The Christian Extra

The Christian Extra

November 8th, 1992 @ 10:50 AM

2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Corinthians 8:1-5

11-8-92    10:50 a.m.


Our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message entitled The Riches of Their Liberality or The Christian Extra.  Our text is found in the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, chapter 8:

Brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality.

For I bear witness that according to their ability, yea, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,

imploring us with much urgency that we would receive their gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

[2 Corinthians 8:1-5] 

For just a moment to begin with, an exegetical study.  “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality” [2 Corinthians 8:2]Bathos, deep.  He uses it in 1 Corinthians 2:10, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the bathos, the deep things of God”—their deep poverty ptōcheia, poverty. In Revelation 2:8-9, “To the angel of the church at Smyrna”. . .  I know thy ptōcheia, “I know thy poverty, but thou art rich.”  And then abounding perisseuō, “to be an abundance,” in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For all things are yours, even the abounding grace of God.”

And especially and particularly this last one, “Abounded to the riches of their liberality” [2 Corinthians 8:2]Haplotēs, haplotēs is the word for simplicity, for purity.  A liberality arising out of a purity and the simplicity of their character.  It’s translated, for example, in [2 Corinthians 1:12], “In simplicity haplotēs, simplicity and godly ministry we have walked in this world.”  And isn’t that unusual how he speaks that their simplicity of heart and their purity of soul abounded to the riches of their liberality? [2 Corinthians 8:2]  I could not imagine a more beautiful word of description of the saints of the Lord.  Out of simplicity of heart and life and purity of soul they gave liberally to the Lord [2 Corinthians 8:2-4].

As I hold this Book in my hands, there is one thing very apparent as you read through it.  And that is the universal teaching of God’s Word that we owe a debt to Him.  For example, Genesis opens with this; Abel brought a minchah to the Lord [Genesis 4:4].  Where did that come from?  He brought a minchah.  He brought an offering to the Lord, just out of the persuasion and the conviction that he owed to the Lord God who had blessed him and watched over him for good.  He owed something back to God.  So he brought to the Lord a minchah [Genesis 4:4].  That’s the way the Bible begins.  That’s the way it opens.

Then when I turn the page, Abraham, called of the Lord to be the father of the faithful [Romans 4:16], Abraham comes before Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God [Genesis 14:18].  And he gives to Melchizedek, who represents the Lord of heaven, a tenth of everything that he possesses [Genesis 14:20].

Then I turn the page to the life of Israel, Jacob.  Jacob is asleep; he’s made a pillow of rocks [Genesis 28:11].  And while he is asleep on that pillow of rocks God appears to him, and speaks to him of the generations that will be blessed in the name of the Lord.  And he will be the father of those faithful Israelites [Genesis 28:13-15].  And when Jacob awakens he is in the presence of the holiness of God Himself, and he takes the stones that he used for a pillow and he makes a pillar, and he names it Bethel, the house of God, and avows, “O God, out of all that you will ever give me, I will faithfully dedicate the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:16-22].

And I turn the page and come to the institution of the Law.  And in the last chapter of the Book of Leviticus, “All the tithe . . . is the Lord’s.  It is holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30].  And the next verse repeats it, “The tenth shall be holy to the Lord” [Leviticus 27:32].  As I turn my Bible and the pages of this Holy Word, I come to the end of the Old Testament.  And in Malachi 3:10, in the passage that you heard Aaron Manley quote, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse . . . And try Me, prove Me, saith the Lord . . . if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out such blessings that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

And I turn the pages of God’s Holy Word.  And our Lord avows in Matthew 23, “You tithe everything in your possession.  This you ought to have done, and not leave undone the compassionate love of a pilgrim of God” [Matthew 23:23].  Then I turn the page yet again and Paul writes to the church at Corinth concerning the collection, “As I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you do also: On the first day of the week let every one of you set aside for God as the Lord has prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].

As you know, I believe in every syllable of God’s Holy Word, inspired and inerrant [2 Timothy 3:16].  “Let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2], that means the poorest.  I do not know of a more moving story in the Bible than that poor widow woman—as the King James Version calls her—the poor widow woman coming into the house of the Lord and casting into the temple treasury two mites [Mark 12:41-44].  Last week I held here in this pulpit a mite dug up out of the debris of Jerusalem.  And I said maybe that’s one of the mites that poor widow woman, gave consecrated, dedicated to the Lord.  Each one of those worth one eighth of a cent.  She dedicated two mites to the Lord.  And the Bible says that was all of her living [Mark 12:44].  “Let every one of you,” the poorest among us.  “Let every one of you,” the youngest among us [1 Corinthians 16:2].

That little boy gave his lunch to the Lord Jesus with which the Lord fed five thousand [John 6:8-13].  But he gave everything he had.  I do not know of any finer thing fathers and mothers can do with children than from the time that they are conscious that they bring to the house of God an offering in His name.  “Let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2].

And then finally in Hebrews 7:8, “Here men that die receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.”  He is presiding over the earth and looking down upon us we bring these tithes for the mortal work and testimony of Christ in the earth.  But actually, He is the one that receives them in glory.

You know, there’s something that I have observed in the years of my life.  And that is this; one tenth, a tithe, of everything that comes into your possession belongs to God.  And you cannot use it.  You cannot steal it.  You cannot take it for yourself.  You can’t do it.  It belongs to God, and He will inevitably collect it.  That’s one of the strangest things I have ever observed in my life.

You think, you suppose, you persuade yourself that, “I’m going to take this tenth and use it for myself.”  You’ll not do it.  He will collect it.  There will be a misjudgment in your life.  There will be an illness.  There will be a providence.  There will be an accident.  There will be something that will happen in your life.  And that tenth is taken away.  You will never use it.

In an agricultural county the editor of the county weekly newspaper received a letter.  And it was from a rich farmer in the county.  And he wrote to the editor saying, “On Sunday I plowed my field.  And on Sunday I planted my crop.  And on Sunday I cultivated the field.  And on Sunday I harvested my crop.  And when I sold it, I got the biggest price for it I’d ever received in my life.  And when I sold it and received the biggest price I ever received for it in my life, I kept all the money to myself.  I didn’t tithe it.  I didn’t give anything to God.  I kept it for myself.  And it was the best crop and the biggest price I’ve ever received.”  Then he added a paragraph, “I dare you to print this in your paper.”

The next issue of the county newspaper came out.  And that letter was printed just as he had written it.  And underneath he wrote an editor’s note, editor’s note, “God does not always settle His accounts the last week in October.”  You will not escape it.  That tithe belongs to God.  It is a debt that we have to the Lord, and I cannot steal it, and I cannot use it.  God will collect it.  And how infinitely better it is to make it an inspiration and not an irritation.  “This is from You, dear God, that I have the gifts of life.  And this is my debt.”

Now the title of my sermon was The Christian Extra.  This I owe; one tenth of everything that comes into my hands, it’s a debt that I owe.  But I speak now of the Christian extra, something over and above, an offering for God [2 Corinthians 9:7].  Did you ever think of God’s extras?  What God gives us and there’s no reason for it at all, just God does it out of the abounding love and grace of His heart.

For example, the sky is blue.  Do you know anything good that comes out of the blueness of the sky?  Why isn’t it a dull gray?  It’s an extra of God.  God just does it out of the love of His heart.  He makes the sky blue and beautiful.  Last week it was raining toward the north.  And in the late afternoon I drove home.  And there from side to side from horizon to horizon was as beautiful a rainbow as I ever saw in my life.  What good is a rainbow?  Do you know anything that is pragmatically contributory about a rainbow?  That’s just God’s extra.  He just loves it, pretty, beautiful, colorful.

God loves color.  Did you know that?  He didn’t have to put that rainbow up there.  That’s the reason you women ought to dress prettily.  Don’t dress dull and drab such as you see me dressed here.  Don’t you dress that way.  You get the brightest shiny clothes you could ever think for.  And if they’re red, it’s perfect.  God’s extras, a rainbow, a sunset.

Can you tell me any good that comes out of a beautiful gorgeous sunset?  When that volcano exploded in the Philippines, all the western world, every night just the most beautiful sunset you could think for.  Just the goodness of God.  Or the greenness of a meadow.  Why isn’t it a dull gray?  Just God loves something and He gives them to us extra.  Or a flower.  Why isn’t that nectar in that flower that would attract a bee, why isn’t that flower just dull gray?

But oh, the prettiness and one of the dear friends this morning pinned this on me.  And I just think that is the prettiest thing.  Does that add anything to anything I’m saying or anything I’m doing?  No.  It’s just pretty.  It’s just extra.  That’s wonderful.  God made the thing like that just out of the blue of the sky and out of the beauty of His ground; God giving us these things as extras.  And when we come before the Lord having paid our debt, our tithe, an extra, just something out of the love of our hearts, an offering to the blessed Lord Jesus [Psalm 96:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7].

I want to point out something to you that I dare say you never thought when you read it.  In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord says, “And whoever compels you to go a mile, go with him twain” [Matthew 5:41].  Go with him two.  You know where that comes from?  The Roman Empire, the Roman government had a law that a soldier could impel and compel any citizen to carry his luggage and his baggage and his armor a mile.  As the soldier was walking through the country carrying his armor, pick out a citizen and say, “Here, you.”  And by law, that citizen had to carry the armor and the baggage and the luggage of that soldier for a mile.

So Jesus says, “When that soldier comes by and he impresses you and compels you to take his armor for a mile, don’t walk behind him damning him, cussing him, confound him, all kinds of expletives that are hurtful and damaging to him.  Don’t walk behind him.”  Jesus says, “When that soldier compels you to go with him a mile, you walk by his side.  You walk by his side.  And you talk to him, maybe about the Lord.  Talk to him about the Savior.  Talk to him about the things of heaven.  Talk to him as a friend and as a companion.  And when you come to the end of the mile, say to him in your goodness and kindness and grace, ‘May I walk by your side the second mile?’”  And carrying his luggage and his soldier’s equipment, his spear and his sword and his shield, walk by his side the second mile, carrying his equipment.

I ask you.  I could not think of anything under high heaven more impressive than for that citizen to tell that soldier, “I want to walk by your side and carry your equipment a second mile.”  Christian Extra, going over and beyond what is imposed and demanded.  Sweet people, it’s a wonderful thing to do and a beautiful way to be.

I do not know of anything that is more characteristic of someone filled with gratitude than the story in the seventeenth chapter of Luke when the Lord healed ten lepers.  And by law they had to go before the priest to be declared clean and healed.  And when the Lord healed those ten lepers one of them, before he went to the priest, came and bowed down at the feet of the Lord Jesus and thanked Him for what He had done.  And the Lord noticed it.  “The other nine, where are they?”  He said.  But this strange Samaritan, he comes and kneels in gratitude [Luke 17:11-18]; the Christian extra, over and above, out of the fullness of the grateful heart.

Did you know here in the ninety-sixth Psalm there’s a passage that refers to something in the architectural framework of the temple?  In front of the temple before the door into the house of God were two enormous, enormous columns, two great pillars.  One was named Jachin and the other was named Boaz [1 Kings 7:21].  One was named Strength and the other was named Beauty.  God’s strength and God’s beauty.  And they were there way over thirty-five feet high and gorgeously ornamented.  And when you went into the house of the Lord, you walked between those two beautiful columns.

So the psalm:

The Lord made the heavens.

Honor and majesty are before Him; Jachin and Boaz are before His sanctuary.

Give to the Lord, O families of the earth…glory and honor.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering.  Bring an offering, and come into His presence.

[Psalm 96:5b-8] 

There those beautiful columns, and out of the love of God in our souls, walking between them, bringing an offering [Psalm 96:8], the Christian extra to the Lord, just out of the love of our hearts.

You know, I read one time the strangest witness, testimony.  It was an Internal Revenue Service man who came down the aisle at a Wednesday service and spoke to the pastor and to the congregation.  And this is what he said.  He said that there was given to him the income tax return of a day laborer, a blue-collar man.  And that income tax return, had there of course, his income, his salary and all, and an enormous amount given to the church, a big sum given to the church.  And the head of the income tax service gave it to this servant in the income service and said, “You go see this man and confront him with that enormous amount that he puts there from his salary that he’s given to the church,” he says.

So this income tax man went to the fellow’s house, knocked at the door.  And he came to the door and the income man was graciously invited into that home, that humble home, and was seated.  And he pulled out that income tax return that that blue-collar man had filled out, and showed him his salary and the large amount of money that he’d given to the church.  And the income tax man said, “Now, how do you substantiate that?”  And he thought he’d nailed him to the wall.

The blue-collar man went to the drawer, pulled out and showed the income tax man the receipts of his giving to the church, his tithes and his offerings.

And the income tax man looked at them and said, “Well, that’s all I can say.  Thank you.”  And he rose to leave.  And as he was leaving that humble workman said, “Mr. income tax man, could I ask you a question?”

“Why, certainly.”

And he said, he said, “Mr. income tax man, are you a Christian?”

“Why, certainly,” said the income tax man.

Then he asked again, “Are you a member of the church?”

“Yes, I’m a member of the church.”

“Well, do you go to church?”

“Yes,” said the income tax man.

“Do you go regularly?”

“Yes,” he said.

And the humble blue-collar worker said, “Well, I am surprised.”

And when the income tax man walked out of the house, that last exclamation, “I am surprised.”  “I am surprised?  Why, he asked me am I a Christian?  Thousands are Christians and he’s surprised.  And do I belong to the church?  Thousands of us belong to the church and he’s surprised.  And do I go to church?  Yes.  And he’s surprised.  What did he mean, ‘I am surprised?’”

And when Sunday came and the collection plate was passed he dropped in his usual one dollar bill.  And when he did, like a thunderbolt out of the sky and like lightning itself, it came to his heart, “I am surprised.”  The dollar bill exclaimed, “I am surprised.”  The collection plate exclaimed, “I am surprised.”  And the pulpit representing the needs of a lost world cried, “I am surprised.”  And the church cried, “I am surprised.”  With all of its ministries and ministries, “I am surprised.”  And the Lord God in heaven looked down from heaven and looked at that lone one dollar bill and exclaimed, “I am surprised.”

The income tax man who had come down the aisle at a Wednesday night prayer meeting and was making that confession said to the pastor, “Pastor, I ask you to forgive me.  And to the congregation, I ask you to forgive me.  And up there in heaven, I’ve asked Jesus my Lord to forgive me.  I’ve gotten right with God.  I’ve come clean with the Lord.  And I am now and henceforth His faithful steward and humble servant, loving God” [Romans 10:9-13].

The Christian extra:  “This tithe I owe [Leviticus 27:30, 32], but Lord above it and beyond it, this is just out of the fullness of the grateful heart that is mine, and now Yours” [Psalm 96:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7].  Sweet people, you will never lose trusting in the Lord, trying the Lord, proving the Lord, faithfully a servant and a steward of the Lord [Malachi 3:10].