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Biblical Tithing: Questions and Answers June 30, 2014

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Tithing has become a foundation in most churches yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied terms in the Christian lexicon today. Most people will also claim they know what tithing is yet have never studied the subject in any detail. Many therefore have a perception of tithing based on tradition rather than grounded in Biblical truth. I therefore set out below a number of questions and answers concerning the tithe as set out under the Mosaic law to help clear up some of the confusion and misconceptions around the subject.

1. What is a tithe?
A tithe is a tenth meaning a tenth part or every tenth one. (Lev 27:30-34)

2. Is this the same as 10%?
No. E.g., if the tither was giving a tenth of livestock from his 50 cows a tenth would be 5 but if he was giving a tenth from 45 this would only amount to 4 because he cannot give 4.5 livestock which is what 10% would equate to.

3. Was the tithe from income?
No. A tithe was a tenth of the increase of agricultural produce and livestock in the land of ancient Israel (Canaan) – i.e., what the land brought forth. God gave the land as a gift but reserved a tenth part of what the Land brought forth for Himself. So it was not a tenth of what you made but a tenth of what He first gave (Lev 27:30-34).

4. Could tithes be given in the form of money?
No, not strictly speaking. Although money was readily available, the commandments required food produce and livestock. If you wanted to redeem or buy back the tithe you had to add a fifth (or 20%) of the monetary value on top of the actual monetary value (Lev 27:30-34).

5. Was the tithe the first 10%?
No. It was not a percentage (see 2) and it was NOT the first tenth either. Since a first fruit of the harvest (e.g. grain) was to be given to the priest first (Ex 23:19, Ez 44:30) then the tithe could not have been first. Similarly, the tithe of livestock was not the first tenth but every tenth one that passed under the rod (Lev 27:30-34). The idea that the tithe is “10% off the top” as many pastors teach is not supported by scripture.

6. To whom were tithes given?
The nation of Israel comprising the eleven tribes gave tithes to the Levite tribe (one tribe which made up the twelve). This is because the Levite tribe did not get a portion of the Land so God gave them the tenth part He reserved for Himself as their inheritance (see 3, Num 18:21, Heb 7:5). The Levites in turn gave a tithe of the tithes they received to the priests (Num 18:28). Note the priests did not get all the tenth in Israel – only a tenth of what the Levites received.

7. Who were required to give tithes?
Only those who tended land and owned/looked after livestock were required to tithe to the Levites who in turn tithe to the priests (Lev 27:30-34, Neh 10:37, Num 18:28).

8. Was the tithe the best of what you had?
No. If you were giving livestock you were not allowed to examine whether it was good or bad – you had to give the tenth one that passed under the rod regardless of its condition (Lev 27:30-34). It was the Levites who were then required to give a tithe which constituted the best of the tithes they received to the priests – the Lord’s heave offering (see 7, Num 18:29-30)

9. Were people of other professions therefore not required to tithe, such as artisans, carpenters, brick makers etc?
When God gave Israel the land He reserved a tenth part of the increase that the Land brought forth for Himself, which He gave the Levites for their inheritance because they did not get a share of the Land (see 6). There was no requirement to tithe money nor were people of these professions required to tithe of their wood, metal, cloths, bricks etc. The key thing to note is that God never reserved a tenth part of anyone’s income for Himself. He reserved only a tenth part of the increase of the Land which HE gave in the first place. This was then to be given to the Levites who did not get a share of the Land. If you tended land alongside another profession then you were also required to tithe from the Land but not your other income. For that matter you couldn’t “tithe your time” either.

10. Were people of other professions therefore not required to give of their income (money) to the upkeep of the priests and the temple then?
The temple or tabernacle had a treasury where money was offered to (1 Chron 29:8, Neh 7:70-71, Josh 6:19, 24, Ezr 2:69). This was separate and apart from the “storehouse” which housed the tithe (which was food produce, Neh 10:37-38, 2 Chron 31:6-12, Mal 3:10). Whilst the people also gave money offerings (from their income), wood offerings (Neh 10:34), produce and animal offerings etc these were separate and apart from the tithes (see 1 Chron 22:15, Ex 35:30-35, 36:2-4, for some of the different professions that were in Israel).

11. Is tithing for today – should the church tithe?
The tithing ordinance (Mal 3:7) was abolished (Eph 2:15, Col 2:14) when Jesus went to the cross therefore the church is not under this law.

12. Do the scriptures contradict themselves?
This question though not specific to the tithing question needs to be asked if we are to truly answer the question of whether tithing is for today. It is clear that if scriptures say that the law (and ordinances) have been abolished that it cannot also be saying that we are required to observe the tithing law at the same time.

Jesus is our tithe June 23, 2014

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith, Tithing.
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Here is an interesting take on the tithe by a Pastor Amos Ortiz.

Is Pastor Creflo Dollar a true minister of God? Judge for yourself December 21, 2013

Posted by Henry in Uncategorized.
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WARNING: The below video is not for the fainthearted as it is very disturbing. In the video “pastor” Creflo Dollar talks about what he would do to non-tithers if he had the chance. Listen to the video and judge for yourself if this saying can be coming from the mouth of a minister of God.

Lessons from Ahab for an Undiscerning Church December 9, 2013

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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In the book of 2 Chronicles 18 the story is told of how Ahab the king of Israel wanted to go to Ramothgilead to make war with Syria. Ahab had made an alliance with Jehoshaphat the king of Judah and he invited him to go up to Ramothgilead with him. However, though Jehoshaphat agreed in principle he asked Ahab to first inquire what the word of the Lord said concerning the matter. So what did Ahab do? Ahab gathered together no less than 400 prophets to ask them if he should go to do battle. Everyone of them agreed that he should go up to Ramothgilead and that he would prevail as the Lord would deliver it into his hands. Not satisfied however, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there weren’t any other prophets of the Lord aside from the 400. Ahab replied that there was another prophet by the name of Micaiah but that he hated him because he never prophesied anything good to him except evil.

To cut a long story short we see in verse 11 where the 400 prophets declared that the Lord said Ahab should go to the war and that he would prosper. The messenger who when to fetch Micaiah told him that all the other prophets had prophesied good to the two kings and that he should prophesy good tidings likewise. However, being a true prophet of God, Micaiah prophesied the truth to Ahab that Israel would be defeated if they went to battle. Ahab would not listen however because he did not like what he was hearing especially when he had the backing of the 400 other prophets so he threw Micaiah in jail. Needless to say he went to battle and met his destruction because he refused to heed the truth from the true prophet of God. Instead he yielded to the message that appealed to his flesh, a message from lying spirits that deceived the 400 prophets.

This story of Ahab is an important lesson for the church today. Today the church, like Ahab, fails to discern the true voice of the Lord but instead yield to a message that appeals to their flesh – word of Faith, seed faith, prosperity doctrines and the like. They measure truth by the number of people speaking the same message instead of applying themselves to the study and application of the Word. Afterall if 400 prophets on TV or in the mega churches are speaking the same message then it must be true, right? But like Ahab this message with lead many to destruction. Many church folk don’t want to hear the message of the local church anymore even if it is the true word of God. Instead they want to hear a message that appeals to their flesh. Today the church heap to themselves teachers (prophets) that tell them what their itching ears want to ear instead of hearing the truth of God’s Word coming from a seemingly unlikely source.

The demise of Ahab however should serve as a warning that we should seek to listen to the solitary voice of the Lord even if the message is tough to hear instead of the 400 prophets who tell us the things we want to hear.

The Cutting Edge Gospel: Faith December 7, 2013

Posted by Henry in The Cutting Edge Gospel.
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So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17

In order to repent one must first have faith in the saving Grace of God through Jesus Christ. This faith however comes when the gospel is preached and the word of God is heard.

Faith by definition is, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1).”

Though we cannot physically see the end of our life we believe in Christ’s death and resurrection that at the end of life we too will be resurrected to be with Him in glory if we abide in Him.

It is important to understand that before faith came there was the Law which acted as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ by the justification through faith (Gal 3:23-24). Does this mean that the Law is no longer important? Scripture tells us that without Law there is no sin so the purpose of the Law is to convict man of sin because sin was in the world before the Law came into being (Rom 5:13). The problem however is that one (except Christ) could keep the Law and as such no one could be justified by the Law (Rom 3:20, Gal 2:16). But thank our God that Jesus came to fulfill the Law so that the righteousness of the Law may be fulfilled in us who walk by faith in Him.

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8)

Related Posts:

The Cutting Edge Gospel: Repentance

The Cutting Edge Gospel: What is the Gospel

Predestination and Election: Who will hear the gospel and believe? September 13, 2013

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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This topic was initiated by a regular contributor here by the name of Fast Freddie. As this was raised under a different topic here, I decided to open up a new topic to discuss this issue.

So, is it only the elect of God who will hear and believe the Gospel? In other words is it only those who were predestined to hear the gospel and believe can be saved?

Predestination and Election: A Look at Romans Chapter 1 to 8

The doctrine of “predestination” and “election” suggest that only some people were pre-ordained or specially chosen by God to be saved whilst others were preordained to eternal damnation. In this regard the doctrine purports that there is no freewill in inheriting salvation but one is elected according to God’s sovereign will. Calvin is largely responsible for this “school of theology”. Without dwelling too much on Calvin’s view however the question that one needs to ask is whether this is supported by scripture. Indeed, Rom 8 and Eph 1 are used as the proof text to support this doctrine but is that what Paul really preached or were Paul’s words misunderstood?

I think that one of the key problems with understanding this subject is that many people define their beliefs by what Calvin or Arminius said rather than by studying the Word of God and therefore they base their beliefs on a few verses that may have been taken out of context, rather than to rely on the whole counsel of scripture. So to look at this topic I think the starting point should be from Romans chapter one, simply because the book was a letter to the Roman saints and what was said in chapter 8 is framed by the preceding chapters. Is there therefore a theme of “predestination” and “election” coming through from Paul’s writing from chapter one? This is what I shall explore (I will look at Ephesians 1 later).

In Romans 1:15 Paul writes that he was ready to preach the gospel to them who were at Rome also. He goes on to say in verses 16 to 17 that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and to the Greek and that it is in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Now notice what he said in the verses that followed:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Here Paul shows that the ungodly hold the truth (about God) in their unrighteousness even though God made it known unto them – God reveals these truths of who He is so that the ungodly and unrighteous are without excuse (when they are judged). The use of the words “without excuse” here are the key to demonstrate that they had a choice to make in changing their circumstances but instead chose to turn away from God and this is clearly noted if we read from verse 21. It was because of what they did that God in turn gave them over to their reprobate minds:

28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Note that not only do they know of the judgement of God in that their sinfulness is worthy of death but they took pleasure in continuing to do evil:

32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

So from chapter 1 we can see that Paul was not claiming that the evil doers mentioned here were “predestined” to death but that they darkened their own hearts out of their own vain imaginations and lusts and turned the truth of God into a lie, which is why God gave them over. So then if after the truth of the Gospel of God is revealed to us but we continue in evil, “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb 2:3)?” Jude has shown us however that even those destined for the fire of judgement can be saved also if we make an effort:

Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (Jude 1:23) NLT

Of course it would not be possible to fulfill this scripture if those heading for the flames were preordained (or predestined) to go there. The Calvinist view here however would suggest that the fate of those heading for the flames is already sealed. There are however other examples in scripture though which shows that one can change course and be saved. For example, in Rev 2:20-24 we see how Jesus gave a “prophetess” called Jezebel in Thyatira space to repent of her evil ways and promises judgement upon her and her children except she repents. Similarly, Jesus warned the Laodicean church that he would spew them out of His mouth unless they repented because they had become lukewarm (Rev 3:14-19). Again the Calvinist view here would suggest that you are either in the camp of “destined to be saved” or “destined to be damned” regardless of any effort on their part to change their destiny. So how can God damn His own church? After all, would the Laodiceans not need to have been among the “called” to constitute a church in the first place? However, 1 Pet 1:17 demonstrates that God judges according to every man’s works without respect of persons. The idea of predestination however is that one’s fate is sealed irrespective of his state of being and that he does not have a free will in determining the outcome. This cannot be true however in light of 1 Pet 1:17 and Rom 2:11 as we shall see later. This would mean that God would need to show respect to those whom He predetermines to save and those He predetermines to destroy, instead of judging equally.

So continuing into Romans chapter two then Paul started out by challenging those who judge others for the sins they do yet they themselves commit the same things by asking if they think they will escape the judgement of God. Paul makes clear here in Rom 2:4-11 that the goodness of God leads such sinners to repentance. But because of the hardness of their hearts they store up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Paul reiterates in verse 6 that God will render to every man according to his deeds both to those who patiently seek eternal life and those who do not obey the truth but instead continue in unrighteousness. Note in verse 9-11 where Paul states clearly that God is no respecter of persons for He will render tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first and also to the gentile. In the same way God will give glory honour and peace to every man that does good works, to the Jew first and to the Gentile. These verses conflict with the Calvinist view of predestination and demonstrates clearly that what Calvin preached on this subject is not the same as what Paul preached. For instance we know that the Jews were the “chosen” people of God in the Old Testament but here we see that the Jew were not all predestined to be saved since the same punishment will be meted out to Jew and Gentile alike for their sins.

Leading into Romans 3 Paul reiterates from verse 1 that the Jew does not have any advantage over non Jews. As in Chapter 2 Paul is here addressing the subject of justification by faith and if we look closely at this doctrine we will see that it is inconsistent with the Calvinist view of predestination. For example in verses 2-22 we learn that the righteousness of God is manifested in Christ to everyone who believes whether Jew or Gentile. Paul continues to speak in the same vein in Chapter 4 how righteousness is imputed to Abraham for his faith and likewise to those of us we have faith in Jesus.

In Romans chapter 5 Paul points out that if we are justified by faith we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the ungodly. In verse 18 Paul makes a poignant point as follows:

18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life

This means that because sin entered the world through Adam judgment came upon all who were condemned but through Jesus Christ the free gift of salvation came upon all men to the justification of life. So all men have access to this grace if they believe and hence justified by faith. This again shows the contrast with what Paul preached and the doctrine of predestination as upheld by Calvin. If only some were pre-ordained to be saved then this would clearly contradict what Paul teaches here in Romans 5:18.

Continuing on to Romans 6 Paul writes that now that we have been justified through faith and have died with Christ that we should now no longer subject our members unto sin but live holy lives with Christ. In the following verses Paul writes:
20For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:5)
This is similar to what Paul said in Rom 5:18, in that if we continued in unrighteousness the end of it would be death but if we become servants to righteousness the fruit would be eternal life. The verb Paul uses in Rom 6:19 is that we should now “yield” our members to righteousness. This is an instruction which implies an action to be taken at the will of the believer. So once again this message is at odds with the Calvinist view. In Romans chapter seven Paul continues the interplay between the law of sin and death and the law of life and how the sinful flesh wars with the spirit. Here Paul emphasizes dying to sin in order that one may live according to Christ after the Spirit. Leading in to Romans 8 then Paul starts out in verse 1 by talking about the fact that there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. For, says Paul, to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. In verse 8 we see that those that are “in the flesh” cannot please God. The point is further illustrated in verse 13:
13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
So if we followed the line from Romans 1 through to chapter 8 we see that what Paul preached is belief in the gospel, being justified by faith and walking in the spirit which leads to life. Similarly Jesus said in John 5:24 that if we hear and believe the things He says we shall not be condemned, which falls in line with Rom 8:1. It is with this backdrop therefore that Paul then talks about “predestination” and “election” in verses 28 to 30. Before going into these verses however verses 24 and 25 of Romans 8 also worth noting in terms of understanding salvation:

24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

If Paul says here that we are saved by hope how could he then say in the next breath that one was predestined in the Calvinist sense? If Calvin was to be believed then we would not need to have hope because our salvation would already be assured. This would constitute “hope that is seen” but Paul asks why would you hope for what you already see? This is not hope, yet we are saved by hope which requires will and endurance to wait with patience for the embodiment of hope. From everything that Paul taught from Chapter 1 could he now be changing tracks and be teaching a whole new doctrine in verses 28 to 30?

28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

What Paul is saying here is that for those whom God foreknew, (i.e., those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose), He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son so that He (Jesus) would be the firstborn among many brethren. Remember that in Rom 1:7 Paul was writing to “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” Is Paul saying here then that God only chose to save some people without regard to whether they were righteous or unrighteous? Well we already see in Rom 1:16-17 for example where Paul says that the gospel is the power unto salvation to everyone who believes but those who continued in unrighteousness through the hardness of their hearts stored up wrath unto the day of judgement. So what Paul is referring to here by predestination is the plan of salvation. See also Rom 5:18 where Paul says that through the righteousness of “one” the free gift (of grace) came upon all men unto the justification of life. Why is it then that many are called but few chosen (Matt 20:16, 22:14) Is it not because of the condition of their hearts, that they have not purified themselves with the hope (1 John 3:3)?

God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations – we become heirs to the promise if we received the promise of the spirit by faith (Gal 3:14). So then for everyone that is being saved, God did predestinate. If the Calvinist view on predestination and election was right how could Peter commands that one should “make your calling and your election sure” (2 Pet 1:10)? And is this not the same thing as what Jesus said in Luke 13:24 that we should strive to enter in at the strait gate; and also what the writer of the Hebrews said in Hebrews 12:1 about running the race with endurance? I end here with the words of Jesus in Rev 2:7

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7)

The Cutting Edge Gospel: Repentance March 13, 2013

Posted by Henry in The Cutting Edge Gospel.
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38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The gospel of repentance requires us to be remorseful or penitent of our past sins, turning to God and ask for His forgiveness and to seek to live a life of faith in Jesus Christ, recognizing that only His saving Grace can cleanse us from all our sins.

However, we can sometimes deceive ourselves that we do not need to repent of certain sins – these could be our “secret sins”. Sometimes we seek to justify the sins in our lives instead of repenting fully. Just to give a few examples: we want to follow Christ but at the same time we want to yield or succumb to the flesh to commit fornication and seek to justify it. We lust after the things of the flesh and of the eyes; covet our neighbors wife, husband, property secretly; tell little white lies and think it is ok; or refuse to forgive someone who did something to us in the past yet expecting God to forgive us our sins.

A call to repentance means that we must repent of ALL sins and stop deceiving ourselves.

The scriptures says:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. (Gal 6:7)

Sin cannot enter heaven.

9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6)

Do Christians Go to Heaven when they die? A second look March 13, 2013

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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I previously highlighted this question in a previous post here. It turned out that I caused upset to a number of people who have now decided to dissociate themselves from this blog. To tell the truth sometimes I feel defeated and at a loss when I am trying to do something and it is interpreted in the wrong way by others. But nevertheless I must decrease so that Christ can increase.

Prior to touching this subject the first time, it was not my intention at all to consider writing a post on it until the issue was raised. I am aware that people hold various views on the subject and that some will say that it is not really such a serious point of debate which pertains to salvation. Perhaps this is true but it really depends on the context of your reasoning. The main problem with this debate is not that the view you hold is not important in deciding your salvation, rather, the problem is that if by holding to a view do we make the scriptures contradictory? If we therefore make the scriptures appear to contradict itself by what we believe does that not undermine the doctrine we believe and therefore bring the whole basis of our faith into question? These are the thoughts I have been contemplating recently as a result of the controversies surrounding this topic. There are therefore two questions within this topic; 1) Do Christians really go to heaven immediately on death? 2) Do the scriptures contradict themselves? The first question is not as important as the second question.

Some people believe that when a Christian dies they are ushered immediately into Christ’s presence where they will be in a conscious state, retaining their ‘personality’ and thus being able to fellowship and commune with Christ, albeit apart from their bodies. Others however do not believe that Christians will go straight to heaven on death and there are good reasons likewise for believing thus. One of the main basis of the former view (that Christians go straight to heaven on death) is the promise Christ made to one of the malefactors on the cross in Luk 23:43. Here, the verse says, “….Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Regardless of what one’s view is, this raises a very important question when we consider other scriptures. If Jesus and the thief were in paradise that very day how is it that Jesus states in John 20:17 that, “..I am not yet ascended to my Father?” Is Jesus contradicting Himself here? There are those however who wants you to believe the first view without attempting to reconcile the apparent contradictions in holding that view. Equally, if you hold to the view that Christians do not go straight to heaven, then Christ may still appear to contradict Himself by what He promised to the thief in Luk 23:43. By not reconciling the scriptures therefore we undermine the very veracity of the doctrine we seek to hold so dear, and this has already led many people to depart from the faith and discard the Bible. We are standing on very dangerous ground here when we simplify the question by saying that whatever we believe on this matter doesn’t really matter (and that we should agree to disagree) because it will not determine our salvation. I am not so much concerned about which view one believes but more so in reconciling the scriptures as this is very important in maintaining the truthfulness of the Gospel.

Do the scriptures contradict themselves? I don’t think that any true Christian will admit to the scriptures being contradictory. So how do we reconcile these apparently conflicting scriptures? I want to believe in my heart that when we die we immediately go to a better place. I have heard people testify that when their loved ones are dying they speak of seeing a glorious/bright light. My friend testified of such when his father passed away. But at the same time I have to stick with what scripture tells me. Experiences or sentiments do not override scriptures and we don’t know exactly the extent or meaning of those experiences anyway. So what do some of the other scriptures say contrary to the verse in Luke? I must say here that the scope of this article is not to look at every specific scripture that relates to this issue as they are plenteous. However the verses I look at should be sufficient in making the points I wish to convey.

One of the first things that may need clarification is the question of where paradise is. To resolve the question that Jesus went to paradise but did not ascend to His Father as per Joh 20:17, some argue that paradise is in the earth or at least away from heaven, citing the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luk 16:19-31). Could this be true? What does the scriptures say? Paul gives us a clue in 2 Cor 12:2-4 that paradise is up above in the third heaven. Jesus also tells us in Rev 2:7 that he who overcomes He will give the right to eat of the tree of Life which is in the paradise of God. Rev 22:1-2 tells us also that the tree of life stands on the side of a river which flows out of God’s throne. So then paradise was always around God’s throne and not in the earth as some suppose. So if Christ went to paradise with the malefactor on death that day He would most certainly have ascended to His father thus contradicting what He said in John 20:17. A portion of scripture that may hold the key is John 13:33 through to John 14:4 (see also John 14:28). Note that the passage continues from the end of chapter 13 into chapter 14 despite it being broken up by chapters. For ease I have only copied from John 13:36 below:

36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:36-38)

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in Goda; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

What do we learn here? Jesus told Simon Peter that where He was going he couldn’t come but rather that he Peter would follow later. No where do we see a promise that the disciples would follow Christ on their deaths but rather that He will return to receive them this is in spite of the fact that Jesus already knew of Peter’s death which He prophesied of in John 21:18-19. Are we to believe that Christians who die will consciously be with Christ on death in spirit form but that in these scriptures He was merely referring to coming back for the bodies – the shell that holds the spirit? In truth this is what some believe but it simply does not make any sense. It seems to me that whether in body or spirit, if we are going to be with Him we are going to be with Him – If He says He is going to prepare a place and come back for us then until He comes we are not going to be with Him.

So how do we treat Luk 23:43? Could it be it is a matter of interpretation? Some have argued that the placement of the comma is where the problem lies since in the original Greek no punctuation is used. Therefore some place the comma after “today” to render the meaning of the verse to be referring to the timing of the promise as opposed to the timing of entry into Paradise. Perhaps Acts 2:27 should also be considered here since this appears to offer further proof that Jesus did not go to paradise that very day but was in the grave for three days. Perhaps a closer look at verses in Luke 23 may reveal something:

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.f

43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What was the criminal’s desire? It was that Jesus would remember him when He comes into His kingdom. It appears that the criminal had an awareness that Jesus would come into His kingdom in a future time. But note Christ’s response. Does it not appear that Jesus is granting the thief His wish that it is not in the future He will remember him but that he has a certainty today of knowing that He will be remembered of Christ when He comes into His kingdom? The question here then is this, “Has Christ come into His kingdom as yet?” When does scripture say that Christ will come into His Kingdom?

Let me reiterate that the most important point at the heart of this debate/controversy is not whether one believes they will go or not go straight to heaven on death. Rather, if you take a view how do you reconcile the apparent contradictions from the opposing view in order to preserve the trustworthiness of scripture? What do you think?

Point to Note:

I was presented with an article written by Jonathan Edwards (see HERE) which supported the view that Christians will go straight to heaven at death to be with the Lord. I did not accept Edward’s view not because I place myself above him or even above some of those notable Bible commentators such as Matthew Henry. Rather, these commentators have made no attempt to reconcile the opposing view so that the scriptures are in harmony. If I accept their position it means I would have to also accept that there are contradictions in the Bible because the opposite view cannot be ignored. This is why I rejected their view and instead align with the view which attempts to harmonize the scriptures.

The Cutting Edge Gospel: What is the Gospel? March 11, 2013

Posted by Henry in The Cutting Edge Gospel.
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The Cutting Edge Gospel: What is the Gospel?

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 12:4)

What is the Gospel? The Gospel essentially is the good news of salvation first spoken of by the Old Testament prophets and which was delivered and fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel calls us to repent and to turn away from our sins so that in the fullness of time we will be saved from eternal damnation. In a world full of many voices and many messages even in the church, the Gospel can sometimes be hard to pin down precisely. However, Paul speaking to the Corinthian church summarizes the Gospel in the following verses of 1 Cor 15:

1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Since Christ died was buried and resurrected we too can one day be resurrected to eternal life if we believe this Gospel message, repent of our sins and live a life of faith in Jesus Christ.

Should we have female Bishops? November 28, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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One of the great controversies affecting the Anglican Church today is the issue of whether or not female bishops should be appointed in the church. Recent proposals supporting this was put to a vote at the General Synod but was voted down not by the clergy, interestingly enough, but rather by the laity. The surprising thing is not that this was voted against by the laity, creating as some say a dilemma for the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, but rather it is the huge media focus that has been drawn, which has turned the subject into a political debate, with the Prime Minister David Cameron, no less, wading into the debate. Likewise many non-Christians have jumped unto the bandwagon to vent criticism at the Church expressing the view that it needs to change to reflect the changing times. In their view the church should embrace the principles of equality and appoint female bishops alongside men. The overarching question here though is whether the Christian faith should conform to the attitudes and views of society or whether this should be the other way around. It is not surprising of course that non-Christians should be advocating to make changes within church particularly from the standpoint that it is seen as a registered body who’s ministers and bishops are employees. Within this construct the argument can be levied that the church as a recruiting body should comply with the equality laws of the state.

The main point that non-Christians are missing however is that the church is not and should not be equated with other social organisations whose directives are handed down by their supervisory bodies or by the state in terms of function and governance. Indeed the church as with any members of society must observe the laws of the state but the church is subjected to a Higher Authority on ecclesiastical and doctrinal matters and that Authority is God’s Word. The state should therefore not interfere with this authority otherwise the church will cease to be a church.

So what is the position of the Word of God on the matter of female bishops? The qualifications of a Bishop is defined in 1 Tim 3 as follows:

1This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)</strong> 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. [Emphasis Added]

We see from the verses of scripture here that such an office does NOT extend to women. Some will say here that these are sexist and outmoded views but if we are the church then the church should be standing on the word of God however uncomfortable the truth makes us feel. We need to be uncompromising on the Word of God and that is why I say well done to the laity for voting against the proposals to allow women to become bishops.

Does the Bible contain contradictions? October 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Sometimes in spreading the Word of God it is necessary to ask some of the hard questions that many Christians might not want to touch. The title of this post is just one example which I felt moved to devote attention to given previous discussions on other topics here. The importance of the question resides in the fact that many people have rejected the Bible and consequently the gospel on the basis that the Bible contains contradictions. Some say 101 contradictions to be exact. I first encountered this supposed 101 contradictions in the Bible during a discussion with a Muslim colleague about faith some 10 years ago. How can you share your faith with someone who has already made up their mind as they are convinced that the Bible contains 101 contradictions? What is even more striking is that some Christians are prepared to accept that there are contradictions in the Bible? Does this position not undermine the faith and provides ammunition to those who seek to refute the Bible’s claims? So what do you think? Does the Bible really contain contradictions and if so what are the examples?

I thought I would freshen up this post by stating my personal view on the subject matter. Personally I do not believe that the scriptures are contradictory. However, people’s interpretation may very well render the scriptures contradictory but this is not a fault of the scriptures themselves but a fault with the interpreter. When we neglect to apply proper exegisis and discernment then this will very well lead to contradictions being reflected upon the text of scripture. The Bible says that every scripture is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16) and that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) so there can therefore be no contradictions in the scriptures. The unbelieving and those who have a vested interest in destroying Christianity will continue to argue however that the scriptures are contradictory even without substantiating their claim with any proof. If we are to proclaim the gospel effectively therefore then we must be prepared to challenge headon any arguments which seeks to pervert the Christian faith by declaring that the scriptures are contradictory. This is a very important area in contending for the Christain faith (Jud 1:3) though some may very well argue that this topic by it’s nature is divisive and should not be open to public discussion.

Compromising the Gospel May 25, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Many Christians may get offended when I highlight the disparities between the church I see today and the church that was evident in scriptures. Personally I do not care if anyone gets offended but the truth of the Word should be proclaimed with all boldness and without fear or favour. Today we have too many watered down churches preaching a seeker sensitive, “cuddly feely” gospel instead of the unadulterated Gospel. Some will argue that I am dividing the church with such pronouncements but I have news for anyone who thinks that. The truth is that scripture declares that the wheat and the tares shall grow together until the time of the harvest so a division is already there. What we must never do is to compromise the gospel because we do not want to offend those sitting in the pews because they may leave. So what? Let them leave if they want for Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered in His name He will be there to bless. One wonders however if money is the driving force behind the “dumbing-down” of the gospel to ensure that church attendance is kept up which in turn will ensure that the finances are secure.

 

Today there are many people occupying our pulpits and profiteering from the gospel. They teach all manner of false doctrines just to get their congregation to part with their money. Such so-called ministers will often boast of their opulent wealth – with their mansions and private Lear Jets to boot – even to their very own undiscerning congregations who follow after these blind guides mainly because they tell them what they want to hear. This is not surprising however because the scriptures say that, “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet 2:3). The sad truth about it however is that even when you show that such minister are in error their members will come out and defend them staunchly instead of doing the Berean thing and examine the scriptures to see if what these men and women proclaim is true.

 

There are various brands of Christianity, or “Churchianity” to put it more correctly, today with each declaring that they have the true gospel. The naïve and the simple-minded will however declare that all churches are the same despite not understanding that there is a gulf of difference between the various versions of what they claim is the truth. Perhaps the god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth such that they are not able to glean the fact that there is only one truth and that two or more contrary positions cannot all be truth at the same time. It is not only the preachers therefore who are compromising the gospel but the hearers also when they neglect to “test every spirit” and study the scriptures as the Bereans did when they heard Paul’s message.

 

Many people in the churches are being destroyed through lack of knowledge of the Living God. In many cases a different Jesus is being preached to them and consequently they believe in a different god from the God of the Bible. But how can they believe the true gospel which they have not heard, or how can they believe in God whom they have not known? Consequently many are lost even though they are in church. In order to know God we need to first know who the true Jesus is for it is He who declares the Father. Encouraging or admonishing someone to believe God, and trust in His saving Grace is futile if they do not know the One True God. They need to know God for themselves first before they can trust in Him.

Bearing one another’s burdens May 21, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)

 

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matt 5:7)

 

A number of years ago I was faced with a situation where a sister from another church, someone I worked with at the time, needed financial assistance. I asked the sister if she would not approach her church for assistance. She said that whilst there was a welfare office in the church she did not feel comfortable approaching it for assistance because of how she would appear to her fellow church members and she felt she would be stigmatised.  The question I would like to raise is why should church members that are in difficulty and in need feel uncomfortable to approach their church for help? Could it be because the church today, unlike the early church, does not foster a culture of sharing and caring for one another within their congregation?

 

The church today is not short of teachings and admonitions to “give generously” or “give sacrificially” but what exactly is the church being asked to give to? What I do not witness is admonitions to the church members to give to those around them who are in need. When was the last time you heard a sermon on giving to the poor and the needy? In fact when asked, some preachers tell their members that they cannot give their tithes to other causes aside from the church but that “the whole tithe” must be brought into the “storehouse” – the church building. Has the church stopped teaching the law and commandments of Jesus Christ? It is a mistake to think that we are fulfilling the law of Christ in giving to the church (the administrative structure), which will in turn give some of the takings to a charity. Jesus said in Luke 6:30 “give to everyone who ask you” and He is speaking to individuals here. But what the church mainly teach today is to give to “the work of the church” whether it be the local church or ones in distant lands appealing for funds on TV. They encourage you to “prayerfully consider partnering” with them but never do they teach the church to fulfil the law of Christ in bearing each other’s burdens. How can we declare then that we are the called of Christ yet we do not fulfil His law by helping one another? Does this not undermine our credibility? The problem with giving to the church in tithes and offerings is that one may easily get into a mindset where they feel that they have done their duty already (in “giving to God”) and therefore the portion of their income which remains is theirs and they can’t afford to give away anymore. Many may therefore be ignoring Christ’s commands to give to everyone who asks of them, because in line with what they have been taught it is up to the church to distribute to those in need. Sometimes I do wonder however if it is the case that people do not really believe we need to observe Christ’s teachings to the full. Did Christ not say that we should not only be hearers of the word but doers of the word? Have we become like the Pharisees who, instead of honouring their fathers and mothers instead say that whatever help they would otherwise give them is a gift devoted to God (Matt 15:4-5)? Perhaps it should be said that we cannot be doers of the word if it is not being preached to us and we are not hearing it.

 

Many people today pay their tithes not necessarily because they believe they are fulfilling God’s will but because they have been led to believe that this is the way to access the blessings of God. But Christ says, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. We need to show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ but not only they for we are also called to love our neighbour as ourselves. Paul in Gal 6:10 also encourage us to do good unto ALL men. What surprises me therefore is how little emphasis is placed on such teachings today and even the world is showing us a better example today. To cite an example, the Evening Standard newspaper ran a campaign over the last few years to highlight the extent of poverty that many people are faced with here in Britain but more in London. They found that more than half of children in London lived below the poverty line. Despite the fact that Britainis a very rich developed country there are still a lot of people in abject poverty but it is usually not visible to most of us. I am sure that a lot of these poor people do go to church too. What are our churches doing to alleviate the plight of these poor? One church body in the UK reported total income from parishes to over £800 million in 2009. This church’s expenditure however amounted to almost the figure that was raised with only £50 million going to charitable causes. There are established churches in the UK that own and control vast wealth, namely in property and other assets yet people are still suffering in poverty. To cite another example from Greece, the Telegraph newspaper reported that the church have amassed wealth of over £700 billion Euros and this amounts to twice the national debt (1).

 

How can the church retain such vast wealth whilst people the world over are living in extreme poverty? Surely the church should be doing more in terms of giving away most of what they collect to those in need instead of hoarding it. The church members themselves are also guilty of helping to maintain this status quo by mindlessly giving their money to churches that hoard it, instead of heeding the scriptures in bearing each other’s burdens. What will the church do with such wealth on judgement day when Jesus Christ shall put in His appearance? This is the question that every church body that stores wealth should be considering very seriously.

 

(1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8790126/Wealth-of-churches-vs-the-wealth-of-people.html

The Law of Christ March 16, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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One of the things I have come to realise when engaging with other Christians is that they sometimes do not know with absolute certainty whether we are to follow or observe everything that the Bible teaches or not. If you are unsure about this matter then chances are you are also unsure about the Gospel.

All scriptures are profitable for doctrine and for reproof but likewise all scriptures should be read and taken in context. The truth is that one can take the very words of the Bible and deceive you with it and this is because not everything in it is required of the Christian to observe. For example, under the Mosaic Law an eye for an eye was endorsed. Should we as Christians today practice recompensing evil for evil? Absolutely not! But we look instead at what Christ says – He says for example, “love your enemies”; “do good to them that hate you”; bless them that persecute you and despitefully use you”; and so forth. So it is clear that we are not required to follow all that the Bible teaches otherwise we would be in confusion. Some teachers however, when they are teaching on a particular subject, like to place their words under the banner of, “The Bible Teaches” to give weight to their claims. As a result they are able to weave together teachings from both the Old and New Testaments (Covenants) under the same heading but this can result in deception if one is not careful. So then if we are not required to follow everything the Bible taught does this mean that God has changed, though scripture declares He changes not? No, but rather God purposed to change the law which He first instituted in Israel (Jer 31:31-33, Heb 8:8-11). The law was merely a shadow of what God had before ordained even from the beginning of time.

Today, and since the days of the early church, God’s law is no longer written upon tablets of stones but rather it is now written upon a believer’s heart. We must understand the point that the previous covenant was made with Israel alone and therefore those who were outside of the commonwealth of Israel could not benefit from it. God changed the law however so that we who were outside, cut off without a hope, can now be engrafted with Israel to inherit salvation (Rom 11:17). This is the reason why the law has changed and the Levitical priesthood made defunct. Christ’s priesthood now replaces the old priesthood and consequently the change in the priesthood necessitated a change in the law (Heb 7:12). So what is this new law in Christ? Here it is in black and white:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (Joh 13:34) KJV

Can it really be that simple? If you are still not convinced have a look at the following verses:

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. (Gal 5:14, also Matt 7:12) NIV

Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:10, also Jam 2:8) NIV

By the grace of God we have been set free through faith in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:20-24). We do not need to attempt to observe a single work of the law – not tithing, not first fruit giving, no sacrifices, offerings, circumcision, feast days, holy days – none of them. To attempt to do so is to fall from grace (Gal 5:4). Friends, know the truth and the truth shall set you free (Joh 8:32).

Tithing Not a Matter of Salvation! Is that so? March 13, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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There are those who consider extensive attention to the subject of tithing as a waste of time because it will not have any bearing on salvation. This may be true but may also be false depending on where you stand. Indeed there are some preachers who teach the church that they will NOT go to heaven if they don’t tithe. So what is the answer then – does tithing have a bearing on our salvation or not? This is the question I hope to explore in this blog entry.

I have already presented a number of articles on the subject of tithing under the Tithing category so I do not wish to reproduce what I already said in those entries here. The purpose of those posts was to scripturally establish the truth about tithing. However, there is an overarching point of those posts that many reading who simply read on the surface often miss. The point of those posts isn’t to divide people into camps of “anti-tithers” vs “pro-tithers” – I am NOT overtly concerned with how much one chooses to give to their church or the work of ministry. The overarching question however is this: Which gospel have you received and which Jesus have you had preached to you? Is it the gospel that says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us… (Gal 3:13)” OR is it the gospel that says you have not been redeemed from the curse of the law and you are required to continue to observe it?” After all, if we continue to preach that one MUST observe tithing are we not saying that one is still under the law? If one is still under the law are we not saying that Jesus did not die for the sins of the world? Can one not see that tithing when preached in this way can cause us to be caught betwixt two places – being that we are either redeemed from the curse of the law or if we are not redeemed then must we continue to do the works of the law?

In speaking to the Galatians, Paul admonished them to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1). The yoke of bondage here that Paul speaks of is the law. Lets look at what else Paul had to say about this in the following verses of Gal 5:

2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Gal 5:2-9)

We could substitute the word “circumcised” here for “tithing” and it would have the same meaning. In other words, if we seek to observe the tithing law (one part of the law), Christ will profit us nothing for if we tithe according to the law we have become a debtor to the whole law (meaning that we owe it to ourselves and to God to observe the whole law); as a result we have fallen from grace. Is this now not a matter of salvation? For if you have fallen from grace then you shall perish. Looking at verse 9 we note Paul’s warning that a “little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” What this means is that this false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole dough.

In Gal 5:8 we read that this persuasion to observe a part of the law, circumcision in this case, does not come from Him (God in Christ) that calls you. In like fashion the persuasion to observe the tithe law does not come from God in Christ who calls us today to receive the free gift of salvation. It is interesting to note that this teaching of observing the tithe law (leaven) has now permeated the gospel and consequently the world wide church. With this “small” error creeping in, this has paved the way for other observances of the law such as first fruit giving, honouring holy days such has the Day of Atonement etc., to creep in also. One of the reasons why such teachings come about is because there are those who misunderstand what Christ said in Matt 5:17, that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfil them. Christ fulfilled the law when He declared on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30). Because Christ fulfilled the law, He established a new covenant in His blood so that we can now attain salvation by Grace through faith and not through the works of the law (Eph 2:8-10; Gal 2:16, 21; Gal 3:3).

Let me reiterate here what I have always said in the previous posts on tithing, there is nothing inherently wrong in volunteering 10 percent of your income to the work of ministry if this is what you have decided in your own heart. However, if you seek to observe the tithe law you are fallen from grace. Anyone who teach that one must observe the tithing law is preaching another gospel, and if another gospel another Jesus thus perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal 1:6-9).

On the basis of the scriptural evidence presented therefore it is clear that tithing is in fact a matter which pertains to salvation if it pertains to the observance of the law – the yoke of bondage which Christ has set us free from by His own blood. I will end with the following question that Paul posed to the Galatians:

3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:3)

Pure Religion and undefiled March 6, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (Jam 1:27) KJV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (NIV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (NLT)

Recently I have written a series of posts addressing “tithing” (amongst other things) and this started with the post “Unravelling the tithing dilemma”. Some reading this blog may think that my sole focus has simply been on “tithing” and may even think I sound like a broken record repeating myself but there is a central theme and purpose to each post and in this post I aim to tie up all that I previously stated. Hopefully the point of all these posts may therefore come to the fore through reading this post.

I opened this post with a quote from James 1:27 as this sits at the heart of the tithing equation today and which sits at the very heart of our Gospel. The two other translations I gave, more fully expresses what the KJV version intended to say. What sits at the heart of the tithing equation therefore is the question of what is acceptable religion before God?

 Under the Old Covenant Israel was called to give a tithe of the produce of the Promised Land to the Levites, the poor, the fatherless, the widows who were all in NEED that they may eat and be satisfied (Deut 14:29). Today the church seeks to recapture the practice of collecting a tithe but what does the church do with it? In contrast to ancient Israel where the tithe went to meet immediate and pressing needs, today we use the tithe to maintain lofty and expensive church buildings and pay a salary to the priests or pastors (and perhaps the organist). Today we talk about giving to God, and equate our giving to maintaining these structures as giving to God (this is seen as furthering the Gospel). Yet in the early church giving to God was tantamount to meeting the needs of the poor, the fatherless and the widows. If the tithe is God’s then let us start giving it to God via the poor and stop talking about it. In Matt 25:35-46 we see Jesus saying that if we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked etc we have done it to Him but if we did none of those things we did not do it to Him. There are those who will argue of course that when we give money to church that the church will in turn use some of this money to send missionaries abroad and to give to the poor and other charitable causes. In my experiences, some churches remit a portion of the takings to the umbrella body and this may help to support missionaries in the field. However, for others the main church takings (tithes and offerings) are normally treated as sacrosanct – by this I mean that most of it is used up on the administrative overheads (including salaries) and the rest kept in a bank account but very little or none of it goes to meet the needs of the poor. Instead, after the main tithes and offerings are collected we are then asked to “dig deep” into our pockets for extra funds or “love offerings” that will go to missions and fund charitable works. This was not so in the early church however. Do we for a minute think that God is pleased with great and grand buildings we have elevated in His name, and maintain with vast sums of money year by year, whilst millions of people throughout the world go hungry each day? Perhaps the church cannot solve the poverty problem across the world but we can certainly do more even in our immediate communities.

In the early church all of the church takings were redistributed to meeting the needs of the whole church, including the elders who ministered over the church. This is aptly demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. What a contrast to today’s church where the poor and the needy who come in go home empty-handed with the promise that God will bless them if they tithe faithfully even if they have to borrow to pay that tithe (as in the example of some churches)? The early church did not consider their possessions as their own but had all things in common – and they laid what they had to give at the apostles’ feet who in turn redistributed so that no one lacked. Other examples of this practice are evidenced in 2 Cor 8:12-15 and 2 Cor 9:1-8 where Paul collected gifts from other churches to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The early church was acting out the very commands/teachings that Jesus Christ imparted to us such as in Matt 19:21 where He instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it to the poor. We also see another example in Luke 16:9 where Christ says we should make to ourselves friends with the mammon (worldly wealth) of unrighteousness. In meeting the needs of the general poor we are also encouraged to give to the elders, especially those who minister in the word and doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).

 Today we have reassigned the purpose of the tithe (not that we are under the Law), as the principle of it as demonstrated under the Law is not borne out in how we utilise it in the church today. In contrast to the early church also, faithful stewardship is now exemplified by our giving of tithes and offerings to God to maintain lavish buildings and large administrative budgets in the place of directly redistributing the funds to meet the needs of the poor. Is our religion as practiced in this way by the church today acceptable to God when pure religion and undefiled, which God accepts is defined in scripture as caring for the fatherless and the widows and keeping oneself spotless from the world?

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Giving to God in the New Testament Age March 2, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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There are many preachers and teachers today who teach “giving to God” from an Old Testament perspective. The term “giving to God” is usually defined as giving to support the work of your local church. In this sense giving to God in this New Covenant age is equated with or synonymous to the practice in ancient Israel of bringing your offerings to the house of God, which was embodied in the Tabernacle and later, the Temple. Such teachings therefore will often draw one’s attention to scriptures pertaining to tithes and first-fruit offerings. One may often hear the refrain “honour the Lord with the first fruits of your increase” and “the tithe belongs to God” ringing out from the pulpits or blaring from Christian Broadcasting channels.  The question that needs to be considered however is why should the church seek principles of giving to God today from the Old Covenant? This question will be explored more fully in the rest of this article.

The purpose of the Old Covenant was to point us to Christ, being a shadow of the things to come (Ga 3:24, Heb 10:1, Col 2:17). Christ however has now fulfilled the Law and has changed the Law through His sacrifice on the cross. In so doing Christ has established a new priesthood as per the following verses from Heb 7:

11If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. (NIV)

We see here that it was on the basis of the Levitical priesthood that the law was given to Israel but because it was not perfect it was replaced by the priesthood of Christ, whose priesthood is similar to that of Melchizedek. This point is most important to understanding our relationship with Christ in the New Covenant. Because there is therefore a change in the priesthood there is also a need for a change in the Law. A change in the Law brought about a change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. There are many in the church today who argue out of ignorance that Jesus said (in Matt 5:17) He did not come to abolish the Law (or the prophets) but to fulfill them. So what then? Do we have two covenants (two laws) running concurrently? God forbid, but rather the Old Covenant has been fulfilled and subsequently changed by Christ to the New Covenant through His death and resurrection (Jer 31:31, Heb 8:8, 2 Cor 3:6), being made a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Furthermore Heb 8:13 tells us that the old covenant decays and now vanishes away. The important point to note is that if the Levitical law is still intact today then the priesthood of the Levites (the Aaronic priesthood) would still be intact also.

The question might be asked here that if Christ’s priesthood is similar to Melchizedek’s and the latter received tithes from Abraham then so too Christ should also receive tithes. It should be noted however that similarities of Christ’s priesthood to that of Melchizedek’s relates only to the fact that their priesthoods were not based on a regulation (or law) as to their ancestry as compared to the Aaronic priesthood (Heb 7:14-16).It should be pointed out here also that whilst the law gave a commandment to those of the Levite priesthood (Heb 7:5) to collect a tithe of the people (their brethren) such a command does not derive from the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Why then should be attribute the Levitical command to the priesthood fo Christ?

One of the surest signs that God intended to do away with the old temple system is evidenced by the renting of the veil when Christ was crucified (Matt 27:51). This pivotal moment signified that Christ entered the Holy Place once for all to obtain eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). The final end of the Levitical system was to culminate in the destruction of the Temple which Jesus foretold in Matt 24:1-2 (also Dan 9:26). History bears out that this event occurred in 70 A.D. when the Roman general, Titus Vespasian, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the City and the Sanctuary. With the Levitical system now defunct we now have a High Priest in Christ Jesus who advocates for us and God’s temple now constitute the body of believers which is called the Church (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 6:16) in which everyone is a priest (1 Pet 2:5), not the church buildings themselves.

Attention will now be turned to the question I raised earlier concerning, “why should the church seek principles of giving to God today from the Old Covenant?” I would suggest here that perhaps the main reason for this is because the church building today is treated as somehow synonymous with the ancient temple and likewise those who minister in the affairs of the church are treated as somewhat synonymous with the Priests and Levites under the old temple structure. Indeed when one is admonished to tithe today they are led to believe that the local church now represents the storehouse of God as in Malachi’s day (Mal 3:10). This of course presents a dichotomy in that as I have demonstrated earlier, Christ priesthood is of a different order than that of the Levitical priesthood and consequently the changing of the priesthood necessitated a change in the law. To therefore attribute the law of the Levitical priesthood to Christ’s priesthood is fallacy of the highest order. Jesus Christ did not abolish the old temple structure to again replicate it within the church and this was not so in the early church. What then is the motivation for church leaders today to instruct giving from the Old Covenant instructions? One clear reason for that is, unlike with the old covenant, there is a clear absence of specific commands to the church to “give to God” under the New Covenant. Certainly there is no command in the new covenant to give tithes or first fruits offerings for that matter – the law has changed. It seems therefore it is more appealing to revert to the Old Covenant commands because they are clear and direct with the added emphasis that after all, these are the commandments of the Lord (though not commands to the church).

Within the New Testament one is constantly encouraged to give to the poor and the needy, not only to fellow believers who were in need but also to non-believers as well. What drives the motivation for giving in the new covenant is love out of a pure heart with no expectation of an earthly reward in return and this was aptly demonstrated by the early church in Acts 2, Acts 4 and 2 Cor 8 and 9. On the contrary some of the old covenant instructions which underpinned giving were attached with promises of earthly blessings, Mal 3:10 being a classic example with the promises of the “windows of heaven” blessings. Since the tithe and first fruits therefore went “to God” via the Levites and priests, one is led to believe today that they are likewise giving to God by donating to what is now seen as constituting the storehouse (the local church). Today, giving out of love to meet necessities has been replaced by the old covenant enticement to give because of the promises of blessings attached to it. In this case you are admonished to give not because you are meeting necessities but simply out of a perceived “obedience to God” – the type of obedience that incidentally is not borne out in the New Testament. It is interesting to note that even in our modern society one cannot benefit from the laws of the State that have been annulled yet we are somehow led to believe that we can still benefit from God’s law that Jesus Christ has nullified. 

It is not surprising that the current status quo in the church has come about. The evolution of the church has seen it emerge into a system with vast administrative structures, diverse programmes and large and costly buildings. These developments have created a need for considerable financial support from church members in order to maintain them and consequently there is therefore a need for structured giving to guarantee the finances to safeguard these institutions. Since there are no examples of structured giving in the New Covenant, what better way to institute structured giving in the church than to draw examples from the Old Covenant in the form of tithes and to a lesser extent first fruits offerings, without discounting freewill offerings as well?

What we are seeing today in the church concerning giving was not practiced in the early church but it would seem that the church has come full circle in attempting to replicate at least some of the Old Covenant within the New – what constitutes an illegitimate marriage. The weight of evidence from scripture however clearly shows that it is completely wrong to impose Old Testament standards upon the New Testament not only in the area of giving (to God) but in every aspect of Christian worship. The Priesthood of Christ postdates the Levitical priesthood and as such the old law has changed to a new one. Do we continue therefore to propagate the error in which we have now found ourselves? The challenge for the church today is to radically rethink how we “do church” in order that we may correctly align ourselves with the new law in Christ.

In tithes we trust February 13, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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The modern church has come to be reliant upon “tithes and offerings” which are regarded as essential to financing the Gospel. Proponents of the tithe in particular have claimed that God purposed for the tithe to be used to finance the Gospel, i.e., the church structure/organisation. In this regard it is argued that Jesus Christ never abolished the tithe, and to support the arguments scriptures are cited which suggest that tithing was before the Law. Whatever the arguments though, “tithes and offerings” are the mainstay of most churches in Christendom today and forms the main source of income to meet the various needs of the church.

 

The question should be asked however as to whether tithing (in particular) meets the standard of New Testament giving. The term “tithing” here is used rather loosely to refer to the practice of giving 10 percent of one’s income to the local church. It should be pointed out therefore that though this modern form of tithing is not identical to the biblical practice it is usually the case that scriptures which pertains solely to the Law (the Old Covenant) are used to support the practice in the church today. So where exactly are we? Are we still under the Law or has the Law been set aside or perhaps we are partially still under the Law?

 

Perhaps the most overused scripture in “enforcing” tithing in the church is Mal 3:8-12. This portion of scripture appears to have the most currency because it drives fear in a believer’s heart in that they are robbing God if they do not give a tenth of their income and consequently they will be cursed as God will not rebuke the devourer. Of course none of us would like to be considered as robbing God and we certainly would want to escape from any curses imposed by God. One of the main justifications for tithing therefore is that the tither either believes or is lead to believe that they are insuring against this dreaded curse and are also “investing” for future blessings when they tithe. The fact that the church has to rely on this biblical injunction to raise funds demonstrates two things. Firstly, it demonstrates that the church has failed to recognised that the injunction in Mal 3:8-12 was not given to the Church but was said at a time when Israel was still under the Law and that since Christ fulfilled the Law it is no longer in force. Secondly, it demonstrates that both the church leadership and the followership have misplaced their faith by trusting in the tithe instead of putting their trust in God who is the source of all blessings. The church leadership demonstrate a lack of faith when they have to resort to using the Law to “encourage” giving in the New Testament age. Likewise the followership also demonstrates a lack of faith by putting their trust in the tithe as their insurance policy rather than to trust solely in God.

 

Under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood we are called to walk by faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11) and as such giving is an act of faith (Jam 2:14-18). Tithing however, contrary to what some have believed, is not an act of faith but an instruction or commandment given under the Law. Furthermore, attempting to “prove God” by tithing as a result of the enticement of “the windows of heaven” blessings again is not an act of faith. If God will bless us because of our contributions to the church then all we need to do is take Him at His words. It is for this reason that Mal 3:8-12 should not be used to stir a believer’s conscience in donating money to the local church. It is important to note here that before faith came the Law was in force (Gal 3:23) and the Law therefore acted as a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24). Furthermore Paul tells us in Gal 3:12 that the Law is not based on faith. Injunctions such as Mal 3:8-12 therefore demonstrates the nature of the Law in its capacity as a schoolmaster – it emphasizes the benefits (merits) if you obey and the punishments (demerits) if you do not. Does this injunction typify our new position in Christ? Is this a demonstration of how faith works in the current church age? Are we as foolish as the Galatians in thinking that we are justified by obeying the tithing Law?

 

Whilst the income generated from “tithing” (of one’s income) may serve a useful purpose in contributing to the spread of the Gospel, the ends do not justify the means. According to James 2:10, if we seek to observe the Law but fail in on one point we are guilty of the whole Law. If we then are guilty of the Law then are we under a curse. But thankfully Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law having been made a curse for us (Gal 3:13). The very curse therefore referred to in Mal 3:8-12 is the same curse that Christ hath redeemed us from. Why then do ministers continue to use Mal 3:8-12 to convict their church members to tithe of their income? Are they so fearful that if they do not instruct tithing that they won’t have any money to finance the church and are the members so lacking in faith that they can’t give unless they are faced with threats?

 

It is interesting to note that there are many church goers who help to propagate the myth that “tithing works”. By this they mean that when they pay their tithes they are blessed as this is usually followed by promotions at work, salary increases, unexpected gifts of money and general stability in their finances. On the reverse some claim that when they do not tithe all sorts of problems befall them so from this standpoint alone many put their trust in tithing to ward against the evil devourer that seeks to upset their finances. The simple truth however is that whether you tithe or don’t tithe you will have problems in your life including your finances. The Psalmist understood this fact only too well when he declared: Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all (Ps 34:19). Jesus also tells us in John 16:33 that we shall have many trials and sorrows in this world and Paul declared that through much tribulation must we enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). If you purpose in your heart to give 10 percent of your income to your church that is fine. However, tithing is not an insurance policy against the evil day and the church should not teach tithing as if this is the case. You should instead put your faith and your trust in God alone who is able to help you to overcome all the challenges in this life.

I am not against tithing January 9, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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I am putting this post out to clarify my position on tithing. The reason for doing so is that “pro-tithers” (if you can call them that) will often misinterpret and misrepresent what others who don’t share their view says in opposition of tithing. As such anyone who says that tithing is not biblically binding upon the New Testament church are often considered anti-tithers. I am however NOT an anti-tither. This might sound confusing to some who read my posts because they may ask, “if you are not against tithing then why do you write so many posts attacking tithing?” However I will demonstrate in this post why I am not attacking tithing and why I am not against tithing at all.

What is tithing?

For most people in the New Testament church tithing is separating 10% of your income/earnings (indeed 10% of all you receive whether regular or unexpected) and giving it to God via the local church. It is believed by many that this portion belongs to God as this is what God commands or demands. This view is largely based upon the Law of Moses. Support for this practice is also drawn from Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek in Gen 14, where he gave the Priest a tithe of all the spoils he recovered in battle to rescue Lot, and to a lesser extent Jacob’s vow to give a tithe to God of all God gave him.

Let me state categorically here that I am not against anyone giving 10% of their income to their church and neither do I wish for anyone to stop giving their 10% to their church. However 10% of ones income given to the church should NOT be confused with the tithe that God required of Israel. So what exactly was the tithe that God required? The following verses tell us clearly what these were:

Lev 27

30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD. 31And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

Now some will argue here that they tithe food and animals because money was not available and that people at that time were engaged in the practice of barter. This of course is not true because money was mentioned as far back as Gen 17:12 and occurs at least 9 other times in the book of Genesis. As a matter of fact verse 31 of Leviticus where it speaks of redeeming the tithes, this was a reference to buying back part of the tithes with money as the NLT translation more clearly shows:

If you want to buy back the LORD’s tenth of the grain or fruit, you must pay its value, plus 20 percent. Lev 27:31

 

What we note from these verses is that although it was possible to convert (or buy back) some of the tithes with money (plus 20% mind you), God did not command Israel to tithe money specifically but only produce of the Land.

 

If this is not sufficient evidence that money was readily available, we also find in Deut 14:24-25 where the tithing law was more clearly outlined also mentions money – here the Lord commanded that if the way was too far so that the tither wasn’t able to carry the tithe (to the place where the Lord chose to place His name), he should convert it to money and take it and buy whatever his heart desired. What Deut 14 also shows is that tithing was not only about giving (i.e. to the Levites and the poor etc) it was also about the tither eating their tithes before the Lord and only the third year tithe was given to the Levites etc.

 

Was the temple financed through the tithe?

In the previous section I attempted to define what the tithe under the Law constituted and it was clearly nothing to do with income or money. Here is a puzzling thought though. If only produce of the land were to be given as a tithe then were people not engaged with agriculture exempt from tithing? The simple answer to that question is yes! We have to remember here that whilst the Land was given to Israel as a nation the Levite tribe (from which the priests would come) did not get any portion of it. The tithe OF THE LAND was therefore given to the Levites to inherit [(Num 18:24, 26). The Levites in turn gave a tithe of all the tithes to the priests [(Num 18:28) Note they also received first fruit offerings and such as well which I will not go into as this topic is focused on tithing].

Having considered the foregoing therefore several questions might be raised. If only food was tithe to the Levites and Priests how was the tabernacle or the temple supported and how were the other needs of the Levites met such as for clothing, household things etc? Did they therefore sell some of the tithe to get money to fund their other living costs and the temple costs? Scripture does not tell us that any of the tithe was to be sold in this way. Rather, the purpose of the tithe was to provide food for the Levites (and the Priests) and there is no indication that any other expenses were to be derived from it as we see here:

12When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Deut 26

Mal 3:10 also demonstrates that the purpose of the tithe was so that there would be food in God’s house. Here is where “pro-tithers” argue that produce cannot pay for the needs of the church. The point needs to be stressed here though that unlike the church today the tithe was eaten and not used as a means of funding the temple. The point needs to be highlighted here also that the storehouse in Malachi’s day was NOT the temple itself so equating the church to the ancient storehouse is somewhat silly. The storehouse was where the food was kept and certain Levites acted as treasurer over the storehouse.

Where then did the money come from to meet the expenses of God’s house in ancient Israel if it did not come from the tithes (of produce of the Land)? And how were the expenses of the Priests and Levites met?

Firstly, we note from Num 35:1-4 that the Levites had possessions of goods, cattle and beasts and they were given cities to dwell in when they entered the Land and suburbs around their cities to hold their animals. Note also from Lev 25:32 that the Levites could sell their houses for money at anytime.

In contrast to the view that the tithes are used to fund the expenses of the church, money (not food) was collected separately by the priests and Levites from all Israel annually to maintain the temple (see 2 Chron 24:5, Neh 10:32). There was also other freewill giving of money to the house of God as seen in 2 King 12:4.

Aside from the tithe of produce the priests received money as a type of poll tax on the first-born of Israel(Num 3:45-51). They also collected money for the atonement of sins demonstrated in Exo 30:16, and which was used for the service of the tabernacle. In 2 Kings 12:16 the priests received the sin and trespass money which was not brought to the house of the Lord but belonged to the priests.

One of the clearest passages of scripture which demonstrates that the tithe was nothing other than food can be found in Neh 10. In this chapter we see in verse 34 where wood for example, was given as an offering but it was not included in the tithes. In verse 32 we also note they contributed money annually for the service of the temple and again this was separate from the tithes which we come to realise when we get to verses 37 and 38. Here we note that the tithes were collected from the agricultural cities (cities of the tillage) only thus confirming what I said earlier that only food producers were required to tithe and that the tithe was never money. To add to that, what we notice from the New Testament scriptures is that the practice of tithing produce existed up to Jesus’ time as the Pharisees tithe herbs of mint, dill and cumin (Matt 23:23). This was clearly the practice of tithing and money was given separately to the temple treasury as we see in Mark 12:41. It is noteworthy to mention here that those who argue that Jesus did not abolish tithing, citing Matt 23:23, by the same logic refuses to acknowledge that the tithe was not money or the equivalent of earnings but food produce from food producers only. If Jesus did not change the tithe law then the tithe remains a tenth part of produce only from food producers. This point however is lost on “pro-tithers”. We note from Luke 16:14 that the Pharisees loved money yet Jesus did not rebuke them for tithing herbs instead of money and this is because under the law only produce could be tithed. It should be noted here also that people who were engaged with other professions but who also tilled the land on the side were also required to tithe of the produce of the ground. They did not however tithe of their income from their profession.

Who changed God’s Law to require a tithe of income from all Christians? By this misinterpretation of the Law all Israel would have been required to tithe yet that is not what scripture teaches.  

To recap

There are a great number of misconceptions concerning the tithe and as the debate rages on the misconceptions proliferate. In this article I have merely addressed a few of them. However, I think that if we start from the position that the biblical tithe that God commanded had nothing to do with income nor had it anything to do with money or finances then we would be well on our way to resolving all the various disputes. I believe I have demonstrated why tithing is not something done in the New Testament church. Giving 10% of ones income to the church is not equivalent to the Mosaic tithe and therefore the tithing Law should not be used to support this practice in the church. I am not against anyone freely giving 10% of their income to their church if they so wish but this is not an observance of the biblical tithe, nor could it ever be. I pray that people would learn the truth about tithing and be set free of bondage.

The trial of Pastor Jones January 5, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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I came across the following mock trial of a pastor who taught tithing in error to his church for years (although I must confess that I had seen it several years before). I find it very insightful as it addresses all the issues surrounding the legalistic approach to tithing in the church today. There is one thing that really stuck out for me however and it is the following quote from the judge’s response:

 “If your church can not survive on freewill offerings maybe God is not part of your church at all.”

What a profound statement.

The article can be view here: http://www.tithing.christian-things.com/jones.html

Enjoy.

Tithing Confessions January 4, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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One of the bizarre things I have come across about tithing in recent times is dubbed “tithing confessions”. I grew up in churches that mentioned or advocated tithing but I had never heard of the practice of tithing confessions till recently. It would appear that after many years of tithing people are questioning why they are not receiving the promised “windows of heaven blessings” that their pastors promised them. They are no better off after years of tithing and still face the same struggles daily. So it appears that in order to “ease” the discontent and uneasiness someone came up with a “clever idea” that the reason they are not receiving the blessing is because they lack faith and therefore they need to regularly make a “tithing confession”. These confessions are designed to encourage the faithful to hang in there and continue to tithe faithfully believing that if they confess regularly that the blessings will eventually pour forth. A close examination of some of these “confessions” (can be found by googling) will reveal that they are little more than vain babblings by people who are destitute of the truth.

 

The question that one should ask therefore is that if God promises you something why should you need to confess daily or regularly in order to receive it? This to me demonstrates a lack of faith because by faith we take God at His word. We do not test or prove God but rest upon His promises. If we look at Abraham for example, God promised him a son. Do we see in scripture where Abraham confessed daily to receive his son? No! Abraham expressed doubt because of his age and his wife’s age so thought he would help God to fulfil the prophesy by heeding his wife’s encouragement to beget a son by her maid Hagar. Yet following this Abraham was granted the son God had promised him. The thing to note is that when God promises something He will fulfil it according to His sovereign will so all we need to do His wait on Him.

 

We need to examine however whether God promised the church the “windows of heaven blessings” for tithing. It is clear from scripture that Mal 3:10 was a covenant withIsraelandIsraelonly. Paul says that before faith was the Law, hence since faith had not yet come, God instructedIsraelto prove Him by bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse and see if He wouldn’t open the windows of Heaven and pour out the blessing. Those who tithe according to these promises therefore are trying to hijack a covenant and attempting to beholden God to it – a covenant which incidentally has been set aside by God and replaced with a new one. Under the new covenant we have faith therefore we do not seek to prove God. Many are therefore tithing and confessing in vain because they seek after promises that God did not give them. This is why they will never receive the “windows of heaven blessings” as a direct response to their observance of a covenant that God did not make with them.

 

The use of “tithing confessions” is a deceptive doctrine which serves to keep in bondage those who are vainly hoping for things that were never promised to them. God is not man that He should lie. God is not delivering on these promises because He did not promise them to the new covenant church. If He had you would not have been tithing in vain all these years and still left empty-handed. God does not fail on His promises. Wake up church!!

 

Bring the “whole tithe” into the storehouse December 26, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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For supporters of tithing, their favorite verse of scripture is Mal 3:10 in which the command is given to “bring the whole tithe” or by some translations “bring all the tithes” into the storehouse of God. Here the modern storehouse is deemed to be the local church and the “whole tithe” constitutes ten percent gross of all your income in monetary terms (some reckons that ten percent net of taxes is acceptable).

Putting aside the dispute concerning whether or not tithing is for the church today, I want to concentrate on establishing from a biblical standpoint how much the “whole tithe” was comprised of and show that the teaching that the “whole tithe” was ten percent of everything (whether gross or net) is actually a lie – an invention that entered into the church but cannot be found anywhere in the written Word. Let me say here that I do not believe that everyone who teaches tithing is a deceiver. I know that there are many genuine pastors who believe that the church should tithe but rather than having studied the subject themselves I think they are simply relying on what they learnt from seminary and inherited in the churches they pastor. Nevertheless scripture requires that a minister of God studies the Word and handles it correctly as we see here in 2 Tim 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

There are some ministers however who set out deliberately to deceive church members in order to gain wealth such are the ones that even when they are corrected they will ignore it and continue in the error in order to satisfy their gluttonous appetites for money.

Advocates of tithing therefore say that though the Law was abolished it is a “biblical principle” that the church should observe. In this regard they claim that the tithe is equivalent to ten percent gross (or net) of all you earn. But let’s use an illustration to examine if this was the principle that was established under the Mosaic Law.

Illustration (based on the ten percent gross argument)

Let’s say that a farmer in ancient Israel made the equivalent of £10,000 per year from his trade. This means that he would be liable for paying a tithe of £1,000 (10 percent of £10,000) each year.  So after the first 3 years of having entered the Promised Land he would be liable for a tithe of £3,000 (ten percent of £30,000 – total income for 3 years).

According to the ten percent gross argument therefore this is the equivalent amount of tithe that would be owed by the farmer to the storehouse. Can this be supported by scripture though? Let’s examine what the scripture actually says. We should remember here that though Malachi 3 says to “bring the whole tithe” there is no definition of what constituted “the whole tithe” in that passage. To define the “whole tithe” therefore we need to return to the Law of Moses since Malachi was simply re-iterating the requirement of the Law. The tithing instructions are therefore laid out in the books of Deuteronomy and elsewhere in the Old Testament. Let’s see what Deut 14 tells us:

22Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. 24And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 25Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

28At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: 29And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied;

Going back to the illustration earlier what these verses of Deut 14 is telling us is that £2,000, of the total £3000 in “back tithes”, which corresponds to the tithe for the first two years, belongs to the farmer for himself and his household to enjoy before the Lord. This portion did not belong to the storehouse contrary to what pastors are teaching today that the first 10 percent of all your income belongs to God. This was clearly not the principle that was established under the Law. Only the whole tithe from the third year (£1000 as per the illustration) was to be set aside for the Levites and the fartherless etc as we can see from verses 28-29.

It would appear from Deut 14 that tithing to the Levites (or to the storehouse) was done in a three-yearly cycle but that is not the end of it. So let’s explore this a bit further. In Lev 25:1-12 all who tended land (farmers) were commanded to cease from their labor in the seventh year – a year that was to be a Sabbath to God. In this year they were not suppose to dress their vines, sow or gather anything (the harvest). The first thing we note here using the previous illustration is that in 7 years only £2000 was given to the Levites et al and the other £5000 of tithe belonged to the farmer and his household – this he was commanded to eat so that he may learn to fear God. Lev 25:6 tells us clearly who the increase of the land in the 7th year (what grew naturally) belonged to and it was not the Levites (or the storehouse). Similarly in the 50th year, the year of Jubilee,Israel was not supposed to sow, tend vines, or gather anything. This was similar to the Sabbath year.

Although I have used a monetary illustration the point should be emphasized that the tithe was applicable only to those who tended land and therefore it was never expressed in monetary terms. How did we get from the biblical position I have laid out to a doctrine of ten percent gross on all someone’s income?

Financing the Gospel December 21, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Supporters of tithing often make the claim that God intended for the church (i.e., the Gospel) to be financed through the mechanism of the tithe. In establishing this doctrine they cite Old Testament scriptures to support their claim. However, did God really intended for the church to be financed through the tithe? This is the question I hope to answer in this short study.

 The apostle Paul has laid down some clear guidelines on “financing the gospel” that the church should follow. For instance, Paul made the following declaration in 1 Cor 9:

 13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

 

The central question here however is whether tithing was the means by which the Lord ordained those who preached the gospel to live of it? After all, aren’t pastors living of the gospel when they collect their stipend and other forms of remuneration and aren’t they doing so from the tithes and offerings? It should be noted here that some churches teach that the tithe is strictly for the pastor’s enjoyment. So what examples do we glean from scriptures of people who lived of the gospel?

 I believe as the church and the body of Christ, our starting point should always be to look at Christ’s example as after all He is the Chief Shepherd (or Chief Pastor) of His church (1 Pet 5:4). In the early stages of the Gospel going forth, Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to deliver the good news to the lost sheep. Interestingly, Jesus told them not to take money or even a change of clothes or shoes with them yet he assured them that “the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt 10:10). This was the first example shown to us in scripture of people who preached the gospel being fed by it and this was the same principle that Paul alluded to in 1 Cor 9:14 quoted earlier and also in 1 Tim 5:18. After the disciples returned from their travels however, Jesus asked them if they lacked anything whilst they journeyed to preach the message of the Kingdom and they replied they lacked nothing (Lk 22:35). All their needs were met by some of the people they came into contact with. What we do not see however is a commandment from Jesus to the disciples to go out and as they preached to collect tithes. What a contrast to today’s churches that declares that the work of the Lord cannot be done without “exacting” tithes?

 Christ went about establishing the church and wherever He went preaching, great multitudes gathered to Him yet we do not see a single example of Christ collecting tithes and offerings from the multitudes. What we see however is that there were some dedicated women who ministered to Him out of their own means (Lk 8:1-3). The early church also demonstrates in Acts 4:32-34 how that the church ministered to one another, including the apostles, so that everyone’s needs were being met. Verse 32 is particularly important in answering the question of whether or not the early church tithe. The verse says:

 32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

 Here we see in this verse that the believers in Christ did not take ownership of the things they possessed but shared it commonly with their brethren. Within such a construct it is clear that tithing could not have been practicable because this would imply that they gave a tenth part and kept the rest for themselves but this is not what was observed.

 The final example we may draw on comes from Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians concerning ministering to the saints in 2 Cor 9:1-7 (which actually is a continuation from 2 Cor 8). Here Paul was collecting gifts in order to distribute to the poor saints in Jerusalem but what we noticed is that he did not over-burdened the church but ask them to give according what each man had purposed in his own heart.

 The system we have in churches today is indicative of the Levitical system, whereby the pastors now assume the office of the Levite priests in the temple and are sustained by tithes. This construct is however foreign to the Gospel of Christ as the early church did not demonstrate these traits. The collection of monetary gifts and the like were strictly for meeting the needs of everyone in the church who had a need, not just the pastors’. One did not simply pay their tithes and offerings from their limited resources and go home despairing as to where the next meal was going to come from or how they were going to pay their rent. Certainly the poor in the church weren’t being told that if tithe faithfully, God would open up the windows of heaven.  Contrarily, everyone’s needs, including those of the apostles, were met from the proceeds of what was gathered. This was the means by which those who preached the Gospel were to live of it and not through a crudely reconstituted Levitical system.

 Will the church stop propagating the lie that God intended the gospel to be financed through the tithe?

The unholy tithe: Defiling God’s name December 20, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Mal 3:10)

Most of us who know a little about the “tithe” are aware that the Biblical tithe is Holy unto God (Lev 27:30-33). However, the practice of tithing in the church today is an “unholy” practice which does not bring glory to God but rather defiles His name. I believe the practice of tithing in the New Covenant church creates confusion amongst believers and since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33), it is arguably whether God does preside over churches that create confusion and are defiling His name.

Some people may think that to tithe or not to tithe is no big deal and put it down to mere “theological differences”. In this regard they don’t think that this is a topic worth discussing. However there are ministers who teach that if you don’t tithe you can’t go to Heaven. In my view therefore, this topic warrants a serious debate as most of Christendom is caught up in a practice that is unbiblical where the new church is concerned. I further believe that this is one of the central tenets of the church, which instead of empowering it, weakens the fabric of the church. It begs the question of whether God actually preside over such defilement. How can a church collect tithes under false pretences and then pray to the Lord to bless it and use it according to His will in furthering the work of His Kingdom? We may think we are doing God a service but we are actually doing Him a disservice by declaring things from the pulpit in His name that He did not command the church to observe. This is a SIN before GOD.

Let me state categorically here that if anyone wants to give 10% of their income to the church, there is nothing wrong in principle in doing so. However, if you are giving because you feel obligated to do so because of what was said under the Old Covenant (such as the verse of Malachi 3 stated above), then you are effectively saying that Christ did not do enough – that He only fulfilled part of the Law but not the whole Law. In this way you are denying Christ and make His cross of no effect.

Pastors and other ministers of the Gospel are defiling God’s name when they declare from the pulpit that He did not abolish the tithe and that the church today are required to observe tithing. When they quote from Leviticus 27 they are careful to leave out verse 34 which says:

34These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.   

 

The tithing commandments were given to Israel and Israel alone, which they were to observe in the Promised Land. Hebrews 7:5 confirms that only the Levites had a commandment to take a tithe of their brethren, not modern-day pastors. How can church leaders therefore quote Leviticus 27 in support of reasons why the church should tithe without being deceitful? Similarly, the scriptures in Malachi 3 tell us plainly who the passage was speaking to in verse 9 when it says “this whole nation” referring to the Nation of Israel. Verse 7 of the said passage was a rebuke to Israel that from the days of their fathers they had gone away from the ordinances (laws) of God. This was the reason they were cursed and not simply for not paying the tithe. The history of the curse is set out in Deut 11:

26Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. 29And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.

We see here that it was a blessing if Israel obeyed the commandments they were to observe in the Promised Land but a curse if they didn’t and the reference in Mal 3:9 relates to this very curse. How can a pastor, prophet or evangelist rebuke the church to tithe based on Mal 3 when it was NOT spoken to the church, without being deceitful? How can they threaten the church with the curse of the Law, which Christ has redeemed us from (Gal 3:13)? According to Paul in 1 Tim 1: 5-7 however, such people who desire to teach the Law have no understanding of what they teach or what they affirm:

5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

 

Pastors who teach tithing from the Law do not know what they are talking about and moreover they have a distinct lack of understanding of the Gospel. For if they understood the Gospel they would not seek to teach from the Law.

Supporters of the tithe will of course say that Jesus endorsed tithing thereby implying that Christ intended for the church to observe tithing. They make their assumptions based on Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Matt 23:23:

23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

 

If Jesus endorsed tithing then perhaps New Testament believers should start planting herbs and tithe it to the church but of course those deceitful supporters of the tithe will argue that the church cannot pay bills with herbs. It is however a mindless argument to that Jesus supported or endorsed tithing. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and whilst He was yet alive in the flesh He was bound to endorse the whole law including tithing. Jesus did not endorse tithing in the church but the practice of tithing under the Law that the Pharisees were observing but neglecting the weightier matters. To teach tithing based on this reference in Matt 23 is to deceive the church and defile the name of Jesus in the process.

Of course there are those who will further argue that tithing is a principle that existed before the Law but so what? If Abraham volunteered a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) and Jacob promised to give a tithe to God of all God gave to him (Gen 28:22), how can these be used to command the church to tithe? The truth is that those who teach tithing declare that the first 10% of one’s income belongs to God yet the only commandments given to tithe were set out under the Law, which incidentally has already been abolished. Those who teach tithing cannot fully establish their doctrine without making reference to scriptures that related to the Law. This practice however is dishonest and defiles God’s name by declaring things to the church that God did not command the church to observe.

Leviticus 27:30-33 sets out what the holy tithe was and these included: “tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree” and “tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod”. The holy tithe was clearly not money nor could it be substituted for money, though it was already in existence, yet the church today has changed what God has instituted into the mammon of unrighteousness. The tithing doctrine is thus built upon false premises and as such the tithe in the church, except it be a voluntary gift, is unholy.

Church, do you not know that you are defiling the Lords name by changing His Laws and declaring pronouncements in His name that He did not command the church to do and to observe?

Unravelling the tithing dilemma December 9, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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I previously wrote an article on this issue which can be read here. However I thought I would revisit this issue because tithing is one of the most controversial topics in the church today yet I believe it is such a simple issue to deal with once we have disentangled the different myths and arguments. I will therefore try to make this as simple and as clear as possible and I hope this will help others to gain clarity on this matter. In addressing the tithing issue I want to also expand the issue a little bit to include offerings with the hope of bringing some clarity to both subjects given that they usually go hand in hand

Question

The question for most people is whether or not Jesus abolished the tithe and therefore whether or not the New Testament believer is required to pay a tithe and are we robbing God if we don’t pay the tithe? There are several questions rolled into one here but before answering them lets look at some simple points of facts.

Two Approaches to tithes and offerings

Tithes

There are two approaches to the tithe from a Biblical standpoint:

1. Firstly, there is the voluntary tithe (Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek and Jacob’s promise to give a tithe to God)

2. Secondly there is the legal or compulsory tithe (the Mosaic Law on tithes which requiredIsraelto observe several tithes, including the tithe to the Levites from who’s tribe the priesthood came)

Offerings

There are also two approaches to offerings where the Bible is concerned:

1. Firstly, there is the pre-law offering which like the pre-law tithes were voluntarily given (Cain offering a gift from the produce of the land – Able offering a gift from his herds of animals)

2. Secondly, there is the legal or compulsory offerings (like the legal tithes the Mosaic Law instituted there were a number of offerings which God required ofIsraelto perform)

So from this synopsis we can see the two approaches to both tithes and offerings – There was the pre-law position of voluntary giving and the Legal position of compulsory giving. Before the Law anyone could choose whether or not to give a tithe or an offering and they had sole control over the nature or size of the gift – after all this was “freewill” giving. Within the Law however everyone who were bound by it were compelled to give both tithes and offerings and there were specific prescriptions as to the nature and size of the gifts according the legal status of each person.

Answering the Original Question

Going back to the question highlighted above we need to first separate it into its constituent parts because there are a number of issues muddled together there.

Argument 1 – Did Christ abolish the tithe?

Some supporters of the tithe argue that Jesus did not abolish the tithe because the tithe existed before the Law, citing Abraham and Jacob as examples. This argument is flawed primarily because it makes the assumption that the Mosaic (legal) tithe and the voluntary tithe (as per Abraham and Jacob) are one and the same. This is not the case and anyone who argues such is being dishonest. As I have demonstrated under the “Two Approaches” heading above – the voluntary tithe and the tithe required by Law are different (diametrically opposed) and likewise the pre-Law offerings are different from the Legal offerings. When Jesus therefore fulfilled the Law, He abolished the Legal tithes and offerings – NOT the voluntary tithes and offerings. The voluntary tithes and offerings fall under the category of “freewill” giving and Jesus did not abolish such giving.

Argument 2 – Are New Testament Believers required to pay tithes?

Supporters of the tithe believe that since the tithe is pre-Law, as demonstrated by Abraham and Jacob, the church today should also pay tithes (note emphasis added to imply a Legal or compulsory requirement). As I have demonstrated under Argument 1 however Jesus abolished the Law along with all the legal requirements to pay tithes and offerings. The church is therefore under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to observe the Legal tithes and offerings. It is therefore an incorrect position to attach a legal obligation on the church to observe the Abraham and Jacob tithing example. The example of Abraham and Jacob demonstrates “freewill” giving and therefore the church may freely or not as the case may be follow Abraham and Jacob’s example to give a voluntary tithe.

Argument 3 – Are you robbing God by not paying the tithe?

As I have already demonstrated under Argument’s 2 and 3, Jesus abolished the Legal tithes and offerings and to attempt to impose a legal duty to observe an example of voluntary giving by Abraham is completely wrong. Since Jesus abolished the Legal tithe then you are not robbing God if you choose not to observe something that is already abolished. Are you therefore robbing God if you do not observe the “freewill” tithe? Note here that the reference to “robbing God” for not paying the tithe, found in Mal 3:10, is a direct reference to the Legal tithe – NOT the voluntary tithe suggested by Abraham and Jacob. You are therefore not robbing God if you do not choose to exercise your free will by giving a tithe.

Conclusion

This presentation demonstrates that to understand our position in regards to tithing we must make a clear distinction between voluntary tithes and offerings and compulsory tithes and offerings. It should become clear to the reader therefore that whilst Jesus has abolished the Legal tithes and offerings along with the Mosaic Law, we may exercise our free will by giving a voluntary tithe and offering. We should never make the mistake however of attaching legality to what may be given as a “freewill” gift. If we understand these points clearly it then resolves a whole lot of other questions such as whether or not we are required to observe first fruit offerings etc. The abolition of the requirement to observe the legal tithes and offerings leaves us with the voluntary position of Abraham, Jacob, Cain and Able. This falls in line with Pauls teaching on giving, suggesting that we should give not out of necessity or compulsion but according to what you purpose in your own hearts. You may therefore exercise your free will in Christ to give a voluntary tithe or to give another amount according to what you purpose in your own heart.

After the way of Gehazi December 8, 2011

Posted by Henry in Word of Faith Movement.
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There are many people in Christendom today who clamour after ministers, teachers and prophets that claim the ability to work miracles. Such people shower money and gifts on these “miracle workers” in exchange for their miracles and breakthroughs, unaware that this practice is wrong. However there is a very important lesson in the story of God’s healing of Naaman through the hands of the prophet Elisha, which is lost on the church today. Notice I did not say that Elisha healed Naaman but rather that God healed Naaman through Elisha. This point should be very clear because only God can grant the miracles of healing but He may do so using His ministers as His instruments.

The story is told in 2 Kings 5, how that Naaman, the captain of the king ofSyria’s army though he was a great man of valour, he was a leper. Naaman got word from his wife’s maid that there was a man of God in Israel who could cleanse him of his leprosy. To cut a long story short, when Namaan went to Elisha’s house and the prophet sent a messenger out to him to tell him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan River and he would be cleansed. After some protestation Naaman was convinced to do as the prophet had said and he complied and was made whole again. Naaman was so thankful for his healing that he wanted to bless the man of God, so he went back to Elisha’s house to bestow a blessing upon him. But note Elisha’s response in verse 16 of the passage:

15And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. 16But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. (2 Kings 5)

Elisha flat out refused to take anything from Naaman. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, however thought that he would pursue Naaman to collect money and gifts, falsely claiming that Elisha had sent him to receive the things which he claimed were meant for two other young men ofIsrael. Elisha however being the man of God, perceived what Gehazi had done and challenged him with the following words in verse 26:

Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? (2 Kings 5:26)

 

Gehazi thought he would use the Grace of God as a means to collecting “filthy lucre” but Elisha demonstrated aptly that this occasion was not appropriate for receiving monetary or other gifts. Today our so-called men and women of God are playing the role of Gehazi by collecting money, tithes, offerings and gifts in exchange for miracles and breakthroughs. There are individuals such as Mike Murdoch, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Prohetess Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Matthew Ashimolowo and others who all promise miracles and breakthroughs if you sow seeds (monetary gifts) into their ministries. They will claim that you are not buying a miracle but rather that you are exercising your faith – they attempt to spiritualise their claims by saying that you have to make sacrifices to get God to move on your behalf – they claim that the size of your seed will determine the size of your harvest and by giving your seed they will add their faith to yours. They try to veil their claims in scriptures by misapplying them in order to convince the church that God cannot do anything for them if they don’t test their faith by sowing a sacrificial seed. The truth though is that God does not need you to do anything in order for Him to work a miracle in your life or give you a breakthrough.

Naaman did not know God as he was an idol worshipper, yet he came to the prophet Elisha for his healing. He received his healing without sowing any seed and even after receiving his healing the prophet refused to take gifts from him. This shows that God is sovereign and He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy and there is nothing man can do to appease God. God healed Naaman not so that Elisha would be blessed materially but because it was His sovereign will to do it to the praise of His glory. Elisha made sure not to corrupt the Grace of God by accepting money and gifts because God is not in the business of selling miracles. There are some ministers today however who have become as greedy as Gehazi by collecting gifts in exchange for God’s grace. If one receives a miracle, healing or breakthrough through the preaching or personal ministration of a minister, it is not a time for collecting money.

Are you considering suicide? December 6, 2011

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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6 comments

One of the things I can never fathom is why a church goer should contemplate suicide or actually commit suicide. Is it because they have an incorrect view of God? Could it be because the church is not doing enough to help people overcome their problems? Could it be because individuals prefer to suffer in silence rather than to seek help in working through their problem? Are we living in such an insensitive and callous world where people prefer to suffer in silence because they are afraid or feel uncomfortable to approach a brother or sister for help when they are at their most vulnerable? Though not an exhaustive list these are just some of the myriad questions that one might ask in trying to glean some understanding as to why an active church goer should contemplate committing suicide.

I used the term “church goer” to differentiate between someone in the world and a Spirit filled Christian who one would not expect to do such a thing. This is not to say that I am not concerned about people in the world who may commit suicide. However, you would think that an active church goer would find strength in their religious beliefs and from their interactions with their church brethren compared to someone in the world with no religious leanings and therefore no concept of life and death. My reason for raising this topic though is that I know of church goers who have committed suicide and whenever I hear of such things my heart has been truly torn and I ask myself, why! Suicide is something you would expect to occur outside the church but not from someone in church. The reality however is that we live in very dark days when suicide has been increasing both among people in the world and people who arguably may be classified as Christians. Although suicide is a tragic experience both for the victim and their families I believe it is also preventable and this goes for both the non-christian and the church-goer alike.

I do not want to appear as to trivialise anyone’s experience but I believe that suicidal thoughts which leads to the final act is a product of deception. People who are or have been suffering from such thoughts have been deceived by the devil. The Bible says in 1 Pet 5:8 that “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” As a result the said scripture says that we must be sober and be vigilant. A person having suicidal thoughts is not sober. I have good news for somebody however. Jesus says in John 10:10

10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Though the thief comes to steal and destroy Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. There is no problem too great for God to solve. Jesus already made a way for you by dying on that cross at Calvary. This does not mean that you will not have troubles in this life but Jesus is there to take us through if we believe and have faith in Him. Jesus said in Matt 11:28:

 

28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If you are burdened, cast your cares upon Jesus and you shall find rest for your souls. Committing suicide is not the answer. Arguably if you do you are setting yourself up for a Christless eternity. Don’t allow the devil to deceive you but rather call upon the name of Jesus. Share your problems with someone else – don’t sit down and bottle up the pain and the anguish and allow the problem to fester. This only creates a window of opportunity for the devil to come in and start to put thoughts in your mind that if you end your life the pain and suffering will be over. But I tell you the truth today, the devil is a liar! Illnesses can be manifested in mind, body and spirit. If you are attending church therefore and you are sick in any of these areas approach the elders of the church for them to pray for you. The Bible says in James 5:

13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

My friends you have a way out. Do not be deceived into thinking that suicide is the answer to your problems. No! I might not know what you are going through but someone knows – Jesus Christ knows. Christ is the answer and He cares for you. The Bible says in John 3:16-417

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

You may have doubts and you may have fears but Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the Life.” He also says in John 8:12, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” All you have to do is to seek Him and do not allow the darkness of this world to overtake you. Ps 30:5 says, “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Rom 15:13)

Many false Christs shall arise December 5, 2011

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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46 comments

Today we live in a time of great deception when many false Christ’s, false Jesus’ and false Messiah claimants have appeared and are appearing on the scenes and are deceiving many people. The question that a Christian should ask themselves though is that if a “Messiah” claimant should appear to them today how would they know that he is who he claims to be? Is there a biblical basis for proving whether someone claiming to be the second advent of Jesus Christ is telling the truth? In order to answer this question it is necessary to look at some of the warnings given in scriptures. The problem with some Christians in particular though is that they refuse to accept that they can be deceived yet the warnings in scripture were in fact given to Christians or followers of Jesus. Some Christians however, instead of exercising discernment, take a blasé approach believing that God would not allow them to be deceived. As a result many are being deceived in the church today because of such blasé attitude of not exercising due diligence as scripture admonished.

As Christians we need to be attuned to the times we are living in. Jesus commanded us to watch and pray but many are praying and forgetting to watch. One of the signs we are to watch for is the rise of false Christs. Jesus said in Matt 24: 4-5

“4…..Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”

Jesus was speaking directly to His followers here. These false Christs are already here however and many do not know it. They may not all claim the name “Jesus Christ” but nonetheless they purport to be the “anointed ones” who sit in the loftiest places in the church – they are on the Internet, in our pulpits and on Christian TV networks. They are everywhere and their messengers (“prophets” and “teachers”) are everywhere seeking to draw disciples after them. These “ministers” are leading many to believe in a false Christ by projecting a false image of Jesus Christ. So how then should we respond if one comes to us saying, “I am he who was promised!” or even saying, “he is in yonder place, lets go and meet him!” The answer lies in Jesus’ teaching in Matt 24:

23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 

One of the problems with many church goers is that they love signs more than the Word and therefore have developed a false perception that signs are a confirmation of one’s anointing. For example, many are of the mistaken view that if one speaks “in tongues” that this is a sign that such a person is filled with the Spirit. In this regard they fail to properly apply scripture to examine if what they witness is actually a move of the Spirit. This is not to discount the fact that the charismatic gifts are still evident and active in the church but not every sign that occurs in church is a move of the Spirit. This is a vital point that many seem to miss. Perhaps this is as a result of a fear of not wanting to question the Spirit. However the scriptures teach that we should test the spirit to see whether or not it is of God. How do we test the spirit? We do this by examining their works against the scriptures. The scriptures say in 1 John 4:

1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

This scripture highlights some very important implications for our world today and for the future. Today many different religious and pseudo-religious groups are awaiting a “saviour” or “messiah” of one sort or another. The implication of the above scripture however is that they have the spirit of anti-christ because though they await a “messiah” in this they have denied that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. So though they may call their awaited “saviour” or teacher, Jesus, Christ, Maitreya, messiah or anointed one, such an individual is no more than anti-christ in so far as their being represented as a denial that Jesus Christ already came in the flesh. In a world which is increasingly leaning towards a one world faith through ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue the imagination does not need to be stretched to see how anti-christ might be accepted by both Christians and non-christians alike.

The key thing to note about the second advent of Jesus Christ is that he will not come in secret unbeknownst to the world but His coming will be such a great event that no one will be in any doubt. Before that time however anyone else who appears on the scene claiming to be Christ will be none other than anti-christ. We have the assurance of Jesus Christ that is coming will be thus:

“..as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”  Matt 24:27

 

Let us therefore with patience wait for the true Messiah of the world and not seek after a false one.

Do Christians go straight to Heaven when they die? September 29, 2011

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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43 comments

This issue was raised by Marianne under another post on “The Heresy of the Heaven’s Gate cult” and I thought I would separate the issues out by dedicating this issue to its own post.

It is my firm belief that Christians DO NOT go straight to heaven when they die and that is what I believe scripture is saying. By the same token though we might equally ask do sinners go straight to hell when they die?

Here is a detailed study which I believe has done a fine job in presenting the case that Christians do not go to heaven on death.

What do others think? Lets hear your views.

The heresy of the Heaven’s Gate cult September 21, 2011

Posted by Henry in False Doctrines.
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27 comments

I first encountered the heavens gate cult when I read a news article about how the brother of the Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichol’s (who played Lieutenant Uhura in the original series) committed suicide in 1997 in what was a mass suicide conducted by the Heaven’s Gate group to coincide with the passing of Hales Comet by the earth. It was believed by those who were involved that the comet would take their souls to heaven. From a Christian point of view this of course is preposterous but what should be more surprising is the fact that this group claim also to be followers of Christ and cloak their beliefs in scripture. I personally have not studied the beliefs of this group extensively however from what I have learnt about them I know enough to designate them as a cult which promotes false doctrines.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us many times in His word that we should beware of false christs and false teachers who if it were possible would deceive the very elect. I fear that those who are involved with the heaven’s gate group are both deceiving and being deceived. For instance, where is it written in scripture that believers should commit suicide in order to attain to heaven or even that space objects such as comets would come to take our souls to heaven so that we should take our own lives to gain entry such a vehicle? Anyone who believes this must necessarily believe a different gospel than that written in the Bible. However, as Paul admonishes us we should test every spirit to see if they are of God, in like fashion as the Bereans who examined all that Paul had taught them against the word to see if those things that Paul claimed were so. The adherents of the heaven’s gate group would do well to study the scriptures daily to see if the teachings they received lined up with the Word of God.

 

Jesus Christ came into this world to die for our sins so that through Him – by believing in Him and His gospel message we might be saved and inherit eternal life. Paul writing to Titus said:

11For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Rather than committing suicide to accelerate our journey to heaven we are to earnestly continue in the blessed hope, waiting for the appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Moreover, when we die though we be in Christ we do not instantly go to heaven. Rather we remain asleep until the great and terrible day of the Lord when Jesus shall descend from heaven to gather the dead and the living who are in Him to Himself. See the following verses:

 

16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:16-18)

 

The heaven’s gate group however believes there is actually a different way to get to heaven – mass suicide. To them what is written here in the Word is not true but rather what their teachers tell them is what they believe to be the truth. However you cannot have it both ways – it is either you believe the Word of God as written in the Bible or you make it up as you go along or follow those who make it up as they go along.

 

The heaven’s gate group believes in two characters called Ti and Do who they claim are Jesus and God and at the same time the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11. The first question we need to ask here is whether God can send witnesses who contradict His very word. Let us first of all briefly examine whether these two characters could actually be God and Jesus. Jesus came into this world a messenger of the Father to bring good news to the lost. Jesus however told us that He is going back but will come again to gather those that are His to himself (Matt 16:27, Rev 22:12). Jesus knew however that when He left many false Christ would arise after Him to lead the people astray so He gave the desciples the signs to look for of His coming so that we are not deceived. We read for example:

 

24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matt 24:24-27)

 

In spite of these clear warnings given by Jesus Himself that we should not go after another who is already on earth and claiming to be Him but rather to look for His appearing as the lighting flashes from East to West the heaven’s gate group rejects these very words. They claim that Jesus does not need to appear in this way but that His coming is phased and it is up to us to be able to recognize if when he is here. To reject Jesus’ words here and to say that Ti and Do are God and Jesus incarnate is nothing but a lie in the face of the Bible. Whom do we trust? The Bible, the revealed word of God or do we trust another who contradicts this very word?

 

Could these two therefore be the Two Witnesses of God – not if they contradict the very word of God they cannot be. More importantly they do not fit into neither the prophesy nor the criteria to fulfill the prophesy surrounding the ministry of the Two Witnesses. The Bible makes clear to us that the Two Witnesses complete their ministry during the opening of the 7th Seal at a time when the 5th angel (of the seven having the seven trumpets and the last seven plagues to judge the earth) sounded. These events occur after the 6th seal when the heavens were opened and when Jesus gathers those that are His to Himself. We know this because in Revelations 9 the 5th angel sounded and released the angel of the bottomless pit which I believe is the same beast of the bottomless bit which made war with the 2 witnesses in Revelation 11 and killed them following the end of their ministry. For the heaven’s gate group to therefore claim that the two witnesses have already fulfilled their ministry is again another lie in the face of scripture.

 

This has not been a detailed study on the heaven’s gate group nor was it intended to be but I believe I have left the reader in no doubt about the deceptive nature of the group. Their purpose is clearly not to fulfill the mission of Christ even though they may have been deceived into thinking that it is. I only pray that those who encounter them will stay clear of them and those who remain in the group may see the light of Christ and be awakened out of their deception.

God’s will for your life September 14, 2011

Posted by Henry in Teaching Things They Ought Not.
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I have always struggled when I read about or hear teachers saying that one needs to find out what God’s will for their life is and then seek to pursue it. Underpinning this message is the notion that “God’s will for your life” encompasses all aspects including, career options, who to marry etc and that “God’s will for your life” is something unique to each individual. In other words advocates of this “notion” believes that God has already selected a career path, a wife or husband or a range of blessings that will allow one to live a relatively comfortable and successful life. It is therefore believed that unless we know what God’s will for our life is we can actually miss it. Have you missed God’s will for your life? We shall come to that question later. The more pertinent question here though is whether this view is Biblically sound.

Since God is sovereign then the common denominator that everyone’s life is predicated upon is “God’s Will.” This applies to the believer and the unbeliever alike. The scriptures truly say that “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps 24:1). Jesus also made it clear that the Father sendeth rain upon both the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). One question that could be asked here then is whether it is in God’s will for man to commit evil? The answer clearly is no but it is God’s will to allow man his free will. Back at the beginning of time God forbade Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit but at the same time God equipped Adam with free will. It should be said here though that it is not God’s will for man to exercise his free will the way he chooses. There is therefore a conflict here between God’s will and man’s will or desires as demonstrated by Adam disobeying God. So what then is God’s will?

In the simplest terms, God’s will for us is that we should serve Him by obeying His commands, not merely the Ten Commandments but rather the commandments of Christ as outlined in the New Testament. God’s will is for us to “Seek ye first the Kingdomof Godand His righteousness”(Matt 6:33). The interesting thing about this verse is that Jesus continues by saying that “……. and all these things shall be added unto you.” The “all these things” pertained to daily living as demonstrated by the previous scriptures:

31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

The concept of seeking “God’s will for your life” therefore seems to be at cross purposes with what Jesus has said here in these verses. Jesus did not say that we should seek theKingdomofGodand His righteousness and then do something more but rather that once we make theKingdomofGodour priority “all these things” SHALL be added unto us. Why do these ministers and teachers therefore give believers the impression that they need to do something more than simply seeking theKingdomofGod? The concept of seeking God’s will for one’s life seems to me to be the direct opposite of what Christ said about not taking any thought for what we shall eat, drink or wear. Not only is it at odds with what Jesus said here but also with other scriptures as well as will be demonstrated below.

The Preacher for example says:

6Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. 7For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? (Ecc 8:6-7)

12For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:12)

Against the backdrop of these scriptures how can one know “God’s will for their life”? As the preacher has demonstrated here you do not even know when your time (death) shall come let alone to know what will happen in the future. Does this not resolve back to what Jesus said about not taking thought for tomorrow and “sufficient unto the day the evil thereof? (Matt 6:34)”

We can learn even more from the Preacher in Ecc 9:

10Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

These particular verses are quite important to consider against what some pastors and teachers have been saying about seeking God’s will for one’s life. Firstly, it says in verse 10 “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do” as opposed to whatsoever we sought God’s will for our hands to do. In conjunction verse 11 made it clear that what our hands find to do is all down to time and chance rather than as a result of seeking God’s will for one’s life. Of course this is not meant to deny “God’s sovereign will” underpinning all this. For example, James demonstrated that if we desire to pursue a future endeavor we ought to prevail on ‘God’s will’ in allowing us to complete it:

13Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. James 4:13-15

The key verse here is “ye know not what shall be on the morrow”. To say that we can seek and know God’s will for what we shall do for tomorrow however seems to me to be somewhat presumptuous. The question here then is this: Do we reflect God’s will through our own desires and ambitions? Again, how can we say we have missed God’s will considering we know not what shall be for tomorrow? Of course with the benefit of hindsight we can have regrets about things we could have done or wished we had done in the past, but how do we know that it was even God’s will in the first place?

I believe God’s will for our lives is to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness if we do we have not missed His will. The “in betweens” of what pertains to daily life does not matter and consequently I believe that teachers who teach the “God’s will for your life” doctrine are teaching a different gospel.

The ‘Curse’ of Harold Camping August 4, 2011

Posted by Henry in Teaching Things They Ought Not.
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3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Pet 3:3-4)

 

Harold Camping predicted that the rapture would occur on 21 May this year. Of course we all now know that the rapture did not take place then and that the day itself passed without event. It is of course presumptuous of Mr Camping to attempt to try and calculate the date of the rapture (or indeed the date of Christ’s return) particularly when scripture tells us that “no man knows the day nor the hour” when the Son of Man should put in His appearance. This however is not the main problem with Mr Camping’s prediction but rather the fact that by this act he has caused Christianity in general to be the laughing stock of the whole world and will no doubt cause some to reject Christianity. He has caused the way of truth to be evil spoken of by this foolish act.

 

Rather than be treated as a loose canon in the church or as a senile old man for that matter and be passed over, instead Mr Camping ceremoniously drew the attention of the World’s media, not so much because it cares about Christian thought but so that Christianity can be put on show to be jeered and mocked at once again. The reality is that the media cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood in Christendom so everyone who calls themselves Christians are lumped together and painted with the same brush in the media’s eye. The more discerning amongst us however know the truth that Christ will indeed return one day, when we think not. We also know from scriptures that despite this eternal truth, scoffers will be asking “where is the promise of His coming?” It is this same reaction that has been drawn by the worlds media which they then use to attempt to disprove the existence of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. People like Mr Camping however would do better in preaching the Gospel instead of attempting to calculate the date of Christ return, which no one can know. If Jesus Himself didn’t know the date of His return (as He said only the Father knew) it is very foolish of us to attempt to hazard any guesses as to the date.

 

As if once was not enough though, Mr Camping has again insisted on prolonging the charade by recalculating the date of the rapture and forecasting it to occur this time on October 21, 2011. Apparently he made a mistake with his first calculation and that this time his calculation is a dead cert. When this second prediction fails to materialize however (and it will) Christianity and the Church will once again be subjected to the ridicule of the world.

 

Perhaps someone needs to get the message to Mr Camping that he needs to desist from such foolish, vain and unfruitful works and to stick to preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, whilst waiting patiently for the Son of Man to be revealed in His time.

The Third Temple Fallacy August 2, 2011

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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22 comments

There are many Evangelical Christians who believe that Christ cannot come until after a third Jewish temple is built in the city of Jerusalem, arguably on the site where King Solomon’s temple stood. Aside from the fact that there are problems associated with the sighting of the third temple on the Temple Mount where the al Aqsa mosque currently stands, one of the central questions here from a Christian point of view is whether the building of such a temple is indeed written in Bible prophecy. There are no prophecies which directly require the building of another temple to usher in the return of Jesus Christ, although Dan 9:27 has been cited as ‘proof’ text. In spite of this fact it would appear that many in Evangelical circles have been duped into believing that such a temple is required and that they have a responsibility in contributing to the fulfilment of prophecy, as if God needed our help. One of the consequences of this fallacy has seen Evangelical Christians, particularly across America, contributing vast sums of money to support the rebuilding of the temple.

Whatever the relative merits of the Jews rebuilding their temple are, Christians have no business contributing to such an effort. In the first place such a temple, with its revived sacrifices and ordinances would be an affront to God considering the fact that Christ did away with all this through his death on the Cross. Evangelical Christians who support this rebuilding work are therefore unwittingly denying the work of Christ on the Cross and are making the Cross of non-effect. To return to the works of the Law is to deny the election of Grace through Christ’s death on the Cross but this reality seems to be lost on those who are committed to the establishment of a third Jewish temple. If the Jews want to rebuild their temple, let them do so but Christians should be preaching “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23).

There is a wave of “Christian Zionism” sweeping acrossAmerica and many organisations have been established with the expressed purpose of promoting Judeo-Christian values and heritage (ecumenism). One such organisation is the “Battalion of Deborah” whose expressed belief it is that Christians should be standing shoulder to shoulder with Jews in an attempt to fulfil the “Abrahamic covenant”, a view which they based on Gen 12:1-3. Here is a quote from their website:

“….we believe it is Biblically Correct for us, as Christians and fellow believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to stand together with Israel and the Jewish People, in education to the masses regarding the promises of God, in support, in prayer and in our physical presence in the Land. It is for this purpose that we have been ordained and called out as ‘like-minded’ group of people and that we pledge to work toward being a blessing to Israel…”

As Christians however we are called to observe the teachings of Christ and we are ordained to fulfil the Great Commission. There is nothing in the teachings of Christ which encourages Christians to engender ecumenical relationships with unbelievers whether they are Jews or otherwise. Instead scripture commands Christians to come out from among them and be separate (2 Cor 6:17). However these organisations are entering churches and sharing the pulpits with Jewish religious leaders in order to drum up support for Israel and to raise funds towards the Temple Mount development plans.

This ecumenical construct has been made possible however due to a distinct lack of discernment on the part of many Evangelical Christians. In accordance they misapply scriptures such as Dan 9:27 in order to justify their position. In Dan 9:26, Daniel related the destruction of the SECOND TEMPLE that was to be built by the decree of Cyrus. Yet, some have insisted on inserting a gap of over 2000 years between verse 26 and verse 27 in order to arrive at a conclusion that verse 27 refers to the ending of sacrifices in a third temple. Even if such a gap could be established verse 27 does not make mention of a temple and the absence of a temple does not preclude sacrifices and oblations from being performed. 

In summary, the third temple is a Jewish ambition which has nothing to do with Christians or the fulfilment of Bible prophecy as concerning Christ’s return. Prophecy does not indicate or give instruction for the constitution and the construction of a third temple, which would actually be an abomination in the face of the Cross.  With the destruction of the second temple, the Old Covenant vanished away and has been replaced by the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. Christians therefore have no business working to fulfil a mission that denies the Christ who bought them out.

For a more detailed expose on this topic read this article: http://www.thomaswilliamson.net/temple_next_event.htm

Time, times and half a time: What does it mean? July 21, 2011

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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Whilst I claim to be no expert on eschatology I do sometimes like to raise questions concerning end time issues. The reason for this is not so much to confound the popular interpretations that abound but rather to highlight the fact that some of the more popular interpretations are not necessarily correct.

 The question I would like to raise here then is whether the reference “a time, times and an half” in Dan 12:7 is really 3.5 years as many interpreters seem to think? It is important however to put the phrase in context before attempting to answer this question.

 In Chapter 9 (Book of Daniel), Daniel makes clear that following the 70 year desolation which saw Israel exiled in Babylon, the city of Jerusalem was to be rebuilt again along with the temple leading up to the time of Messiah. Later in the chapter we are told that following Messiah’s departure (being cut off) the city and the sanctuary shall again be destroyed by a people that shall come. In Daniel 10 an angel in a vision appeared to Daniel again to tell Daniel what would become of his people in the latter days and the angel began his account from Chapter 11. In verse 22 of chapter 11 the angel makes reference to the same “prince of the covenant” who was previously mentioned in Daniel 9:26-27 so the events are related (interconnected). This is further confirmed by verse 31 where it is further mentioned that the prince shall pollute the sanctuary, take away the daily sacrifice and shall put in place the abomination which makes desolate. Chapter 11 therefore further explains the prophecy from Chapter 9. Chapter 12 again is a continuation of the explanations made in Chapter 11 by the angel concerning the future of the Israelites. 

To further confirm that the prophesy is the one and the same, we note in  Dan 10:4-5 that Daniel was by the side of the river (Hiddekel) when the angel was explaining the vision and he was still by the side of the river in Dan 12:5-6 when the following question was asked:

 Dan 12:6

How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?

 The end of the “wonders” here is referring to the end of the vision which is ended by the consummation of the world as described in the preceding verses in Daniel 12. The question that was being asked therefore was basically when will the end come?

 The response by the angel was that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” Some have interpreted this phrase to mean 3.5 years (or 42 months or 1260 days) based on a similar reference in Revelation 12: 6, 14. It should be obvious though that from the time of Daniel’s vision through to the very end of the age could not possibly be 3.5 years. It would seem therefore that the “time, times, and an half” reference covers a very different span of time than what some interpreters previously thought. Recall that the angel said in Daniel 10:14 that “for yet the vision is for many days”. Clearly the angel left Daniel with a bit of a mystery and it is not solved by applying 3.5 years to it. Given that Daniel was told to shut the Book when he enquired of what should be the end of these things, emphasises the point that attempts to interpret these things amounts mostly to speculation.

Pre-tribulation Rapture Myth and the Remnant of Israel May 24, 2011

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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I have done a number of articles in which I have attempted to dispel the myth of the pre-tribulation rapture but in this study I will attempt to approach the subject from a different angle than I have done before.

Numerous studies have so far been carried out and numerous books, articles and blog posts have been written concerning the end times scenarios yet many are completely wide of the mark concerning the realities of those times. One of the popular positions is that the church will be “raptured” (secretly, unbeknownst to the world) sometime prior to the opening of the first Seal mentioned in the Book of Revelations. Following this event it is believed Israel will go through a seven year tribulation period (supposedly Daniel’s 70th week, See Daniel 9). It is believed that at the start of this week (the seven last years of planet earth) the anti-christ will make a covenant with Israel and in the middle of the week (3.5 years later) the anti-christ will break the covenant and cause the sacrifice and oblation offered by the Jews in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (The third temple) to cease. This will be followed by the setting up of the abomination of desolation in the temple culminating with great tribulation at the hands of the anti-christ. It is then believed that it is out of this “hour of trial” that Israel will be saved and will be gathered to meet Jesus at His full appearing when all eyes shall behold Him. This is normally the general view adopted especially by pre-tribulation rapture “theorists”. In my view however all of this is simply fancily suppositions by people who do not apply proper exegesis in interpreting scriptures.

The first glaring contradiction in the afore-mentioned scenario is that though it is claimed that Daniel’s 70th week marks 7 years of tribulation, in effect there is only 3.5 years of tribulation since the first 3.5 years are characterised by a period of peace. This point however is just an aside and is of little consequence to the business end of this study.

One of the important points to note is that in order for the “theorists” to arrive at their conclusions they make namely two false claims. First they claim that Israel rejected God and therefore salvation went to the Gentiles instead and therefore Israel will only be saved after having gone through the tribulation at the hands of anti-christ (the beast of Revelations 13). The second false claim is that the saints who are persecuted by the anti-christ are merely tribulation saints who are distinct and apart from the church which has already been raptured sometime before or at the start of the 7 year tribulation period. In support of this latter claim it is suggested that the Holy Spirit will no longer be on earth when the church is raptured and so these saints are saved perhaps through the preaching of the “Two Witnesses”. Of course none of this is supported in scripture and I will demonstrate why.

The first thing we should note is that salvation came to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). The question here then is this: Did allIsrael reject the gift of salvation? The apostle Paul had this to say in Romans 10:

1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

We know from these verses that there is no “special way” for the Jew (or Israel) to be saved but through the said Gospel that is available to the gentiles. So then howbeit that some argue that the Jew will only be saved at an appointed time during the so-called 7 year tribulation period? Are we to believe that no Jew (or Israelites) were saved though God purposed salvation to come to them first. God forbid. In verse 16 of the same passage of Rom 1 Paul went further to say this:

16But they have not all obeyed the gospel.

Although not all Israel believed the gospel the crucial point is that some did – a remnant of Israel did believe the gospel even though the majority might not have believed. First, John the Baptist preached to the Jews and baptized many unto repentance. Then Jesus came and preached the gospel to the Jews and sent His 12 disciples to the lost sheep of the Houses of Israel (the 12 tribes). The theorists seem to forget therefore that the early church largely comprised of Jews initially before the gospel was spread abroad to the gentile nations. It isn’t correct therefore to say that the Jews rejected salvation – whilst some did, not all did. God had purposed to save a remnant through the election of grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:5, Rom 9:27). The point needs to be emphasized here that God will not save this remnant of Israel at the end of the tribulation period after gentile Christians had been “raptured” but they were being saved since the going forth of the Gospel. Paul refers to these as the “first fruits” in verse 16 (Note that the 144,000 males of the 12 tribes of Israel are also referred to as the “first fruits” to God [Rev 14:4] – Christ being the first of the first fruits).

Having now established that God had purposed to save a remnant of Israel through the election of Grace and that this remnant are regarded as a type of “first fruits” unto God we can now address the issue of the “pre-tribulation rapture”.  The pre-tribulation rapture is defined as an event where Christ will secretly come in the clouds and gather all those that are his prior to the beast of Revelations 13 establishing his [second] kingdom. Do the scriptures support this view? If there were to be such an event as a pre-trib rapture then surely the remnant of Israel that are saved through grace would surely be amongst those that are raptured during the “first resurrection and catching away”. However, Revelations 12 presents a serious problem for this argument [if indeed the events of Rev 12 are in the future and not already fulfilled]. The relevant verse says this:

17And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Note here that the woman referenced is Israel and this can be gleaned if we read from verse 1. The poignant point here then is whether the Lord would indeed rapture the “second fruits” (the gentile Christians) and leave His “first fruits” who incidentally have also been saved according to the election of Grace (they have the testimony = Gospel of Jesus Christ) at the mercy of the anti-christ beast. If there were any rapture taking place the first fruits would most certainly have been among the first to be raptured. Similarly the 144,000 who are referred to as first fruits to God were sealed first before the great multitude were seen gathering before God’s throne at the opening of the 6th Seal (Rev 7). If the scripture says therefore that the remnant, which we understand to mean those Jews who accept Christ since the inception of the church, were left for the dragon to make war with them then you can rest assured that so too the rest of the church will be left at the mercy of the dragon. This remnant are not merely tribulation saints but they include those who have the election of grace since the gospel began.

Perhaps the Lord has a plan and a purpose for the remainder of the Jews [Israel] who have rejected Christ but the remnant will clearly face the dragon which has 7 heads, 10 horns and 10 crowns as per Rev 12:17. That remnant isn’t separate and apart from the church but they are numbered amongst the church.  This scripture clearly demonstrates that there is no basis on which a pre-tribulation rapture can be established. I pray that people will wise up to the truths of these end days.

Who are the 144,000? The elect? The “male child”? May 23, 2011

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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Whilst I venture from time to time into eschatology my main focus is not so much about unravelling end times prophecies but rather to emphasize the need for Christians to apply discernment especially in this area by demonstrating some of the erroneous teachings that have emerged contrary to scriptures.

One of the many “theories” that abound concerning the end times is the identity of a group of 144,000 people spoken of in Revelations. Some say the 144,000 are the church, others say these are the elect and an even more preposterous view is that these together are the “male child” spoken of in Revelations 12. The theory I want to focus on here is whether this group could indeed constitute the “male child” of Rev 12:5. Here are the relevant verses:

1

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

5

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

13

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

14

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
     

We understand from reading other prophecies that the woman here spoken of in verse 1 isIsrael, which shall bring forth a “male child”.  According to the theorists therefore this “male child” are the 144,000 men that would be saved from the 12 tribes of Israel before the Lord’s return. Scripture tells us in Rev 14 that these are 12000 men of each of the twelve tribes of Israel (See also Rev 7).

Could these 144,000 be the “male child” referenced in Rev 12? The first thing we need to note here is that in verse 5 of Rev 12 the man child was caught up to God and to His throne. Following this event the woman (Israel) fled into the dessert for 1260 days (we could apply the principle of 1 day for a year here to mean 1260 years but the theorists say this is 3.5 years). If the 144,000 are indeed the “male child” at what point in history were they caught up to God’s throne? The short answer is they would have been “caught up” during the opening of the 6th Seal in Revelations 6:12-17, 7:1-8. It was during the 6th Seal that the heavens were opened, when the day of God’s wrath had come. Reading from verse 1 of Revelations 7 therefore we learn that 4 angels stood at the ready at the four corners of the earth to pour out God’s wrath but they were told by another angel not to hurt the earth till the servants of God (the 144,000) were sealed in their foreheads. So we know therefore that up to this point in history the 144,000 were still on the earth and could not have been caught up at any time previously since it is only at this point that they were to be sealed with the seal of God. If indeed this group were caught up then they could only have been caught up after they were sealed. So what does all this mean?

Going back to Revelations 12 we learn that after the man child was “caught up”, Israel fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God for her to be nourished for 1260 days. If the theorists are to be believe then what this means is that after the 144,000 (the supposed “man child”) are “caught up” at the 6th Seal, Israel flees into the dessert on “judgement day” for 3.5 years. We do not know the gap of time between the 6th and 7th Seals but it makes no sense to say that Israel is fleeing to the wilderness at a time when everyone else has “gone to heaven” including the great multitude that were seen after the 144,000 were sealed, and the wrath of God was about to be poured out on the earth. I do not need to make any suppositions here though as Revelations 12 makes clear that the time period when the “man child” is caught up and the woman fleeing into the wilderness is a distinctly different time period from the 6th Seal events. Reading to the end of Rev 12 we learn that after the woman flees into the wilderness the serpent cast a flood out of it’s mouth after the woman but the earth helped the woman by swallowing up the flood. What happened next is that the dragon tried to make war with the remnant of the woman’s seed:

17

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

 

Note therefore that the remnant were those that had the testimony of Jesus Christ. The serpent could only have made war with this remnant of the woman’s seed prior to the 6th Seal because at the 6th Seal all those that had the testimony of Christ were joined with Him and were gathered around His throne. The evidence is therefore clear that the 144,000 could not be the man child because the events that occur after the man child is caught up and that of the 6th Seal are in two separate time-frames. The man child is therefore none other than Jesus Christ as it is only He that has the distinction whereby He will rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev 19:15). The 144,000 are 12,000 men from each of the 12 tribes who have not defiled themselves with women, and who are considered the first fruits unto God (Rev 14).

What I have presented here is an example of how false teachers read scriptures and interpret them in isolation, ignoring the glaring inconsistencies in their arguments, which goes against the grain of scripture. This is one of the reasons we need to apply proper discernment instead of being carried away with every wind of doctrine.

By what are ye saved? Grace, Faith, Works? November 5, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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It would appear that many in the church today do not seem to fully understand the Gospel of Salvation. In my Part 2 on The Gospel of Salvation I made reference to the fact that we are justified by faith but that faith must be accompanied by works – which in essence means we are justified by faith as well as works. Now some people might not have understood that and may even label me as an heretic but this is the reason why I want to explain these things further in this post.

We are told in scripture that we are saved by Grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast.

 

Eph 2

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

Was Paul trying to say here that we are not to do works because works do not save us? The answer to that is no because in verse 10 he clearly stated that we are created in Jesus unto GOOD WORKS which God had already ordained that we should walk in them.

Let me therefore attempt to paint a picture of what Paul was trying to say: Grace is like a doorway that Christ opened or prepared for the whole world (John 3:16, 14:6). That doorway was set in heavenly places and behind it one may find Life. There is a very long, narrow and winding stairway leading up towards it (Matt 7:14). However, for anyone to even set foot on the first step of that stairway they must have faith. Now faith is unseen! It embodies the hope in Christ that we may find life at the end of the stairway. Faith is necessary in order to believe in the provision of Grace (Acts 16:31). If we therefore believe then the Lord will takes on that journey of faith along that stairway till we reach our destination. Our faith is therefore manifested in our willingness to act by taking the first step on that stairway and then the next, and the next after – although the journey is long we are propelled by the hope in us which is our saving faith.

In this little picture therefore we see that we are not saved by Grace alone or that we are saved by faith alone. However we are saved by Grace through faith as Paul said. We cannot circumvent Grace in order to perform what we perceive as righteous works in thinking that these will justify us before God. In other words, the picture shows we cannot avoid the path set forth before us with its preconditions in order to find another way to obtain salvation. This is what Paul meant when he said “Not of works”. But Paul most certainly was not saying we were not required to do works because in verse 10 of Eph 2 that view is contradicted. The good works then can be thought of as the action of walking up the steps. In this way the act of walking up the steps is an outward manifestation of our faith. Let’s conflate this with what the Apostle James was saying.

James 2

18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:

In putting these verses in context to the picture, what James is saying is that you cannot claim to have faith and not show the outward manifestation of physically taking up your staff and walking up the steps along the stairway. In other words you cannot sit at the foot of the stairway and claim to have faith that you will reap the fruits lying in wait at the end of the stairway and not demonstrating your faith by getting up and walking the path. To claim therefore to have such faith and to do nothing is dead faith! If your faith is therefore dead you can never enjoy the fruits at the end of the stairway because you have not the means to get there.

What both Paul and James have said therefore are complimentary to understanding our gospel of salvation. Paul says we are justified by faith but James expands on that by saying we are justified by faith with the outward manifestation in works. Are we therefore required to do works? To answer this question, Jesus says that if we loved Him then we will obey His commands (John 14:15). Obeying Christ commands are an embodiment of works – the same good works that Paul referred to in Eph 2:10 and which demonstrates our love for Christ. These are also the same works that James is saying we ought to perform to demonstrate our faith which is kept alive in Christ. The great commission also demonstrates that we are to observe all things (good works) that Christ commanded (Matt 28:20).

Faith is therefore not an antithesis to works which is what some people have tried to make it but rather faith and works are tied together in obtaining salvation by Grace. Can we therefore continue to neglect to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison and claim to be justified by faith? Did Christ not warn that if we do not do these things we would not inherit Life?

Matt 25

41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Faith without works is dead and leads to death!

The Gospel of Salvation – part 2 October 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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This post is in continuation of a discourse between myself and Dave from over at “The Gospel According to the Gospel”. Link to Part 1 here.

Dave,

To continue where I left off last time, I want to look at what you said with regards to modern theologians holding to the view that there has been a dispensation of works (the Law) and a dispensation of Grace. Let me state categorically that I personally do not subscribe to this view. Indeed I hold to the view that there is and have been two dispensations in regards to the promise made to Abraham. The word dispensation being used in this context refers to a “religious epoch” or period of time. Consequently the first covenant lasted for a particular period of time – in that time period only Israel could benefit from the first covenant because it was given to them only. The following verses of scripture demonstrate this fact:

Eph 2

12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

The second (or new) covenant was given to everybody therefore but first to the Jew and then to the Greek (or the Gentiles). In my view therefore the plan of salvation as embodied in the covenant promises made to Abraham was implemented in essence in two phases which I refer to as dispensations. Looking at Gal 3 and Rom 8 we see the duality of the plan of salvation:

Gal 3

23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 

Roms 8

3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

In Rom 8:3 therefore we see that although we are no longer bound by the law, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us through Christ Jesus.

Now let’s turn attention to the issue of “works versus Grace”. There are mainly two issues here which are sometimes often confused and I will look at these in turn. The first issue relates to the fact that in the early church Paul (and other Apostles) was faced with a problem whereby the Jews who had now become followers of Christ (Christians) sought to continue doing the “works of the Law” and as such believed Gentile Christians should do likewise. An example of this can be seen in Acts 21:21-25 where Paul had to make it clear that he did not give any instruction to the Gentiles who believed (or required them) to observe the customs and practices which came down from Moses.  Paul had to deal with a similar problem in Gal 2:11-14 where he had to rebuke Peter for hypocrisy because Peter ate with the Gentiles but when circumcised Jews came among them he withdrew to “save face”. Paul therefore had to clarify in the following verse that man is not justified by the works of the Law but by the “new” faith that was given in Christ:

Gal 2

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The Jews therefore were making the Cross of Christ of none-effect by claiming that the works of the Law such as circumcision were still necessary. But these works as we have seen were not required particularly since the Law had been set aside by Christ death and resurrection.

Now the other problem relating to “works vs Grace” relates to the problem faced by the early reformers like Martin Luther. By the time of the Reformation the Roman Church had established a religions system which suggested that a man had to do “good works” in order to “earn” his salvation. Piety was defined in terms of “good works” that were deemed necessary for one to earn his place in heaven. As a result, the Roman Church believed and taught “justification by works” instead of “justification by faith”, which Paul preached. Often times therefore, when the issue of “works vs Grace” is spoken of, the two different types of “works” (“works of the Law” and “good works”) are often conflated without any distinction made. As a result we arrive at a crossroads where we say that a man is justified only by Grace and there is no need for works. The following verses of Eph 2 define salvation by Grace:

Eph 2

5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved ;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In contrast to the teachings of the Roman church of justification by works, Paul writing to the Ephesians makes it clear here that salvation is by grace through faith only and not of ourselves. In other words we cannot save ourselves simply by doing what is considered “good works” because if we have “good works” yet not faith in Christ we or still lost. Is it correct to say then that because we are saved by Grace then there is no need for good works? I think this is where the church today has missed an opportunity by its complacency in neglecting to do good works. The key terminology Paul used is that salvation is by Grace THROUGH FAITH. In James’ exposition on faith in James 2:26 he makes it abundantly clear that faith, if it has not works is DEAD and dead faith cannot obtain Grace. Good works are therefore necessary for our faith to come alive in Jesus Christ! Can we therefore continue to juxtapose “Grace” against “works”? No! For salvation is BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH and faith necessitates works otherwise it is dead. Here is what James said:

James 2

18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:

There we have it! Justification by faith is in fact the same as justification by works (in the perfection of faith)!

The modern church to a large extent however would seem to have held on to the doctrine of “Grace alone” neglecting the fact that “good works” are necessary in the exercising of our faith. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why the power of God in confirming the gospel is not evident in most churches today.

The Gospel of Salvation – part 1 October 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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The following write-up is in response to an invitation from my brother in Christ Glasseyedave (from over at “The Gospel According to the Gospel“) to enter into a deeper discourse about the nature of our Gospel. I thought I would present my responses here as well since they demonstrate my belief concerning the Gospel, and which I hope may be of benefit to someone also. Anyone wishing to follow the discourse may also link to it here: Changing the Debate.

Hi Dave,

I welcome your offer for us to enter into deeper discourse concerning matters of the Gospel. I am honoured that you should approach me with respect to entering such a discussion with you and let me say that I do not think you are being arrogant at all. In my view if we cannot break “bread” in this way as brothers in Christ then what is the point? I too get frustrated when I share things whether on my blog or elsewhere and people shy away from it instead of engaging me – if even to say that I am wrong. We can have a civilised discussion even if we disagree but hopefully by having a discussion we can together come to the knowledge of truth. However, let us be patient towards one another and let us look at the issues portion by portion. If we try to eat too much “bread” all at once they we might not be able to swallow.

In your post there are a number of different but interconnected issues so the first issue that I would like us to discuss is on the issue of the Two Covenants. I referred to the two covenants as two different dispensations but you contend that they are not so. But let me warn you though that when I use the term “dispensations” it does not mean that I subscribe to “dispensational theology” as I have not studied this or had it preached to me. I therefore try not to approach the scriptures with bias (particularly from previous learning) but try to allow the letter and the Spirit to reveal to me what they will.

So why do I say that there are necessarily two dispensations on the road to Salvation? Well namely because we have Two Covenants (I do take cognisance of the fact that salvation and fellowship with God also existed before Abraham as per Enoch, Noah etc). Under the Old Covenant though, the Lord purposed to carve out a people for Himself who would be an ensign to the rest of mankind. This people, Israel, were to be the oracles of God and who were to set an example in righteousness for the nations round about them. Of course it would not be wrong to say that this was God’s sovereign will through His Grace. Israel of course were inheritors of God’s divine favour and hence why they were God’s chosen people. Under this Covenant however, Jesus had not yet gone to Calvary, the Holy Spirit had not been sent to “comfort” the church and there was no “regeneration” of the spirit of man (no born again experience). Under the Old Covenant therefore it was the Law (as opposed to the Spirit) that convicted man of sin. Repentance and remission were thus obtained through ritual sacrifices, and of course it was God’s Grace to forgive Israel of their sins through the “mechanisms” of these practices, which were mainly symbolic. These things were a shadow of the New Covenant which God promised in Abraham.

In reference to the New Covenant therefore God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. This promise we know was fulfilled in Christ when the promise of the Spirit [by faith] came to the Gentiles. Man thus was no longer circumcised in the flesh after the manner of Abraham but rather received the circumcision of the heart. It goes without saying therefore that the righteousness of God which was imputed to Abraham is the same righteousness that we who had been cut off without a hope (the wild olive tree) have been grafted into. The difference however is that the righteousness which was instructed by the Law is now instructed by the Spirit through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. Under the Old Covenant Christ was promised and hence the Old pointed the way to the New – under the New Christ was given. What the Old could not accomplish therefore [and this is significant] the New is able to accomplish. I would like to highlight a couple of verses from Hebrews 9 here although the whole chapter is worth reading:

8The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that COULD NOT make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; [Emphasis added]

We see from the verse that the Old Covenant with it’s ordinances and sacrifices could not make those who preformed them perfect. Similar in Heb 8:7-13 we learn that if the Old was faultless there would not be any need for the New and the Old which decays is now ready to vanish away.

To sum up therefore, I contend that there has been TWO dispensations on the road to salvation – the first we called the Old Covenant which has now vanished away and the second which we call the New Covenant that was confirmed in the blood of Jesus Christ. If there aren’t two dispensations then we are saying that the Jews can continue to live under the Old Covenant (not recognizing it’s no more) and be saved. I think this is where the “works of the Law” are held as distinctly separate from “salvation of Grace” to say that the works of the Law cannot save you but only the Grace of God, which does not require works.

Calvinism? Arminianism? What’s all the fuss about? October 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Denominations.
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In spite of Christ’s desire that we should all come into the unity of the faith, the church today has found itself in a place that is at odds with New Testament Christianity. The church today (i.e. the “protestant” church) seeks to assume the role of the true church (the ecclesia of Christ) yet it could not be any more divided on theoretical perspectives and denominational dogma. Not only did the reformation movement engender a split from the Catholic church to form the Protestant movement but it also create a schism within itself along theological schools of thought. Thus today we have descriptive terms such as Lutheranism, Calvinism or Arminianism by which Protestants may define themselves. Personally I refuse to subscribe to such limiting terms though fully recognising that it is not about personal sentiments but rather what the scriptural position should be. I therefore resent any notion that one cannot truly understand what Christianity means (or should mean) unless view through the eyes of Martin Luther, John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius, from whom the three theological schools aforementioned have been named.

It is interesting to note however that the divisions along doctrinal lines are nothing new to the church, since even the apostle Paul had to address this very same issue of division within the ranks of the Corinthian church. Paul writing to the Corinthian church therefore says this:

10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1)

We see from this passage that the Corinthians were displaying the same behaviour being displayed in the church today, whereby one says I am of Luther, another of Calvin and another of Arminius. But I implore the church to heed Paul’s admonition here. Afterall is Christ divided or was Calvin or Arminius crucified for you or were you baptised in their name?

11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11)

22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:22-23)

Of Blessings, Breakthroughs and Divine Favour! October 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Are you frustrated that the Lord has not answered your prayers for the breakthroughs and divine favour which you seek?

 

Have you faithfully tithe but find that the “windows of heaven blessings” continue to elude you?

 

Have you diligently sown your seeds into “good soil” and confessed daily but you are still not receiving a harvest?

 

Do you “give to God” faithfully but feel like the Lord has abandoned you as you are not receiving anything in return?

If any of these questions apply to you then I have good news for you. The reason why you are feeling frustrated and disappointed is because you have been fed a false gospel. God is not man that He should lie so do not be disappointed in God. God did not make the above promises to you – the man in the pulpit did. The man in the pulpit who presents himself as God’s mouthpiece is the lier and I will demonstrate as I examine those questions one by one.

Firstly, the Lord did not promise you “breakthroughs” or divine favour, man did. The Lord gave you divine favour when He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you and I so that we may obtain mercy – this is Grace, which is divine favour. Man however changed the meaning of divine favour to mean that you can receive “supernatural abundance” in earthly things and sup with kings, which the Lord did not promise you. To obtain true divine favour therefore all you need to do is seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all else shall be added unto you. This does not mean that you will receive all the material desires of your heart but the Lord promises to meet your needs. You should also remember that before you ask, the Lord already knows what you need. In much the same way a parent takes care of a young child without the child needing to ask the parent for anything so too the Father will take care of His children. What “breakthroughs” do you seek therefore?

Paying your tithes and expecting the “windows of heaven blessings” is foolhardy to say the least and no amount of “confessing” will bring those benefits to you. Under the New Covenant a Christian is NOT required to tithe and the Lord will not honour your tithe according to Mal 3:10 because that scripture was not spoken to the church but to Israel under the Old Covenant. Under the Covenant Israel were required to give a tithe not because this would ensure God’s blessings but they were required to give it because the Lord had blessed them. In this sense the tithe was like a tax that the Lord required to sustain the Levites, who had no inheritance in the Promise Land. As such you do not pay taxes to ensure future income but rather you pay it because you already have an income and because it is required by Law. If you are therefore paying the tithe because you think that this will compel the Lord to do something extra for you then you are already giving it with the wrong motives. The Lord is not a debtor to any man – so if you pay the tithe thinking that the Lord owes you something then you have been deceived. In the first place the tithing practice today is a violation of God’s Law – it is therefore the man that collected the tithe from you that owes you, not God.

Some preachers within the Word of Faith movement will tell you that the Kingdom of God operates on the “principle” of sowing and reaping. I contend however that this is not the case. Indeed the analogy of sowing and reaping is often used to describe the Kingdom of God or certain aspects of it but the Kingdom of God is not reactive. It doesn’t depend on us doing something but it is rather all about the sovereign Will of the Father. The Kingdom of God is about salvation which comes by Grace. Grace is God’s sovereign will to lay down the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins (John 3:16). It was because God first loved us and not that we did something to appease God in order to earn His love, why He gave us this FREE gift. The Lord does not need you to “sow” therefore in order for you to receive a “harvest” from Him. Did Christ not say, “Does the rain not fall upon the just and the unjust?” What did the unjust do to deserve rain from God? Absolutely nothing! Yet even his harvest is being multiplied because of the rain. The following verses which Jesus spake should also be considered:

26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 Since the Lord did not ask you to sow therefore He does not need to honour your sowing with a harvest. You have therefore sown in vain  because you were deceived – you have given your money to a man who lied to you instead of exercising due diligence and being a good steward of what the Lord had already given you.

Lastly, this idea of “giving to God” is perhaps one of the biggest misnomers in the church. How does giving some money to the offering plate or bucket constitute giving to God? Indeed when you give money to church you are contributing to financing the activities of the church but the Lord is not getting a single penny of that money. Man it is that collects the money and man it is that disburses these monies according to how they see fit. The Lord does not need your money, moreover, this idea that money is needed to finance the gospel is simply not true. The Lord Himself was the first pastor and minister of the Gospel yet He did not collect tithes and offerings and other monies to finance the Gospel He came to establish. He did not build a church and set up an administrative structure to which money would flow into. Yet today we are being told that the Gospel cannot go forth without money. This is somewhat ironic when we consider that Jesus called the Twelve and sent them out and specifically told them not to take money or food with them. On their return the Lord asked them if they lacked anything when they went out to deliver the gospel to the Lost Sheep and their response was no. Indeed money is needed to sustain people but we have subscribed to the Roman church model in creating the cash machines we call church today, and financing these cash machines are seen as tantamount to financing the Gospel. The reason why you might not be receiving the blessing therefore is that you mistakenly think that by giving to church you are giving to God and as such the Lord owes you something. You would be more blessed however if you gave to the poor and needy as shown in the following scriptures (noting that it is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35):

17He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.( Prov 19)

 

 

27He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. (Prov 28)

Defining Faith! October 11, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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A lot of people struggle with understanding what faith is and how it works and I must admit that at one time or another I too struggled with this concept. But if we are to grow in Grace and develop our spiritual walk we must understand what faith is. The scriptures truly stated that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). So how do we define faith?

 The Bible defines faith as follows:

 “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Heb 11:1)

 To demonstrate this, we could say that faith is a conviction which underlies our inner belief in the salvation of our souls, through the redemptive work of Christ, which will be revealed in due time. Without faith therefore it would be impossible to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the following verse demonstrates that it is the salvation of our souls that we receive at the end of our faith:

 1 Peter 1

7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

 The question that most people would like to have answered however is how can one exercise their faith especially when met with difficult circumstances. It is important to note though that you cannot have faith in faith itself but you can only have faith in God as can be seen in the following scripture:

 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)

 In exercising our faith therefore we must believe that GOD IS. We can only trust God for our salvation if we believe that HE IS. If we do not trust God and believe in Him for our salvation then nothing else matters  – we will not be able to trust Him for anything else. This is the “secret” to having faith in God. It is nothing to do with using scriptures as an incantation or using a 7-point formula. This is where the Word of Faith movement has high-jacked many people’s faith. In Matt 17:20 Jesus demonstrated that if one has faith like a mustard seed they can move mountains. Jesus used the mustard seed to demonstrate that though it is so tiny it has the assurance of growing into a huge tree. Jesus is therefore saying that with such faith we can overcome obstacles but not we ourselves but through the power of God.

 Having faith is not all about getting things from God, like houses, cars, jobs, money etc as the WOF proponents would have you believe but it is about trusting in God first and foremost for salvation and believing that He is able to fulfill all your needs. I have come to the understanding that you will NOT necessarily get from God what you set your heart on. For example, if you are jobless faith does not mean that you will get that job with a six figure starting salary but faith may mean that the Lord will provide you with a means to take care of yourself and family even though it may not be as illustrious as you imagined. Chanting a Psalm or confessing daily over a particular thing is NOT an exercise of faith but is rather an expression of unbelief. If you believe in God and pray and ask Him to fulfill your needs then all you have to do is just that. One of the important things to learn also is that the proving of your faith worketh patience (Jam 1:3) – which means that you should continue to believe and trust in God even if you have been waiting for a little while and He hasn’t shown up yet. Faith means that in the midst of despair when it seems that all is lost you continue to believe in God, in giving thanks and praising His name. Counting our previous blessings and remembering all that the Lord had done for us should also help to strengthen our faith that He will come through in the end, not according to our time but to His own perfect timing.

The Two Witnesses October 7, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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Some people assume that the Two Witnesses who will preach the Gospel in the last days are Elijah and Moses, whilst others theorise that they are Joshua and Zerubbabel, and the list goes on. Could any of these be true? Let’s look at what Revelations 11 says about the Two Witnesses:

Rev 11

3And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

In order to shed further light on these things we need to pop over to Zechariah 4:

Zech 4

2And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. 4So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 5Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be?

Zechariah saw the same depiction of the olive trees and candlestick which John saw in Revelations 11 and he inquired to know what these were. The answer is presented in verse 10 below:

10For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

Here we see that the seven lamps of the candlestick are the seven eyes of the LORD which run to and fro through the earth, but more on this later. What I want to home in on though is the identity of the two olive trees which Zechariah has seen and we shall see who they are in verse 14:

11Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

It would appear from these verses that the two olive trees which are beside the bowl on the top of the lamp are pouring oil into the bowl (through two golden pipes) in order to feed the lamp. Verse 14 of Zechariah 4 therefore tells us that the two olive trees are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. So then to sum up, the seven lamps of the candlestick are the seven eyes of the Lord.  So what are these seven eyes of the Lord? The following verses tells us plainly what they are:

 6And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Rev 5:6)

5And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Rev 4:5)

Clearly then the seven lamps of the candlestick which Zechariah saw are the very same eyes here depicted in Rev 5:6 and these are the seven Spirits of God (which are sent out into all the earth). Seemingly therefore the two olive trees are feeding the bowl which feeds the seven lamps with oil – so in essence the olive trees are feeding the seven Spirits of God. It is these two olive trees therefore that are the Two Witnesses (the two anointed ones) that will preach the Gospel in the end times as mentioned in Rev 11:4. Could these witnesses therefore be Elijah, Moses, Joshua, Enoch etc? The answer clearly lies in the fact that the seven Spirits of God that stands before His throne must be eternally before God’s throne and the two olive branches also must be eternally present to feed the seven lamps, which are the seven Spirits of God.

NB: This post has been updated. Initially on reading the KJV I thought the two olive branches were attached to two of the 7 pipes which form the seven lamps and therefore wrongly designated two of the pipes as the two witnesses. On reading other translations however it appears that the two branches are apart from the seven lamps and instead feeds the bowl with oil which in turn feeds the lamps.

The Church as a Non-Profit Organisation October 6, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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My good friend Glasseyedave, over at “The Gospel According to the Gospel” suggested that I put out a complimentary post to the topic “Should Pastors be Salaried”, to address whether churches should be non-profit organisations and subjected to government rules. In my view these two subjects naturally go hand in hand and this will become clearer later. However the best starting point to looking at this subject is from the position of the early church as well as to take a cursory glance at its evolution.

 When Christ started the church He most certainly did not create so much as an “organisation” but rather established a “social movement”, which in essence constituted a “community” of believers. Whilst individual members of this informal community were subjected to the laws of the state there was no organisation as such which needed to be regulated. People met in each other’s homes or in the open to worship and shared what they had with one another and the pastors (who were the elders) certainly did not draw a salary. The modern church in contrast is characteristic of formal structures that are clearly defined and distinct from each other. Perhaps Emperor Constantine has a lot to answer for here since it was he who first came up with the idea to organise Christianity so it could be more effectively managed, due to its perceived threat to the state. As a result the modern church has inherited a system from the Roman church whereby churches meet as a group of people in a building and with namely one pastor (or priest) presiding as the head. It was Constantine who built the first church buildings (or temples) in Constantinople and elsewhere in 324 A.D (see here for an Historical account). With the advent of church buildings, the priestly class was raised up in order to minister over the affairs of these churches. This resulted in the division between priest and laity and it was during this period that the idea of salaried pastors began. Constantine initially sponsored the building of churches but over time the congregations were required to give contributions in order to sustain the ministry of the priest (or pastor) and the maintenance of the church. Giving was thus seen as tantamount to religious piety and this construct allowed for forms of giving such as the “tithe” to be reinstituted. The system that was instituted in churches therefore was pretty much like the Levitical system of the Old Testament (see here for an historical account on the salaried pastor)

 The reformation movement, which arguably began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Door, went some way into addressing some of the heretical practices that had seeped into the church as a result of the influences of Constantine, but this did not go far enough. Today the modern church has still not shaken off the shackles of the Roman church and most of its practices in terms of how we “do church” are still intact. However, if we should return to the example of the early church there is clearly no need for the church to operate as a formal organisation, which owns or meets in a specific building. Perhaps however the practices of the established churches are entrenched and therefore somewhat hard to shake and this could be why this model of church is still used. What then is the motivation of newly formed churches today to establish themselves as non-profit organisations, subject to the rules and regulations of national governments?

 I will submit that one of the primary motives for churches today to register themselves as charities/non-profit organisations is because of MONEY. By centralising ministerial activities from a church building this of course necessitates fundraising activities both to sustain the officiating priests/pastors and to maintain the building. There are therefore certain financial advantages for having such a venture registered as a non-profit organisation. In the UK for instance, if charities raise more than £5,000 per annum they are legally required to register as a charity with the Charity Commission (the body which oversees charities). It is evident however that most churches that meet in a rented building or own their own building cannot sustain themselves on a paltry £5,000p.a. because this will not meet the operational costs which includes the salary of the pastor and the maintenance costs. Most churches therefore would need to raise far in excess of £5,000 in order to meet these costs so therefore the way to go about it without falling foul of the law is to register as a charity. The benefit of registering as a non-profit making organisation is that the church would therefore not be subject to income or corporation taxes. Another motive is that when donations are made by the church members/attendees they may give under the Gift Aid scheme. This means that the church can claim back 28p in the £1.00, for every £1.00 of donation given, from the Tax Office (HMRC) which helps to swell the funds of the church. Money is therefore the main reason why churches come under the regulatory framework of governmental bodies.

 I do not believe that the current status quo is what Christ intended for His church though! In my view however, the church is the body of Christ and as such is (should be) regulated by Jesus Christ and He alone since He is the only Head. The church in essence is the Kingdom of God – a spiritual Kingdom – and therefore is not of this world (John 18:36).  As such the Kingdom of God is not (should not be) subject to temporal authority. In God’s Kingdom Christ is King and His commandments are the laws, which govern the operations of His Kingdom – laws not written on tablets of stones but upon the hearts of every believer (2 Cor 3:3). We are in this position today though because of the love of money and also because we have left the true path to follow the heretical path instituted by the Roman church under Constantine.

The First Pastor: The Good Shepherd October 4, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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In many respects the church today seems to have lost sight of the fact that Jesus Christ was the first Pastor and that He is therefore the standard-bearer for the role of being a pastor. Not only was Jesus the first Pastor but He is still the chief Pastor (1 Pet 5:4) and Head of the Church (Col 1:18). In John 10:11 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” and no other person qualifies as such, not the Pope, not the patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches and not “Daddy G.O.”. If Jesus is therefore the Good Shepherd what better example do we have to follow than Jesus Himself? In today’s churches however we have gone after our own way to establish man-made institutions, practices and canons concerning the role of pastors, which are contrary to the Gospel. However, it should be clear that if we need any clarification or questions answered concerning the role of pastoring then we have only to look to Jesus’ example as laid out in Scriptures. The Apostle Paul for example admonished us in 1 Cor 11: 1 to be followers of himself even as he is a follower of Christ. It is therefore Christ’s example that we should seek to follow and not man’s.

The “man of God” Syndrome September 30, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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One of the fallacies perpetrated by the modern church is what I refer to as the “man of God” syndrome. This syndrome has infected a considerable number of churches particularly of the Charismatic/Pentecostal persuasion. This syndrome suggests that there is a single individual [the pastor] in the church who is regarded as being “under the anointing” and as such is seen as the “man of God”. This scenario of course is a throw back to the Old Testament days where the priests and prophets were regarded as the men of God of those times. They were regarded as such because only they had access and could communicate directly to God. Are we to believe however that today only the pastors have access to communicate to God?

 In the Old Testament times the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies before the Shekinah glory of God, which descended upon the Ark of the Covenant. It was these priests who were able to make propitiation for the sins of the people by offering up their sacrifices on the altar. Likewise the prophets where the ones who heard from God and who fed back what they had heard to the people concerned. Today however, we have pastors who assume the position that the altar in their church provides gateway between God and man and they themselves are the gate-keepers. These pastors assume the role of prophet and claim to have a “word from God” and also assume the role of teachers and healers. Within such a construct therefore these pastors are held up as having the “anointing” and are considered by their followers/flock as great men and women of God. The consensus general among such followers therefore is that if you want to receive a “touch” or to “experience the anointing” you need to come to these churches – after all these are the only places where you can gain “access”. Aside from the fact that this position is false, this shows the backward state of the church today in respect of assuming an Old Testament outlook.

The “man of God syndrome” has been imported from the Old Testament perspective but this is an affront to the Gospel of Christ. In Christ ALL are anointed and ALL are men and women of God – not just the pastor or the prophet, not especially those who beacon for you to come their sermons and conferences to listen to them. One pertinent verse which demonstrates that believers are under an anointing of the Holy Spirit is 1 John 2:27:

  27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

This particular verse of scripture is most interesting in that not only does it establish the fact that believers are anointed but also because believers are anointed they do not need anyone (who claims to have a word from the Lord) to teach them anything because the same anointing will teach them all things. Why then are so many people being misguided into thinking that the anointing is something “out there” and that is “controlled” and “discharged” by a privileged few individuals? Jesus came to die on the cross in order to give everyone full and free access to the anointing (of/by the Holy Spirit). Jesus came to die so that each and everyone can approach the throne of God in order to obtain mercy. There is therefore no more need to approach an altar to lay your sacrifices neither do you need to approach an anointed priest to make atonement for your sins. In Christ we are ALL priests. Not just any ordinary priest but a royal priest (1 Peter 2:9). The pastor is not the only man of God but each and everyone who believes in Christ are called to be men and women of God (2 Tim 3:15-17).

Children Obey your “fathers” in the Lord… September 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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How do you view your pastors? Do you put them on a pedestal and reverence them as if they were Christ Himself? Many, people in Christendom today literally worship their pastors who are held aloft of their congregations yet this is in contradiction of scriptures. Perhaps one of the contributing factors to this status quo is that today many pastors hold lofty titles such as “Most Reverend” or “Right Reverend” or more academic letters such as “Dr” compared to the early apostles. These early apostles did not demand to be reverenced by their flocks but instead they acted in “servitude” to Christ and His gospel.

This is not to say that as Christians and fellow brethren we should not respect our pastors but the reverence we show them should not be anymore or less than what we show to other ordinary brethren. By washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus showed us the example to follow in that those who lead must first serve. But in stark contrast to scripture those who lead in churches today are instead served by the congregation. They are held in high esteem and are literally carried about on a litter as if they were kings. Moreover, these ministers indeed rule their churches as if they were kings and many of the congregants run to and fro at the beck and call of these people. The question here is not whether or not one should serve their ministries and the pastor who lead these ministries but we should be seeking to serve each other as if we are indeed serving Christ Jesus. However, what is happening in many churches today is that there is a misplaced loyalty that is afforded to the pastor and the same is not afforded among the brethren. In this way many of the brethren have become somewhat of a slave to the minister and his every word is taken as law. Even if such a minister speaks in error no one dares to challenge it, because such a challenge would be deemed a challenge to his very authority as leader and head.

Truthfully the scriptures doth say we should submit to those that have been placed above us but likewise scripture admonish those in pastoral position not to laud it over the flock but to act in humility. However such humility is bereft in most of Christendom today. Seemingly pastors have replaced Christ as the head of their churches and require church members to subjugate themselves to their authority. But in truth we as Christians are to submit ourselves one to another as scripture commands, as submitting to Christ who is the Head of the Church. The status quo in many churches however lends itself to spiritual abuse by leaders and elders who have walked after their own way instead of subjecting themselves to the Word of scripture. As a result many church goers have become confused as to whether they should obey their pastors every command as failing to do so might incur curses. But the Lord would not have you walk in darkness as scripture imposes a duty on us to walk away from such false teachings and practices. Christ did not come to put us in bondage but to free us therefore we should seek to walk in the light of His truth instead of suffering through ignorance.

Will You Be Left Behind? July 9, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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Each time I look at this issue of the rapture I can’t help but be amazed and amused at how people can be so easily persuaded to believe something that is not even founded in scripture. I guess this is one of the results of extra-biblical materials from people who claim to have some kind of secret knowledge or insight. Take the Left Behind books for instance. These are nothing but fiction yet people buy and believe in them as if they are gospel truth. If Tim Lahaye (et al) really believed in an imminent rapture I don’t think they would be so concerned with amassing wealth now would they. After all where are they going to spend all that money, in Heaven? Already 63 million copies of this book have been sold worldwide and there are movies and games to go with it and yet people are unable to see into the scam of it all. If these men really believed the stuff they wrote they wouldn’t be trying to peddle it but instead they would be given this info out for free. 

The simple truth is that there is no imminent rapture. Strictly speaking the idea behind an imminent rapture is that Jesus can come anytime (or the church can and will be miraculously wisked away before you can say ABC) but of course if we read scripture we can discern that this is not so. To add to that the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture is a LIE – It is a complete fabrication by fantasists. Simply put, a pre-tribulation rapture purports that the church will be raptured before the man of sin, the son of perdition (synonymous with the anti-christ beast of Revelations) comes to fore but again I will show that this is simply not so.

Paul writing to the Thessalonians had this to say:

2 Thess 2

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

He was encouraging the brethren that they should not be deceived or be troubled in spirit concerning the day of Christ being at hand (or imminent). And as such he reminded them of a key sign which would need to take place before the day of Christ came. This sign was that the falling away (OF THE CHURCH INTO APOSTACY) and the revealing of the man of sin would need to take place first. If this man of sin is the same as the anti-christ beast of Revelations then Paul’s explanation here is corroborated by Rev 20:4-5 which makes it clear that the first resurrection (which is considered the rapture) takes place after the anti-christ was already in power and persecuting and killing the saints. It should be noted that the scripture which is cited for the rapture is 1 Thess 4:13-17. Essentially the resurrection and catching away must necessarily be the FIRST resurrection which included those who were also beheaded by the beast and those who overcame his mark and image.

In light of this therefore where is the pre-tribulation rapture and how can it be imminent? Yet you have people falling over themselves looking at Jewish feast days and wedding ceremonies trying to prove something that is clearly not in scripture. Why are so many people being deceived on this issue which is so simple to understand?

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