2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Therefore, as you abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us…
A wise use had been made by the apostle of the example of the Macedonians. He had not appealed to pride, vanity, or any selfish feeling, but had simply presented a remarkable case of Christian philanthropy. Robertson very properly remarks, "Had the apostle said, 'Be not beaten by those Macedonians;' had he called natural prejudices into play - a Corinthian to yield to a Macedonian! - then all the evil passions of our nature had been stimulated." Emulation is a true principle, and may be a religious principle. The danger lies, not in the thing itself, but in its abuses, and particularly in the encouragement which it may afford to false rivalry and jealousy. In a large measure, the spirit and conduct of others make the social atmosphere we breathe, nor can we live in the world without contact with it. Goodness assumes its most attractive forms in noble examples, and, except for these, our own ideals, if they existed at all, would be very imperfect. Consistently, then, with his purpose of stimulating the Corinthians to seek a high degree of Christian excellence, the apostle sets before them in most vivid colours the liberality of the Macedonian Churches. Titus had begun, and he would have him "finish in them the same grace also." Men are channels of Divine influence to our souls, and, as such, should be acknowledged in their work. St. Paul saw God's blessing on the labours of his young friend, and he would not deprive him of the honour of completing the task. He stood out of his way, encouraged his efforts, and lent him a fatherly hand in furtherance of his undertaking. This sympathy with young men is one of his characteristic qualities, and it is worthy of warm admiration. Many an elderly officer in the Church might heed it to great advantage. Titus should have all the credit. Let the brethren at Corinth heartily second his exertions in behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem. If they abounded "in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence," and in their love for the apostle, let them "abound in this grace also." The quality being pure, quantity was a favourite idea which he never lost an opportunity to urge. "Abound" and "abundant" flow freely from his pen. "Not by commandment" was this written. Free hearts, joyous impulses, could alone be recognized in this enterprise of humanity. This was the value of example, it was a sympathetic influence; and hence his reference to "the forwardness of others," which would test the "sincerity of their love." What a great truth is taught here, and that too so incidentally as to escape the attention of all save those who make the cultivation of discernment a constant duty! Noble examples are Divine tests; they prove, as we have said, the depth and activity of our sympathies, and in this respect supply the means of a discipline otherwise lacking. "Forwardness of others;" study its meaning. God commissions the leaders. Vast enterprises are never born of masses, but of individuals; apostles first, and then Churches; Bunyan, and two centuries of literature for the poor and illiterate; Watts and the sacred poets following; Raikes and Wesley; Martyn and Judson; successors multiplied because of their "forwardness." Having dwelt on the example of the Macedonians, the transition is easy to the Divine Exemplar. A single verse reminds them of "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," the surrender of his eternal glory, the riches of his Godhead's state, the extent of the abnegation, the earthly poverty assumed, and all for their sakes, that "through his poverty" they "might be rich." The supreme consideration must be kept in full view. Of the Macedonians he had spoken; of the "great trial of affliction," of their "deep poverty," and how it abounded "unto the riches of their liberality." Whence came this power? A new heart had been given to poverty, so that now, though its means were meagre, its social position unhonoured, its claims to influence set at nought, yet it had achieved wonders such as had never been thought possible. Macedonia had stretched out her arms of blessing to distant Jerusalem, and Gentiles and Jews long alienated were now one in the holiest of brotherhoods. It was due to the grace of Christ. It was his Spirit reproducing itself in the lives of believers. And therefore he had cited their conduct; but most of all let them remember the one great sacrifice of the incarnate Christ. Years subsequently we have in another Epistle (Philippians 2.) a similar train of thought. Age was upon him then, and life was drawing to a tragical close at Rome. Yet then, as now, then and now as throughout his ministry, the grace of the Lord Jesus was the one thought that inspired all other thoughts. It is still "advice." "Advice" is better than "commandment." They had begun the work of the collection, complete the task; they had a "readiness to will," let the effort be consummated. And, again, an important principle is brought to their notice. Was not "advice" sufficient? Would not an opinion be strong enough without a command? Yea, indeed, for a year ago the Corinthians had made a start in this matter. A willing mind is the first thing; grace begins here, and if this willing mind gives all it can, it is accepted of God, according to what "a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." Mark the solicitude of the apostle as to the education of this sentiment of giving. He cannot think of it as a thing to which they must be constrained, and, accordingly, he acknowledges the largest freedom, only it must be Christian freedom. Motive must have free play. Conscience must advance into affection, or conscience is stunted. Sensibility must be self-impelled. Nor must any conclude that he wished to oppress them that others might be relieved, "but only to establish between Jewish and Gentile Churches a reciprocity of aid in time of need" (Dr. Farrar). To establish an "equality" was his object. Do not mistake his meaning. Political, social, natural equality was utterly foreign to his thought and purpose. No revolutionist, no anarchist, no leveller, was he in any sense, in any degree, but simply the advocate of such an equality as should be produced by the sentiment of Christian liberality in the distribution of gifts. That equalizing influence was not to proceed from an arbitrary law nor from force work of any sort. It was to be spontaneous, each man a judge for himself, and the superabundance in one place was to supply the deficiency at another place, so as to secure an abundance for all. Reference is made to the manna in the wilderness. If one gathered more manna than the allotted supply, it was sent to those who had not collected enough, so that the necessities of all were met. This was the law of Judaism as between Hebrew and Hebrew, and the spirit of this law, fifteen centuries afterwards, reappears in a letter to the Corinthians. History in one portion of the world and among one people becomes prophecy in another portion and among another people. Prophecy, in turn, becomes a new history. And today, A.D. 1884, thousands in Europe and America are acting on this equalizing sentiment in the use of their property. - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.