but as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. [2 corinthians 8:7]
i have always liked the analogy of ‘root’ and ‘fruit’ when it comes to discussing issues of the heart. often, when i am faced with my sin, it is usually a (bad fruit) of a deeper problem that lies deep within me (bad root) that i need to repent of. this can also be seen in the reverse–when i am genuinely kind, when i am generous without selfish motivation, when i practice self-control in the face of temptation, these are the fruit of the spirit [galatians 5:22] which flow from a heart rooted on pursuing God.
when paul identifies the fruit he sees in the corinthians, (excellent faith, speech, knowledge, earnest conviction, his love for them) these are all fruit that flow from a deeper root of faith, a deeper foundation in Christ.
faith: but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [romans 8:15b]
paul commends the faith and reliance on God of the corinthians (fruit), knowing that their radical shift from dissension and sexual sin could only have been explained by a work of the Spirit to give them faith (root).
speech: the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. [luke 6:45]
the kind and encouraging words that the corinthians used towards one another and toward titus and paul (fruit) showed that they had grown in their repentance and knowledge of the abundance of grace that had been shown to them (root).
knowledge: the fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. [proverbs 1:17]
paul saw evidence that the corinthians feared the lord (root) and pursued God to learn from their teachers and increase their knowledge (fruit).
earnestness: then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and i will hear you. you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. i will be found by you, declares the lord [jeremiah 29:12-13]
the corinthians wanted to truly seek God and his will (root), they excelled in their zeal, passion and earnestness for the truth [fruit].
love: beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [1 john 4:11]
the mutual love between paul and the corinthians (fruit) was a result of the deep and abiding love that God had for them (root).
lastly, paul exhorts them to excel in “this act of grace also”, giving extravagant grace and provision to those in need (fruit) because of the joy that filled them because of the gift of grace lavished upon them by God (root). paul does not ask them to give out of compulsion, nor out of teeth gritting duty alone, but out of a heart that understands that it has been saved from much, given much, loved much. oh, that we would pray for open eyes that we would also see the root–Christ!
he who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [romans 8:32]
all things! as the recipients of all things, let our fruit be extravagant giving!