Notes on 2 Corinthians 8:9-15

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We have seen how powerfully the thought of the Lord acted on the saints of Macedonia, who in spite of their deep poverty had so exceeded the apostle's expectation. Now he brings His grace to bear on those of Achaia whom he had ground to believe awakened to feel accordingly.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christi that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might become rich. And I give an opinion in this, for this is profitable for you who began before not only the doing, but also to be willing a year ago. But now also complete the doing, that even as the readiness of the willing [was there], so also the completing [may be] out of what ye have. For if the readiness be there, [one is] accepted according to what he may have, not according to what he hath not. For [it is] not that others [should have] ease and you distress, but on equality: at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance also should be for your lack, so that there should be equality; as it is written, He that [gathered] much had nothing over, and he that [gathered] little had no lack.” ( Vers. 9-15.)
The parenthesis of verse 9 is eminently instructive, not only for that which would act powerfully on the Corinthians as on all saints who appreciate the grace of our Lord, but as a sample of the way the Spirit of God turns what was in Christ to every exigency of the individual or of the church. Nor does any other Motive act with equal power in holiness. And it could not be otherwise; for who or what can compare with Christ? To His grace, though it be really immeasurable, two measures are applied, the infinite glory of His person in itself, and the depth of humiliation to which He submitted for us. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he being rich became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might be made rich.” Wealth consists in fullness of means and resources, and poverty in their utter lack. As a divine person our Lord had no need for Himself, and all things at command for others absolutely. He was rich indeed, yet for our sakes became poor, not in the letter only but in spirit to the uttermost. See the picture summed up in Phil. 2, and expanded or detailed in all the Gospels, the perfect pattern of One who hung in dependence on His Father and never used a single thing for Himself throughout His career. He waited on and lived on account of the Father; it was His meat to do His will and finish His work. He had no motive but the one of pleasing His Father, whatever the cost. The fast of forty days in the wilderness was doubtless a special scene of trial which ushered in His public ministry; but it was His ordinary life to count on the care of God while doing His work without an anxiety on the one hand, and on the other without independent resources. But His poverty went down into depths unfathomable in the cross when giving His life for the sheep. I do not speak merely of His garments parted among them and of their casting lots, upon His vesture, image though it was of extreme and helpless destitution. Deeper elements were there than man's eye saw, when all forsook Him and fled. God forsook Him too—His God. What remained then? Nothing but the unsparing judgment of our sins. Was He not the “poor man” then as none other was, never morally so high, yet never so abject, and this not circumstantially alone but in all the unspeakable abandonment of that hour? As He said prophetically in Psa. 22, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people...I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”
But He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, and in resurrection declares His Father's name unto His brethren, in the midst of the congregation praising Him. What tongue of men or of angels can adequately tell the change? None but His own when He passed from the abyss of woe where was no standing to the everlasting and immutable ground of divine righteousness where the once guilty objects of grace are set in Him without spot or stain or charge before God, who delights to show them His estimate of Christ's redemption, and gives the Holy Spirit to seal them unto the day which will declare it. Yet is this but part of the riches of grace wherewith Christ now enriches us who believe. And the blessing of Jehovah is not only for us an exhaustless treasure, but it will go forth with wide-embracing fullness when Messiah's praise shall be “in the great congregation.” Then all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him. For as surely as the Father will surround the Son with His children in His house in heaven, the kingdom is Jehovah's, and He is the Governor among the nations, and the earth is to be blessed in that day no less than the heavens be filled with the rich harvest gathered into the granary on high, when for the dispensation of the fullness of times He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. Truly we by His poverty have been enriched, though not we alone but every soul who ever has been, and ever shall be, blessed. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him; and none can keep alive his own soul. Such is the grace, the known grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and these the ways of our God, not now only but in the ages to come for His own glory and to His praise, whose humiliation and redemption have wrought such wonders, as yet only seen by faith, soon to be displayed before every eye. How sweet to associate it with the gracious consideration of the poor saints and the supply of their need at Jerusalem! How worthy of God thus to bring Christ into that which otherwise had been but an exercise of benevolence and compassion!
The apostle adds his judgment of its profit for the Corinthian saints themselves (ver. 10), who began before not only the doing, but also the willing a year ago. He could therefore with the more delicate propriety urge the completing of their purpose out of what they had. Grace repudiates constraint, but values, encourages, and directs readiness of mind: without this, what is the worth of giving? Is the gift acceptable? or the giver? But if the readiness be there, one is accepted according to what one has, not according to what one has not. Sentiment disappears; reality takes its place. Truth accompanies grace; and equity follows. For it is not that others should have ease and the Corinthians pressure, but on equality; and, as the application is made, “at the present time your abundance for their lack, that their abundance also should be for your lack.” This is fortified by God's way and word as to the gathering of the manna of old; when God adjusted the supply to the demand with a wisdom and power which precluded superfluity no less than deficiency. He that gave the manna from heaven measured it exactly, whatever the differing measures is man's hands. And we have to do with the same God, who regulates all in the assembly with assuredly no less care and love.