He stirreth them up to a liberal contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem, by the example of the Macedonians, by commendation of their former forwardness, by the example of Christ, and by the spiritual profit that shall redound to themselves thereby; commending to them the integrity and willingness of Titus, and those other brethren, who, upon his request, exhortation, and commendation, were purposely come to them for this business.
Anno Domini 58.
THE directions which the Apostle in his former letter gave to the Corinthians, concerning the collection for the saints in Judea, had not, it seems, been fully complied with. At the persuasion of Titus, indeed, they had begun that collection; but they had not finished it when he left Corinth; owing, perhaps, to the opposition made by the faction, or to the disturbances which the faction had raised in that church. Wherefore, to stir up the sincere among the Corinthians, to finish what they had so well begun, the Apostle, in this chapter, set before them the example of the Macedonian churches; I suppose the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beraea, who, notwithstanding their great poverty, occasioned by the persecution mentioned 1 Thessalonians 2:14 had contributed beyond their ability, being much inclined to that good work by their benevolent disposition, 2 Corinthians 8:1-3.—and had entreated the Apostle to receive their gift, and carry it to Jerusalem, 2 Corinthians 8:4-5.—His exhortation to the Corinthians on this occasion, no doubt, would be the more regarded by them, because it immediately followed the commendations given them for their love and obedience. Wherefore, in the persuasion that they would now be hearty in the affair, the Apostle told them, he had entreated Titus, that as he had begun, so he would finish that good work among them, 2 Corinthians 8:6.—adding, that as they abounded in every other grace, and entertained great love to him their spiritual father, he hoped they would abound in that grace also, 2 Corinthians 8:7.—This, however, he did not speak as an injunction, because works of charity must be voluntarily performed; but that they might emulate the forwardness of the Macedonians, and shew the sincerity of their love and gratitude to Christ, 2 Corinthians 8:8.—And the more effectually to persuade them to part with some of their riches for relieving the saints, he told them, they were well acquainted with the greatness of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich, 2 Corinthians 8:9.—He then gave it as hisopinion, that theyought to finish these collections speedily, seeing that they had begun them the last year, 2 Corinthians 8:10.—none of them postponing the matter any longer, on pretence of inability, 2 Corinthians 8:11.—because God regards the willingness of the giver, more than the greatness of his gift, 2 Corinthians 8:12.
But lest the Corinthians might fancy, that bythus earnestly recommending liberality in making the collection, he meant at their expence to enrich the brethren in Judea, he assured them, he meant only the relief of their present pressing wants, that in their turn they might be able and disposed, in case of need, to assist the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.—And to shew that he was much interested in this matter, he thanked God for having put the same care concerning it in the heart of Titus, 2 Corinthians 8:16.—who, at his desire, had willingly agreed to go with him to Corinth, for the purpose of persuading them to finish their begun collection; but who, being more diligent in the matter than the Apostle expected, had offered to go before him, to exhort them; and was come to them with this letter, 2 Corinthians 8:17.—But that Titus might not be burdened with the whole weight of the work, he told them, he had sent with him a brother of great reputation, who had been chosen by the Macedonian churches to accompany the Apostle to Jerusalem,towitnesshisdeliveringtheirgiftfaithfully, 2 Corinthians 8:18-19.—a measure which he highly approved; because, in this affair, he wished to avoid all suspicion of unfaithfulness, 2 Corinthians 8:20-21.—And that with them he had sent another brother likewise, whom he had found faithful in many things, 2 Corinthians 8:22.—Now that these messengers might meet with due respect from the Corinthians, the Apostle informed them, that if any of the faction inquired concerning Titus, they might reply, he was his fellow-labourer in preaching the Gospel to the Corinthians. Or if they inquired concerningthe brethren who accompanied Titus, they were the messengers employed by the churches, to carry their collections to Jerusalem; by which service, as well as by their other ministrations, they brought great glory to Christ, 2 Corinthians 8:23.—Being therefore persons so respectable, he hoped the Corinthians would give them and the churches,whosemessengerstheywere,fullproofoftheirgooddisposition,andjustify his boasting concerning them, by treating them with every mark of affection and esteem, 2 Corinthians 8:24.
2 Corinthians 8:1. The Apostle having employed the seven fore-going Chapter s, in a considerable measure, in his own justification, and having in the close expressed the great satisfaction that he had in the Corinthians being all united again in their affection and obedience to him, exhorts them in this and the following chapter, by the example of the churches of Macedonia particularly, to unite in a liberal contribution for the poor Christians in Judea.
Instead of we do you to wit, &c. Mr. Locke and others read, we make known unto you the godly charity given by the churches of Macedonia. The word Χαρις, which is translated grace in our version, is here used by St. Paul for gift, or liberality, and is so used, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:6-7; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 8:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. It is called, the gift of God, because God is the author and procurer of it, moving men's hearts thereto by his grace.
In a great trial of affliction— How ill-disposed the Macedonians in general were to the Christians, may be seen, Acts, 16-17. Instead of abounded, some read hath abounded.
For to—yea, and beyond their power— This is a noble hyperbole; like that of Demosthenes, "I have performed all, even with an industry beyond mypower." The present and following verses are thus connected and read by Bengelius: For to their power, (I bear record,) yea, beyond their power, of their own accord, beseeching us with much intreaty, they gave to us the liberality, and the communication of the ministry to the saints; and this, not in the manner in which we presumed to hope, but first giving themselves to God, and then to us by the will of God.
And to prove the sincerity of your love.— The genuine temper, &c. Locke. Taking as we may, without violence to the words, the original, δοκιμαζων for drawing out a proof, and the word γνησιον for genuine, the passage may be well rendered shewing the world a proof of the genuine temper of your love; and thus properly express St. Paul's obliging way of stirring up the Corinthians to a liberal contribution: for his discourse briefly stands thus: "The great liberality of the poor Macedonians made me send Titus to you, to finish the collection of your charity, which he had begun; that you, who excel in all other virtues, might be eminent in this also. But I urge not this is a commandment from God; but, upon occasion of the liberality of others, present you with an opportunity of giving the world a proof of the genuine temper of your charity, which, like that of your other virtues, will not bear to be out-done."
Ye know the grace of our Lord, &c.— Rather, the munificence, or liberality;— the signification wherein St. Paul uses the word χαρις frequently in this chapter. Heylin renders it, the bounty.
But also to be forward— Or, But also to exert yourselves. Dr. Heylin reads the latter part of this verse, who have not only begun already to make a collection, but also were the first that proposed it a year ago. He goes on to the next verse, Now therefore complete it; that as you readily undertook it, so you may as readily perform it, each man according to his ability.
But by an equality, &c.— I would only recommend an equality. Heylin. The Apostle does not mean that Christians are obliged to be all upon a level, but that there ought to be such mutual assistance and relief among them, as that the wants and necessities of all might be supplied; and in that sense the most indigent might be brought nearer to an equality with the rich. The Corinthians at Jerusalem, for a good while, were in want of nothing; theywho had lands or possessions sold them, and they had all things in common: but now, at the distance of five-and-twenty years from that aera, the frequent losses they endured by confiscations, &c. the increase of the number of Christians, and the gradual consumption of the money arising from sales, reduced them to great extremities of poverty. But though the Christian Jews were poor and oppressed, the Corinthians were rich and prosperous; and therefore, it may be said, there was no reason to expect that what the Apostle here mentions, would ever happen to the latter,—that their [the Jews] abundance should be a supply for the want of the Corinthians. To thisit may be sufficient to reply, that all human affairs are unstable and uncertain; Corinth itself, from great prosperity, had been desolated in the Roman war by Memmius some time before; or, supposing that no such event should happen to them again, yet particular persons might be distressed, or the whole body of Christians there reduced by persecutions, though their city continued to flou
The brother, whose praise is in the Gospel— This is generally supposed to have been St. Luke, who now was, and had been a long while, St. Paul's companion in his travels. Many ancient Christians understood the expression, whose praise in the Gospel is in all the churches, as referring to the universal approbation with which St. Luke's gospel was every where received. This may be included; but the Apostle's meaning seems more extensive: "Whose praise is in the Gospel, on account of the various and eminent services which he has done for the interests of Christianity, wherever his influence has extended, both by his writings and exhortations."
And not that only, &c.— This verse is to be included in a parenthesis, and the continued sense of 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:20 will be, We have sent that brother,—to avoid blame, &c. Dr. Heylin translates and connects the verses from 18 to 21 thus: A brother, who is not only famous for his success in preaching the Gospel, 2 Corinthians 8:19 but also is particularly appointed by the churches to accompany me with this collection, which we shall dispose of to the glory of God, and agreeably to your good intention, 2 Corinthians 8:20. (I have used this precaution [in having one joined with me] to prevent any suspicion that might be raised, upon my having the management of so large a sum; 2 Corinthians 8:21. For I am careful to conduct myself unblamably, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight men.)
And we have sent, &c.— We likewise send with them [Luke and Titus,] another brother [Apollos,] whose zeal we have experienced upon many occasions; and he is now more than ordinarily intent upon this, through the great confidence he has in you, 2 Corinthians 8:23. For as to Titus, he is my companion and assistant in your affairs, and the other brethren are deputies of the churches, and [have been instruments of] the glory of Christ. Heylin. Some critics propose a comma only at the end of the 22nd verse, and would connect the two thus; We have sent with them our brother—in the great confidence which we have in you, both on account of Titus, my partner and fellow-labourer for you; and in regard to our brethren, the Apostles or messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. It is a great character which the Apostle gives of these brethren,—"the appointed and distinguished messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ;—men by whom the name of Christ is glorified."
Inferences.—What an excellent grace is Christian benevolence, in relieving the poor, and especially such as are of the household of faith! It is wrought in us by the power of divine grace; it proves the sincerity of our love to Christ, and to his members for his sake; it is strongly recommended by the matchless grace of our Lord Jesus, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich; and it turns to the spiritual account of the pious benefactors themselves, who may likewise hope that, if ever they should be reduced, God will incline the hearts of others to be assistant to them, in a return of equal kindness. How pleasant is it to see a forwardness in this, and every other good work, while some of their own accord, and yet under divine influence, set an example of it to other Christians, according to the utmost of their ability; and others are equally ready to encourage it, and assist in finishing it, according to the pressing occasions that call for it! A little that is given in love, and with a willing mind, by those that are in strait circumstances, is a high commendation of their liberality; and yet, as the proportion of alms-deeds is accepted according to what a man has; so some ought not to be unreasonably burdened, to the easing, much less to the enriching of others; nor ought any to give what is not their own: but all charity, as well as every thing else, ought to be managed with such prudence and faithfulness, and in such a disinterested and honourable way, as may approve itself to God, as done in his sight, and even to the consciences of the whole world; and as may cut off all occasions of blame, or even of suspicions of fraud, partiality, or selfish designs. How happy is it when ministers and private Christians behave in such a way, as is to the glory of Christ, and as spreads their praises among the saints, and begets a mutual affection to, and confidence in one another! What a beauty is there in the order of the churches, that first gave their ownselves to the Lord with joint consent, and then to the conduct of his servants, according to the will of God! And how sweet is their harmony and communion, when the messengers of some churches are well recommended to, and are received with respect and honour, by others!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, As the brethren in Judea had undergone peculiar sufferings, and were reduced to great poverty, the Gentile churches, at the instigation of the Apostles, had made a collection for their relief. The churches of Macedonia had set the example, and the churches of Achaia ought not to be backward in so good a work.
1. The Apostle acquaints them with the generous conduct of the Macedonian brethren. Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, inclining them to exercise their generous benevolence: how that in a great trial of affliction, amid sore persecutions, the abundance of their joy in the Holy Ghost, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality, and set off, with greater lustre, their distinguished charity. For to their power, (I bear record) yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves, needing no instigation, but praying us, with much intreaty, that, we would receive the gift of their kind alms, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints, distributing their bounty to the Christians in Judea. And this they did, not merely as we hoped; but with a noble generosity, far exceeding our most sanguine expectations, they first gave their ownselves to the Lord, solemnly surrendering themselves, and all their possessions, to his glory, and unto us by the will of God, resolving to be directed by us as his ministering servants, according to his revealed word. Note; (1.) The grace of God opens the heart with love, and the hand with liberality. A lively Christian will rather go beyond his power, than be backward in acts of piety and charity. (2.) They who have truly given themselves to the Lord, will hold back nothing from him, which may serve to promote his glory and the interests of his kingdom.
2. He recommended it to Titus, who had been so acceptable to the Corinthians before, to go and finish what he had begun, exciting them to the exercise of the same grace of liberality, which had so eminently appeared in the Macedonian churches. Note; The success of our designs, in a great measure, depends upon the choice of proper instruments.
2nd, The Apostle proceeds, by the most persuasive arguments, to excite the Corinthians to give liberally to the necessities of their brethren.
1. Their eminence in other gifts and graces should make them ambitious to excel in this. Therefore as, or but as, ye abound in every thing, great and gracious, in faith, and utterance, and eloquence, in clear knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel, and in all diligence to advance the Redeemer's cause and interest; and in your love to us; see that ye abound in this grace also, of Christian liberality. And this I speak not by commandment, as particularly ordered of God, or by any apostolic authority; but rather recommend it to you, by occasion of the forwardness of others, that you may not come behind them in any spiritual attainments; and to prove the sincerity of your love to Jesus and to his poor members for his sake. Note; (1.) We should be ashamed to be outdone in liberality by those who have less ability than ourselves. (2.) Where our love to Jesus is sincere, it will appear by a readiness to every good word and work.
2. He urges the example of the great Redeemer. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatness of his love to poor and perishing souls; that though he was rich in uncreated glory, the Maker and Governor of all things; yet for your sakes he became poor; so poor, as to want a house of his own to cover him when alive, and, when dead, was indebted to the charity of a friend for a grave. And to this he submitted, that ye through his poverty might be rich; filled with all the treasures of his grace here, as preparatory to the enjoyment of his glory hereafter, if faithful: therefore standing so indebted to him, how could they withhold a pittance of their perishing goods from his necessitous saints and their brethren?
3. Their promising beginnings called for a suitable conclusion. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, and becoming the high rank in which you stand, who have begun before, not only to do something by way of such a collection, but also to be forward a year ago, testifying the greater readiness to concur in this generous service. 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, that your practice may correspond with your professions, and your contributions be according to your abilities: for if there be first a willing mind, and real charity in the heart, it, the gift, is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not; for it is not the sum contributed, so much as the spirit whence it proceeds, that God regards.
4. Since the divine Providence had favoured them with abundance of worldly goods, they were peculiarly obliged to liberal distribution to the poor. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened; either that you should impoverish yourselves, to enrich the poor in Judea; or that other churches should be excused, and you alone be called upon to bear the whole charge of their necessary relief: no; but by an equality, proportioning your gifts to your abilities, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want; that, if by the strange vicissitudes of divine Providence you should be hereafter reduced, and they prosperous, their abundance also may be a supply for your want, that there may be equality, in the mutual beneficence exercised towards each other: as it is written, concerning the manna, he that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack; each had his omer; what remained to these who had gathered more, being given to supply the wants of the aged and infirm, who had gathered less. In like manner should we, who abound, reckon our superfluities as the debt that we owe to the indigent.
3rdly, The Apostle,
1. Thanks God, who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus, to engage him in this blessed work, so that he needed no entreaty to undertake the journey; but, full of zeal, as the Apostle himself, for the honour of the Corinthian brethren, and for the relief of the poor, he was a volunteer in the service, and under a divine direction readily undertook to go. Note; Readiness to a good work shews the temper right.
2. He commends to them a brother, who accompanied Titus. We have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches, for his fidelity and zeal in the ministry; (see the Annotations) and not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, or free gift, which is administered by us, and to be distributed to the necessitous in Judea to the glory of the same Lord, who is hereby honoured as our common Master, and to the declaration of your ready and liberal mind, which is hereby manifested.
3. He intimates the care that he took to remove all suspicion of dishonesty or partiality, by thus having others joined with him in this charge: avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance, which is administered by us, as if we misapplied or embezzled the least mite; providing things honest, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men, whom we would convince of our unblemished integrity. Note; In this censorious world we cannot be too careful to avoid every occasion of scandal; and ministers, for the gospel's sake, should be peculiarly cautious, especially in money matters.
4. He commends to them another brother, who also accompanied Titus. (See the Annotations.) He speaks of him with distinguished respect, as one whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you, that ye will receive him with respect, and attend to his exhortations.
5. In answer to any cavils of the false teachers, he adds, Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner, and fellow-helper concerning you in the work of the ministry: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, deputed by them to this service, and the glory of Christ, ornaments to the gospel which they preached. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love to Christ, to me, and your afflicted brethren; and of our boasting on your behalf; that you may be found to answer the high opinion we have entertained of you, and the encomiums we have bestowed upon you.