2 Corinthians 8:8 ~ 20190825 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/25_2 Corinthians 8:8; Proof of Genuine Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190825_2cor8_8.mp3
We are in 2 Corinthians 8, where Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He encouraged them with the example of the Macedonians, who begged for the grace and the fellowship of service to the saints. They gave beyond what they were able, out of their extreme poverty in a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion.
He encouraged Titus to return to Corinth to bring to completion this grace in them that he had begun.
He encourages them that as they super-abound in many spiritual gifts, that they should super-abound in this grace also.
Not A Command
In verse 8 he tells them that he is not commanding them.
Paul wants to make it clear that they are not under compulsion. He is not demanding, he is not commanding. He cannot require of them an act of grace and love or it would no longer be grace. Grace by definition is undeserved, under no obligation or compulsion; freely given. For Paul to command or require them to give would be to move this from an act of grace into a debt or obligation. Paul wants to be clear that this must be from the heart, a true act of grace. As the Macedonians gave of their own accord, so it must also be for the Corinthians; this must be something that they want to do, not something they are feeling pressured into.
Motivated by the Earnestness of Others
It must come from their own heart, but that doesn't mean that he can't say anything to them about giving. He is exhorting and encouraging them to participate in this act of grace. But it must remain an act of grace, not turn into guilt or debt or obligation.
Paul is clear this is not a command, but he is using the eagerness of others to motivate them.
Through the eagerness of others. This is part of the fellowship, part of being in the body of Christ. We are to encourage one another. And when we see the passion, the earnestness of our sisters and brothers, God can use that to ignite an eagerness in us. That is the effect Paul hopes the Macedonians will have on the believers at Corinth. He hopes their joy in the midst of affliction and poverty will spark a similar joy in Jesus and simplicity of affections for him that overflows in extending grace to others.
This is one reason to be involved in missions; whether that means praying or giving or going; when we are connected to others in the body of Christ who are in different places and in different circumstances, their examples can ignite in us a desire to be more singly devoted to Jesus, to be more eager to overflow in spite of our circumstances in joyful generosity, and our joy in Jesus can encourage others.
It is so essential for us to stay connected with others in the body, both near and far, for our spiritual growth, and for theirs.
Proof and Confidence
This word 'prove' means to test and demonstrate genuineness, demonstrate authenticity. It means 'to prove by testing.' We read in one of Jesus' parables (Lk.14:19) that a man had purchased five yoke of oxen, and he said 'I go to examine them' or 'prove them'. He purchased them because he believed they were useful and worth the price. But putting them to the test would demonstrate what they were actually capable of. This is the kind of thing that would be done with precious metals to prove genuineness. It says in 1 Corinthians 3
This does not mean that Paul wasn't sure if they would past the test or not. He doesn't say 'to prove whether or not your love is genuine.' He has already said:
Knowing and Showing
Paul is confident that they will pass the test, but it needs to be shown. He said in verse 7 that they abound in his love for them. But the genuineness of their love for others needs to be demonstrated.
This is about knowing and showing. Performing acts of love does not make a person genuine; acts of love demonstrate the character of the person, just as apples don't make the tree an apple tree; apples demonstrate the nature of the tree. Tying apples on a Chinese elm tree would be a lot of work, and may fool some, but it doesn't change the nature of the tree.
This is about testing, about proving or demonstrating genuineness. Back in 8:2, he said of the Macedonians:
The Macedonians had been tested with affliction, and they passed the test. This is not the only place we see trials linked with proof or tested genuineness.
The Macedonians passed a test of severe affliction and they came through like gold; they put on display the greatness of the grace of God.
Can the Corinthians pass the test in their affluence, in their abundance? That is a different kind of a test, maybe a more difficult test. It seems that those who are destitute can more acutely evaluate what is of greatest worth. Sometimes it is the poorest that are the happiest.
What Paul aims to prove is the genuineness of their love. 'Genuine' is a word that speaks of legitimacy, specifically in birth. In 1 Timothy 1 and in Titus 1 Paul refers to both Timothy and Titus as his 'true child in the faith. He is using a term that distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate children. They are authentic, legitimate children born again through Paul's proclamation of the gospel. Here in 2 Corinthians 8, he is eager that the Corinthians demonstrate the legitimacy of their love; that their love is not phony; that it is not produced in an illegitimate way, but that it is the genuine fruit of the Spirit of the living God.
Proof of Genuineness in 1 John
Paul is eager for the Corinthians to prove the legitimacy of their love. How do they do this? He doesn't command them to obedience; rather he exhorts them to a free act of love. Love, the evidence on display of a genuinely transformed heart.
I want to tie this together with what some other authors of the New Testament are teaching us so we see it clearly.
We started by looking at Jesus' words recorded in John's gospel, where he says:
Love is the evidence that makes all our speaking, all our serving, all our giving more than just noisy nothingness and clanging emptiness.
John in his first short letter talks about how we know that we know him. He is talking about proof, evidence. Do you want to know that you know him? That's an important thing, because Jesus himself said that “On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord ...did we not do many mighty works in your name?'” and he will respond 'I never knew you; depart from me....' (Mt.7:22-23). We want to know that we know him. How do we know? What is the evidence? What is the proof? 1 John is talking about proof.
John says the evidence of relationship is doing what he says; keeping his commandments, his word. And notice, he says God's love is perfected in him; it is God's love in him, not his own love. This love, God's love, works itself out in keeping his word. It is evidence that we are in him.
The one commandment that is both an old commandment and an new commandment is love. Love your brother. If you claim to know him, if you claim to be walking in the light, and you don't keep his commandments, if you don't love your brother, you're lying; you're blind; you don't know where you're going. This command, to love, is true in him and in you. First it must be true in him. God shows his love for us in this; that Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). And because it is true in him, because we have been loved by him, it can be true in us; he has given us his love so that we can love.
John goes on in chapter 3 to talk about legitimacy:
Evidence of being children of God; the legitimacy of our new birth; we know because we love the brothers. And here the rubber meets the road.
This is personal. This is individual. Do you see how he switches from the plural 'we' in verse 16 to the singular 'any one'? This is personal. If you see a real need in your brother, you are not to close your heart against him. Notice again, the focus is on the heart, the affections. This is not guilt and duty. There should be in us as new creations in Christ an inclination to love and serve our brothers or sisters. We are not to selfishly shut that off and close them out of our hearts. The proof happens when I see a brother or sister in need and my heart just naturally (or I should say supernaturally) goes out to them, I want to do something to help them. Not just love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.
James says it this way:
That is where the Corinthians were at. They had been talking about the collection for some time now. They had at first been eager to fellowship in the service to the saints. Now it was time to turn talk into action.
God's Love In Us
We looked at Jesus' statement that it will show; that all people will know that we are following him if we love one another. If we look ahead to John 17, we hear Jesus praying for us in his great high priestly prayer to his Father. He prays for our unity, that we would be one so that the world would believe (v.21). At the end of his prayer, he says:
This is amazing! Jesus tells us where this love comes from. Jesus prays that God the Father's trinitarian love for his one and only Son would be in us! This is stunning! He doesn't ask us to love others out of our own resources. God puts his own love in us so that we can love others with his love, not our own. This is grace!
Remember, it's grace; it's the grace of God given to us that creates in us this single-hearted devotion.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org