But the apostle has a good deal more to say on a subject so constantly and often urgently needed in the assembly, where the poor are apt ever to abound. He had brought before the Corinthians the bright example of the Macedonian believers, notwithstanding circumstances most unpromising naturally. And this had stirred up the apostle to urge on Titus the completion of this grace also in Achaia which the Corinthians had begun a year ago. Not that he spoke by commandment, but through the zeal of others and proving the genuineness of their love, while setting before them the incomparable grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to act on their souls. So God in giving the manna to Israel took care that, whatever the inequality in gathering, none should be in excess and none want: was there to be less regard for each other in the church? Love desired not the case of those, nor pressure on these, but rather a principle of equality in mutual consideration of each other, and this wherever the church is found. Then he sets forth the hearty diligence in this matter of Titus, who had gone about what remained to be done at Corinth with two other brethren; for thus had the apostle lent the contribution importance whilst guarding it from the smallest imputation of evil, and calling on the Corinthians to make good their love and his own boasting of them.
"For about the ministration for the saints it is superfluous for me to write to you. For I know your readiness which I boast of you to Macedonians that Achaia hath been prepared a year ago, and your* zeal stimulated the mass. Yet I sent the brethren in order that our boasting of you may not be made vain in this respect, that (as I said) ye may be prepared; lost, haply, if Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we may be ashamed, that we say not ye in this confidence.† I thought it necessary therefore to exhort the brethren that they would go before unto you and complete beforehand your blessing promised before,‡ that it be ready thus as blessing, not as§ covetousness. But this [I say], he that soweth Sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth in blessings shall reap also in blessings; each as he hath purposed|| in his heart, not of sorrow or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." (Vers. 1-7.)
* The common T.R. reading ὁ ἐξ ὑμ is largely supported, but not by the best MSS, etc., and may be taken as "zeal on your part."
† T.R., with several uncials and most cursives, etc., adds τῆς καυχήσεως "of boasting."
‡ προεπηγ has much the best support, not as in T. R. προκατηγ
§ ὡς the best MSS, not ὥσπερ as T.R. with a few cursives.
|| T. R. has the present, "purposeth," with most, but the oldest read the perfect.
From Galatians 2: "we know how earnest our apostle was like the rest as to the general principle, and how in this particular case his heart went out to the distressed saints in Jerusalem, none the less because his part of the work was emphatically toward the Gentiles. But his delicacy is no less striking and instructive here, where he gives the saints in Corinth full credit for the same love which overflowed his own heart; "it is superfluous for me to write to you." They had been taught it of God themselves. Why then did he write so amply? Not because he did not know their ready mind; not because they had failed to give him ground to glory in what God had wrought in this respect; for as he in the last chapter boasted of the Macedonians triumphing over their trying and needy circumstances in their most generous remembrance of the poor saints in Judea, so now he lets the Corinthian saints know his habit of boasting of themselves to Macedonians, and very especially in their preparation for this call a year ago.
Hence, no doubt, it is that in his zeal for themselves and the Lord's honour in them, and seeking the happy flow of love in every way, he speaks (in the epistolary aorist) of sending the brethren referred to in the close of the preceding chapter, in order to guard in this particular against mishap in his boast on their behalf. He wanted them to be prepared beyond danger of disappointment as far as pains on his part could secure it. How painful for him, not to say for them, it would be if brethren came from Macedonia and found shortcoming in the very saints, the report of whose zeal had acted so powerfully in kindling their own! What shame on all sides if this confidence in the Corinthians should not prove well-founded! He did not wish, as we know from 2 Corinthians 16, that there should be collections when he came himself; as he would guard against haste on the one hand or personal influence on the other, or malevolent insinuation. But his love for them and desire for the Lord's glory in the business made him exhort Titus and his two companions to go on before to Corinth and previous to his own arrival complete their fore-promised blessing. Compare, for this use of "blessing," Gen_33:11, Jdg_1:15, 2Ki_5:15; it is love not in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth, 1Jn_3:18.
The apostle's longing was, not merely that their proposed beneficence should be ready, but in such sort as blessing, and not as covetousness, meeting thus the danger on both sides. As he would have it a blessing on the givers' part, he repudiates all covetousness on the part of those receiving it for the poor saints. He does not seem to limit his caution to the former nor to allude in covetousness to a niggardly spirit, any more than to make πλ mean "tenacity," instead of the desire of having more which soon runs into tricky means to get more.
But this further he adds, a wholesome thing to remember, being truth in God's moral government, and of all moment in our life on earth: he that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that sows with blessings shall reap also with blessings. It is no question of correspondence in kind, but it may be spiritually also and so much the better. Still it is true, and especially among God's people, as it always was. (See Pro_11:24-25.) Scripture indeed teems with it in one form or another; and experience is the sure and plain commentary. God despises not what is given to the poor saints; but the spirit of giving is far more important than the gift. Therefore the apostle follows up the apothegm he had just applied: each just as he has predetermined in his heart, not of sorrow or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver, quoting Pro_22:8 (Alex. LXX). To grudge and grieve over what is given is unworthy of a saint of His; to exact it no less unworthy of His servant. How needed is faith here as everywhere! how energetic is love, which is our only due spring in this as in all else practically, whatever the encouragements God may and does give those whom grace has called and strengthens to walk in the path of Christ! Himself the sovereign giver of all good, He loves to see the reflection of His grace and blessing in His children.
The close of the apostolic exhortation on giving is admirably in keeping with all we have had already. Not only does God love a cheerful giver, but He is able in His grace to see that there shall be means to give, and not in this form only, but for every good work. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." (Pro_11:24.)
"And God is able to make every grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in every [thing], may abound unto every good work; as it is written, He scattered, he gave to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever." (Vers. 8, 9.) No doubt that God has now revealed Himself in Christ according to His own nature, in view of heaven and eternity; no doubt He has given us life in His Son and redemption through His blood and union with that glorified man at His right hand, that we might glory in nought but His cross here below, and count not life dear to serve the Lord in His way and our measure, as we wait for Him from heaven. But this does not hinder the government of God and the pleasure He takes in blessing large and generous hearts, as of old, so now. Special privileges do not forbid His general principles, and His power finds a way in His wisdom to harmonise all. And the apostle, who knew better than any what it was to suffer with Christ and for Christ, is just the suited one, out of his capacious mind and heart, to communicate the assurance of these His unchanged ways, for which he cites Psa_112:9; the beautiful description of man blessed in the kingdom when divine judgment introduces it by-and-by. Then the fear of Jehovah and obedience will have might on the same side, and judgment will return to righteousness, and wealth in no wise corrupt it, but it endures for ever with a spirit of compassion and gracious consideration of others. There may be judicial ways peculiar to that day as looking on his enemies, and his horn exalted, etc.; but true righteousness, far from being hard, dispenses with liberal hand from that which grace supplies abundantly. Nor could it be otherwise in the estimate of a true heart that now, in the day when grace is vouchsafed in other and deeper ways, it should fail in this. It is not so however; and He who shows us His mercy beyond measure or thought is able to make every grace abound, and this that we might have the blessed favour of imitating Him here too, or as the apostle puts it to the Corinthian saints, "that ye, it every time having every kind of sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work," as it is written in the Psalms.
There is no need, we may by the way remark, of altering the force of "righteousness" here or elsewhere. It does not mean "benevolence" as the Geneva Version renders it with many a commentator, but comprehends it. (Cf. Mat_6:1-2.) Righteousness means consistency with relationship; and what can be more consistent than generous remembrance of want in others, especially in the household of faith, on the part of those who own that all is of grace in their own case?
But this is not all. Not only is God able thus to do, but He, the God of all grace, acts accordingly. "But he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for eating will" supply and multiply your sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness, [ye] being enriched in everything unto all liberality which worketh out through us thanksgiving to God." (Vers. 10, 11) It is not a wish or prayer as in the Authorised Version, nor is it (with the same Version, the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, etc.) correct to construe χορηγήσαι "minister" or supply (were this the true form) with ἄρτον εἰς βρ ("bread for your food"). Compare Isa_55:10. It is an assurance that the God who amply provides for ourselves loves to furnish means as well as opportunities of blessing to others, as He delights in owning and rewarding these fruits of righteousness, which are really of His grace, as if they were ours and not of Him by us. The form of the sentence following is slightly irregular, the sense quite sure and plain, without introducing the parenthesis of the English or other versions. God would thus increase the fruits of their righteousness, "while ye are in everything being enriched with every kind of liberality, which is such as worketh out through us thanksgiving to God." The word translated "liberality" is given in Rom_12:8 as "simplicity," which is no doubt its literal force. But thence, from conveying the absence of excuse for not giving, it easily derived the sense here implied. The apostle acknowledges the source of all they had given - that they might abound in good works, reminds them of his own share in it whether in strengthening their zeal or in dispensing the fruit, and anticipates the thanksgiving of those about to be relieved by it rising up to God.
* The future appears in the most ancient and best MSS, B C D P, fifteen cursives, in the old Latin, Vulg. Cop. Arm. Aeth., etc.
On this last thought, the worthy conclusion of all previously urged, the apostle dilates to the end of the chapter. "Because the ministration of the service is not only filling up the wants of the saints, but also abounding through many thanksgivings to God; through the proof of this service [they] glorified God for the subjection of your confession unto the gospel of Christ and liberality of fellowship toward them and toward all; and their supplication for you, while longing for you, on account of the surpassing grace of God [bestowed] on you. Thanks [be] to God for his unspeakable gift." (Vers. 12-15.) Thus is shown the true and proper character of such a loving contribution for the poor saints. It is an honourable service and a ministry of love. It meets their wants, but it flows over, and rises into many thanksgivings to God. It draws out praise from those who receive it in this subjection to His name; for why also thus liberally remember them at all? It rouses them to prayer with earnest longing for those who manifest such grace. And if such be the blessed effect of love working in the heart and the supplying the poor saints with that which otherwise perishes in the using, what shall we say or feel, as we think of Christ? Thanks to God for His undescribable gift. The reader will agree with me that it is strong to suppose the apostle could speak in such unmeasured terms of liberality in earthly things, however of grace. Spoken of Christ, of all God is to us in and by Him, what can be more proper? One would scarcely have deemed it needful to make even this brief remark, if Calvin and many others had not allowed a turn so derogatory, as it seems to me.