Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 5, 1970
NUMBER 43, PAGE 1-2a

Is Giving A Command?

Robert H. Farish

In the extended discussion of the giving in the second letter to the Corinthian saints, the apostle stated, "I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love", 2 Cor. 8:8. Was the apostle denying that he, as an apostle of Christ, did not command the saints to give of their means? It is reported that some actually teach that giving is not a commanded thing. Let us study the statement to learn what the will of God is in the matter of giving.

Before examining Paul's statement, which is wrested to make it teach that the giving is not commanded, we note other New Testament references to the giving. In Luke's latter treatise we learn that the contribution, "fellowship," was one of the exercises of the church from its very beginning. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). All the specifications in this group of things in which "they (those who had been baptized v. 41) continued steadfastly" are exercises of worship. Why take the apostles' teaching, breaking of bread and prayers as acts of worship but make "fellowship" an attitude or state. Hackett's comments on this are worthy of space here. ". . . . the participle applies to an act rather than an abstract quality — this use of the term is justified by Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; especially Heb. 13:6; and because, as the contributions would naturally be made at their meetings, the several nouns relate them to a common subject viz., their religious assemblies."

(HACKETT — Commentary on Acts p. 71).

The language of Paul in the First Corinthian letter, chapter 16, verse 1, does not readily lend itself to any idea other than that giving is commanded. "As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do you. Upon the first day of the week, let each of you lay by him in store as he may prosper" (1 Cor. 16:2). The word here translated "gave order" is defined by Vine as "set in order, appoint, command." It is the word translated "commanded" in Luke 8:55 ". . . . and he commanded that something be given her to eat." Other examples of this word being translated "commanded" are Luke 17:9, "Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded?"; Acts 18:2 ". . . . because Claudius had commanded. . ."; these examples are sufficient to establish that scholars used the English word "commanded" to translate the Greek word in several instances. The order was an apostolic command originating with him who had "all authority in heaven and on earth."

Second Corinthians, chapter 8 and verse 8 is elliptical. The word evidently omitted and expected to be supplied is the word, "only." The apostle certainly would not be guilty of ordering the contribution and then writing that it was not commanded. The people to whom he wrote knew that it was a command; they needed to know that the apostle also spoke "as proving through others the sincerity also of your love." When the readers supplied the omitted word, they understood that the apostle was saying, "I speak not by commandment (only) but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love."

What do those who contend that giving is not commanded do with the quibble of false teachers on 1 Cor. 1:17? "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . .?" Again, what about Christ's statement, "Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life. . . ." (John 6:27). Remember that Christ said through Paul, "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, if any will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). Here is a command to work in order to eat; this would be in direct conflict with Christ's statement in John 6:27 if the student fails to recognize the elliptical character of John 6:27. Jesus is teaching us to not only work for physical food but for spiritual food as well. He certainly realized that man lived by bread but it is not by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Yes, giving is commanded. It may be classed among the hard sayings of Jesus, but it is still commanded.