such poor Macedonian might well shame a hundred rich Corinthian curmudgeons. {a} They knew that Manus pauperum est gazophylacium Christi, The hand of the poor man is the treasury of Christ, and might haply have heard of their once King Alexander the Great, how that when he had undertaken the conquest of the Persian empire, he gave away his treasure; and being asked where it was, he pointed to the poor, and said, In scriniis, in my chests; and when he was further asked what he kept for himself, he answered, Spem maiorum et meliorum, The hope of greater and better things.

They were willing] Gr. αυθαιρετοι, they were volunteers, full of cheerful charity. So were Aidanus, and after him Mr Fox, who gave his horse to a poor beggar that answered him discreetly. Mr Greenham also gave more than he could spare; so that he usually lacked money to get in his harvest.

{a} An avaricious churlish fellow; a miser, a niggard ŒD


Verse 4

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

Ver. 4. Receive the gift] Gr. χαριν, the grace, i.e. the alms; it being of God’s free grace that we have, 1. What to give; 2. Hearts to give it. For naturally we are all like children, which though they have their bosoms, mouths, and both hands full, yet are loth to part with any.


Verse 5

5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

Ver. 5. Not as we hoped] God is usually better to us than our hopes.

First gave their own selves to the Lord] Ay, this is the right way of giving alms; and this is done by faith, the work whereof is to be an empty hand, Mendica manus (as Luther calleth it), a beggar’s hand to receive it; but when it hath received, it gives back again itself and all, and thinks all too little, as Mary Magdalen did her precious ointment.

And unto us by the will] The good soul delivers up itself to Christ’s faithful ministers, and saith in effect to them, as Luther, before he was better informed, wrote to Pope Leo X, A. D. 1518, Prostratum pedibus me tibi offero, cum omnibus quae sum et habeo:-Vocem tuam vocem Christi in te praesidentis et loquentis agnoscam: I humbly prostrate myself with all that I have and am at thy feet. (Scult. Annal.)


Verse 6

6 Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

Ver. 6. So he would finish] Finis opus coronat. The end crowns the work. "The end is better than the beginning," saith Solomon. Charles V’s emblem was Ulterius, Farther. Titus was here desired to take up the whole alms, and not to faint till he had finished, Galatians 6:9.


Verse 7

7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

Ver. 7. As he abound in faith] He purposely commendeth them, that he may the better insinuated into them. Ministers may profitably praise their people in some cases, that they may the sooner win them to duty; for there is no so sweet hearing (saith Xenophon) as a man’s own commendation, ηδιστον ακουσμα επαινος.


Verse 8

8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

Ver. 8. To prove the sincerity] Gr. το γνησιον, the germanity, the naturalness, legitimateness opposed to bastardliness. This age aboundeth with mouth mercy, which is good cheap, and therefore like refuse fruit is found growing in every hedge. But a little handful were worth a great many such mouthfuls, Isaiah 58:13. Complaint is made that there is not any one that taketh Sion by the hand. St James tells of some in his time that would feed their poor brethren with good words and good wishes, James 2:15-16, as if they had been of the chameleon kind, to live with Ephraim upon wind, Hosea 12:1. But what said the poor man to the cardinal who denied him a penny which he begged, and offered him his blessing, which he begged not? If thy blessing had been worth a penny, I should not have had it: keep it therefore to thyself. (Carle.)


Verse 9

9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

Ver. 9. He became poor] Not having where to lay his head, nor wherewith to pay tribute, till he had sent to sea for it. Lo, he that was heir of all things, Hebrews 1:2, was scarcely owner of anything, but disenriched and disrobed himself of all, that through his poverty he might crown us with the inestimable riches of heavenly glory; this is such a motive to mercifulness as may melt the most flinty heart that is. Riches imply two things: 1. Plenty of that which is precious. 2. Propriety; they must be good things that are our own; and so, those only are rich that have interest in Christ’s purchase.


Verse 10

10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.

Ver. 10. But also to be forward] Gr. to be willing. This the apostle makes to be more than to do, that is, than to do with an ill will, or for by-respects. Virtus nolentium nulla est. Christ will enjoy his spouse’s love by a willing contract, not by a ravishment; the title of all converts is a willing people, Psalms 110:3.


Verse 11

11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.

Ver. 11. Now therefore perform] Unless our willing of good be seconded with endeavour, it is nothing worth. Balaam wished well to heaven; so did he that came kneeling to our Saviour with Good master, &c.; but; they stuck at the hardship of holiness, without which there is no heaven to be had; they would not come off here, and therefore got nothing by their short winded wishes. Solomon compares such sluggards to the door that turns on the hinges, but yet hangs still upon them, it comes not off for all the turnings. Their purposes without performances are like a cloud without rain; and not unlike Hercules’ club in the tragedy, of a great bulk, but stuffed with moss and rubbish. Virtutem expotant contabescuntque relicta. (Peri.)


Verse 12

12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

Ver. 12. It is accepted] Sic minimo capitur thuris honore Deus. Noah’s sacrifice could not be great, yet was greatly accepted. Jacob had his sons take a little of every good thing, and carry for a present to the lord of Egypt. Saul and his servant present Samuel with the fourth part of a shekel, to the value of about our five pence. Thankfulness (they had learned) was not measured by God and by good men by the weight, but by the will of the retributor. God calls for that which a man’s heart inclines him to do, be it more, be it less; so low doth his highness stoop to our meanness, preferring the willingness of the mind before the worthiness of the work. That poor widow’s mite was beyond the rich man’s magnificence, because it came out of a richer mind.


Verse 13

13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:

Ver. 13. And you burdened] Gr. θλιψις, pinched or pressed, viz. with poverty.


Verse 14

14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

Ver. 14. Your abundance] That your cup may overflow into their lesser dishes, that your superfluities both in respect of the necessity of nature and exigency of estate (as the schoolmen speak) may supply the wants of God’s poor afflicted.

A supply for your want] Those that lend mercy may have need to borrow. The Shunammite that refused once to be spoken for to the king by the prophet, little thought she should afterwards have craved that courtesy of his man Gehazi. Those that stand fastest upon earth have but slippery footing. No man can say that he shall not need friends. Pythias was so wealthy a man, that he was able to entertain Xerxes’ whole army, consisting of a million of men; yet afterwards he became so poor that he lacked bread.


Verse 15

15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

Ver. 15. He that had gathered much] He that was so nimble as to gather more than his neighbour was to supply his neighbour, that every man might have his omer. Now the equity of this law being common and perpetual, the apostle draweth his argument from it. Riches, saith one, are but as manna; those that gathered more of it had but enough to serve their turn (or if they gathered more, it was but a trouble and annoyance to them), and they that gathered less had no want. Let the rich account themselves the poor man’s stewards. "Withhold not good from the owners thereof (the poor) when it is in the power of thy hand to do it," Proverbs 3:27. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 3:27"}


Verse 16

16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.

Ver. 16. But thanks be to God] Deo gratias was ever in Paul’s mouth, and in Austin’s, and should be in ours.


Verse 17

17 For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.

Ver. 17. But being more forward] A good heart is ready to every good work, waiting the occasions thereof, Titus 3:1; as the bee, as soon as ever the sun breaks forth, flies abroad to gather honey and wax.


Verse 18

18 And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;

Ver. 18. Whose praise is in the Gospel] St Luke, likely, who first wrote the Gospel, as some gather out of Luke 1:1, and whom Ambrose highly commendeth for the most clear and distinct gospel writer.


Verse 19

19 And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:

Ver. 19. Chosen of the Churches] This compared with Acts 13:1-2, it may seem the apostle meaneth not Luke, but Barnabas; though others think Timothy. (Danae in 1 Timothy 6:12)


Verse 20

20 Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:

Ver. 20. Avoiding this] As shipmen avoid a rock or shelf, στελλομενοι; for it is a seafaring term, and shows how shy we should be of doing aught that may render our honesty suspected. Ego si bonam famam servasso, sat dives ere, said he in the Comedy.


Verse 21

21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

Ver. 21. Providing] Projecting, procuring, προνοουμενοι. A good name is a great blessing, and therefore the same word in Hebrew signifieth both, Proverbs 28:20, ברכה


Verse 22

22 And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you.

Ver. 22. Whom we have oft] Some are of the opinion that Luke is here deciphered rather than 2 Corinthians 8:19. Whoever it was, it is much for his honour, that Apelles-like he was approved in Christ, and active for the Church, Romans 16:10.


Verse 23

23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.

Ver. 23. Messengers] Gr. apostles, emandati, ambassadors of special and high employment.

The glory of Christ] So the Church is called "the glory," Isaiah 4:5; God’s glory, Isaiah 46:13; a crown of glory, and a royal diadem in the hand of Jehovah, Isaiah 62:3; the throne of God, Exodus 17:16; {margin}; the throne of glory, Jeremiah 14:21; the ornament of God, yea, the beauty of his ornament, set in majesty, Ezekiel 7:20. There is not so much of the glory of God (saith one) in all his works of creation and providence, as in one gracious action that a Christian performs.


Verse 24

24 Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

Ver. 24. Wherefore show ye] As by an ocular demonstration, or as by pointing the finger, ενδειξασθε.

Before the Churches] In the face of the Churches, εις προσωπον, whose eyes are now full set upon you, to see what entertainment ye will give to their messengers. A Christian is like a crystal glass with a lamp in the midst.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-corinthians-8.html. 1865-1868.


Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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