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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Corinthians 8

 

 

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Verse 1

1. Do you to witMake you to know.

Grace—Without overlooking or slighting the human excellence of the liberality, St. Paul thankfully first refers to the divine side of the blessed movement. Though human freedom concurred and acted, yet divine grace opened the way and inspired the action.

Macedonia—Where the apostle was now writing this epistle, surrounded by the brethren in whose large-heartedness he is now exulting.


Verses 1-15

3. And he exhorts them to make a liberal contribution, 2 Corinthians 8:1 to 2 Corinthians 9:15.

a. By the Macedonian example, 2 Corinthians 8:1-8.

St. Paul, as above remarked, hoped to win the Corinthians to himself only by bringing them to a higher plane of piety; and as they have so done and come into his full confidence, as noted last verse, he now draws them out to self-sacrifice in behalf of Christianity. “No man,” said Captain Webb, our early soldier preacher, “is fully converted, until he is converted in the pockets.”


Verse 2

2. Affliction—Persecutions, as narrated in the first epistle to the Thessalonians.

Abundance—Nominative, together with poverty, to abounded. Their joy in the midst of persecution, and their very depth of poverty, (resulting largely from their persecution,) nevertheless overflowed in liberality. The Church at Philippi, where St. Paul writes this, commenced existence with the jailer and Lydia, pillars, and Luke, soon after as its pastor. Persecution afflicted and impoverished it; but Paul rejoices to exhibit its bright example to the rich Church of Corinth for liberality.

The passage 3-5 makes meaning as translated, but not the true Greek meaning. Strike out the italic phrases inserted by the translator, strike out that we would receive, a false reading, and bring the word gave, in thought, to the beginning of the sentence, and we have the following: For I testify that they voluntarily, according to their power, and above their power, gave, with much entreaty imploring of us the privilege and the fellowship in the contribution to the saints; and, not merely as we hoped, but more, they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us, through God’s will. And so read, every word is an additional touch to the richness of the picture of Macedonian liberality. Their voluntariness—surpassing their ability—begging the opportunity of giving as a grace and a fellowship, is all based in the fact that they had already given themselves to Jesus, and so to Jesus’ faithful apostle, in accordance with the divine will. Solely blessed is that giving which comes from a surrendered heart; and a close test of the heart is a rich readiness to give.


Verse 6

6. Titus… begun… finish—Titus was bearer of the first epistle to Corinth, and he appears to have initiated a fulfilment of 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, in regard to collections. Incited by the generosity of the Macedonians, Paul decides that Titus is the man to complete the contribution in Corinth; as, having witnessed the bright Macedonian example, he was prepared to rouse Corinth to a joyous emulation.


Verse 7

7. Abound… faith… utterance… knowledge—The gifts of the Corinthians, so fully commemorated in the first epistle, (1 Corinthians 12:8-9,) were an ample reason why they should not fail in the noble gift of generous liberality.


Verse 8

8. By commandment—Rather, with commandment. He does not command but recommend this.

To prove—To test, to give occasion for self-manifestation.

b. By Christ’s example, and their willing mind, 2 Corinthians 8:9-12.


Verse 9

9. For—Inasmuch as, being Christians, you assume Christ as your supreme example.

Ye know—For though no gospel was as yet written, the life of Christ was known to every trained Christian.

Rich—With that glory which he had before the world was. John 17:5.

Became poor—By the assumption of a despised and distressed humanity.

Rich—With an eternal glory after this world has passed away. Herein is a divine model for human imitation. This text implies Christ’s existence before his assumption of humanity.


Verse 10

10. Advice—Not commandment, 2 Corinthians 8:8.

This—Advising and not commanding.

Expedient—Rather, befitting; befitting because they had, a year ago, begun not only to do, but to be determined in, the benefaction.


Verse 11

11. Perform—Finish, complete the actual doing. Let not the performance merge into a mere readiness to will. There are a great many who are always ready to do good, but somehow their good never gets done. Paul wants not the readiness but the money.


Verse 12

12. A willing mind—A readiness; and this readiness, by a sort of personification, is the subject of all the verbs. Literal rendering: If there be a readiness, it is accepted according to what it hath, not according to what it hath not. A man can be required to do only as he has power; unless he has flung his power away. And with the same proviso a man can be required to will only what he has power to will.


Verse 13

c. By assurance of fair proportionment, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.

13. Eased… burdened—There was to be a reciprocity, an exchange of liberalities, when needed. Proud Corinth might again be laid in ashes, and poor Jerusalem, who now begs her aid, might be her benefactor.


Verse 14

14. An equality—A mutual equalization of subsistence. The surplus of the prosperous was ever to overflow to supply the needs of the unfortunate. Thus should the great Christian republic become a mutual aid association. This was, in fact, an essential extension, over the whole Church, of the primitive, falsely so called, community of goods, first existing at Jerusalem. See notes on Acts 2:4. Lucian, the pagan satirist, keenly describes the Christian readiness of mutual aid.


Verse 15

15. WrittenExodus 16:18. The apostle gives nearly the words of the Septuagint. They are quoted by him simply as a felicitous description of the equalization. As Jehovah provided a cheerful equalization of the manna, so that there was neither surplus nor lack, so, under Christ, through Christian beneficence, there may be neither unequal wealth nor want.


Verse 16

16. Same earnest care—Rather, zeal; namely, zeal the same as Paul’s in behalf of the charity.

Put… heart—He recognises the zeal as the moving of the blessed Spirit in Titus’s heart.


Verses 16-24

d. And trusty conveyers, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.

St. Paul, in view of possible imputations, is profoundly careful that his own fingers shall never touch the collected funds. He nominates men to act, but they are men above suspicion, and by all approved. It must be wholly a public transaction, not only above wrong, but above suspicion.


Verse 17

17. Accepted the exhortation—That is, the above invitation, 2 Corinthians 8:6. The past tense of the verbs of this entire paragraph (2 Corinthians 8:16-24) represent the present time, as Paul really speaks as from the time-point of their reading his letter.

Went unto you—Has come to you with this epistle, in view of the collections, both from my invitation and his more forward readiness.


Verse 18

18. We have sent—With this epistle and in regard to the collections.

The brother—The long debated question who this brother was, has, we think, been completely set at rest by Baynes in his “Horae Lucanae.” See notes on Luke 24:13; Acts 6:9 and Acts 13:1. The proofs, both negative and affirmative, all centre upon Luke. First we may exclude Barnabas, Silas, and Mark, for all the probabilities are, that none of these three were in present association with him, but that they were at a distance from Macedonia, and so could not have been sent from there. We may also exclude Trophimus, named by Alford, for,

1. Paul’s acquaintance with him commenced after this time, Acts 20:4; Acts 20:2. Trophimus does not appear at this time to have had any notoriety in the gospel throughout all the Churches. Positively in favour of Luke: 1. He was in all probability, as appears from our notes above quoted, here at Philippi.

2. A few months after writing this, Paul, in his epistle to Rome from Corinth, sends Lucius’ greetings; from which it is clear that Luke did go to Corinth at or shortly after the sending of this epistle. Note, Acts 13:1.

3. How intimate Luke was with Paul, now and later, appears from the fact that when Paul and company departed from Corinth with the contributions in route through Macedonia to Jerusalem, Paul, even in separating from the rest of his retinue, took Luke with him. Acts 20:5-6. Trophimus was in the company left.

4. The phrase in the gospel has its weight. For even if we do not insist, with Mr. Baynes, that Luke had already written his Gospel at Antioch, and if we admit that Luke’s written Gospel is not here designated, we can assuredly claim that the word gospel always has a tinge of reference to the Christ-history as the basis and true embodiment of the Christian scheme and doctrine. It is undoubtedly true that Luke’s genius was decidedly historical, and as a teacher at Antioch, (Acts 13:1,) the gospel and pentecostal history were doubtless peculiarly the base of his teachings. That in this department he was famous among the Churches is probable; and certainly, taken in connexion with the fact of the subsequent actual publication of his gospel, we think the great force of this phrase must be confessed.

5. The superscription at the end of the epistle, though by no means decisive, has its weight in favour of Luke 6. In favour of Luke are Origen, Primasius, Jerome, Whitby, Wordsworth, and others.


Verse 19

19. Chosen of the Churches—The brother is not now merely nominated by St. Paul and sent by his authority. Were that the case, cavillers might insinuate a plot. But he is named by Paul as by the Macedonian Churches elected. Luke’s position with those Churches we have indicated in our note on Acts 16:10.

To travel with us—To carry the benefactions from Corinth to Jerusalem.

With this grace—The charitable contribution.

To the glory—Depends not upon administered but upon chosen. The brother was for this mission chosen, literally, to subserve the glory of the same Lord, and… your ready mind.


Verse 20

20. Avoiding—Refers to we in 2 Corinthians 8:18.

This abundance—In regard to the large amount of money collected and administered, that is, distributed at Jerusalem.


Verse 21

21. Honest—In its old sense honourable—above wrong and above suspicion.

In… sight of men—Guarding wisely not only against evil, but against the appearance of evil.


Verse 22

22. Our brother—Mr. Baynes makes it clear that St. Paul here designates Erastus. He was sent by Paul with Timothy to Macedonia. The result of their labours there before St. Paul’s arrival is described in 2 Corinthians 8:1-6. Erastus soon after this is at Corinth, (Romans 16:23,) and took his residence there, 2 Timothy 4:20. It is, indeed, objected that the Erastus of Romans 16:23 could not have been Paul’s companion at Ephesus, inasmuch as he was chamberlain of the city. But how long he had laboured with Paul at Ephesus is not said; and in being sent around by Macedonia, he was only going by a circuitous route home to Corinth. Chamberlain means treasurer, financier; and this will accord with Paul’s eulogy, that he had been diligent in many things; that is, efficient in many business matters. Or it may be thought that Paul, in giving his greetings to Rome, mentions Erastus’ official rank as formerly having been city treasurer.

More diligent… confidence in you—Striking out the I have, inserted by the translators, we translate the passage, but now much more energetic from his much confidence in you. Erastus was all the more suitable for raising collections at Corinth from the fact that being himself a Corinthian he had full confidence of success.


Verse 23

23. Inquire of Titus—In regard to Titus. To all questioning the standing of Titus, Paul gives his own certification. Titus is last mentioned, but the only one named. The others were but messengers, he partner and fellow helper. How faithfully he laboured and discharged the responsible duties committed to him by the apostle, is evident from Paul’s epistle to him at Crete.

Our brethren—The other two, Luke and Erastus; or rather, as without the Greek article, in general, brethren of ours.

Messengers— Greek, apostles; the word being used, however, in its broader sense of messengers; a class by whom the intercourse between the different Churches of the Christian republic was maintained.

Glory of Christ— Persons whose life is devoted to the honour of Jesus.


Verse 24

24. Show… to them—Literally, Show before all the Churches, in their behalf, the exhibition of your love and of our boasting of you. Paul desired that his own friends in Corinth would make such public demonstration of their regard for his deputies, as well as of his own boasting of Corinthian liberality, as would impress the Churches to favour the deputies and make good his own boasts.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-corinthians-8.html. 1874-1909.


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