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8 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,
Encouragement to Be Generous
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— 5and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written,
“The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.”
Commendation of Titus
16 But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have. 17For he not only accepted our appeal, but since he is more eager than ever, he is going to you of his own accord. 18With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news; 19and not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill. 20We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift that we are administering, 21for we intend to do what is right not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others. 22And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters, but who is now more eager than ever because of his great confidence in you. 23As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker in your service; as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
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. 659659 “See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 67-70. 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, 660660 “D’aussi bon coeur qu’ils eussent este bien riches;” — “As heartily as if they had been very rich.” 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 661661 “Franchement et d’vne affection liberale;” — “Cheerfully, and with a liberal spirit.” 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. 662662 Calvin refers, it is probable, more particularly to Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28, And we know that all things shall work together for good, etc.; in commenting upon which passage, our author observes: “Ex supradictis nunc concludit, tantum abesse, quin salutem nostram remorentur hujus vitae aerumnae, ut sint potius eius adminicula;” — “From what has been said previously, he now draws this conclusion, that the distresses of this life are so far from being hinderances to our salvation, that they are rather helps to it.” — Ed.
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. 663663 “To their power, yea, and beyond their power This is a noble hyperbole, like that of Demosthenes, ‘I have performed all, even with an industry beyond my power.’” — Doddridge. — Ed. 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. 664664 Poole, in his Annotations, observes that “the metaphor” made use of in the passage referred to, (Proverbs 5:15,) “is to be understood either 1, of the free and lawful use of a man’s estate, both for his own comfort and for the good of others, or 2, of the honest use of matrimony.” “The latter meaning,” he remarks, “better suits with the whole context, both foregoing and following, and thus it is explained in the end of Proverbs 5:18.” — Ed.
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. 665665 “Ont employe leur soin a secourir les autres plustost qu’a subuenir a leur propre necessite;” — “Made it their care rather to assist others, than to relieve their own necessities.” 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. 666666 “Le desir et la solicitation de tous par leur diligence et promptitude;” — “The desire and solicitation of all by their diligence and promptitude.” 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,
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. 667667 “Quand ils oyent qu’on les somme nommeement et presentement de faire leur droit;” — “When they hear that they summon them expressly and presently to do their 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. 668668 “De laquelle les Corinthiens l’aimoyent et ses compagnons;” “With which the Corinthians loved him and his associates.” Now in this way he lays a restraint upon himself in everything, that he may not seem to accuse them when exhorting them.
8. I speak not according to commandment Again he qualifies his exhortation, by declaring that he did not at all intend to compel them, as if he were imposing any necessity upon them, for that is to speak according to commandment, when we enjoin any thing definite, and peremptorily require that it shall be done. Should any one ask — “Was it not lawful for him to prescribe what he had by commandment of the Lord?” The answer is easy — that God, it is true, everywhere charges us to help the necessities of our brethren, but he nowhere specifies the sum; 669669 “Combien nous leur deuons donner;” — “How much we ought to give them.” that, after making a calculation, we might divide between ourselves and the poor. He nowhere binds us to circumstances of times, or persons, but calls us to take the rule of love as our guide.
At the same time, Paul does not here look to what is lawful for him, or unlawful, but says, that he does not command as if he reckoned that they required to be constrained by command and requirement, as though they refused to do their duty, unless shut up to it by necessity. He assigns, on the other hand, two reasons why he, notwithstanding, stirs them up to duty: first, Because the concern felt by him for the saints compels him to do so; and, secondly, Because he is desirous, that the love of the Corinthians should be made known to all. For I do not understand Paul to have been desirous to be assured of their love, (as to which he had already declared himself to be perfectly persuaded,) 670670 “Bien persuade et asseure;” — “Well persuaded and assured.” but he rather wished that all should have evidence of it. At the same time, the first clause in reference to the anxiety of others, admits of two meanings — either that he felt an anxiety as to the individuals, which did not allow him to be inactive, or that, yielding to the entreaties of others, who had the matter at heart, he spoke not so much from his own feeling, as at the suggestion of others.
9. For ye know the grace. Having made mention of love, he adduces Christ as an all perfect and singular pattern of it. “Though he was rich,” says he, “he resigned the possession of all blessings, that he might enrich us by his poverty.” He does not afterwards state for what purpose he makes mention of this, but leaves it to be considered by them; for no one can but perceive, that we are by this example stirred up to beneficence, that we may not spare ourselves, when help is to be afforded to our brethren.
Christ was rich, because he was God, under whose power and authority all things are; and farther, even in our human nature, which he put on, as the Apostle bears witness, (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:8,) he was the heir of all things, inasmuch as he was placed by his Father over all creatures, and all things were placed under his feet. He nevertheless became poor, because he refrained from possessing, and thus he gave up his right for a time. We see, what destitution and penury as to all things awaited him immediately on his coming from his mother’s womb. We hear what he says himself, (Luke 9:58,)
The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests: the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Hence he has consecrated poverty in his own person, that believers may no longer regard it with horror. By his poverty he has enriched us all for this purpose — that we may not feel it hard to take from our abundance what we may lay out upon our brethren.
10. And in this I give my advice. The advice he places in contrast with the commandment of which he had spoken a little before.
(2 Corinthians 8:8.) “I merely point out what is expedient in the way of advising or admonishing.” Now this advantage is not perceived by the judgment of the flesh; for where is the man
to be found, who is persuaded that it is of advantage to deprive himself of something with the view of helping others? It is, indeed, the saying of a heathen — “What you have given away is the only riches that you will always have;
Calvin, it is to be observed, quotes the same sentiment, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 16:2, (see p. 69,) but in the present instance he takes occasion, most appropriately to his particular purpose, to notice the connection in which the poet introduces it, which is as follows: —
“Callidus effracta nummos fur auferet arca;
Prosternet patrios impia flamma Lares.
Extra fortunam est, quicquid donatur amicis;
Quas dederis, solas semper habebis opes ”
“The dexterous thief will break open your chest, and carry off your money; a fire, raised by a base incendiary, will lay in the dust your paternal mansion; but whatever has been given to friends is placed beyond all risk. What you have given away is the only wealth that you will always retain.” — MARTIAL, Ephesians 5:39-42.
It is mentioned by Dr. Bennett, in his Lectures on Christ’s Preaching, (p. 104,) that on the tomb of Robert of Doncaster, there was the following inscription — “What I gave, I have; what I kept I lost.” — Ed. but the reason is, that whatever is given to friends is placed beyond all risk.” The Lord, on the other hand, would not have us influenced by the hope of a reward, or of any remuneration in return, but, on the contrary, though men should be ungrateful, so that we may seem to have lost what we have given away, he would have us, not- withstanding, persevere in doing good. The advantage, however, arises from this — that
“He that giveth to the poor (as Solomon says in Proverbs 19:17) lendeth to the Lord,”
whose blessing, of itself, is to be regarded as a hundredfold more precious than all the treasures of the world. The word useful, however, is taken here to mean honorable, or at least Paul measures what is useful by what is honorable, because it would have been disgraceful to the Corinthians to draw back, or to stop short in the middle of the course, when they had already advanced so far. At the same time it would also have been useless, inasmuch as everything that they had attempted to do would have come short of acceptance in the sight of God.
Who had begun not only to do. As doing is more than willing, the expression may seem an improper one; but willing here is not taken simply, (as we commonly say,) but conveys the idea of spontaneous alacrity, that waits for no monitor. For there are three gradations, so to speak, as to acting. First, we sometimes act unwillingly, but it is from shame or fear. Secondly, we act willingly, but at the same time it is from being either impelled, or induced from influence, apart from our own minds. Thirdly, we act from the prompting of our own minds, when we of our own accord set ourselves to do what is becoming. Such cheerfulness of anticipation is better than the actual performance of the deed. 672672 “Vne telle promptitude de s’auancer a faire sans estre incite ou aduerti d’ailleurs, est plus que le faict mesme;” — “Such promptitude in being forward to act, without requiring to be stirred up or admonished by any one, is more than the deed itself”
11. Now what ye have begun to do. It is probable, that the ardor of the Corinthians had quickly cooled down: otherwise they would, without any delay, have prosecuted their purpose. The Apostle, however, as though no fault had as yet been committed, gently admonishes them to complete, what had been well begun.
When he adds — from what you have, he anticipates an objection; for the flesh is always ingenious in finding out subterfuges. Some plead that they have families, which it were inhuman to neglect; others, on the ground that they cannot give much, make use of this as a pretext for entire exemption. Could I give so small a sum? All excuses of this nature Paul removes, when he commands every one to contribute according to the measure of his ability. He adds, also, the reason: that God looks to the heart — not to what is given, for when he says, that readiness of mind is acceptable to God, according to the individual’s ability, his meaning is this — “If from slender resources you present some small sum, your disposition is not less esteemed in the sight of God, than in the case of a rich man’s giving a large sum from his abundance. (Mark 12:44.) For the disposition is not estimated according to what you have not, that is, God does by no means require of thee, that thou coldest contribute more than thy resources allow.” In this way none are excused; for the rich, on the one hand, owe to God a larger offering, and the poor, on the other hand, ought not to be ashamed of their slender resources.
13. Not that others. This is a confirmation of the preceding statement — that a readiness of will is well-pleasing to God alike in poverty and in wealth, inasmuch as God does not mean that we should be reduced to straits, in order that others may be at ease through our liberality. True, indeed, it is certain, that we owe to God, not merely a part, but all that we are, and all that we have, but in His kindness He spares us thus far, that He is satisfied with that participation of which the Apostle here speaks, What he teaches here you must understand to mean an abatement from the rigor of law. 673673 “Est vn relaschement de ce a quoy nous sommes tenus en rigueur de droict comme on dit;” — “Is an abatement from what we are bound to by strictness of right, as they say.” In the mean time, it is our part to stir ourselves up from time to time to liberality, because we must not be so much afraid of going to excess in this department. The danger is on the side of excessive niggardliness.
This doctrine, however, is needful in opposition to fanatics, who think that you have done nothing, unless you have stripped yourself of every thing, so as to make every thing common; 674674 “Calvin alludes to the same class of persons, when commenting on Acts 2:44 — had all things common. “Verum sana expositione indiget hic locus propter spiritus fanaticos, qui bonorum κοινωνίαν fingunt, qua omnis politia evertatur;” — “This passage, however, requires to be soundly interpreted — for the sake of those fanatical spirits, who pretend (κοινωνίαν) — a community of goods, by which all civil government is overturned.” — Ed. and, certainly, they gain this much by their frenzy, that no one can give alms with a quiet conscience. Hence we must carefully observe Paul’s (ἐπιείκεια) mildness, 675675 Beza, when commenting on 2 Corinthians 10:1, observes, that ἐπιεικείας means “an inclination to clemency and mercy, as opposed to a disposition to follow out to the utmost one’s just right.” “Aristotle,” he remarks, “contrasts τὸ ἐπιεικες, (mildness,) with τῷ ἀκριβοδικαίῳ, (rigorous justice,) and Hermogenes contrasts it with τῷ βιαίῳ (violence.)” — Ed. and moderation, in stating that our alms are well-pleasing to God, when we relieve the necessity of our brethren from our abundance — not in such a way that they are at ease, and we are in want, but so that we may, from what belongs to us, distribute, so far as our resources allow, and that with a cheerful mind. 676676 “Et ce d’vne gayete de coeur et franc courage;” — “And that with cheerfulness of heart and frank courage.”
By an equality Equality may be taken in two senses, either as meaning a mutual compensation, when like is given for like, or, as meaning a proper adjustment. I understand ἰσότητα simply as meaning — an equality of proportional right, 677677 “C’est a dire qui est compassee par proportion selon des qualitez des personnes et autres circounstances;” — “That is to say, which is regulated proportionally according to the stations of individuals, and other circumstances.” as Aristotle terms it. 678678 “Quaerenda omnino ἰσότης est, sed analogica qualis est membrorum in corpore humano, qua quidem non omnia in eodem pretio et dignitate habentur, sed omnia tamen, quae ornamento vel integumento indigent, ornantur et teguntur;” — “Equality must by all means be aimed at, but proportional, such as subsists among the members of the human body, according to which they are not, indeed, all held in the same estimation and dignity, but all of them notwithstanding, that require ornament or clothing, are adorned and clothed.” — Heideggerus. — Ed. In this signification it is made use of, also, in Colossians 4:1, where he exhorts “masters to give to their servants what is equal.” He certainly does not mean, that they should be equal in condition and station, but by this term he expresses that humanity and clemency, and kind treatment, which masters, in their turn, owe to their servants. Thus the Lord recommends to us a proportion of this nature, that we may, in so far as every one’s resources admit, afford help to the indigent, that there may not be some in affluence, and others in indigence. Hence he adds — at the present time. At that time, indeed, necessity pressed upon them. Hence we are admonished that, in exercising beneficence, we must provide for the present necessity, if we would observe the true rule of equity.
14. And their abundance It is uncertain, what sort of abundance he means. Some interpret it as meaning, that this had been the case, inasmuch as the Gospel had flowed out to them from the Church at Jerusalem, from which source they had, in their penury, been assisted by their spiritual riches. This, I think, is foreign to Paul’s intention. It ought rather, in my opinion, to be applied to the communion of saints, which means, that whatever duty is discharged to one member, redounds to the advantage of the entire body. “If it is irksome to you to help your brethren with riches that are of no value, consider how many blessings you are destitute of, and these too, far more precious, with which you may be enriched by those who are poor as to worldly substance. This participation, which Christ has established among the members of his body, should animate you to be more forward, and more active in doing good.” The meaning may, also, be this. “You now relieve them according to the necessity of the occasion, but they will have an opportunity given them at another time of requiting you.” 679679 “Quelque tour Dieu leur donnera. moyen de vous recompenser;” — “God will one day give them the means of requiting you.” I approve rather of the other sentiment, which is of a more general nature, and with this accords what he again repeats in reference to equality. For the system of proportional right in the Church is this — that while they communicate to each other mutually according to the measure of gifts and of necessity, this mutual contribution produces a befitting symmetry, though some have more, and some less, and gifts are distributed unequally. 680680 “Fait vne proportion fort conuenable, et comme vne belle harmonie;” — “Makes a very suitable proportion, and as it were a beautiful harmony.”
15. As it is written. The passage, that Paul quotes, refers to the manna, but let us hear what the Lord says by Moses. He would have this to serve as a never-failing proof, that men do not live by bread alone, but are Divinely supported, by the secret influence of His will, who maintains and preserves all things that he has created. Again, in another passage, (Deuteronomy 8:3,) Moses admonishes them, that they had been nourished for a time with such food, that they might learn that men are supported — not by their own industry or labor, but by the blessing of God. Hence it appears, that in the manna, as in a mirror, there is presented to us an emblem of the ordinary food that we partake of. Let us now come to the passage that Paul quotes. When the manna had fallen, they were commanded to gather it in heaps, so far as every one could, though at the same time, as some are more active than others, there was more gathered by some than was necessary for daily use, 681681 “Combien qu’aucuns en amassassent plus qu’il ne leur estoit de besoin pour la nourriture d’vn iour, et les autres moins (comme les vns sont plus habiles que les autres;)” — “Though some gathered more of it than was needed by them as the food of a day, and others less (as some are more expert than others).” yet no one took for his own private use more than an homer, 682682 “An omer was about three quarts English measure. It is inferred by some that, when any one had gathered more than his due share, he gave the overplus to those who had gathered less. Others, however, suppose that the whole quantity gathered by any one family was first put into a common mass, and then measured out to the several individuals composing the household.” — Bush’s Notes on Exodus. — Ed. for that was the measure that was prescribed by the Lord. This being the case, all had as much as was sufficient, and no one was in want. This we have in Exodus 16:18
Let us now apply the history to Paul’s object. The Lord has not prescribed to us an homer, or any other measure, according to which the food of each day is to be regulated, but he has enjoined upon us frugality and temperance, and has forbidden, that any one should go to excess, taking advantage of his abundance. Let those, then, that have riches, whether they have been left by inheritance, or procured by industry and efforts, consider that their abundance was not intended to be laid out in intemperance or excess, but in relieving the necessities of the brethren. For whatever we have is manna, from whatever quarter it comes, provided it be really ours, inasmuch as riches acquired by fraud, and unlawful artifices, are unworthy to be called so, but are rather quails sent forth by the anger of God. (Numbers 11:31.) And as in the case of one hoarding the manna, either from excessive greed or from distrust, what was laid up immediately putrified, so we need not doubt that the riches, that are heaped up at the expense of our brethren, are accursed, and will soon perish, and that too, in connection with the ruin of the owner; so that we are not to think that it is the way to increase, if, consulting our own advantage for a long while to come, we defraud our poor brethren of the beneficence that we owe them. 683683 “Le secours et assistance;” — “The help and assistance.” I acknowledge, indeed, that there is not enjoined upon us an equality of such a kind, as to make it unlawful for the rich to live in any degree of greater elegance than the poor; but an equality is to be observed thus far — that no one is to be allowed to starve, and no one is to hoard his abundance at the expense of defrauding others. The poor man’s homer 684684 “L’homer, c’est a dire la mesure des poures;” — “The homer, that is to say, the measure of the poor.” will be coarse food and a spare diet; the rich man’s homer will be a more abundant portion, it is true, according to his circumstances, but at the same time in such a way that they live temperately, and are not wanting to others.
16. But thanks be to God who hath put. That he may leave the Corinthians without excuse, he now at length adds, that there had been provided for them active prompters, who would attend to the matter. And, in the first place, he names Titus, who, he says, had been divinely raised up. This was of great importance in the case. For his embassy would be so much the more successful, if the Corinthians recognized him as having come to them, from having been stirred up to it by God. From this passage, however, as from innumerable others, we infer that there are no pious affections that do not proceed from the Spirit of God; 685685 See Calvin’s Institutes, volume 1. and farther, that this is an evidence of God’s concern for his people, that he raises up ministers and guardians, to make it their endeavor to relieve their necessities. But if the providence of God shows itself in this manner, in providing the means of nourishment for the body, how much greater care will he exercise as to the means of spiritual nourishment, that his people may not be in want of them! Hence it is His special and peculiar work to raise up pastors. 686686 “Les pasteurs et ministres;” — “Pastors and ministers.”
His receiving the exhortation means that he had undertaken this business, 687687 “Que Tite auoit receu ceste charge;” — “That Titus had received this charge.” from being exhorted to it by Paul. He afterwards corrects this by saying, that Titus had not been so much influenced by the advice of others, as he had felt stirred up of his own accord, in accordance with his active disposition.
18. We have sent with him the brother. The circumstance that three persons are sent, is an evidence, that great expectations were entertained respecting the Corinthians, and it became them to be so much the more attentive to duty, that they might not disappoint the hopes of the Churches. It is uncertain, however, who this second person was; only that some conjecture that it was Luke, others that it was Barnabas. Chrysostom prefers to consider it to have been Barnabas. I agree with him, because it appears that, by the suffrages of the Churches, 690690 “Par le commun accord des Eglises;” — “By the common agreement of the Churches.” he was associated with Paul as a companion. As, however, it is almost universally agreed, that Luke was one of those who were the bearers of this Epistle, I have no objection that he be reckoned to be the third that is made mention of.
Now the second person, whoever he may be, he honors with a signal commendation, that he had conducted himself as to the gospel in a praiseworthy manner, that is, he had earned applause by promoting the gospel. For, although Barnabas gave place to Paul in the department of speaking, yet in acting they both concurred. He adds farther, that he had received praise, not from one individual, or even from one Church merely, but from all the Churches. To this general testimony he subjoins a particular one, that is suitable to the subject in hand — that he had been chosen for this department by the concurrence of the Churches. Now it was likely, that this honor would not have been conferred upon him, had he not been long before known to be qualified for it. We must observe, however, the mode of election — that which was customary among the Greeks — χειροτονία, (a show of hands,) 691691 “Laquelle les Grecs appellent d’vn nom qui signifie Eleuation des mains;” — “Which the Greeks express by a term that signifies a show of hands.” in which the leaders 692692 “Les principaux ou gouerneurs;” — “The leaders or governors.” took the precedence by authority and counsel, and regulated the whole proceeding, while the common people intimated their approval. 693693 Beza, in his Annotations on Acts 14:23, when commenting on the word χειροτονήσαντες made use of in that passage in connection with the ordaining of elders in every Church, remarks, that the word in this application took its rise from the practice of the Greeks — “qui porrectis manibus suffragia ferebant: unde illud Ciceronis pro L. Flacco, Porrexerunt mantus: psephisma nature est;” — “Who gave their votes by holding up their hands: hence that statement made by Cicero in his Oration in behalf of L. Flaccus — They held up their hands — a decree was passed.” Allusion is made to the same custom among the Greeks in the writings of Xenophon, Καὶ ὅτῳ δοκεῖ ἔφη ταῦτα αἰρέτω τὴν χεῖρα ἀνέτειναν πάντες — “Whoever is of this mind,” says he, “let him lift up his hand — they all lifted up their hands.” (Xen. deExped. Cyri. lib. v. p. 283.)” Ενδοξε δ ἀναβαλέσθαι ἐς ἑτέραν ἐκκλησίαν τότε γὰρ ὀψὲ ἦν καὶ τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἄν καθεώρων — “But it seemed good to postpone the matter till another assembly, for it was then late, and they could not see the hands.” — (Xen. Hist. Grace. lib. 1, p. 350.) — Ed.
19. Which is administered by us. By commending his ministry, he still farther encourages the Corinthians. He says, that it tends to promote the glory of God, and their kindness of disposition. Hence it comes, that these two things are conjoined — the glory of God and their liberality, and that the latter cannot be given up without the former being proportionally diminished. There is, in addition to this, the labor of those distinguished men, which it were very inconsistent to reject, or allow to pass unimproved.
20. Avoiding this, 694694 “The original word, στελλόμενοι, sometimes signifies the furling or altering of the sails of a ship, to change her course, that she may avoid rocks, or other dangers lying in her way. Here it is used in a metaphorical sense for taking care, that no one should find fault with the Apostle, as unfaithful in the management of the collections.” — M’Knight. The verb is employed in substantially the same sense by Plutarch: οἱ κατὰ ψυχὴν χειμῶνες βαρύτεροι στείλασθαι τὸν ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἐω̑ντες οὐδὲ ἐπιστὢσαι τεταραγμένον τὸν λογισμὸν —”The tempests of the mind are more severe — not allowing a man to shift his course, or to calm down troubled reason.” — (Plut. tom. 2 p. 501.) — Ed. that no one Lest any one should think, that the Churches had an unfavorable opinion of Paul, as if it had been from distrusting his integrity that they had associated partners with him, as persons that are suspected are wont to have guards set over them, he declares that he had been the adviser of this measure, with the view of providing against calumnies. Here some one will ask, “Would any one have been so impudent, as to venture to defame with even the slightest suspicion the man, whose fidelity must have been, in all quarters, beyond every surmise?” I answer, Who is there that will be exempt from Satan’s bite, when even Christ himself was not spared by them? Behold, Christ is exposed to the reproaches 695695 “Aux reproches et calomnies;” — “To the reproaches and calumnies.” of the wicked, and shall his servants be in safety? (Matthew 10:25.) Nay rather, the more upright a person is, in that proportion does Satan assail him by every kind of contrivance, if he can by any means shake his credit, for there would arise from this a much greater occasion of stumbling. 696696 “Car le scandale qui procederoit de la, seroit beaucoup plus grand que si cela estoit aduenu a vn autre;” — “For the offense that would arise from that would be much greater than if this had happened to another.” Hence the higher the station in which we are placed, we must so much the more carefully imitate Paul’s circumspection and modesty. He was not so lifted up, as not to be under control equally with any individual of the flock. 697697 “Il n’estoit point si arrogant, qu’il ne voulust bien estre admoneste et censure aussi bien que le plus petit de la bande;” — “He was not so arrogant, as not to be quite willing to be admonished and censured equally with the humblest of the band.” He was not so self-complacent, as to think it beneath his station to provide against calumnies. Hence he prudently shunned dangers, and used great care not to furnish any wicked person with a handle against him. And, certainly, nothing is more apt to give rise to unfavorable surmises, than the management of public money.
21. Providing things honest I am of opinion, that there were not wanting, even among the Corinthians, some who would have proceeded so far as to revile, if occasion had been allowed them. Hence he wished them to know the state of matters, that he might shut the mouths of all everywhere. Accordingly he declares, that he is not merely concerned to have a good conscience in the sight of God, but also to have a good character among men. At the same time, there can be no doubt, that he designed to instruct the Corinthians, as well as all others, by his example, that, in doing what is right, the opinion of men is not to be disregarded. The first thing, 698698 “Le premier et le principal;” — “The first and the chief thing.” it is true, is that the person take care, that he be a good man. This is secured, not by mere outward actions, but by an upright conscience. The next thing is, that the persons, with whom you are conversant, recognize you as such.
Here, however, the object in view must be looked to. Nothing, assuredly, is worse than ambition, which vitiates the best things in the world, disfigures, I say, the most graceful, and makes sacrifices of the sweetest smell have an offensive odor before the Lord. Hence this passage is slippery, so that care must be taken 699699 “Ainsi c’est yci vn passage glissant; et pourtant il faut que chacun aduise a soy;” — “Thus there is here a slippery passage; and hence every one must take heed to himself.” lest one should pretend to be desirous, in common with Paul, of a good reputation, and yet be very far from having Paul’s disposition, for he provided things honest in the sight of men, that no one might be stumbled by his example, but that, on the contrary, all might be edified. Hence we must, if we would desire to be like him, take care that we be not on our own account desirous of a good name. “He that is regardless of fame,” says Augustine, “is cruel, because it is not less necessary before our neighbor, than a good conscience is before God.” This is true, provided you consult the welfare of your brethren with a view to the glory of God, and in the mean time are prepared to bear reproaches and ignominy in place of commendation, if the Lord should see it meet. Let a Christian man, however, always take care to frame his life with a view to the edification of his neighbors, and diligently take heed, that the ministers of Satan shall have no pretext for reviling, to the dishonor of God and the offense of the good.
22. On account of the great confidence. The meaning is, “I am not afraid of their coming to you proving vain and fruitless; for I have felt beforehand an assured confidence, that their embassy will have a happy issue; I am so well aware of their fidelity and diligence.” He says that the brother, whose name he does not mention, had felt more eagerly inclined; partly because he saw that he 700700 “Sainct Paul;” — “St. Paul.” had a good opinion of the Corinthians, partly because he had been encouraged by Titus, and partly because he saw many distinguished men apply themselves to the same business with united efforts. Hence one thing only remained — that the Corinthians themselves should not be wanting on their part. 701701 “Que les Corinthiens auisassent a ne defailler point de faire leur deuoir de leur coste;” — “That the Corinthians should take care not to fail of doing their duty on their part.”
In calling them the Apostles of the Churches, he might be understood in two senses — either as meaning that they had been set apart by God as Apostles to the Churches, or that they had been appointed by the Churches to undertake that office. The second of these is the more suitable. They are called also the glory of Christ, for this reason, that as he alone is the glory of believers, so he ought also to be glorified by them in return. Hence, all that excel in piety and holiness are the glory of Christ, because they have nothing but by Christ’s gift.
He mentions two things in the close: “See that our brethren behold your love,” and secondly, “Take care, that it be not in vain that I have boasted of you.” For αὐτούς (to them,) appears to me to be equivalent to coram ipsis, (before them,) for this clause does not refer to the poor, but to the messengers of whom mention had been made. 702702 “Qui estoyent enuoyez comme ambassadeurs vers les Corinthiens;” — “Who had been sent as ambassadors to the Corinthians.” For he immediately afterwards subjoins, that they would not be alone witnesses, but in consequence of the report given by them, a report would go out even to distant Churches.