Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Truth About New Covenant Giving Part 1

By S. Michael Durham

If tithing is not God’s method for our giving today, what is? Last week we saw different tithes proscribed in the Law of Moses for Israel only. Practically, all giving in the Old Covenant was directed by laws regulating what and how much was to be given. But the law of tithe met its end in the cross of Jesus. In the New Covenant our Lord’s grace directs all giving and is regulated by the precious Holy Spirit. What then does our heavenly Father expect from us, His children?

To answer that question, let’s see how grace works to enable you to give as you ought. This will eliminate legal giving (giving only because it is required and only as much as required), guilt giving (giving because you feel guilty for not doing so), fear giving (giving because you fear God’s reprisals), or selfish giving (giving for gain or recognition or self-satisfaction).

The way the Apostle Paul teaches giving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is by pointing the Corinthians away from themselves and to the grace of God. He then gives them two illustrations of grace-giving and then, finally, gives some commandments about it. I want to follow his outline.

Paul begins by showing us that giving is a gift to us. He says, “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1). God had given the Christians at Macedonia a grace that enabled them to give in an awesome way. This should not surprise us. Any ministry we perform, God has gone before us and graced us to do so.

But the Corinthians could have said, “Well, that is how the Lord led the Macedonians to give. That is how the grace of God moved them. But He has not so moved us.” Perhaps Paul expected this, and so in verses 6-7, the Corinthians were commanded to seek this grace as well. “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.”

According to the apostle, we are all responsible to seek God for grace in order to obey. Grace does not remove effort, and every Christian is to give by grace. Not only are we to have this grace working in us, but Paul says we are to abound in this grace: “see that you abound in this grace also.”

Evidently, the Corinthians did not excel in this grace. Therefore Paul directs them not to themselves to try harder, but to the grace of God so that when they do give they will do so in the strength of God.

Why? Because as anything else in the Christian life, the child of God is to live out the life of Christ. Perhaps a better way to say it is this: Jesus is to live out His life through us. If it is merely the fulfilling of our “Christian duty,” then who should gain glory and praise? We should, since we fulfilled our obligation. However, God designed the Christian life to go beyond law and duty, which no fallen man could keep. He implemented the New Covenant, with the life of His dear Son, to operate on the basis of spirit and love. The only person who can live up to a standard higher than law and duty is one who is being influenced by the Spirit and motivated by love. In this way God is the one glorified and praised.

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