Friday, 2 October 2015
I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.
2 Corinthians 8:8
Paul adds in a caveat to his words of the previous verses concerning the giving of a gift to the saints in Jerusalem. He had shown how great the gift of the Macedonians was despite their immense poverty in order to spur them on to giving as well. Also, in the previous verse, he challenged them to exceed in the gift of giving, just as they had exceeded in other gifts.
However, this was a challenge or even a plea, but it was “not by commandment.” The implication is that he had no instructions from the Lord concerning such a collection and he also had no desire to use his apostolic authority in a manner which would impose a collection on them. Rather, he made it a challenge in “testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.”
The word for “sincerity” here is gnésios. It is a word used only by Paul in the New Testament and it is only used four times. It is the contracted form of the word genesios which means “legitimately born” and thus “genuine.” For example, he calls Timothy his lawful son in the faith in 1 Timothy 1:2. Paul is testing the “genuineness” of their love in this challenge by comparing it to the earnestness of others, meaning those such as the Macedonians.
He has tactfully used his words about the Macedonians to spur the Corinthians on as if in an athletic challenge. In essence, “Who will prevail in this great challenge?”
Life application: There is nothing wrong with spurring the members of a congregation on to greater giving. However, to do so with implied or actual commands which do not exist is inappropriate. New Testament churches have no standing orders concerning giving other than a subjective “give as you have prospered.” Tithing is not something mandated in the New Testament. Instead, it was annulled along with the entire Old Testament law.
Lord God, I am so grateful that You allow us to give according to how we feel we have been blessed. Tithing no longer applies in the New Testament churches. Instead we can give based on the gratitude we have for the grace which has been lavished upon us. And so Lord, help our hearts to understand the enormity of what Christ did for us. Help us to give according to the greatness of His sacrifice – willingly and faithfully. Amen.