Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 19, 1956

"But By Equality"

Forrest D. Moyer, Napa, California

"For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, he that gathereth Much had nothing over; and he that gathereth little had no lack." (2 Cor. 8:13-15.)

This passage certainly has had its share of attention during the past year in regard to the present controversy on the cooperation of congregations. Many different ideas have been presented from the passage. These are con tradictory ideas and all of them cannot be right. Let us study the passage that we may ascertain what Paul is teaching here.

1. Of what is the context speaking?

Throughout the chapter, Paul is teaching in reference to the contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem. In verses 13 through 15 he assigns the reason for urging upon Corinth the making of a contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem.

2. What is this reason?

1) It is not that others may be eased and Corinth distressed. (Distress, according to Thayer, means "oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.") Who are the "others"? It would necessarily be those who would be "eased" by Corinth's contribution. (Eased: "Relief, rest from the troubles of poverty, 2 Cor. viii.13" Thayer, p. 44.) Who was relieved or eased from the troubles of poverty by Corinth's contribution? Obviously, those who received the contribution. Who received it? The poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:20. Therefore, the "others" were the poor saints in Jerusalem. The contribution was not made that Jerusalem might be eased and Corinth distressed, but by equality.

2) "But by equality." (Equality is simply the state of being equal. Equal: adequate or sufficient in quantity or degree; having adequate power, ability, or means. Century Dictionary.) The equality is between whom? The "others" (Jerusalem) and Corinth. This must be true since Paul was speaking of these in verse 13. We shall study the meaning of this expression a little further down.

3) The reason Corinth was to send to Jerusalem is further stated in these words: "Your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want . . . ." Why send? To supply Jerusalem's want. When? "At this present time."

4) Still further, "That their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality." Should the situation be reversed, Corinth would be relieved by Jerusalem's abundance.

3. Two times under consideration:

Observe: "Abundance supplying want" is mentioned twice in this passage.

First, "At this present time" Corinth's abundance supplying Jerusalem's want.

Second, If conditions are reversed, Jerusalem's abundance "may become a supply" for Corinth's want. "May become" is from genetai which is 3 pers. sing. aor. 2, subj. of ginomai. "The subjunctive mode is a mode of doubtful statement, or hesitating affirmation, of contingency." (Davis, Beginner's Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 74.) The subjunctive expressed a condition. The same word is translated "may be" in the expression "that there may be equality." Paul is making a conditional statement, i.e. IF the situations become reversed (Corinth in want and Jerusalem with abundance), then Jerusalem's abundance should supply Corinth's want.

Therefore, "equality" is mentioned twice in the passage. The first time it is in reference to Corinth's contribution to Jerusalem. Their supplying the want of the poor saints in Jerusalem produced the state of being equal (having adequate power, i.e., enough to meet the needs). Their abundance supplying Jerusalem's need brought about or produced equality. This equality was not conditioned upon a reversal of situations.

The second time "equality" is mentioned is in the future: "also may become," "may be." It is conditional (expressed by the subjunctive). It was Jerusalem's supplying Corinth's want that would bring about equality should the condition arise. So far as the scriptures teach, this condition did not arise.

But that "abundance supplying want" is the idea of "equality" may be further seen:

1) The contribution from Corinth to Jerusalem was to supply the wants of the saints.

2) The contribution from Corinth to Jerusalem was to bring about equality.

3) Therefore, abundance supplying wants was to bring about equality.

In conclusion I quote Adam Clarke's comments on verse 15 which refers back to the Israelites and their gathering manna (Ex. 16:18).

"Thus there was an equality among the Israelites in reference to this thing; and in this light these words of Paul lead us to view the passage. To apply this to the present case: the Corinthians, in the course of God's providence, had gathered more than was absolutely necessary for their own support; by giving the surplus to the persecuted and impoverished Christian Jews there would be an equality; both would then possess the necessaries of life, though still the one might have more property than the others." — (Adam Clarke, Vol. VI, p. 350)