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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
St. Paul intimates that so ready were the Corinthians to make this charitable contribution, that it was scarcely necessary for him to write, 2 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Corinthians 9:2. But lest they should not be ready when he came, he had sent the brethren, Titus, etc., beforehand; lest, if any of the Macedonians should come with him, they should find them not prepared, though he had boasted so much of their ready mind, 2 Corinthians 9:3-5. He gives them directions how they shall contribute; and the advantage to be gained by it, in the fulfillment of the promises of God, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. He shows them that by this means the poor shall be relieved, God glorified, their Christian temper manifested, and the prayers of many engaged in their behalf, 2 Corinthians 9:12-14. And concludes with giving thanks to God for his unspeakable gift, 2 Corinthians 9:15.
1For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
It is superfluous for me to write to you - I need not enlarge, having already said enough. See the preceding chapter, (2 Corinthians 8 (note)).
2For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
I know the forwardness of your mind - You have already firmly purposed to contribute to the support of the poor and suffering saints.
That Achaia was ready a year ago - The whole of the Morea was anciently called Achaia, the capital of which was Corinth. The apostle means, not only Corinth, but other Churches in different parts about Corinth; we know there was a Church at Cenchrea, one of the ports on the Corinthian Isthmus.
Your zeal hath provoked very many - Hearing that the Corinthians were so intent on the relief of the sufferers in Palestine, other Churches, and especially they of Macedonia, came forward the more promptly and liberally.
3Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
Yet have I sent the brethren - Titus and his companions, mentioned in the preceding chapter.
That, as I said, ye may be ready - And he wished them to be ready, that they might preserve the good character he had given them: this was for their honor; and if they did not take care to do so, he might be reputed a liar; and thus both they and himself be ashamed before the Macedonians, should any of them at this time accompany him to Corinth.
4Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
5Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
Whereof ye had notice before - Instead of προκατηγγελμενην, spoken of before, BCDEFG, several others, with the Coptic, Vulgate, Itala, and several of the fathers, have προεπηγγελμενην, what was promised before. The sense is not very different; probably the latter reading was intended to explain the former. See the margin.
Bounty, and not as of covetousness - Had they been backward, strangers might have attributed this to a covetous principle; as it would appear that they were loth to give up their money, and that they parted with it only when they could not for shame keep it any longer. This is the property of a covetous heart; whereas readiness to give is the characteristic of a liberal mind. This makes a sufficiently plain sense; and we need not look, as some have done, for any new sense of πλεονεξια, covetousness, as if it were here to be understood as implying a small gift.
6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
He which soweth sparingly - This is a plain maxim: no man can expect to reap but in proportion as he has sowed. And here almsgiving is represented as a seed sown, which shall bring forth a crop. If the sowing be liberal, and the seed good, the crop shall be so too.
Sowing is used among the Jews to express almsgiving: so they understand Isaiah 32:20 : Blessed are ye who sow beside all waters; i.e. who are ready to help every one that is in need. And Hosea 10:12, they interpret: Sow to yourselves almsgiving, and ye shall reap in mercy - if you show mercy to the poor, God will show mercy to you.
7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Not grudgingly, or of necessity - The Jews had in the temple two chests for alms; the one was של תובה of what was necessary, i.e. what the law required, the other was של נרבה of the free-will offerings. To escape perdition some would grudgingly give what necessity obliged them; others would give cheerfully, for the love of God, and through pity to the poor. Of the first, nothing is said; they simply did what the law required. Of the second, much is said; God loves them. The benefit of almsgiving is lost to the giver when he does it with a grumbling heart. And, as he does not do the duty in the spirit of the duty, even the performance of the letter of the law is an abomination in the sight of God.
To these two sorts of alms in the temple the apostle most evidently alludes. See Schoettgen.
8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
God is able to make all grace abound - We have already seen, 2 Corinthians 8:1 that the word χαρις, in the connection in which the apostle uses it in these chapters, signifies a charitable gift; here it certainly has the same meaning: God is able to give you, in his mercy, abundance of temporal good; that, having a sufficiency, ye may abound in every good work. This refers to the sowing plenteously: those who do so shall reap plenteously - they shall have an abundance of God's blessings.
9(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
He hath dispersed abroad - Here is still the allusion to the sower. He sows much; not at home merely, or among those with whom he is acquainted, but abroad - among the strangers, whether of his own or of another nation. The quotation is taken from Psalm 112:9.
He hath given to the poor - This is the interpretation of he hath scattered abroad; and therefore it is said, his righteousness remaineth for ever - his good work is had in remembrance before God. By righteousness we have already seen that the Jews understand almsgiving. See the note on Matthew 6:1.
10Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
Now he that ministereth seed to the sower - The sower, as we have already seen, is he that gives alms of what he hath; and God, who requires him to give these alms, is here represented as providing him with the means. As in the creation, if God had not created the earth with every tree and plant with its seed in itself, so that a harvest came, without a previous ploughing and sowing, there could have been no seed to deposit in the earth; so, if God had not, in the course of his providence, given them the property they had, it would be impossible for them to give alms. And as even the well cultivated and sowed field would be unfruitful if God did not, by his unseen energy and blessing, cause it to bring forth, and bring to maturity; so would it have been with their property: it could not have increased; for without his blessing riches take wings and flee away, as an eagle towards heaven. Therefore, in every sense, it is God who ministers seed to the sower, and multiplies the seed sown. And as all this properly comes from God, and cannot exist without him, he has a right to require that it be dispensed in that way which he judges best.
The word ὁ - επιχορηγων, he that ministereth, is very emphatic; it signifies he who leads up the chorus, from επι, to, and χορηγω, to lead the chorus; it means also to join to, associate, to supply or furnish one thing after another so that there be no want or chasm. Thus God is represented, in the course of his providence, associating and connecting causes and effects; keeping every thing in its proper place and state of dependence on another, and all upon himself; so that summer and winter, heat and cold, seed time and harvest, regularly succeed each other. Thus God leads up this grand chorus of causes and effects: provides the seed to the hand of the sower; gives him skill to discern the times when the earth should be prepared for the grain, and when the grain should be sowed; blesses the earth, and causes it to bring forth and bud, so that it may again minister seed to the sower and bread to the eater; and, by a watchful providence, preserves every thing. The figure is beautiful, and shows us the grand system of causes and effects, all directed by and under the immediate guidance and government of God himself.
There is a fine exemplification of this in the same figure thus produced by the prophet. Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22 : I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens; and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. See the note at Hosea 2:21.
The fruits of your righteousness - Your beneficence; for so δικαιοσυνηis here to be understood. See the note on Matthew 6:1, already referred to.
11Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
Being enriched in every thing - Observe, Why does God give riches? That they may be applied to his glory, and the good of men. Why does he increase riches? That those who have them may exercise all bountifulness. And if they be enriched in every thing, what will be the consequence if they do not exercise all bountifulness? Why, God will curse their blessings; the rust shall canker them, and the moth shall consume their garments. But if, on the other hand, they do thus apply them, then they cause thanksgiving to God. The 9th and 10th verses should be read in a parenthesis, for this verse connects with the eighth.
12For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
For the administration of this service - The poor are relieved, see the hand of God in this relief, and give God the glory of his grace.
13Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
By the experiment of this ministration - In this, and in the preceding and following verses, the apostle enumerates the good effects that would be produced by their liberal almsgiving to the poor saints at Jerusalem.
1. The wants of the saints would be supplied.
2. Many thanksgivings would thereby be rendered unto God.
3. The Corinthians would thereby give proof of their subjection to the Gospel. And,
4. The prayers of those relieved will ascend up to God in the behalf of their benefactors.
14And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
The exceeding grace of God in you - By the ὑπερβαλλουσαν χαριν, superabounding or transcending grace, of God, which was in them, the apostle most evidently means the merciful and charitable disposition which they had towards the suffering saints. The whole connection, indeed the whole chapter, proves this; and the apostle attributes this to its right source, the grace or goodness of God. They had the means of charity, but God had given these means; they had a feeling, and charitable heart, but God was the author of it. Their charity was superabundant, and God had furnished both the disposition, the occasion, and the means by which that disposition was to be made manifest.
15Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift - Some contend that Christ only is here intended; others, that the almsgiving is meant.
After all the difference of commentators and preachers, it is most evident that the ανεκδιηγητος δωρεα, unspeakable gift, is precisely the same with the ὑπερβαλλουση χαρις, superabounding grace or benefit, of the preceding verse. If therefore Jesus Christ, the gift of God s unbounded love to man, be the meaning of the unspeakable gift in this verse, he is also intended by the superabounding grace in the preceding. But it is most evident that it is the work of Christ in them, and not Christ himself, which is intended in the 14th verse (2 Corinthians 9:14); and consequently, that it is the same work, not the operator, which is referred to in this last verse.
A Few farther observations may be necessary on the conclusion of this chapter.
1. Jesus Christ, the gift of God's love to mankind, is an unspeakable blessing; no man can conceive, much less declare, how great this gift is; for these things the angels desire to look into. Therefore he may be well called the unspeakable gift, as he is the highest God ever gave or can give to man; though this is not the meaning of the last verse.
2. The conversion of a soul from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from Satan to God, is not less inconceivable. It is called a new creation, and creative energy cannot be comprehended. To have the grace of God to rule the heart, subduing all things to itself and filling the soul with the Divine nature, is an unspeakable blessing; and the energy that produced it is an unspeakable gift. I conclude, therefore, that it is the work of Christ in the soul, and not Christ himself, that the apostle terms the superabounding or exceeding great grace, and the unspeakable gift; and Dr. Whitby's paraphrase may be safely admitted as giving the true sense of the passage. "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift: i.e. this admirable charity (proceeding from the work of Christ in the soul) by which God is so much glorified, the Gospel receives such credit, others are so much benefited, and you will be by God so plentifully rewarded." This is the sober sense of the passage; and no other meaning can comport with it. The passage itself is a grand proof that every good disposition in the soul of man comes from God; and it explodes the notion of natural good, i.e. good which God does not work, which is absurd; for no effect can exist without a cause; and God being the fountain of good, all that can be called good must come immediately from himself. See James 1:17.
3. Most men can see the hand of God in the dispensations of his justice, and yet these very seldom appear. How is it that they cannot equally see his hand in the dispensations of his mercy, which are great, striking, and unremitting? Our afflictions we scarcely ever forget; our mercies we scarcely ever remember! Our hearts are alive to complaint, but dead to gratitude. We have had ten thousand mercies for one judgment, and yet our complaints to our thanksgivings have been ten thousand to one! How is it that God endures this, and bears with us? Ask his own eternal clemency; and ask the Mediator before the throne. The mystery of our preservation and salvation can be there alone explained.