I speak not by commandment - I do not positively order this; I assume no right or authority over your property; what you devote of your substance to charitable purposes must be your own work, and a free-will offering.
The forwardness of others - Viz. the Churches of Macedonia, which had already exerted themselves so very much in this good work. And the apostle here intimates that he takes this opportunity to apprise them of the zeal of the Macedonians, lest those at Corinth, who excelled in every other gift, should be outdone in this. Their own honor, if better motives were absent, would induce them to exert themselves, that they might not be outdone by others. And then, as they had professed great love for the apostle, and this was a service that lay near his heart, they would prove the sincerity of that professed love by a liberal contribution for the afflicted and destitute Jewish Christians.
I speak not by commandment - This does not mean that he had no express command of God in the case, but that he did not mean to command them; he did not speak authoritatively; he did not intend to prescribe what they should give. He used only moral motives, and urged the considerations which he had done to persuade rather than to command them to give; see 2 Corinthians 8:10. He was endeavoring to induce them to give liberally, not by abstract command and law, but by showing them what others had given who had much less ability and much fewer advantages than they had. People cannot be induced to give to objects of charity by command, or by a spirit of dictation and authority. The only successful, as well as the only lawful appeal, is to their hearts and consciences, and sober judgments. And if an apostle did not take upon himself the language of authority and command in matters of Christian benevolence, assuredly ministers and ecclesiastical bodies now have no right to use any such language.
But by occasion of the forwardness of others - I make use of the example of the churches of Macedonia as an argument to induce you to give liberally to the cause.
And to prove the sincerity of your love - The apostle does not specify here what “love” he refers to, whether love to God, to Christ, to himself, or to the church at large. It may be that he designedly used the word in a general sense, to denote love to any good object; and that he meant to say that liberality in assisting the poor and afflicted people of God would be the best evidence of the sincerity of their love to God, to the Redeemer, to him, and to the church. Religion is love; and that love is to be manifested by doing good to all people as we have opportunity. The most substantial evidence of that love is when we are willing to part with. our property, or with whatever is valuable to us, to confer happiness and salvation on others.
Paul sought to uproot the plant of selfishness from the hearts of his brethren; for the character cannot be complete in Christ when self-love and covetousness are retained. The love of Christ in their hearts would lead them to help their brethren in their necessities. By pointing them to the sacrifice Christ had made in their behalf, he sought to arouse their love. CS 19.1
“I speak not by commandment,” he said, “but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” CS 19.2Read in context »