(1) Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit . . .—Better, we declare, or make known to you. There is no adequate reason for retaining a phrase which is now obsolete. The topic on which the Epistle now touches, and which is carried on through this and the following chapter, was one very dear to the Apostle’s heart. (See Note on 1 Corinthians 16:1.) When he wrote before he had simply given directions as to what the Corinthians were to do. Now he has something to tell them. The churches of Macedonia—Philippi, we must believe, prominent among them—had been true to their old generosity (2 Corinthians 11:8-9; Philippians 4:15), and were now showing it, not, as before, in personal kindness to their teacher, but in the truer way of acting as he wished them to act; and he sees in this a means of stirring up his friends at Corinth to an honourable emulation. There is something intensely characteristic in the way in which he opens his statement. He traces the generosity of the Macedonians to its true source. He is going to tell the Corinthians of the “grace of God” that has enabled them to do so much.
Unto the riches of their liberality.—The primary meaning of the word, as in 2 Corinthians 1:12 (where see Note), is simplicity, or singleness of purpose. That singleness, when shown in gifts, leads to “liberality,” and so the word had acquired the secondary sense in which it seems here to be used. Tyndale, and Cranmer, however, give “singleness,” and the Rhemish version “simplicity.” “Liberality” first appears in that of Geneva.
And in your love to us.—Some MSS. give the reading “our love for you,” but that in the text has abundant authority, and gives a far better meaning. The English expresses the general meaning, but there is a subtle delicacy in the Greek: “the love which, flowing from you, rests in us as its object.” The other reading would convey the sense of “the love which, flowing from us—i.e., from our teaching and influence—now dwells in you, and shows itself in act.” In any case, he is praising them for a quality which is actually theirs.
That, though he was rich, . . . he became poor.—Better, that, being rich . . . The thought is the same as that expressed in Philippians 2:6-7, especially in the words which ought to be translated He emptied Himself. He was rich in the ineffable glory of the divine attributes, and these He renounced for a time in the mystery of the Incarnation, and took our nature in all its poverty. This is doubtless the chief thought expressed, but we can scarcely doubt that the words refer also to the outward aspect of our Lord’s life. He chose the lot of the poor, almost of the beggar (the Greek word “poor” is so translated, and rightly, in Luke 16:20-22), as Francis of Assisi and others have done in seeking to follow in His steps. And this He did that men might by that spectacle of a life of self-surrender be sharers with Him in the eternal wealth of the Spirit, and find their treasure not in earth but heaven. As regards the outward mendicant aspect of our Lord’s life, and that of His disciples, see Notes on Matthew 10:10; Luke 8:1-3; John 12:6.
Who have begun before . . .—Better, who got the start, last year, not only as to the doing, but also as to the willing. At first, the words seem like an anti-climax, but what is meant is that the Corinthians had been before the Macedonian churches in both those stages. They had formed the purpose of giving, they had begun to lay by and to collect, before their rivals had started. They had, as it were, scored those two points in that game of honourable competition. It was “profitable for them” that he, as a by-stander watching the game, should give them a hint, so that they might not at last be ignominiously defeated. It is not easy to fix the exact limits of time indicated in the “year ago.” The First Epistle was written about Easter. Then, after remaining at Ephesus for a while, there came the journey to Troas; then that to Macedonia; then the coming of Titus, bringing word that the Corinthians had acted on the command of 1 Corinthians 16:1. This would bring us to the autumn months; and St. Paul, reckoning, as a Jew would, the year as beginning with Tisri (September or October), might speak of what had taken place in April or May as done “last year,” though there had not been an interval of twelve months.
The same earnest care.—There is no direct comparison, but what he means is the same care as his own. Titus had shown himself a true son of his spiritual father (Titus 1:1).
With this grace.—The word is used, as in 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:6-7, as we familiarly use the word “charity,” for the liberality which was the result of the grace.
To the glory of the same Lord.—Better, if we keep the Received text, of the Lord Himself; but the better MSS. give, of the Lord, only. There is no need of inserting the word “declaration of”; in relation to the glory of the Lord and to your readiness gives a perfectly intelligible sense.
This abundance.—The word, which primarily signifies “succulence,” or juiciness, as used of plants and fruits, does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It has rather the look of belonging to St. Luke’s medical vocabulary, and is, indeed, used by Hippocrates (De Gen, p. 28) of the full habit of body of a youth attaining puberty.
The proof of your love, and of our boasting.—The “love” to which he appeals is probably their personal regard for him. What the “boast” was he states more fully in 2 Corinthians 9:2. With a subtle knowledge of human nature, he attacks them, as it were, on every side. They have to compete with Macedonia; they have to show their love for their teacher; they have to sustain their own reputation.