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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

1. Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

1. Certiores autem vos facio, fratres, de gratia Dei, quae data est in Ecclesiis Macedoniae;

2. How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

2. Quoniam in multa probatione afflictionis exsuperavit gaudium ipsorum, et profunda illorum paupertas exundavit in divitias simplicitatis eorum.

3. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves;

3. Nam pro viribus (testor) atque etiam supra vires fuerunt voluntarii;

4. Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

4. Multa cum obtestatione rogantes nos, ut gratiam et societatem ministrii susciperemus in sanctos.

5. 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.

5. Ac non quatenus sperabamus: sed se ipsos dediderunt, primum Domino, deinde et nobis per voluntatem Dei:

6. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.

6. Ut abhortaremur Titum, ut quemadmodum ante coepisset, ita et consummaret erga vos hanc quoque gratiam.

7. 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.

7. Verum quemadmodum ubique abundatis fide, et scientia, et omnia diligentia, et ea, quae ex vobis erga nos est caritate: facite, ut in hac quoque beneficentia abundetis.

As, in the event of the Corinthians retaining any feeling of offense, occasioned by the severity of the preceding Epistle, that might stand in the way of Paul's authority having influence over them, he has hitherto made it his endeavor to conciliate their affections. Now, after clearing away all occasion of offense, and regaining favor for his ministry, he recommends to them the brethren at Jerusalem, that they may furnish help to their necessities. He could not, with any great advantage, have attempted this in the commencement of the Epistle. Hence, he has prudently deferred it, until he has prepared their minds for it. Accordingly, he takes up the whole of this chapter, and the next, in exhorting the Corinthians to be active and diligent in collecting alms to be taken to Jerusalem for relieving the indigence of the brethren. For they were afflicted with a great famine, so that they could scarcely support life without being aided by other churches. The Apostles had intrusted Paul with this matter, (Galatians 2:10,) and he had promised to concern himself in reference to it, and he had already done so in part, as we have seen in the former Epistle. Now, however, he presses them still farther.

1. I make known to you. He commends the Macedonians, but it is with the design of stimulating the Corinthians by their example, although he does not expressly say so; for the former had no need of commendation, but the latter had need of a stimulus. And that he may stir up the Corinthians the more to emulation, he ascribes it to the grace of God that the Macedonians had been so forward to give help to their brethren. For although it is acknowledged by all, that it is a commendable virtue to give help to the needy, they, nevertheless, do not reckon it to be a gain, nor do they look upon it as the grace of God Nay rather, they reckon, that it is so much of what was theirs taken from them, and lost. Paul, on the other hand, declares, that we ought to ascribe it to the grace of God, when we afford aid to our brethren, and that it ought to be desired by us as a privilege of no ordinary kind.

He makes mention, however, of a twofold favor, that had been conferred upon the Macedonians. The first is, that they had endured afflictions with composure and cheerfulness. The second is, that from their slender means, equally as though they had possessed abundance, they had taken something -- to be laid out upon their brethren. Each of these things, Paul affirms with good reason, is a work of the Lord, for all quickly fail, that are not upheld by the Spirit of God, who is the Author of all consolation, and distrust clings to us, deeply rooted, which keeps us back from all offices of love, until it is subdued by the grace of the same Spirit.

2. In much trial -- In other words, while they were tried with adversity, they, nevertheless, did not cease to rejoice in the Lord: nay, this disposition rose so high, as to swallow up sorrow; for the minds of the Macedonians, which must otherwise have been straitened, required to be set free from their restraints, that they might liberally furnish aid to the brethren.

By the term joy he means that spiritual consolation by which believers are sustained under their afflictions; for the wicked either delude themselves with empty consolations, by avoiding a perception of the evil, and drawing off the mind to rambling thoughts, or else they wholly give way to grief, and allow themselves to be overwhelmed with it. Believers, on the other hand, seek occasions of joy in the affliction itself, as we see in the 8th chapter of the Romans.

And their deep poverty. Here we have a metaphor taken from exhausted vessels, as though he had said, that the Macedonians had been emptied, so that they had now reached the bottom. He says, that even in such straits they had abounded in liberality, and had been rich, so as to have enough -- not merely for their own use, but also for giving assistance to others. Mark the way, in which we shall always be liberal even in the most straitened poverty -- if by liberality of mind we make up for what is deficient in our coffers.

Liberality is opposed to niggardliness, as in Romans 12:8, where Paul requires this on the part of deacons. For what makes us more close-handed than we ought to be is -- when we look too carefully, and too far forward, in contemplating the dangers that may occur -- when we are excessively cautious and careful -- when we calculate too narrowly what we will require during our whole life, or, in fine, how much we lose when the smallest portion is taken away. The man, that depends upon the blessing of the Lord, has his mind set free from these trammels, and has, at the same time, his hands opened for beneficence. Let us now draw an argument from the less to the greater. |Slender means, nay poverty, did not prevent the Macedonians from doing good to their brethren: What excuse, then, will the Corinthians have, if they keep back, while opulent and affluent in comparison of them?|

3. To their power, and even beyond their power. When he says that they were willing of themselves, he means that they were, of their own accord, so well prepared for the duty, that they needed no exhortation. It was a great thing -- to strive up to the measure of their ability; and hence, to exert themselves beyond their ability, showed a rare, and truly admirable excellence. Now he speaks according to the common custom of men, for the common rule of doing good is that which Solomon prescribes, (Proverbs 5:15) --

to drink water out of our own fountains, and let the rivulets go past, that they may flow onwards to others.

The Macedonians, on the other hand, making no account of themselves, and almost losing sight of themselves, concerned themselves rather as to providing for others. In fine, those that are in straitened circumstances are willing beyond their ability, if they lay out any thing upon others from their slender means.

4. Beseeching us with much entreaty. He enlarges upon their promptitude, inasmuch as they did not only not wait for any one to admonish them, but even besought those, by whom they would have been admonished, had they not anticipated the desires of all by their activity. We must again repeat the comparison formerly made between the less and the greater. |If the Macedonians, without needing to be besought, press forward of their own accord, nay more, anticipate others by using entreaties, how shameful a thing is it for the Corinthians to be inactive, more especially after being admonished! If the Macedonians lead the way before all, how shameful a thing is it for the Corinthians not, at least, to imitate their example! But what are we to think, when, not satisfied with beseeching, they added to their requests earnest entreaty, and much of it too?| Now from this it appears, that they had besought, not as a mere form, but in good earnest.

That the favor and the fellowship. The term favor he has made use of, for the purpose of recommending alms, though at the same time the word may be explained in different ways. This interpretation, however, appears to me to be the more simple one; because, as our heavenly Father freely bestows upon us all things, so we ought to be imitators of his unmerited kindness in doing good, (Matthew 5:45); or at least, because, in laying out our resources, we are simply the dispensers of his favor. The fellowship of this ministry consisted in his being a helper to the Macedonians in this ministry. They contributed of their own, that it might be administered to the saints. They wished, that Paul would take the charge of collecting it.

5. And not as He expected from them an ordinary degree of willingness, such as any Christian should manifest; but they went beyond his expectation, inasmuch as they not only had their worldly substance in readiness, but were prepared to devote even themselves. They gave themselves, says he, first to God, then to us.

It may be asked, whether their giving themselves to God, and to Paul, were two different things. It is quite a common thing, that when God charges or commands through means of any one, he associates the person whom he employs as his minister, both in authority to enjoin, and in the obedience that is rendered.

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us;

say the Apostles, (Acts 15:28,) while at the same time they merely, as instruments, declared what had been revealed and enjoined by the Spirit. Again,

The people believed the Lord and his servant Moses, (Exodus 14:31,)

while at the same time Moses had nothing apart from God. This, too, is what is meant by the clause that follows -- by the will of God For, as they were obedient to God, who had committed themselves to his ministry, to be regulated by his counsel, they were influenced by this consideration in listening to Paul, as speaking from God's mouth.

6. That we should exhort Titus. Now this is an exhortation that is of greater force, when they learn that they are expressly summoned to duty. Nor was it offensive to the Macedonians, that he was desirous to have the Corinthians as partners in beneficence. In the mean time an apology is made for Titus, that the Corinthians may not think that he pressed too hard upon them, as if he had not confidence in their good disposition. For he did that, from having been entreated, and it was rather in the name of the Macedonians, than in his own.

7. But as He had already been very careful to avoid giving offense, inasmuch as he said, that Titus had entreated them, not so much from his own inclination, as in consideration of the charge given him by the Macedonians. Now, however, he goes a step farther, by admonishing them, that they must not even wait for the message of the Macedonians being communicated to them; and that too, by commending their other virtues. |You ought not merely to associate yourselves as partners with the Macedonians, who require that; but surpass them in this respect, too, as you do in others.|

He makes a distinction between utterance and faith, because it. is impossible that any one should have faith, and that, too, in an eminent degree, without being at the same time much exercised in the word of God. Knowledge I understand to mean, practice and skill, or prudence. He makes mention of their love to himself, that he may encourage them also from regard to himself personally, and in the mean time he gives up, with a view to the public advantage of the brethren, the personal affection with which they regarded him. Now in this way he lays a restraint upon himself in everything, that he may not seem to accuse them when exhorting them.

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