Man is lost and the way of salvation is revealed in the New Testament. The New Testament shows the lost how to get into Christ. It also shows the one that is in Christ how he is to live. The New Testament is a complete guide. It instructs in all things that have to do with life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). In order to enjoy salvation, one must follow all of the New Testament—not just part of it. It is necessary for an individual to accept the whole counsel of God. This has been the church’s plea to the world. However, it is necessary to ask, “Does the church really believe this plea?”
The church has given careful attention to Acts 2. It has defended the truth presented in that chapter on every hand—even in debate. It is clear that baptism to the penitent believer is for the remission of sins. Speaking of debates, however, would there be any preachers willing to sign a proposition requiring one to defend the practice of giving based upon 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? If not, why not? Is it any more important to practice the truth of Acts 2 than the truths of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? In these chapters, Paul holds up the churches of Macedonia as a model in the practice of giving. If one must follow the model presented in Acts 2 in order to be saved, would one argue that it is unnecessary to follow the model in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 on giving? Why does it seem that members of the church accept the example of baptism in Acts 2, but not the example of giving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9?
In 2 Corinthians 8, there are two examples of giving. One is right and the other is wrong. The Macedonians demonstrate the right principles and are the right kind of example in giving. The Corinthians demonstrate the wrong principles and are the wrong kind of example in giving. The church condemns the religious world for neglecting to preach the truth on Acts 2:38, but is the church any better when it neglects to preach the giving found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9? Perhaps Paul’s words in Romans 2:21 would be right to remember at this point, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?”
The reader is asked to consider another example. The church at Troas is a biblical example for partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Members of the church insist that this example must be followed. Just as Troas was an example of meeting weekly on the first day of the week to observe the Lord’s Supper, so were the churches of Macedonia an example of giving for Corinth to follow. If the churches of Macedonia were examples for Corinth to follow, one might wonder why members of the church today do not place as much emphasis on following the example of Macedonia when it comes to giving. When the church comes to a point where it places as much emphasis on following the example of the Macedonian churches in giving as it has with Troas in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, a new day will dawn in the church. After all, what method of reasoning has led the church to teach others that they must follow the example of Troas in Acts 20:7 while not believing that it necessary to teach others to follow the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8?
The fact of the matter is that the only right view of any subject is God’s view of it. This is true not only of baptism and the Lord’s Supper but also of giving. The sincere soul is as interested in God’s view of giving as he or she is of any other subject. Second Peter 1:5-10 is often referred to as the Christian “graces” in which the Christian is urged to “add” each item to his or her faith. Paul told the Corinthians some very similar matters and then added something significant in light of the current discussion, “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Cor. 8:7). This “grace also” is the grace of giving.
Consider the Bible’s inspiration in describing giving. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, giving is called a grace five times—one time “the grace of God;” one time the “exceeding grace of God.” How do these words compare with what the average member of the church calls it? The church talks about calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways because such is a biblical concept (1 Pet. 4:11). It should be no different in regard to giving.
The two chapters of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 show that giving is a grace. Giving is the proof of what God’s grace has done for us. It is natural for individuals to think of self instead of others. However, Christianity makes one over (2 Cor. 5:17). A Christian’s giving tells how good a job was done. In other words, giving is a measure of what becoming a Christian has done for each member of the church.
The solution to the contribution problem is not more money in one’s pockets but more grace in the Christian’s heart. The churches of Macedonia are an example of this fact. Becoming a Christian had done something for the Macedonians. How did Paul know? He looked at their contributions and had the evidence (2 Cor. 8:1-2). The Macedonians were poor (2 Cor. 8:2), but their poverty did notexcuse them from doing something. In fact, the Macedonians surpassed Paul’s expectations in giving (2 Cor. 8:5). This fact showed Paul expected them to at least give something. Even though a Christian may not have much, this is not an excuse for failing to give. The grace of God in the heart of a Christian makes it a privilege to give—not a duty. After all, the Macedonians asked to be included in this opportunity of giving.
Giving measures the debt of the Christian’s devotions and consecrations (2 Cor. 8:5). The Macedonians first of all gave themselves. The proof that they had given themselves was the first contribution. When Abraham gave Isaac, it showed the depth of his devotion and consecration. When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, it was not Isaac that God wanted, but Abraham. The passing of the contribution basket is not just a call for money, it is a call for Christians to give themselves. Does a Christian want to know how devoted he or she is to the Lord? The Christian needs to look at his or her giving. What about giving when one must be away from his or her home congregation? Does he or she make up the giving when back home? After all, the work continues whether one is there or not.
Finally, it should be remembered that the love of Christ is the foundation of the Christian’s hope as well as the pattern of giving (2 Cor. 8:9). A Christian cannot accept the love of Christ as the foundation of his or her hope unless the Christian is willing to accept His life as a pattern of giving. Paul charged Timothy to give those who are rich certain reminders about giving (1 Tim. 6:17-19). When it comes to giving, needless to say, the whole counsel of God must be preached (Acts 20:27).
In conclusion, God’s grace is the foundation of liberality. An appreciation of God’s grace produced liberality in the churches of Macedonia. Here is where the church today must begin to remedy the lack of liberality.