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First Quarter 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 8: February 17–23
COMMENTARY ON "THE IMPACT OF TITHING"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This is the Memory Text for this week:
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. (1 Cor. (1 Cor. 9:13-14)
In contrast however this initial quote redirects our attention to tithing rater than "sacrificial offerings" which are fundamentally different from each other:
"As we saw last week, tithing is an important expression of faith. It is one way to reveal, or test, the reality of our profession. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5, NKJV)."
The primary references listed for this week's Saturday lesson do not truthfully address the practice of tithing. Instead they are directed on making tithing one of the primary ways to financially support the Adventist version of the gospel 'to all the world' and do so by ignoring the warning found in Galatians 1:9 about there being only one true biblical gospel message of Jesus Christ that is to be proclaimed to all the world, Matt. 28:18-20 & 1 Cor. 15:1-5.
The lesson author promotes tithing by referencing 2 Cor. 13:5 out of context.
2 Cor. 13:5, including the context is...
"...since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:3-5)
Paul is not teaching tithing.
Instead he is saying that our faith is centered on understanding that Jesus was crucified for our sins but now lives by the power of God. In-other-words our faith, our promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God, is founded upon nothing more nor less than the full completed atonement of Jesus Christ's shed blood at Calvary, Gal. 1:9, 1 Cor. 15:1-5 & Heb. 10:12-14. This testing of our faith includes knowing that Jesus has been seated at the side of the most holy Father since his ascension into heaven nearly two thousand years ago because atonement was completed at Calvary.
The memory text (1 Cor. 9:13-14) is unrelated to the intended lesson theme of tithing because Paul is referring to the Old Covenant temple service, Lev. 6:16 & 26, where only the levitical priests (the line of Aaron) shared in the "sacrificial offerings" brought to cover sin. Tithes, within the laws of the Old Mosaic Covenant, were a "contribution to the LORD" and as such were brought to all the Levites, not just the priests, Num. 18:21-24,
Therefore tithing isn't what Paul is referring to when he says; "those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel".
We need to remember that the written laws of the obsolete Old Mosaic Covenant along with the Levitical priesthood are not a part of the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-34. To better understand tithing as it applies to New Covenant Christians (both Jew and Gentile) we should examine the book of Hebrews as this is one of the few places in the New Testament where the practice of tithing is even mentioned. In the book of Hebrews we have passages that introduce a "different priesthood" under a different covenant. Tithing is mentioned but is secondary to the theme of Jesus becoming "a high priest forever....". Notice that Jesus, as our eternal high priest entered 'the inner place behind the curtain' long before Oct. 22, 1844:
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb. 6:19-20)
For Adventists to apply any portion of the laws of tithing found within the Old Covenant is an example of spiritual adultery, Rom. 7:1-3. The Prophet Jeremiah declared the laws of God would be found written within the hearts of New Covenant believers instead of being recorded in a book. See the role of the Holy Spirit in Rom. 8:1-3.
The New Covenant and the question of Tithing
Tithing as it is mentioned in Hebrews chapter seven:
1. Melchizedek meets Abraham who is returning from the slaughter of the kings where upon Abraham gives him a tithe of the spoils of war, verses 1-4.
2. The Levitical priests received tithes (a tithe of the tithe) from "their brothers", verse 5.
3. In Numbers chapter 18 we learn that only Aaron and the 'sons of Aaron' are qualified to be Levitical priests in the Old Covenant with the duties of both the Priests and their Levitical brothers being outlined. In verses 20-24 we learn that the reason tithes were to be given to the tribe of Levi is because they have no inheritance in the land. The (brother) Levites were then to give a tithe of their tithe to the Priests 'the son's of Aaron', verses 25-32. The tithe that was given came from the produce of the land, livestock and crops. Tithes that the priests received from their brother Levites was separate from and in addition to the sacrificial offerings that the Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 9:13-14. This shows that Paul wasn't talking about tithing. When you read Mal. 3:10 notice that is says; "that there may be food in my house".
4. Since tithing as mentioned in the book of Hebrews is in reference to Jesus' being of a better eternal priesthood than the Levitical/Aaronic priesthood we have no Scriptural foundation for developing a 'Christian practice of tithing' as outlined within Seventh-day Adventism.
5. Yes, we do have are the examples of Abram and Jacob (mentioned in last week's lesson) which predated the giving of the Old Covenant law. Abram (Abraham) presented a tithe of the spoils of war. This does show that the concept of tithing was known by him. However we only know what he did without assuming anything beyond what is recorded in Scripture. As for Jacob, he made a vow to tithe but we are not directly informed in what way or when he fulfilled his vow. It is possible that it may have been in the form of the gift he gave to his brother Isaac on his return to the land of his birth.
6. Abraham and Jacob were not under the legal requirements of the Mosaic Old Covenant. It is contradiction of logic to develop a doctrine of Christian tithing formed around the now obsolete Old Covenant and then mention the examples of Abraham and Jacob who predated this covenant to support such a doctrine.
7. Since Scripture is silent on this topic, at most, Christian tithing could be said to be an act of individual faith patterned after the faith of Abraham, in response to the direct leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. However unless you have responded in faith to the biblical gospel message of Jesus Christ you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide you in this act of faith.
8. In Sunday's lesson it says..."If every Christian gave an honest tithe, the result would be “almost unimaginable, simply astonishing, nearly beyond comprehension.”—Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson, Passing the Plate (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 27." Obviously the lesson author is referring to a person's earning income. Since there is no command, nor even an example of Christians tithing their income in Scripture how can there be such a thing as withholding an "honest tithe" by not tithing?
9. Furthermore, the Adventist practice where all local church property is owned by the denomination and where the local 'tithes and offerings' are given upwards to the administrative organization only to be distributed back locally as administrators see fit to do so is not a biblically mandated concept.
10. The impact of tithing as practiced from within Adventism imposes false unbiblical guilt upon the laity.
Supporting Ministers of the Gospel
1. The memory text (1 Cor. 9:13-14) establishes that those who have been ordained to preach and serve the gospel are to be supported from within the their respective local churches. If we are to follow this as a mandate then even today each local body of Christians would be led by and directly supporting of their own elders and deacons.
2. The reviewing of such passages as Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1 show that the Apostle Paul (and the other apostles) would initially appoint elders and deacons from amongst each newly established local church, with the qualifications for elders and deacons being clearly outlined in Scripture and that there be at least two elders in each church who shared equally in the role of leadership. The context of these and related passages suggest that additional elders or deacons were to be publicly selected from within the local body of Christians by their existing local leadership through common prayer and under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. There is no precedent for believing the council in Jerusalem during the apostolic era controlled, provided the monetary support, ratified or endorsed the selection of local elders and deacons.
3. The role of the Christian council led by the Apostle Peter was to define what is or is not Christian doctrine through prayer, the Holy Spirit and Scripture as taught to them by Jesus Christ, Matt. 16:13-20 & Acts 15.
4. Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord, through and under his promised indwelling leading of the Holy Spirit, was and is our Great High Priest that personally leads the local churches through their own appointed elders and deacons.
1. The most important event your life is when God transfers you out of Satan's kingdom of darkness and into his kingdom of eternal life. For entry into the kingdom of God your dead human spirit you were physically born with must be reborn of the Holy Spirit. For this to happen you must respond in faith to the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ whereupon your sins will be fully covered by the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary. Your salvation is founded upon Jesus' shed blood plus nothing else.
2. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, who guides you into all truth founded upon all Scripture, you are implored to worship and grow in spiritual maturity from within a body of like-minded Holy Spirit led Christians. In doing so the Apostle Paul teaches that it is right that those who minister to you be materially supported by you. Paul compares this teaching with the obsolete Old Covenant practice where the the priests received their support through "sacrificial offerings". Paul isn't teaching 'Christian tithing' because in the Old Covenant tithes were separate from and not the same as sacrificial offerings.
3. The Christian faith, centered in faith upon nothing other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ, is compared to and described as the very same faith as Abraham's faith. This means that if there is such a thing as Christian tithing it should be practiced in the same way as that of Abraham where he freely of his own accord gave a tithe of the spoils of war long before the existence of the Old Covenant he was not a part of. If and when a Christian chooses to tithe it should be done in faith centered upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.