2 Corinthians 8
Pulpit Commentary
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
Verse 1. - We do you to wit; rather, we make known to you. The phrase is like the modern "I wish to inform you." In this and the next chapter St. Paul, having fully spoken of the joy which had been caused to him by their reception of his first letter, and having said as much as he then intended to say in answer to the charges insinuated against him, proceeds to give directions about the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. He had already spoken of it (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), but feared that they were behindhand, and now sends Titus to stimulate their zeal. The style throughout is brief and allusive, because he had already, in various ways, brought this matter fully before them. Throughout this section he shows in a remarkable degree the tact, courtesy, high sense of honour, and practical wisdom which were among his many gifts. The "but" with which the chapter begins in the original is St. Paul's ordinary formula of transition, as in 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 13:1, etc. (For the phrase, "we inform you," see 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:1.) It is one of numberless incidental proofs of the genuineness of this group of Epistles - the Epistles of the second great missionary journey - that the same words, phrases, and thoughts constantly recur in them. The grace of God (see next note). Bestowed on the Churches of Macedonia; rather, which is being bestowed in the Churches. St. Paul wants to tell the Corinthians how extremely liberal the Macedonians have been, since it was his custom to stir up one Church by the example of another (2 Corinthians 9:2); but he begins by speaking of their generosity as a proof of the grace which they are receiving from the Holy Spirit. The Churches of Macedonia. The only Macedonian Churches of which we have any details in the New Testament are those of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. They seem to have been peculiarly dear to St. Paul, who was attracted by their cheerfulness in affliction and their generosity in the midst of want.
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
Verse 2. - In a great trial of affliction; rather, in much testing of affliction; i.e. in an affliction which put to the proof their Christian character. "They were not simply afflicted," says St. Chrysostom, "but in such a way as also to become approved by their endurance." (For the word rendered "trial," see Romans 5:4, and in this Epistle, 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3.) "Affliction" seems to have befallen the Churches of Macedonia very heavily (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14), chiefly through the jealousy of the Jews, who excited the hatred of the Gentiles (Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5, 13). The abundance of their joy. Another reference to joy in sadness (see on 2 Corinthians 7:4). There is not the least necessity to understand the verb "is" or "was" after this clause. "The abundance... abounded" is indeed a pleonasm, but is not at all unlike the style of St. Paul. He means to say that their joy overflowed their affliction, and their liberality overflowed their poverty (Mark 12:44). Their deep poverty; literally, their pauperism to the depth; their abysmal penury. Though they were βαθύπτωχοι, they showed themselves in generosity to be βαθυπλουτοι. Stanley refers to Arnold's 'Roman Commonwealth,' where he mentions that the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia, which had suffered greatly in the three civil wars, appealed successfully to Tiberius for a diminution of their burdens. The gift of the Macedonians was like the widow's mite (Luke 21:3, 4, where similar words occur - perisseuo, husterema). Of their liberality; rather, of their singleness of purpose or simplicity (Ephesians 6:5). The "grace" and single-heartedness to which he alludes showed themselves in liberality.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
Verse 3. - They were willing of themselves. "Of their own accord," as in ver. 17. The verb in the original is energetically omitted, with the "they gave" of ver. 5. St. Paul does not mean that the notion of making the collection originated with them (2 Corinthians 9:2), but only that they displayed a voluntary energy in carrying it out.
Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
Verse 4. - Praying us. The entreaties came from them, not from me. That we would receive. These words are almost certainly an explanatory gloss. The translation then is, "begging us for the grace of participation in this ministration to the saints." They were so willing in the matter that they entreated me, as a favour (χάρις), to allow them to have a share in this contribution, because it was to be given to the saints, that is, the suffering peer in the Church of Jerusalem. This Church suffered from chronic poverty. Even the Jewish population were liable to famines, in one of which they had only been kept alive by the royal munificence of a proselyte, Queen Helena,of Adiabene. The Christians would, of course, suffer even more deeply, because they were drawn from the humblest classes and had fewer friends. This was one of the reasons why, as an act of common humanity, it was incumbent on the Gentile Christians to help them (Acts 11:29; Romans 15:25, 26). St. Paul had already brought the subject to the notice of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
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.
Verse 5. - Not as we hoped; rather, not as we expected. They were so poor that it was impossible to expect much from them, but they surpassed my expectations in every way. The Church of Philippi, perhaps under the influence of Lydia, was remarkable for generosity, and was the only Church from which St. Paul would accept any personal help (Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:15-18). First. "They gave themselves to the Lord, which is the best of all, and they gave themselves as helpers to us also - by the will of God." (For a similar use of "and" to imply a matter of less importance, see Acts 15:28.) The phrase, "by the will of God," implies thanksgiving to God for the grace which enabled them to give themselves to him, and their goods to his saints. Being "a peculiar people," they naturally showed themselves "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). First (Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9, 10).
Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
Verse 6. - Insomuch that. Their liberality encouraged me so greatly that I exhorted Titus to return to Corinth once more, and see whether he could not receive some proof that you were equally liberal. The remarks that follow are full of delicate reserve, but under their exquisite tact and urbanity we can perceive that the Corinthians had talked very loudly about their contributions, and had promised with great zeal, but had shown themselves somewhat slack in redeeming their promises. We exhorted Titus. It is curious that this word is constantly used of the missions of Titus (ver. 17; 2 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 16:12). As he had began. "That as no inaugurated (this collection), so he would also complete towards you this gracious work also." Among other works of grace which Titus might complete by returning to them from Macedonia was the kindly collection which he had begun to set on foot in his previous visit (2 Corinthians 12:18).
Therefore, 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.
Verse 7. - Therefore; rather, but. In the following verses to ver. 15 he tells them his wishes about this collection. He desires them to show generosity among their other graces (ver. 7), not by way of command, but that they may emulate others and show their love (ver. 8) by following the example of Christ (ver. 9). And by acting thus they would prove the sincerity of their former promises (vers. 10, 11), especially as he did not wish them to give more than they could justly spare by way of reciprocity (vers. 12-15). As ye abound in every thing, in faith, etc. Perhaps "by faith," etc., "St. Paul," says Grotius, "knew the art of the orators to move by praising." This method of conciliating attention is technically called proparaitesis. The praise was, of course, sincere, though, no doubt, it was expressed with the generosity of love (see 1 Corinthians 1:5). And in your love to us. The Greek is more emphatic," and by the love from you in us;" i.e. by the love which streams from you, and which I feel in myself. In this grace also; namely, the grace of Christian liberality.
I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.
Verse 8. - Not by commandment. St. Paul felt an honourable sensibility which prevented him from straining his authority by urging the Corinthians to give of their substance. Among Gentiles such contributions towards the needs of others - the result of unselfish compassion - were all but unknown. The forwardness; i.e. the ready zeal. The sincerity; more literally, the genuineness.
For 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.
Verse 9. - The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word "grace," as in vers. 4, 6, 7, here means "gracious beneficence." Though he was rich (John 16:15; Ephesians 3:8). Became poor. The aorist implies the concentration of his self-sacrifice in a single act. By his poverty. The word "his" in the Greek implies the greatness of Christ. The word for "poverty" would, in classical Greek, mean "pauperism" or "mendicancy." Dean Stanley (referring to Milman's 'Latin Christianity,' 5. bk. 12. c. 6) points out how large a place this verse occupied in the mediaeval controversies between the moderate and the extreme members of the mendicant orders. William of Ockham and others, taking the word "poverty" in its extremest sense, maintained that the Franciscans ought to possess nothing; but Pope John XXII., with the Dominicans, took a more rational view of the sense and of the historic facts.
And 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.
Verse 10. - And herein I give my advice; and in this matter I offer an opinion (only). For this is expedient for you. It is more to your advantage that I should merely suggest and advise you about the matter than command you. Who have begun; rather, seeing that you formerly began. The verb is the same as in ver. 6. Not only to do, but also to be forward; rather, not only to do, but also to be willing. The "to do" is in the aorist, the "to be willing" in the present. We should naturally have expected a reversed order, "not only to be willing, but also to put in action." There must be a strong touch of irony in the words, unless we interpret it to mean "not only to make the collection, but to be willing to add yet more to it." Perhaps in the "to be willing" lies the notion of "the cheerful giver," "the willing mind "(ch. 9:7; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). A year ago; rather, since the previous year; i.e. last year (ch. 9:2). They had probably begun to collect in the previous Easter, and it was now soon after Tisri, or September, the beginning of the Jewish civil year.
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.
Verse 11. - Now therefore perform the doing of it, etc.; "but now complete also the actual work, in order that, as was the readiness of the willing, so may be also the completion according to your means." Out of that which ye have. This, and not "out of your ability," is probably the right reading, as we see from the next verse.
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.
Verse 12. - For if there be first a willing mind, etc. "For if the readiness is forth- coming, it is acceptable," etc. In other words, God considers not quantum, but ex quanto; not the magnitude of the gift, but the proportion which it bears to the means of the giver.
For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
Verse 13. - And ye be burdened; literally, for not that there may be relief to others, but to you affliction. In other words, I have no wish that you should distress yourselves to set others at ease. You must not suspect me of Jewish proclivities which would lead me to impoverish you to provide luxuries for the Christians at Jerusalem. Others refer it to the Macedonians: "I do not wish to burden you, but the Macedonians, who are poor, have contributed, and if you join them in this good work now they may help you hereafter." But there is no hint of this anywhere.
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:
Verse 14. - But by an equality, etc. The verse, like so many in this chapter, is expressed very elliptically: "But by a reciprocal fairness in the present case, your superabundance to their lack, that also their superabundance may be in proportion to your lack, that there may come to be reciprocal fairness." St. Paul may possibly be thinking of the reciprocity of spiritual and temporal benefits, as in Romans 15:27; but if so he leaves the thought unexpressed. The application of the text to "works of supererogation" (Art. XIV.), as forming a fund at the disposal of the hierarchy in the way of indulgences, pardons, etc., is a singular perversion. The passage has been pointed out by Dean Stanley as one which indicates a possible acquaintance with the writings of Aristotle.
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
Verse 15. - As it is written (Exodus 16:17, 18, LXX.). The reference is to the gathering of manna.
But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.
Verse 16. - Which put; rather, which giveth. The zeal is continuous. The same earnest care. The same in the heart of Titus as in my own.
For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.
Verse 17. - The exhortation. My request that he would undertake this task. Being more forward. Because he was more earnestly zealous than I had ever ventured to hope, he went spontaneously. (On the word authairetos, see ver. 3.)
And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
Verse 18. - The brother, whose praise is in the gospel. The phrase means, "whose worth is praised wherever the glad tidings are preached." There can be no reference to any of the four written Gospels, for they were not in the hands of Christians till a later date; nor did the word "gospel" acquire this significance till afterwards. From Acts 20:5, it is somewhat precariously inferred that St. Luke is meant. Others have conjectured Barnabas, Silas (who are out of the question), Erastus, Mark, a brother of Titus, etc. St. Luke is not unlikely to have been selected as a delegate by the Church of Philippi; but further than this we can say nothing. St. Luke was not a Macedonian by birth, and any Macedonian (e.g., Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Epaphroditus) seems to be excluded by 2 Corinthians 9:4. Palsy notes it as curious that the object of St. Paul's journey to Jerusalem, Which is so prominent in this group of Epistles, is only mentioned indirectly and incidentally by St. Luke (Acts 24:17) in the Acts of the Apostles.
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:
Verse 19. - Chosen. The word (literally, chosen by show of hands) implies a popular vote (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:3, 4). This brother Was not only widely known and valued, but also specially selected for this task. To travel with us. "As our fellow traveller." The word occurs in Acts 19:29. With this grace. The better reading is "in:" "in this matter of kindness." To the glory of the same Lord. The word "same" should be omitted. And declaration of your ready mind. The best reading is "our," and the clause should be rendered, to further the glory of the Lord and our readiness.
Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
Verse 20. - Avoiding this. The object in sending Titus and the brother was to cut away the possibility of blame and suspicion. The word "avoiding" (stellomenoi) literally means "furling sail," and then "taking precautions." It may, however, mean "making this arrangement" (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Too much stress has been laid on St. Paul's "use of nautical terms" (Acts 20:20; Galatians 2:12, etc.). They belong, in fact, to the very phraseology of the Greek language. That no man should blame us (see 2 Corinthians 6:3). St. Paul here sets a valuable and necessary example to all Christians who are entrusted with the management of charitable funds. It is their duty to take every step which may place them above the possibility of of suspicion. Their management of the sums entrusted to them should be obviously and transparently business-like and honourable. St. Paul taught this behaviour both by example and by precept (Romans 12:17; Philippians 4:8). There is such a thing as a foolish and reprehensible indifference to public opinion (1 Peter 2:12). Yet with all his noble carefulness, St. Paul did not escape this very slander (2 Corinthians 12:18). In this abundance. The word, which occurs here only, means literally "succulence," but in the LXX. the adjective means "rich" (1 Kings 1:9). It here implies that the sum which had been collected by St. Paul's exertion was a large one.
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Verse 21. - Honest things. The word "honest" means "honourable" (Romans 12:17; Proverbs 3:4, LXX.). Not only in the sight of the Lord. Such precautions would be unnecessary if others were not concerned, for God knows our honesty (2 Corinthians 5:11). But also before men. Although the text "avoid all appearance of evil" should be rendered "avoid every species of evil," the mistranslation conveys a wise lesson. "In a field of melons," says the Chinese proverb. "do not stoop to tie your shoe;" for that will look as if you wanted to steal one of the melons.
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.
Verse 22. - Our brother. It is impossible to conjecture with any certainty who was the brother thus warmly eulogized. Clement, Epaenetus, Apollos, Luke, Zenas, Sosthenes, Trophimus, and Tychicus have all been suggested. Stanley conjectures that the two who accompanied Titus were the Ephesians Tychicus and Trophimus (Acts 20:4; Acts 21:9; 2 Timothy 4:12; Ephesians 6:21; Titus 3:12; Colossians 4:7).
Whether 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.
Verse 23. - Whether any do inquire of Titus; literally, whether about Titus, or, as to Titus; i.e. "if I speak about Titus." (For the phrase, comp. ch. 1:6, 8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1.) Titus, long afterwards, was delegated on a similar mission to Crete (Titus 1:1-5; Titus 2:15). My partner and fellow helper concerning you; rather, my associate (Philemon 1:17) and, as regards you, my fellow worker. Messengers; literally, apostles. The word is used in its original and untechnical sense of delegates (Philippians 2:25; Romans 16:7). The glory of Christ. Men whose work and worth redound to Christ's honour (Galatians 1:24).
Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.
Verse 24. - Of your love. Not only of your love "to me," but of your brotherly love in general. And of our boasting. Show to the Church that my boasting of you was justifiable.

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