Grace, The Law & Tithing V
New Covenant Tithing & Alms Giving I.mp3 (This Audio file has been heavily edited due to background noise. Trust me – this is actually better.)
We are nearing the end of our series on Grace, the law and tithing. This week we spent a lot of time in review this week and went a little deeper concerning some topics previously covered.
The most important point I want to mention here was that even though it was within the sphere of God’s power to simply kept the famine in Jerusalem from happening in the first place – he chose to meet the need the famine would instigate instead. This created a massive 2 year effort on the part of the Apostles of which Paul’s two years we have the largest amount of information. Paul spend two years running a circuit of all the Gentile churches telling them of the famine and encouraging them to set aside weekly as they prospered for a future collection the following year. This was quite a monumental effort, one which God could have eliminated the entire need for had that been His focus. What we took away from this was something very practical. God was more interested in defusing the tension which existed between the Gentile and Jewish Christians than providing safety from a famine. Whether God brought the famine or not is unclear in scripture, though it would not be the first time he had done so and so far as the lessons we take away from its having been recorded – such considerations are hardly important.
During this time the Jews had grown somewhat weary of the Gentiles live-style and the Gentiles had begun to get a little haughty about the fact that God had hardened much of Israel to the Gospel because they refused their own Messiah. God, being the awesome Papa that He is and being brilliant to boot, He used a coming tragedy to draw out of both groups of this children – the “Christ” that was within them. God needed only to tug a little at their heart strings and the love for their brothers began to flow – “differences forgotten in the face of His begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” We can all say with Paul,
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? OR WHO HAS BECOME HIS COUNSELOR?” ~ Rom 11:33-34
Giving into the ministry by giving to Ministers – I Cor. 9
In this chapter, Paul mentions himself and Barnabas as compared with the other Apostles and their “rights” as ministers to receive compensation for their labor according to the command of the Lord.
Unfortunately, Gentile believers have nearly always been stingy with their money. This is not to say that Jews never have been, but historically (and even today) some of the greatest givers have been Jewish and they serve as a tremendous example for us to follow. [Note: See Below] Paul, as a minister to the Gentiles had two problems:
- When he came to an un-evangelized area, he would work among them and not receive wages. According to Paul he did this in order to not hinder the preaching of the Gospel to lost Gentiles – NOT because he did not have a right to receive it! Christians with evil in their hearts have taken this verse and placed it as a yoke upon their ministers to keep them poor or beholden to those who throw them trifles of bread for the gold of heaven they are given in terms of spiritual service. These things are not overlook by our Father, Who still considers it stealing from Him!
- As his ministry grew in scope and frequency of visits, Paul encouraged churches to “partner” with him in ministry. After establishing a church of believers, Paul’s concern of offending them against the message was no longer relevant so he was willing that the churches continue to send him aid to minister to his needs. However, they failed to let their love for him reach their wallets in the early years of his ministry – II Cor. 11:8,9; Phil. 2:25; Phil. 4:10-19.
So, in I Cor. 9 Paul addresses this issue. It is the only epistle on record in which Paul dedicates this much time to the topic of personally receiving money, though this passage is not exclusive to Apostles as we will see.
In verses 1-6:
Paul has to defend his rights and status as an Apostle. Others had visited this church and influenced their hearts and their generosityaway from Paul, Barnabas and Apollos who were faithful ministers to this church. [See I Cor. 2-4; II Cor. 11:1-7]
He asks several rhetorical questions:
- Am I not free?
- Am I not an apostle?
- Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?
- Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?
- Do we not have the right to eat and drink?
- Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
- Is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
- Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?
- Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit?
- Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
Do you see? Paul was in the unpleasant position of defending his own rights to receive wages for his labor in the Word for their spiritual maturity in Christ. This is a horrendous evil and one which should NEVER be perpetrated in the churches of the Living God! It is enough to make one nauseous that the great Apostle Paul who gave up SO MUCH was loved so little in response –
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong! Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning!” ~ 2 Cor. 12:10-16
Here we see that by not requiring them to offer him payment for his spiritual labor among them he apologizes for doing them wrong! I understand that it was said in almost a satirical fashion, but that their is deep truth to his words is self evident to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
I want you to see that Paul deliberately draws from three analogies which I believe generally (though not necessarily specifically) speak of three different ministries:
- Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Paul as an Apostle saw himself as on the front line of a war. He was the first line of offense – the one bringing the initial news of the Gospel into hostile territory. Paul writes to Timothy his self-designated apostolic delegate, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” – II Tim. 2:3,4. Also Paul speaks of himself as a the one who lays the foundation of Christ in an area upon which others build. – I Cor. 3:9-11
- Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? This would include Apostles, teachers & prophets. Many teach and believe that Apollos was an apostle, but there simply is no hard evidence to this anywhere in the scriptures. However, the word “minister” is used in reference to him as well as his knowledge in the scriptures and having disciples – Acts 18:24; 19:1; . Most of the language used for Apollos I believe is more indicative of a prophet or a teacher. In I Cor. 3:1-11 Paul seems to make a distinction between his ministry and that of Apollos’. Paul planted and Apollos watered. Paul laid the foundation and Apollos built upon it.
- Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Without question or rival this is as clear a reference to Elders (Pastors) as anyone could ever hope to find. – Acts 20:28,29; I Peter 5:2-4
All three groups are said to be worthy of pay in a manner “like” the Old testament Priests:
“Do you not know that those who perform the sacred rites have their food from the sacred place, and that those who serve at the altar all alike share with the altar? In the same way the Lord also directed those who proclaim the Good News to maintain themselves by the Good News.” ~ 1 Cor. 9:13-14
This is perhaps the greatest proof of the tithe under the New Covenant!
The priesthood of all believers
At this point most of those who are legalistic in their understanding of grace will say, “Well all of us are priests in the New Covenant”. Again, this is another argument from ignorance and as is normal, their argument actually make the case for the opposite of their views.
The Bible only mentions the idea of the “priesthood of all believers” three times and all are limited in their scope of meaning. Ironically, one of our duties as New Covenant priests is to share with those who have the spiritual rule over us as you will see in the verse below.
In brief, as priests our priestly duties are to maintain our bodies and present them to Him holy because they are His temple.
Also, every believer is a minister of righteousness representing God to man and man to God.
As priests we also have the distinct privileged of access to the presence of God, only ours is 24/7 and not just once a year as the Old Testament priests. (See Rom. 5:1-2).
“(1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” ~ Rom. 5:1-2
Finally, we offer sacrifice unto Him through praise. (See Heb. 13:15-17)
“(15) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (16) But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (17) Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” ~ Hebrews 13:15-17
Two arguments – two sets of proofs
Theirs is a negative argument from silence. The only thing they have to support their argument is that Paul does not specifically tell New Testament Christians to tithe.
On the other hand, for those who believe tithing is incumbent the believe under the New Covenant we have two positive proofs supporting our belief.
The established pattern we see in scripture is that Paul goes OUT OF HIS WAY to specifically innumerate those things from the Old Testament which have NO application to those in Christ. In those comprehensive lists tithing is NOT mentioned as something from which we are freed. Now if we are NOT freed from it, then there needs to be an example of WHO these “priests” are, to whom we are to give – and Paul supplies that right here in this passage of 1 Cor. 9:13-14.
So we not only FAIL to see Paul eliminate tithe as a necessity upon the believer, we actually see him drawing a cohesive line between the provisions given to the priests of the Old Covenant with the giving which is commanded by our Lord to be given to New Testament ministers – specifically to Pastors.
Business Week’s 2006 list of The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists included at least 15 Jews. The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of the top 50 charitable donors in 2008 included sixteen Jews, according to a JTA article. In other words, Jews, who are only about 2% of the American population, are 30% of America’s most generous donors. Similarly, a 2003 study (reported in the Jewish Journal) found that 24.5% of all “mega-donors” (people who donate more than $10 million a year to charity) are Jewish. Nor is Jewish generosity limited to Jewish causes: while a few of the Jews in BW’s “Top 50”- list Jewish causes among their primary charitable targets, most don’t. Indeed, the Jewish Journal article laments the fact that the overwhelming majority of those Jewish mega-donations aren’t going to specifically Jewish causes. – this is copied from the third paragraph of Judaism 101: Charity.
The Didache (di-dah-KAY) or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didachē means “Teaching”) is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century, though some have it as early as 60AD. The first line of this treatise is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles”
The text, parts of which constitute the oldest surviving written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. It is considered the first example of the genre of the Church Orders.
The work was considered by some of the Church Fathers as part of the New Testament but rejected as spurious or non-canonical by others, eventually not accepted into the New Testament canon. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church “broader canon” includes the Didascalia (Di-Dah-Scallia), a work which draws on the Didache.
In any case, this VERY early work mentions tithe as a valid New Testament believe and practice. While, of course, it cannot be held as on par with scripture, it is a VERY early testament to what the normal and accepted practises were in the early church in regards to giving.
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to study the scriptures for yourself and ultimately to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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