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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
2 Corinthians 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-6

Paul's Tactful Appeal and Recommendation.

The example of the Macedonian churches:

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

v. 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.

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

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

v. 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,

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

Next to the preaching of the Gospel and the spread of the kingdom of Christ the chief concern of Paul on his third missionary journey was the collection which he was everywhere recommending in the interest of the poor brethren in Jerusalem. Even when the first letter to the Corinthians was written, the collection had been inaugurated in Corinth also, 1Co_16:1, and Paul had earnestly recommended a systematic effort in order that the acute poverty in Jerusalem be alleviated as soon as possible. In Corinth the work was not progressing as satisfactorily as might be expected, and Paul therefore makes a special appeal in this chapter, giving, in a very tactful way, the chief reasons why the Christians of Corinth should take part in the collection with all eagerness. But we make known to you, brethren, the grace of God which is given in the churches of Macedonia. In the matter of making, the collection now under way a success in every way the congregations at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea were proving themselves shining examples, as Paul had found out on the present journey, and as he is now letting the Corinthians know. Not, indeed, as if the people of Macedonia were naturally more inclined to good works than other men. It was the work of God, as the apostle expressly says, a manifestation of the divine favor which enlarged their hearts. For Christians to help each other, to communicate to the needy, is not an evidence of unusual liberality, as a special merit of which they may boast, but it is the work of God's grace, a grace for which all Christians and all Christian congregations should seek and beg in honest prayer.

It was an unusually rich grace which had been given to the Macedonian congregations: That in a great proving of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. The Christians in Macedonia had exceptional difficulties to contend with; they were persecuted and annoyed by their heathen neighbors, and they were poor in this world's goods. But these facts, instead of making them discouraged and causing them to withdraw from the matter of the collection, furnished a test of their faith and love which proved the sincerity of both. They were so full and overflowing with the joy which they had in the fellowship with Christ that they opened their hearts wide and contributed liberally for the relief of their brethren. So thoroughly did they overcome the handicap of affliction and of their great poverty that their liberality abounded in proportion, they went far beyond those who possessed a greater abundance of this world's money and possessions.

So far did they excel in this respect that Paul could testify of them: For according to their power, I bear witness, and beyond their ability willing, of their own accord, with much entreaty begging of us the favor and the participation of the ministry for the saints. Here is a wonderful testimony from the mouth of the apostle, who evidently was well acquainted with the pecuniary circumstances of the Macedonian Christians. "The reason they were so reduced in circumstances probably was that they had been the victims of persecution and had found it difficult successfully to pursue their ordinary callings on account of the hatred of unbelievers. " But this fact did not deter them in their determination to share in the noble work outlined by the apostle. They not only went to the very limit of their ability, but even beyond, exceeding the measure of their power in their eagerness to come to the aid of brethren that were still poorer than they. In other cases it is usually necessary, and, alas! all too often in our days, that Christians must be begged and entreated and urged and admonished and wheedled and coaxed to give of their abundance. But here the case was just the opposite The Macedonian Christians not only decided upon their action of their own accord, but they even begged it as a special favor of Paul to do them the kindness of permitting them to share in this work of ministering to the saint: their almsgiving was truly a communication of love and under the divine blessing. What an example for the churches of our day!

But the climax of their liberality is pictured by St. Paul when he says: but not as we expected, but themselves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God. That is the important point upon which the entire passage really pivots. First of all, the Macedonian Christians offered themselves to the Lord, their talents, their energies, their abilities, and therefore also their worldly possessions, such as they were: they placed themselves and all they had, without any restriction, at the disposal of God and the apostle. It was an act of simple sacrifice, which far exceeded even the wildest hopes of the apostle, even after he had granted their petition to share in the "drive" for Jerusalem. And this was done, not in a spirit of self-aggrandizement, but because they regarded such a course as agreeing with the will of God. Their impulse to faithful service is thus traced back to God's grace, as it should be under similar circumstances at all times.

Such an unprecedented example of willingness almost overwhelmed Paul: So that we have (now) exhorted Titus that, as he had made a beginning before, so he should also finish among you that same grace. Paul's intention originally may have been to have Titus take charge of the collection in Macedonia. But since the conditions in this province were such as he had just pictured, he did not feel the slightest hesitation about leaving the matter entirely in the hands of these congregations. But in Corinth, by all accounts, the enthusiasm was in need of some assistance. What was more natural, therefore, than that the apostle should send Titus, who had made a beginning in the matter of the collection in Achaia, that he should return to Corinth and try to have them become perfect in this grace of Christian liberality also, as he had rejoiced to see the graces of repentance and good will in them. For the gift of Christian liberality does not belong to the special graces of the apostolic age, but may be obtained by earnest application to the Word of God and by prayer, and should be cultivated assiduously, lest Satan tempt us on account of our avaricious disposition. Note the delicacy of the apostle: "When the apostle saw the Macedonians so vehement and fervent in all things even under great temptations, he sent Titus to quicken the action of the Corinthians, that they might be made equals. He does not indeed say this, but he implies it, and thus shows the greatness and delicacy of his love, which could not allow the Corinthians to be inferior. " (Chrysostom.)


Verses 7-10

A proof of their love for Christ:

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

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

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

v. 10. And here in 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.

The previous argument is here expanded and connected with one that is still more impressive: But rather that, as you excel in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and all diligence and the love from you to us, you excel also in this gift of grace. All these gifts were found in rich measure among the Corinthians: Faith, not saving faith as much as that heroism of faith which is sometimes vouchsafed by God, 1Co_12:9; utterance, the ability to expound and apply the Gospel-message; knowledge of divine things, which should be used for the purpose of edification; all diligence and earnestness not to stand behind anyone else in the carrying out of God's mill: love toward their teacher, of which he had had abundant proof. It is a very skillful argument which Paul employs in enumerating all these excellencies, and then stating that they surely would not want to be found deficient in this one gift of Christian liberality.

And lest they feel offended even at this way of putting the matter, Paul hastens to add: Not by way of commandment I speak, but as testing through the diligence of others the genuineness of your love. In the matter of Christian sanctification, Paul might have given definite instructions, 1Co_14:37. But he refrains from doing so in the instance of this collection, lest he spoil the joy of their voluntary giving. Through the earnestness and zeal of others, that is, of the Macedonian congregations, he wanted to test their love. For he knew that the zeal of the Macedonians ought to stimulate the Corinthians to a similar display of ardor, and thus it should be proved whether their love was genuine. If they permitted poorer brethren to overshadow their efforts in the matter of this collection, it would be fairly well established that their love toward the apostle, and above all toward Christ, was not of the right kind.

This introduces the weightiest argument of all: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for our sakes He became poor, though He was rich, in order that you through His poverty might be made rich. With this fact the Corinthians were familiar, since it was one of the basic doctrines taught by the apostle, just as it is repeated in all Gospel-preaching in a manifold variation. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ the apostle reminds them of, the free kindness and favor, whose only reason and motive is His eternal love for sinful mankind. This grace was revealed and put into execution in such a way that he for their sakes, for the sake of all men, became poor, subjected Himself to the deepest poverty, and that although He was rich. The rich Lord of heaven, the Possessor of the fullness of divine glory and of the abundance of all treasures, became poor, denied Himself the use and enjoyment of even ordinary prosperity, and lived all His life in the depths of poverty. But incidentally He poured out upon us the full measure of the spiritual riches in heavenly places, giving us all the more of spiritual treasures as He lacked earthly treasures. With such an example of supreme self-sacrifice before their eyes at all times, what could the Corinthians, what can the Christians of all time, do but strive with all the spiritual power at their command to emulate the great example and to follow in the footsteps of their great Lord?

Instead of commanding, therefore, the apostle writes: And my opinion I give in this matter, for this is profitable for you, inasmuch as, not only in doing, but also in intending to do, you were the first to make a beginning last gear. The apostle, in this case, deliberately chose not to give definite and detailed instructions, because his advice at this time would be better, more expedient, would serve his purposes with more profit. For as much as a year ago, when Paul had first laid the matter of a collection for Jerusalem before them, they had intimated their willingness. They had so much of a start of the Macedonians not only in carrying out the plan, but also in the original purpose. In such a case, then, where people are fully willing to do the right thing, they derive greater moral advantage from a word of counsel than from any injunction. Here is a hint in pastoral tact for ministers and church boards as well as for parishioners in general.


Verses 11-15

The principle of equality:

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 13. For I mean not that other men be eased and ye burdened;

v. 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,

v. 15. as it is written, he that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack.

Paul's advice is no less effective because it lacks the force of a definite commandment; it rather gains in power by that very fact. For he points out to the Corinthian Christians that they had expressed their willingness to participate in the collection; they had made the necessary preliminary arrangements: what more logical than to expect, then, that they give evidence of their good intentions in a more substantial manner. Therefore Paul says: But now complete the doing also, that, as there was the readiness to will, so there may be a finishing also from that which you have. The matter of the collection was becoming more pressing and urgent every day, and since they were undoubtedly sincere in their intention of doing their share toward the alleviation of suffering in Jerusalem, they should make all speed in bringing forth concrete evidence of their purpose. They should bring the matter to an end by quick and definite action, and their performance should correspond with their willingness: they should contribute freely according to their ability; for God accepts the good will where the means are wanting to perform the deed. Or, as Paul himself explains it: For if the readiness is present, in accordance with what a man has is he acceptable, not in accordance to what he has not. God looks upon the willingness of the heart, Mar_12:43, and gauges the gift by that standard. The princely sum which a wealthy man gives from his abundance may be relatively smaller than the copper coin which may mean hardship and sacrifice to a poor widow.

This idea is now further illustrated: For it is not that there may be a relief to others and pressure to you, but to obtain equality, your plentiful supply at the present time being for their want, in order that their plentiful supply may prove to be for your want, that there may be equality. This sentence is added principally for the sake of the unwilling, grumbling contributor, whose complaint usually is that he is becoming poor in giving for others, whom he presumes to be rolling in wealth on account of his contributions. Paul's purpose was not at all to have the congregation at Jerusalem sit back in carelessness and enjoy the gifts which poured in from the congregations in Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia, while the latter should be oppressed with care as a result of giving beyond their means. He was simply advocating the principle of equality, of reciprocity. As things were, the congregations that were engaged in this collection were able to provide help for the poor at Jerusalem, and therefore they should be willing to offer such assistance; the time might come when matters would be reversed, and then he would expect the Christians of Jerusalem and Judea to make a return in kind. The same principle is followed to this day. If a failure of crops strikes certain congregations, or if they are visited by destructive storms and find themselves unable either to sustain life or to rebuild their church property by their own efforts, it is proper that the other congregations should come to their assistance.

Paul illustrates this principle by a quotation from the Scriptural account of the collection of the manna in the wilderness: As it is written, He [that gathered] much had nothing over, and he [that gathered] little was not wanting, Exo_16:18. When the Lord gave the children of Israel manna to eat in the wilderness, the more energetic gathered a larger supply, while others were not able to bring so much back to camp. And yet the needs of the individual families differed with their size. But the difference was straightened out upon their return to camp, with the result that every family had enough manna for its needs till the next day. Just so within the congregations the Lord wants the surplus of the one to assist the lack in the other, and whenever there is need in any one section of the country, or wherever the work of the Gospel is being carried on, the congregations in the other sections should show their willingness to heed the principle here laid down for their guidance.


Verses 16-24

Commendation of Titus and his companions:

v. 16. But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the he art of Titus for you!

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

v. 18. And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches;

v. 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;

v. 20. avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us;

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

v. 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.

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

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

Having named the motives which should incite the Corinthians to take up the matter of the collection with all speed and energy, Paul now gives evidence of his practical sense and carefulness, especially in the matter of avoiding evil impressions, the very appearance of practices that are not altogether frank and honest. To this end he here sends a formal commendation of Titus: But thanks be to God, who gave the same zeal on your behalf into the heart of Titus! For not only did he accept our appeal (v. , but being himself all the more zealous, he has gone of his own accord unto you. Paul here speaks after the manner of writing letters in those days, according to which the writer always placed himself in the position of the person that received the letter, this fact governing also the tenses which he employed. He here records his thanks to God for giving to Titus the same earnest care in their behalf as Paul himself felt. This was proved by the fact that Titus had acceded to the wish of Paul to return to Corinth without the slightest hesitation. Without further solicitation, of his own free will, he was making the trip and bearing also this letter. This fact alone should have been sufficient to dispose the Corinthians in favor of Titus.

But Paul includes credentials also for the companions of Titus. Of the first one he says that he has sent with Titus the brother who was well known to them, a man whose praise in the Gospel was spread throughout all the congregations. He was thus a man who had the very best reputation as a hard worker in the interest of the Word of God, of whom all the Christians thought very highly. The identity of this brother is not known, although Luke and Trophimus have been named. This man was not only well spoken of in all the churches, a fact which would have recommended him for kind acceptance with the Corinthians, but the Macedonian churches had placed so much confidence in him that they had formally chosen him to accompany the apostle on his journey to Jerusalem. It was Paul's intention, in case the collection was worthwhile, to make the journey to Jerusalem in the company of the bearers of the money, 1Co_16:3-4. This man, as the representative of the Macedonian churches to bring their gift to the poor brethren in Jerusalem, was coming with Titus. And of the offering which had been contributed Paul says: Which is being ministered by us to the glory of the Lord and as an evidence of our willingness. So conscientious was Paul in the matter of giving all glory to God that he makes mention of this end of the good work first. But while the contribution which was being gathered served primarily for the glory of the Lord, it incidentally proved the readiness of Paul, who now found himself strengthened in the carrying out of his undertaking by the lively interest which was being shown in the congregations. He was relieved of a great burden of care and felt confident that the whole business would now be the more easily accomplished.

At the same time, Paul used every precaution against false suspicion: Avoiding this, making provision for this contingency, that any man should blame us, cast slurs upon us, in the matter of this bountiful collection which is being taken care of by us; for we provide things honest not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. By having the congregations elect trusted fellow-members to accompany him on his journey and to have charge of the collected moneys with him, all danger of scurrilous charges as to his honesty and as to the proper disposal of the money was removed. The apostle felt the wisdom of this precautionary measure all the more because the collection promised to be very abundant. He knew, of course, that in the sight of God he was clean of any wrong-doing, that he was not prompted by a false ambition, that he was not acting in an autocratic manner, that the idea of appropriating so much as a cent of the money was far from his mind. But he knew also that evil tongues could easily hurt his work and harm the cause of the Gospel by spreading suspicions which could not be disproved except by his unsupported word. For this reason he preferred to have these witnesses with him. This prudence is to he commended very highly to all congregations, especially in business and financial matters. The appointment of finance and auditing committees is not a reflection upon the honesty of either the treasurer or the financial secretary, but is a wise policy, which keeps these men above reproach and suspicion if the work is done in a proper Christian spirit.

Of a second man who was coming to Corinth as a companion of Titus, Paul says that he is a brother whose worth had been tested in many instances, that he had proved himself to be filled with the same zeal as Paul himself, and now all the more so, in an even higher degree, on account of the great confidence which he had in the Corinthians. This man must have been familiar with the situation in Corinth, either from a personal visit, or on account of the very complete reports which he had heard from Paul and Titus. It may have been Tychicus; at any rate, he was an envoy of the contributing congregations. So far as Titus, finally, was concerned, in case anyone should desire to know his official relation to Paul, he is here told that Titus is a colleague and fellow-worker of the apostle, his personal representative to the Corinthian congregation; for him the apostle personally took the responsibility. And of all three brethren he states that they are the envoys of the congregations, that they were duly elected to represent their entire congregation, in each case. They are thus the glory of Christ, their work was done in the direct service of the Lord and redounded immediately to His honor. Paul concludes with the admonition that the Corinthian Christians should give evidence of their love, not only to Paul, but to all the brethren, and support him in his glorying in their behalf, by giving these men a demonstration of their love before all the congregations. In the same way, brethren that come to a Christian congregation from a sister church with the proper credentials should be shown every consideration of love and brotherly kindness, since the glory of Christ, the Lord of the Church, is thereby enhanced.

Summary

Paul tactfully appeals to the Corinthians to begin active work on the collection by urging the example of the Macedonian churches, the love shown them by Christ, and the principle of equality; he includes a recommendation of Titus and his companions.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/2-corinthians-8.html. 1921-23.


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Monday, November 12th, 2018
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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