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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The apostle stirs them up to make a collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem, by the very liberal contributions of the people of Macedonia for the same purpose, who were comparatively a poor people, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. He tells them that he had desired Titus to finish this good work among them which he had begun; hoping that as they abounded in many excellent gifts and graces, they would abound in this also, 2 Corinthians 8:6-8. He exhorts them to this by the example of Jesus Christ, who, though rich, subjected himself to voluntary poverty, that they might be enriched, 2 Corinthians 8:9. He shows them that this contribution, which had been long ago begun, should have been long since finished, 2 Corinthians 8:10. And that they should do every thing with a ready and willing mind, according to the ability which God had given them; that abundance should not prevail on one hand, while pinching poverty ruled on the other; but that there should be an equality, 2 Corinthians 8:11-14. He shows from the distribution of the manna in the wilderness, that the design of God was, that every member of his spiritual household should have the necessaries of life, 2 Corinthians 8:15. He tells them that he had now sent Titus, and another with him, to Corinth, to complete this great work, 2 Corinthians 8:16-22. The character which he gives of Titus and the others employed in this business, 2 Corinthians 8:23, 2 Corinthians 8:24.
1Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit - In all our dignified version very few ill-constructed sentences can be found; however here is one, and the worst in the book. We do you to wit is in the original γνωριζομεν δε ὑμιν, we make known unto you. This is plain and intelligible, the other is not so; and the form is now obsolete.
The grace of God bestowed - Dr. Whitby has made it fully evident that the χαρις Θεου signifies the charitable contribution made by the Churches in Macedonia, to which they were excited by the grace or influence of God upon their hearts; and that δεδομενην εν cannot signify bestowed on, but given in. That χαρις means liberality, appears from 2 Corinthians 8:6 : We desired Titus that as he had begun, so he would finish την χαριν ταυτην, this charitable contribution. And 2 Corinthians 8:7 : That ye abound εν ταυτῃ τῃ χαριτι, in this liberal contribution. And 2 Corinthians 8:19 : Who was chosen of the Church to travel with us συν τῃ χαριτι ταυτῃ, with this charitable contribution, which is administered - which is to be dispensed, by us. So 2 Corinthians 9:8 : God is able to make πασαν χαριν, all liberality, to abound towards you. And 1 Corinthians 16:3 : To bring την χαριν, your liberality, to the poor saints. Hence χαρις, is by Hesychius and Phavorinus interpreted a gift, as it is here by the apostle: Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift, 2 Corinthians 9:15. This charity is styled the grace of God, either from its exceeding greatness, (as the cedars of God and mountains of God signify great cedars and great mountains, Psalm 36:6; Psalm 80:10); or rather, it is called so as proceeding from God, who is the dispenser of all good, and the giver of this disposition; for the motive of charity must come from him. So, in other places, the zeal of God, Romans 10:2; the love of God, 2 Corinthians 5:14; the grace of God, Titus 2:11.
The Churches of Macedonia - These were Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, etc.
2How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
In a great trial of affliction - The sense of this verse is the following: The Macedonians, though both poor and persecuted, rejoiced exceedingly that an opportunity was afforded them of doing good to their more impoverished and more persecuted brethren. We can scarcely ever speak of poverty and affliction in an absolute sense; they are only comparative. Even the poor are called to relieve those who are poorer than themselves; and the afflicted, to comfort those who are more afflicted than they are. The poor and afflicted Churches of Macedonia felt this duty, and therefore came forward to the uttermost of their power to relieve their more impoverished and afflicted brethren in Judea.
3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
For to their power, etc. - In their liberality they had no rule but their ability; they believed they were bound to contribute all they could; and even this rule they transgressed, for they went beyond their power - they deprived themselves for a time of the necessaries of life, in order to give to others who were destitute even of necessaries.
4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
Praying us with much entreaty - We had not to solicit them to this great act of kindness; they even entreated us to accept their bounty, and to take on ourselves the administration or application of it to the wants of the poor in Judea.
5And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
Not as we hoped - They far exceeded our expectations, for they consecrated themselves entirely to the work of God; giving themselves and all they possessed first unto the Lord; and then, as they saw that it was the will of God that they should come especially forward in this charitable work, they gave themselves to us, to assist to the uttermost in providing relief for the suffering Christians in Judea.
6Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
That we desired Titus - Titus had probably laid the plan of this contribution when he was before at Corinth, according to the direction given by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 16:1, etc.
The same grace - Liberality. See the note on 2 Corinthians 8:1.
7Therefore, 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.
As ye abound in every thing - See the note on 1 Corinthians 1:5. In faith, crediting the whole testimony of God; in utterance, λογῳ, in doctrine, knowing what to teach: knowledge of God's will, and prudence to direct you in teaching and doing it; in diligence, to amend all that is wrong among you, and to do what is right; and in love to us, whom now ye prize as the apostles of the Lord, and your pastors in him.
Abound in this grace also - Be as eminent for your charitable disposition as ye are for your faith, doctrine, knowledge, diligence, and love.
8I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
I speak not by commandment - I do not positively order this; I assume no right or authority over your property; what you devote of your substance to charitable purposes must be your own work, and a free-will offering.
The forwardness of others - Viz. the Churches of Macedonia, which had already exerted themselves so very much in this good work. And the apostle here intimates that he takes this opportunity to apprise them of the zeal of the Macedonians, lest those at Corinth, who excelled in every other gift, should be outdone in this. Their own honor, if better motives were absent, would induce them to exert themselves, that they might not be outdone by others. And then, as they had professed great love for the apostle, and this was a service that lay near his heart, they would prove the sincerity of that professed love by a liberal contribution for the afflicted and destitute Jewish Christians.
9For 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.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ - This was the strongest argument of all; and it is urged home by the apostle with admirable address.
Ye know - Ye are acquainted with God's ineffable love in sending Jesus Christ into the world; and ye know the grace - the infinite benevolence of Christ himself.
That, though he was rich - The possessor, as he was the creator, of the heavens and the earth; for your sakes he became poor - he emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross; that ye, through his poverty - through his humiliation and death, might be rich - might regain your forfeited inheritance, and be enriched with every grace of his Holy Spirit, and brought at last to his eternal glory.
If Jesus Christ, as some contend, were only a mere man, in what sense could he be said to be rich? His family was poor in Bethlehem; his parents were very poor also; he himself never possessed any property among men from the stable to the cross; nor had he any thing to bequeath at his death but his peace. And in what way could the poverty of one man make a multitude rich? These are questions which, on the Socinian scheme, can never be satisfactorily answered.
10And 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.
Herein I give my advice - For I speak not by way of commandment, 2 Corinthians 8:8.
For this is expedient for you - It is necessary you should do this to preserve a consistency of conduct; for ye began this work a year ago, and it is necessary that ye should complete it as soon as possible.
Not only to do, but also to be forward - Το ποιησαι - και το θελειν, literally, to do and to will; but as the will must be before the deed, θελειν, must be taken here in the sense of delight, as it frequently means in the Old and New Testaments. See several examples in Whitby.
Some MSS. transpose the words: allowing this, there is no difficulty.
A year ago - Απο περυσι. It was about a year before this that the apostle, in his first epistle, 1 Corinthians 16:2, had exhorted them to make this contribution and there is no doubt that they, in obedience to his directions, had begun to lay up in store for this charitable purpose; he therefore wishes them to complete this good work, and thus show that they were not led to it by the example of the Macedonians, seeing they themselves had been first movers in this business.
11Now 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.
A readiness to will, so there may be a performance - Ye have willed and purposed this; now perform it.
Out of that which ye have - Give as God has enabled you; and give as God has disposed you. He requires each man to do as he can; and accepts the will where the means are wanting to perform the deed.
12For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
According to that a man hath - According to his real property; not taking that which belongs to his own family, and is indispensably necessary for their support; and not taking that which belongs to others; viz. what he owes to any man.
13For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
That other men be eased - I do not design that you should impoverish yourselves in order that others may live affluently.
14But 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:
But by an equality - That you may do to those who are distressed now, as, on a change of circumstances, you would wish them to do to you. And I only wish that of your abundance you would now minister to their wants; and it may be that there abundance may yet supply your wants; for so liable are all human affairs to change, that it is as possible that you rich Corinthians should need the charitable help of others as it is that those Jews, who once had need of nothing, should now be dependent on your bounty.
That there may be equality - That ye may exert yourselves so in behalf of those poor people that there may be between you an equality in the necessaries of life; your abundance supplying them with that of which they are utterly destitute.
15As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
He that had gathered much, had nothing over - On the passage to which the apostle alludes, Exodus 16:18, I have stated that, probably, every man gathered as much manna as he could, and when he brought it home and measured it by the omer, (for this was the measure for each man's eating), if he had a surplus it went to the supply of some other family that had not been able to collect enough; the family being large, and the time in which the manna might be gathered, before the heat of the day, not being sufficient to collect a supply for so numerous a household; several of whom might be so confined as not to be able to collect for themselves. Thus there was an equality among the Israelites in reference to this thing; and in this light these words of St. Paul lead us to view the passage. To apply this to the present case: the Corinthians, in the course of God's providence, had gathered more than was absolutely necessary for their own support; by giving the surplus to the persecuted and impoverished Christian Jews these would be an equality; both would then possess the necessaries of life, though still the one might have more property than the other.
16But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
But thanks be to God - He thanks God who had already disposed the heart of Titus to attend to this business; and, with his usual address, considers all this as done in the behalf of the Corinthian Church; and that though the poor Christians in Judea are to have the immediate benefit, yet God put honor upon them in making them his instruments in supplying the wants of others. He who is an almoner to God Almighty is highly honored indeed.
17For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
He accepted the exhortation - I advised him to visit you and excite you to this good work, and I found that he was already disposed in his heart to do it; God put this earnest care in the heart of Titus for you, 2 Corinthians 8:16.
18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
The brother, whose praise is in the Gospel - Who this brother was we cannot tell; some suppose it was St. Luke, who wrote a gospel, and who was the companion of St. Paul in several of his travels; others think it was Silas; others, Barnabas; others, Mark; and others, Apollos. Neither ancients nor moderns agree in either; but Luke, John, and Mark, seem to have the most probable opinions in their favor. Whoever the person was he was sufficiently known to the Corinthians, as we learn by what the apostle says of him in this place.
19And 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:
Chosen of the Churches to travel with us - Χειροτονηθεις· Appointed by a show of hands; from χειρ the hand, and τεινω, to extend. This appointment, by the suffrage of the Churches, seems to refer more to St. Luke than any one else; unless we suppose he refers to the transaction, Acts 15:40, Acts 15:41, and then it would appear that Silas is the person intended.
With this grace - Liberal contribution. See on 2 Corinthians 8:1 (note).
Your ready mind - Your willingness to relieve them. But, instead of ὑμων, your, ἡμων, our, is the reading of almost all the best MSS. and all the versions. This is, doubtless, the reading.
20Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
Avoiding this, that no man should blame us - Taking this prudent caution to have witnesses of our conduct, and such as were chosen by the Churches themselves, that we might not be suspected of having either embezzled or misapplied their bounty, See the note on 1 Corinthians 16:4.
21Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Providing for honest things - Taking care to act so as not only to be clear in the sight of God, but also to be clear in the sight of all men; avoiding even the appearance of evil. I wish the reader to refer to the excellent note on 1 Corinthians 16:4 (note), which I have extracted from Dr. Paley.
22And 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.
We have sent with them - Titus and, probably, Luke, our brother, probably Apollos.
Now much more diligent - Finding that I have the fullest confidence in your complete reformation and love to me, he engages in this business with alacrity, and exceeds even his former diligence.
23Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.
Whether any do inquire of Titus - Should it be asked, Who is this Titus? I answer, he is my companion, and my fellow laborer in reference to you; 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7. Should any inquire, Who are these brethren, Luke and Apollos? I answer, They are Αποστολοι, apostles of the Churches, and intensely bent on promoting the glory of Christ.
24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.
Wherefore show ye to them, and before the Churches, etc. - Seeing they are persons every way worthy in themselves, and coming to you on such an important occasion, and so highly recommended, receive them affectionately; and let them thus see that the very high character I have given of you is not exaggerated, and that you are as ready in every work of charity as I have stated you to be. Act in this for your honor.
1. The whole of this chapter and the following is occupied in exciting the richer followers of Christ to be liberal to the poorer; the obligation of each to be so, the reasons on which that obligation is founded, the arguments to enforce the obligation from those reasons, are all clearly stated, and most dexterously and forcibly managed. These two chapters afford a perfect model for a Christian minister who is pleading the cause of the poor.
2. In the management of charities a man ought carefully to avoid the least suspicion of avarice, self-interest, and unfaithfulness. How few persons are entirely free from the upbraidings of their own consciences in the matter of alms! But who will be able to hear the upbraidings of Christ at the time of death and judgment? No man can waste without injustice, or neglect without sin, those things of which he is only the dispenser and steward.
3. God has not settled an equality among men by their birth to the end that this equality might be the work of his grace. He has put the temporal portion of the poor into the hands of the rich, and the spiritual portion of the rich into the hands of the poor, on purpose to keep up a good understanding betwixt the members of the same body by a mutual dependence on one another. He who withholds the part belonging to the poor steals more from himself than from them. Let every one answer this admirable design of God, and labor to re-establish equality: the poor, in praying much for the rich; and the rich, in giving much to the poor. See Quesnel.