CHAFER AND WALVOORD
ON NEW COVENANT GIVING
Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, author of an eight volume Systematic Theology, and a leading spokesman for conservative Christianity, wrote an excellent article discussing New Covenant giving in his book, Major Bible Themes. That article is reprinted with permission in its entirety. Sperry is required reading in many conservative schools of theology.
Major Bible Themes Lewis Sperry Chafer, Revised by John Walvoord
“The giving of money which a Christian has earned becomes an important aspect of any believer’s service for God. Self and money are alike the roots of much evil, and in the dispensing of money, as in its acquisition and possession, the Christian is expected to stand upon a grace relationship to God (2 Cor. 8:1, 7). This relationship presupposes that he has first given himself to God in unqualified dedication (2 Cor. 8:5); and a true dedication of self to God includes all that one is and has (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)–his life, his time, his strength, his ability, his ideals, and his property.
In matters pertaining to the giving of money, the grace principle involves the believer’s recognition of God’s sovereign authority over all that the Christian is and has, and contrasts with the Old Testament legal system of tithing which was in force as a part of the law until the law was done away with (John 1:16-17; Rom. 6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; Gal. 3:19-25; 5:18; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14). Though certain principles of the law were carried forward and restated under grace, tithing, like Sabbath observance, is never imposed on the believer in this dispensation. Since the Lord’s Day superseded the legal Sabbath and is adapted to the principles of grace as the Sabbath could not be, so tithing has been superseded by a new system of giving which is adapted to the teachings of grace, as tithing could not be.
Christian giving under grace, as illustrated in the experience of the saints in Corinth, is summarized in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15. In this passage we discover:One: Christ was their pattern. The Lord’s giving of Himself (2 Cor. 8:9) is the pattern of all giving under grace. He did not give a tenth; He gave ALL.Two: Their giving was even out of great poverty. A striking combination of phrases is employed to describe what the Corinthians experienced in their giving (2 Cor. 8:2): “in a great trial of affliction,” “the abundance of their joy,” “their deep poverty abounded,” “the riches of their liberality.” Likewise, concerning liberality in spite of great poverty, it should be remembered that “the widow’s mite” (Luke 21:1-4), which drew the commendation of the Lord Jesus, was not a part, but “all that she had.”Three: Their giving was not by commandment [1 Cor. 8:8], nor of necessity [2 Cor. 9:7]. Under the law, a tenth was commanded and its payment was a necessity; under grace, God is not seeking the gift, but an expression of devotion from the giver. Under grace no law is imposed and no proportion to be given is stipulated, and, while it is true that God works in the yielded heart both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13), He finds pleasure only in that gift which is given cheerfully, or more literally, “hilariously” (2 Cor. 9:7).
If a law existed stipulating the amount to be given, there are those, doubtless, who would seek to fulfill it, even against their own wishes. Thus their gift would be made “grudgingly” and “of necessity (2 Cor. 9:7). If it be said that to support the work of the gospel we must have money whether given hilariously or not, it may also be said that it is not the amount which is given, but rather the divine blessing upon the gift that accomplishes the desired end.
Christ fed five thousand from five loaves and two fishes. There is abundant evidence to prove that wherever the children of God have fulfilled their privilege in giving under grace, their liberality has resulted in “all sufficiency in all things” which has made them “abound to every good work,” for God is able to make even the grace of giving to “abound” to every believer (2 Cor. 9:8).Four: The early Christians, first of all, gave themselves. Acceptable giving is preceded by a complete giving of oneself (2 Cor. 8:5). This suggests the important truth that giving under grace, like giving under the law, is limited to a certain class of people. Tithing was never imposed by God on any other than the nation Israel (Lev. 27:34; Num. 18:23-24; Mal. 3:7-10). So, Christian giving is limited to believers and is most acceptable when given by believers who have yielded their lives to God.Five: Christians in the early church also gave systematically. Like tithing, there is suggested systematic regularity in giving under grace. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him” (1 Cor. 16:2). This injunction is addressed to “every man” (every Christian man), and thus excuses none; and giving is to be from that which is already “in store.”Six: God sustains the giver. God will sustain grace-giving with limitless temporal resources (2 Cor. 9:8-10; Luke 6:38). In this connection it may be seen that those who give as much as a tenth are usually prospered in temporal things, but since the believer can have no relation to the law (Gal. 5:1), it is evident that this prosperity is the fulfillment of the promise under grace, rather than the fulfillment of promises under the law. No blessings are thus dependent on the exact tithing.
The blessings are bestowed because a heart has expressed itself through a gift. It is manifest that no gift will be made to God from the heart which He will not graciously acknowledge. There is no opportunity here for designing people to become rich. The giving must be from the heart, and God’s response will be bestowing spiritual riches, or in temporal blessings as He shall choose.Seven: True riches are from God. The Corinthian Christians were made rich with heavenly riches. There is such a thing as being rich in this world’s goods and yet not rich toward God (Luke 12:21). All such are invited to buy of Him that gold which is tried in the fire (Rev. 3:18). Through the absolute poverty of Christ in His death, all may be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9). It is possible to be rich in faith (Jas. 2:5) and rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18); but in Christ Jesus the believer receives “the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7), and “the riches of his glory” (Eph. 3:16) .