Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 8:1 - 8:24

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 8:1 - 8:24

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


Liberality shown by the Macedonian Churches (2Co_8:1-5). He is sending Titus to receive their contribution for the Church of Jerusalem, and he invites them to give according to their power (verses 6-15). Recommendation of Titus and the other delegates (verses 16-24).

These two chapters (8 and 9) form an independent section of the Epistle. The plural alone ("we") is used throughout; participial and unfinished constructions abound; the style is a little embarrassed; and various words, such as "grace," "blessing," "righteousness," "simplicity," occur in somewhat unusual shades of meaning. All this arises:

1. From St. Paul's natural delicacy in alluding to pecuniary subjects.

2. From a desire to conciliate the Corinthians, while at the same time he cannot conceal from them a little apprehension that they were rather more forward and zealous in words than in deeds. Their large promises had led him to speak of them in a way which seemed unlikely to be justified by the fulfilment. He was thus more or less under the influence of conflicting emotions. Out of patriotism (Rom_9:3) and compassion, and an effort to fulfil an old pledge (Gal_2:10), and a desire to conciliate and, if possible, win over the affection of the Jewish Church—which had been much alienated from him by differences of opinion and by assiduous calumnies—and from a wish to show that his Gentile converts were faithful and loving brethren (Rom_15:31), he was intensely anxious that the contribution should be a large one. This feeling is apparent, not only throughout every line of this appeal, with the solemn topics which it introduces, but also in all his other allusions to the subject (Rom_15:26; 1Co_16:1-24.; Act_20:22; Act_21:4, etc.). On the other hand, he was careful lest he should seem to have even the most distant personal aims, and lest he should lay on his Gentile converts a wholly unfamiliar burden.


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 (1Co_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 1Co_7:1; 1Co_12:1; 1Co_13:1, etc. (For the phrase, "we inform you," see 1Co_12:3; 1Co_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 (2Co_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.


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 Rom_5:4
, and in this Epistle, 2Co_2:9; 2Co_9:13; 2Co_13:3.) "Affliction" seems to have befallen the Churches of Macedonia very heavily (1Th_1:6; 1Th_2:14), chiefly through the jealousy of the Jews, who excited the hatred of the Gentiles (Act_16:20; Act_17:5, Act_17:13). The abundance of their joy. Another reference to joy in sadness (see on 2Co_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 (Mar_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 (Luk_21:3, Luk_21:4, where similar words occur—perisseuo, husterema). Of their liberality; rather, of their singleness of purpose or simplicity (Eph_6:5). The "grace" and single-heartedness to which he alludes showed themselves in liberality.


They were willing of themselves.
"Of their own accord," as in 2Co_8:17
. The verb in the original is energetically omitted, with the "they gave" of 2Co_8:5. St. Paul does not mean that the notion of making the collection originated with them (2Co_9:2), but only that they displayed a voluntary energy in carrying it out.


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 (Act_11:29
; Rom_15:25, Rom_15:26). St. Paul had already brought the subject to the notice of the Corinthians (1Co_16:1-4).


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 (Php_2:25
; Php_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 Act_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" (Tit_2:14). First (Rom_1:16; Rom_2:9, Rom_2:10).


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 (verse 17; 2Co_12:18
; 1Co_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 (2Co_12:18).


; rather, but. In the following verses to 2Co_8:15
he tells them his wishes about this collection. He desires them to show generosity among their other graces (2Co_8:7), not by way of command, but that they may emulate others and show their love (2Co_8:8) by following the example of Christ (2Co_8:9). And by acting thus they would prove the sincerity of their former promises (2Co_8:10, 2Co_8:11), especially as he did not wish them to give more than they could justly spare by way of reciprocity (2Co_8:12-15). 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 1Co_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.


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.


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word "grace," as in 2Co_8:4
, 2Co_8:6, 2Co_8:7, here means "gracious beneficence." Though he was rich (Joh_16:15; Eph_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
; 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 2Co_8:6. 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 "(2Co_9:7; 1Ti_6:17-19). A year ago; rather, since the previous year; i.e. last year (2Co_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,
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,
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.


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,
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 Rom_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
, Exo_16:18, LXX.). The reference is to the gathering of manna.


Which put;
rather, which giveth. The zeal is continuous. The same earnest care. The same in the heart of Titus as in my own.


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 2Co_8:3


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 Act_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 2Co_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 (Act_24:17) in the Acts of the Apostles.


. The word (literally, chosen by show of hands) implies a popular vote. 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 Act_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.
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 2Th_3:6
). Too much stress has been laid on St. Paul's "use of nautical terms" (Act_20:20; Gal_2:12, etc.). They belong, in fact, to the very phraseology of the Greek language. That no man should blame us (see 2Co_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 (Rom_12:17; Php_4:8). There is such a thing as a foolish and reprehensible indifference to public opinion (1Pe_2:12). Yet with all his noble carefulness, St. Paul did not escape this very slander (2Co_12:18). In this abundance. The word, which occurs here only, means literally "succulence," but in the LXX. the adjective means "rich" (1Ki_1:9). It here implies that the sum which had been collected by St. Paul's exertion was a large one.


Honest things.
The word "honest" means "honourable" (Rom_12:17
; Pro_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 (2Co_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.


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 (Act_20:4
; Act_21:9; 2Ti_4:12; Eph_6:21; Tit_3:12; Col_4:7).


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. Tit_1:6
, Tit_1:8; 2Th_2:1.) Titus, long afterwards, was delegated on a similar mission to Crete (Tit_1:1-5; Tit_2:15). My partner and fellow helper concerning you; rather, my associate (Phm_1:17) and, as regards you, my fellow worker. Messengers; literally, apostles. The word is used in its original and untechnical sense of delegates (Php_2:25; Rom_16:7). The glory of Christ. Men whose work and worth redound to Christ's honour (Gal_1:24).


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.


2Co_8:1-9 - Genuine beneficence (1).

"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God," etc. The subject of these words is genuine beneficence, and they suggest certain general truths concerning it.

I. THAT ALL GENUINE BENEFICENCE IN MAN IS FROM GOD. "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of [we make known to you] the grace of God." All that is loving and generous in all moral beings is from one Source, and that is God. He is the primal Font whence all flows. Wherever you see love, in young or old, rich or poor, cultured or rude, you see an emanation from and a reflection of the Eternal. As you may see the ocean in a dewdrop, you may see God in every throb of affection in human souls.

II. THAT IN SOME MEN IT IS MORE STRONGLY DEVELOPED THAN IN OTHERS, According to St. Paul, the "Churches of Macedonia" displayed it in a remarkable degree. It would seem from what Paul says concerning the beneficence of the Macedonian Churches that it was:

1. Self-sacrificing. "How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." It would seem from this that they could ill afford—as the phrase is—to render any help in the way of property to others, and yet their contributions "abounded unto the riches of their liberality."

2. Spontaneous. "They were willing of themselves." They were not pressed into it by outward appeals. The only pressure was from love within.

3. Earnest. "Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift." Instead of giving because they were besought by others to do so, they themselves besought the reception of their gifts. They might have presented plausible reasons for withholding their contributions to this charity. They might have pleaded distance, and said, "Jerusalem is a long way off, and charity begins at home." They might have pleaded lack of personal knowledge, and have said, "We are utterly unacquainted with any of these saints at Jerusalem;" or they might have pleaded their own affliction or poverty. But instead of that, they earnestly seized the opportunity to render what help they could.

4. Religious. "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." "This means," says a modern expositor, "of course, that they had done what was far beyond his hopes. And here the point lies in the fact that they gave, not their money only, but themselves, their time, thought, energy, primarily to Christ as their Lord, and then to the apostle as his minister. And this they had done because they allowed the will of God to work upon their will." Consecration of self to God is at once the cause and virtue of all our gifts to men. Unless we give ourselves to God, all our gifts to men are morally worthless.

III. THAT THOSE IN WHOM IT IS MOST STRONGLY DEVELOPED MIGHT BE URGED AS AN EXAMPLE TO OTHERS. Paul here holds up the beneficence of the Macedonians as an example to stimulate the charity of the Corinthians. It would seem that the Church at Corinth had, through the influence of Titus, commenced a subscription for the poor at Jerusalem, and that Titus was about to return in order to obtain larger contributions. The charity of the Macedonian Churches Paul quotes as an example in order to help forward the work. His argument seems to be this—You have the advantages of the Churches at Macedonia in many things; you "abound in everything," you are wealthy, they are poor; your endowments are greater than theirs, your "faith, and utterance, and knowledge," and "in your love to us;" this being so, "See that ye abound in this grace also;" see that you excel in your contributions to this charity. It is wise and well to hold up the good example of others to stimulate men to a holy emulation. The good deeds of other men are amongst the Divine forces to purify and ennoble our own characters.

IV. THAT THE HIGHEST EXAMPLE OF IT WE HAVE IN THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc. Christ is the supreme Model of philanthropy.

1. His philanthropy was self-sacrificing. "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." Observe:

(1) He was rich in material wealth before he came into the world. It is of material wealth that the apostle is speaking.

(2) His existence on earth was that of material poverty. "The foxes have holes," etc.

(3) He passed voluntarily from one stage to another. "For your sakes he became poor." Of all the myriads of men that have appeared on this earth, and that will appear, he alone had the choosing of his circumstances, and he chose poverty.

2. His philanthropy aimed supremely at the promotion of spiritual wealth. "That ye through his poverty might be rich." Rich spiritually. Great is the difference between spiritual wealth and material.

(1) The one is absolutely valuable, the other is not.

(2) The one is essential to happiness, the other is not.

(3) The one is within the reach of all, the other is not.

2Co_8:10-15 - Genuine beneficence (2).

"And herein I give my advice," etc. In these verses there is a continuation of the subject presented in the preceding passage, viz. genuine beneficence. And there are three further remarks suggested concerning this all-important subject.

I. IT IS THE EMBODYING OF THE BENEFICENT DESIRE IN CONTRIBUTIONS FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS. "Herein I give my advice [judgment]: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before [who were the first to make a beginning], not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform [complete] the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance [completion] also out of that which ye have." They had shown the will to contribute, for they had "a year ago" commenced their subscriptions. Now Paul exhorts them to go on and complete the work. "As there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance." The mere generous will is good in itself, but is not enough; it requires to be embodied in deeds. Every good desire requires embodiment:

1. For our own sake. It is only as our best desires are translated into deeds that they give solidity and strength to our character. In words and sighs they die away; they are like the morning dew. A good desire in itself is like the raindrop on the leaf of the tree; it may excite admiration as it glistens like a diamond in the sun, but it is soon exhaled, and probably does no good to the tree. But when embodied in a generous deed it is like the raindrop that penetrates the roots and contributes some portion of strength to all the fibres. A charity sermon delivered with the eloquence of a Chalmers may excite in the congregation the beneficent idea, almost to a passion, but, unless that passion takes the form of a self-denying act, it evaporates and leaves the congregation in a worse state than the preacher found it.

2. For the sake of others. It is generous deeds that bless the world. They go where ideas cannot penetrate, into the hearts and consciences of men; they work silently and salutarily as the sunbeam.

II. THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF BENEFICENCE ARE ONLY VIRTUOUS AS THEY SPRING FROM A GENEROUS DESIRE. "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." The doctrine is this, that the disposition of the heart, not the doings of the hand, constitute the essence of moral character. This is the Divine method of estimating human conduct. "The Lord judgeth not as man judgeth," etc. The motive is the soul of the deed. "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,.., and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Do not judge the desire by the effort, but judge the effort put forth by the desire. The poor widow would have made munificent contributions, but she could only give a "mite;" but in that mite there was more value than in all the amount in the temple exchequer. Some have the means to do good and not the heart, and some have the heart but not the means. The former are grubs in the universe, the latter are angels. There are deeds done in the body, seen of God, infinitely more numerous and essentially more valuable in most cases than deeds done by the body.


1. It is not a substitute. "For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened." It behoves every man to contribute to the extent of his riches, to the good of others. If one man gives a thousand it does not relieve me from my obligation to contribute what I can.

2. It is a supplement. "But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want." It is the duty of all to contribute. Some have the ability to contribute a hundred times the amount of others; let their large sums go to supplement the deficiencies of their poorer brethren, so that there may be "an equality." Thus the old Scripture will be illustrated, that "he that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."

2Co_8:16-24 - Stimulating men to beneficent actions,

"But thanks be to God," etc. The verses under notice present to us the subject of stimulating men to efforts of beneficence, and three remarks are suggested concerning this occupation.

I. IT IS A WORK THAT REQUIRES THE HIGHEST ORDER OF CHRISTIAN MEN. We find here that not only Paul employs himself in it with all his loving earnestness and logical power, but he engages Titus also, and a "brother" with him of such distinction that his "praise is in the gospel throughout all the Churches." To excite men to beneficent enterprises is preeminently a Christian work. Christianity is the mother of all philanthropic labours and institutions. Christian piety is a fountain whence all the myriad streams of human beneficence that circulate through all the districts of human life proceed. To stimulate this beneficence in men is the highest ministry on earth, and for it men of the most distinguished character and faculty are required. No man is too great for it, and but few men are equal to its successful discharge.


1. The gratitude of those who had been excited to beneficent efforts. "But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you." It is implied that Titus conferred on them an immense favour in stimulating them to generous deeds. No man can render us a greater service than by taking us out of ourselves and inspiring us with a genuine concern for the interests of others. It is not he who gives me a good thing, but who stimulates me to do a good thing, that is my greatest benefactor; for it is "more blessed to give than to receive." In giving we become God-like, and therefore we ought to thank the man most devoutly who evokes within us the spirit of true charity. Instead of endeavouring to avoid appeals to our benevolence, we should hail them and thank our Maker for them.

2. The gratitude of those who have effected the excitement. Paul says, "Thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you."

(1) There is no office higher in itself than this. This is the work for which Christ came into the world, the work for which he established the Christian ministry. The aim and tendency of the gospel are to drown the selfish ego in the sunny tide of universal charity. The love of Christ constrained men to feel that they should not henceforth live to themselves.

(2) There is no office more useful than this. Success in this means ruin in all that is ruinous to souls in human history, ruin to selfishness and all its fiendish brood. Well, therefore, may those who are engaged in such a work thank God for the distinguishing honour to which they have been called. Paul says nothing here about the gratitude of those on whom the excited beneficence has bestowed its favours—the beneficiaries. He seems to take it for granted that they ought and would be thankful; that they ought to be admits of no doubt, but that they always are cannot be asserted. Ingratitude, alas! is one of the reigning sins in human life.

III. IT IS A WORK EXPOSED TO THE SUSPICIONS OF WORLDLY MEN. The apostle seems to have been afraid that the contributions that would flow from stimulating the beneficence of the Corinthian Church would occasion the allegation that they were participating in them, and so obtaining some personal advantage. Hence, to guard against the possibility, he gets the Churches to choose from amongst them some men of the best reputation, whom he calls "messengers of the Churches," and Titus, and perhaps Luke, in the administration of the charity, and thus "providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." Dishonest men have existed in all ages, and the more dishonest men are, the more suspicious. Paul here guards himself against all scandalous imputations. He had great respect for his own reputation, so much so, that one at times, in reading these Epistles, is well nigh astonished that a man so great in nature and sublime in character should think so much about the opinions of others.


2Co_8:1-6 - Christian liberality in the Macedonian Churches.

Grace prepares the way for grace. Denial of self in one direction leads to cross-bearing in other forms. Duty is a spirit, not a mechanical thing; a life, and not a mere performance. If the Corinthians had shown such a "godly sorrow," they would now be eager to demonstrate their renewed Christian strength by a more faithful regard to all obligations. Carefulness, zeal, vehement desire, had characterized their repentance, and these would not expire with the occasion that had called them into exercise. Deep feeling is quiet feeling, and therefore permanent, and deep feeling is always the mark of true penitence. St. Paul had confidence in his Corinthian brethren, and it was a large-hearted trust; "confidence in you in all things." The "all things" is the nexus between the seventh and eighth chapters. So then he proceeds to speak of the liberality of the Macedonian Churches preparatory to urging on them the duty of benevolence. Observe his manner. If he states a doctrine, he illustrates it. If he teaches a duty, he gives an example. Never so abstract as to neglect the practical side of life, never so intent on action as to lose sight of the determinative principle, he reminds one of Lord Bacon's remark, that the highest order of mind is that combining most fully the abstract and the practical. The example of these Macedonian Churches was well worthy of imitation. Macedonia had been overrun by armies, and we all know how armies devastated countries in those days and stripped the inhabitants of their wealth. St. Paul speaks of their "great trial of affliction," the losses and persecutions they were enduring, and yet they had "abundant joy," that could only be represented by its filling the depth of their poverty and overflowing in "the riches of their liberality." No common poverty was theirs—"deep poverty;" and no ordinary love was theirs, but a very profound and tender love. "This sentence is completely shattered in passing through the apostle's mind" (Stanley). How much more is unsaid than said in the marvellous words, "Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality"! Two things are taught us.

1. The inspiration of a joyous influence. Duty, motive, impulse, all exalted into Christian happiness. "Rejoice evermore." Such joy is a glorious power. Let us not make a mistake here. Fine feelings, exuberant emotions, loud hallelujahs, the thrill and shout and ecstasy, may deceive us. If they exhaust themselves in sensational excitement, they do deceive us, and that most awfully. Joy as a fruit of the Spirit is a giving joy, a sacrificing joy, a joy in the cross by which we are crucified to the world and the world unto us.

2. And we learn that even "deep poverty" is no obstruction to helping others. It often hinders us from doing what we would; but in the estimate of the Lord Jesus, the heart of this matter is in the "could," not in the would. "She hath done what she could." Capacity is always a mystery. It surprises us ever, and more and more, and in nothing is it so surprising as in the charitable heart with small means at its command. The glory of giving is in the quality of love, and it never fails to find something to bestow. "She of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." If this poor widow could spare "two mites," who can plead depth of poverty? Notice that St. Paul emphasizes the depth of poverty in the Macedonian Church. If it had been simply a case of poverty, the example would not have been so instructive, and, accordingly, we find the apostle citing his cases from such as had to make sacrifices of personal comfort in order to aid those poorer than themselves. So that while in the Acts of the Apostles we hear of "possessors of lands or houses" selling them and. laying the prices at the feet of the apostles, this fades from view in the tragic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. But the image of the poor widow returns to us in the Epistles, with many suggestions as to the class of persons who do the most of the steady Christian giving. What is further noteworthy is the apostle's description of the self-moved generosity of these Macedonians. "Willing of themselves." Liberality is not a common virtue, and self-induced liberality is its rarest form. Men wait to be urged, begged, entreated; special occasions set are for special efforts; fine speakers are engaged; and the whole system of giving, or very much of it, proceeds on the habitual reluctance of giving for the support of the gospel. As to spontaneousness in this matter, who thinks of it, who trusts it? Now, we do not suppose that all religious people in the apostolic age were like these Macedonians. We know they were not. Yet, consider this fact, viz. they were the persons held up as shining examples of what liberality ought to be in the Church of Christ. And this accords precisely with the incidents mentioned concerning Mary of Bethany, and the poor widow and her mites, and the disciples after Pentecost who disposed of their property to hell, the poor. It was cordial and voluntary action, no external agency operating to give inducements. Without pressing this point too far, we must say that whatever utility belongs to the machinery of collecting funds for Church uses (and this seems to be necessary), it is nevertheless clear enough that spontaneous liberality is the truest, noblest, surest, mode of cultivating this grace in our hearts. So, unquestionably, the apostle thought. With what a glow he writes! "According to their power;" nay, it was more than this, for they went "beyond their power [beyond their means];" and so earnest was their purpose that they prayed the apostle to receive their gifts and let them share the grace and fellowship of ministering to the saints. No doubt many of these men found life a hard struggle, and for them, in more senses than one, "without were fightings, within were fears." Yet they deemed it a privilege to give; they coveted earnestly the best gift, which was the gift of giving; they prayed "with much entreaty" that they might participate in a work which was most blessed. To let such an opportunity slip was more than they could bear. And this conduct exceeded his expectations; for they had given themselves first to the Lord Jesus, and then, anxious to show their affection for the apostle, had given themselves in this special matter to him. Heart and property; what a consecration! What a page in spiritual biography! Out of "deep poverty;" what chorus of voices ever rose like this, pleading that these Macedonians might be permitted to share the grace of ministration! "The short and simple annals of the poor" have added much to our English literature, nor is it extragavant to claim that this is one of the most praiseworthy marks of that distinctive genius which has signalized its excellence in so many departments of poetry and fiction. But do we realize our indebtedness to the Bible for this beautiful and humanizing element in English literature? Here, in this single chapter from the Apostle Paul, what a touching picture of Christian poverty, surrendering means it could ill afford to spare, and doing it "with a self-dedication which involved a complete renunciation of all personal interests" (Kling)!—L.

2Co_8:7-15 - Appeal to the Corinthians.

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 (Php_2:1-30
.) 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.

2Co_8:16-24 - Prudential management; care to avoid blame.

St. Paul has given us many sketches of himself, especially much insight into his varying moods; and in these chapters (7 and 8) he interests us in the character of Titus. The section opens with thanksgiving to God, who has inclined the heart of his young friend towards the Corinthians and awakened his zeal in behalf of their welfare. No doubt it had occurred to Titus to undertake the project of collecting for the Jerusalem Church, but he had not broached the subject to the apostle. It lay quiet in his heart, doing the Spirit's work, expanding and strengthening his purpose, yet nursed in silence. "While I was musing, the fire burned." St. Paul had presented the matter to him and found him willing, ready, and zealous to enter on the task. "More forward [more earnest], of his own accord he went unto you." Two brethren of reputation had been chosen by the Churches to accompany Titus, and the three travellers, having this loving embassy in hand, would manifest "this grace," so that they and he as coworkers in the ministration would glorify God. Not enough for the apostle to honour Christ in the gifts alone, but he would enhance the glory by the manner of doing the work. The way of performing it should be exceptional, impressive, and great hearted, and thus the very mode of the act should prove a blessing as well as the thing done. For this course another reason existed. Appearances should always be consulted. No one can afford to put himself above them, to neglect, and still less to despise, them. Circumstances have their laws, and they must be obeyed. The contribution was "abundant," and he would take all possible precaution in the administration, lest the enemies of his apostleship should invent and propagate some new slander about him. The inspired man, the ambassador, the pioneer of a new Europe, was not ashamed to practise the lowly code of common sense and put a very strong emphasis on prudence. Hence his extreme caution. Blameless in the sight of God, he would be blameless in the eyes of men. And now a commendation of our brother, and a special word in behalf of Titus, "my partner and fellow helper," not forgetting to say "partner and fellow helper concerning you" and to exhort the Corinthians to make good his boasting to the Macedonian Churches on their behalf. So ends this admirable chapter. Is it not a beautiful pendant to that lamp which, for eighteen hundred years, in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, has hung out its blaze of splendour before the world?—L.


2Co_8:5 - Dedication.

If it seems strange to us that a large portion of an inspired Epistle should be occupied with directions as to a charitable collection which was going forward at the time, it should be remembered; that Christianity introduced into human society new and more powerful principles of benevolence, and further, that the new and Divine revelation was one which laid the foundation for this as for all human duties in the character and action of God himself.


1. This appears when it is recollected that the Lord has first given himself for us. His sacrifice thus becomes the ground of our consecration.

2. Our very constitution, taken in connection with our natural relation to our Lord, points to such a dedication. "No man liveth unto himself." Our "chief end is to glorify God."

3. This spiritual consecration is pre-eminently acceptable to God. His demand is, "Give me thine heart." Every gift which does not flow from this is vain and worthless in his sight.

II. THE DEDICATION OF SELF TO THE LORD SHOULD BE FOLLOWED BY THE DEDICATION OF SELF TO THE LORD'S PEOPLE. Paul looked for the brotherhood, the confidence, the cooperation of his converts, and indeed of all Christian people whom Divine providence might bring into contact with him. The Corinthians apparently wished to be personally associated with him in the ministration to the Judaean Christians who were in poverty, and their wish was a source of satisfaction and joy to him.

III. TRUE CHRISTIAN CONSECRATION INVOLVES THE GIFT OF PROPERTY TO THE LORD'S CAUSE. It is sometimes objected against calls for liberality that God cannot be enriched by our giving. This is true, yet God's people may receive advantage, and Christ has shown us that what is done for his people is done for himself. As most people value their possessions, their generosity is a proof of the sincerity of their love and the reality of their consecration.

"How can I, Lord, withhold

Life's brightest hour

From thee; or gathered gold,

Or any power?

Why should I keep one precious thing from thee,

When thou hast given thine own dear self for me?"


2Co_8:8 - Sincere love.

In giving liberally towards the collection made for the poor Christians of Judaea, the Corinthians showed their love to the objects of their charity, to the apostle to whose appeal they responded, and also to the unseen Lord and Saviour by whose desire and for whose sake they befriended the least of his brethren.

I. LOVE TO CHRIST IS THE MIGHTIEST OF ALL SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES, Human life abounds with evidence of the might of love; every family, every society, has some exemplifications of the power of love to overcome difficulties, to prompt to exertion, to sustain under self-denied. And all Christendom in every age has shown that love to Christ is an unrivalled motive to holiness, to patience, to benevolence. The hymns of the Church's literature, and the gifts and labours recorded in the Church's annals, are alike proof of the vitality and efficacy of Christian love.

II. THE PROFESSION OF LOVE TO CHRIST IS NOT ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY THE REALITY. The early disciples were admonished to "love unfeigned," were warned, "Let love be without dissimulation." Doubtless in all ages there have been those who have deceived themselves, and have imagined that they loved Christ, because they have felt some glow of admiration towards him, but who in time of trial have made it manifest that they had no depth of love. Weighed in the balance, they are found wanting. The soul is brought face to face with its own weakness and worthlessness, inconsistency and treachery.


1. By his bodily absence from them, which shows whether they have an attachment to their professed Lord which can abide even though not fostered by sight and constant personal intercourse.

2. By permitting rival powers and persons to invite the supreme affection of the heart. These, though they cannot satisfy, may please, and the Lord of all suffers their attractiveness; for the love which cannot abide amid rival attractions is poor indeed.

3. By his demand that we should surrender what is dear to us, if to retain it conflicts with our supreme attachment to Christ. The young ruler was subjected to this test. In some form it comes to many. Feigned love will then go away, even though it go away grieved.

4. By our necessary and probationary contact with an unloving world. In the presence of the unspiritual and unsympathizing, the sincerity of the Christian's love is often sorely tested.

5. The trials and sufferings of life not only exercise the faith, they test the Jove, of the professed follower of Jesus. The storm proves whether the vessel is seaworthy or not.

6. By enjoining upon his people obedience to commandments which are contrary to our natural inclinations. Love can vanquish even the attachment to a "darling sin."

7. Love is tested when it is invited to direct itself towards others also, for Jesus' sake. Who can love Christ, and yet hate his brother, for whom Christ died?—T.

2Co_8:9 - The condescension of Christ.

According to the teaching of the New Testament, human kindness should be based upon Divine benevolence. Such is the import of this wonderful parenthesis—a jewel which the inspired writer drops by the way and passes on.


1. His proper rightful wealth is apparent, not only from his nature as the Son of God, but from his evident command, during his earthly ministry, of all the resources of nature. Bread, wine, money, he could multiply or create; the earth and the sea obeyed his will; diseases and demons fled at his bidding.

2. His poverty was not compulsory; it was a "grace." We see it in his incarnation, in which he emptied himself of his glory; in his ministry, passed in a lowly and all but destitute condition of life; in his refusal to use his power for selfish ends; in his cheerful submission to a shameful death. Compare the glory which he claimed to have had with the Father before the world was, with the homelessness and poverty of his life and the desertion and ignominy of his death, and his "grace" appeals to every just mind, to every sensitive heart.


1. Our natural destitution is undeniable; by sin we have lost our possessions, our inheritance, our powers of acquisition, and are left resourceless and friendless. Apart from the interposition of Christ, and where Christianity is unknown, such is still the state of man.

2. Christ's humiliation was for the sake of man's spiritual enrichment. Only by condescension, compassion, and sacrifice could man be reached. Thus he drew near to us, and imparted to us of his own true and Divine riches, of knowledge, of righteousness, of favour, and of glory.

3. By Christ's mediation all things are ours, God, giving Christ, gives with him all good things. "I have all things and abound," is the testimony of every right-minded and appreciative disciple of Christ. The history of the Church is the history of the enrichment of the race; and this in turn is the pledge and promise of the inestimable and inexhaustible riches of eternity.—T.

2Co_8:12 - The rule of acceptance.

Justice is distinctive of all the demands and of all the proceedings of the providence of God. Often, as in the case before us, the righteousness of the principles of the Divine government is so apparent that no question can possibly be raised concerning it.

I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE HERE PROPOUNDED. It is that the requirements of God correspond to the possessions of man.

1. What men have, they have received from the undeserved bounty of their Creator. This holds good with regard to property and to talents and opportunities.

2. An account is expected from every man by him who is the Judge and sovereign Lord of all. We are to some extent and in some matters accountable to our fellow men, but foreverything to him in whom "we live, and move, and have our being."

3. The rule according to which the supreme