Is there tithing under Grace?

Is there tithing under Grace?, or rather

As tithing has been done away with, is there still giving under Grace?

Finally, the sermon preached on 16th Nov has been released on CD titled “Is there tithing under Grace?”  (see blog dd 16th Nov)

Since I was at the first services on the 4th Aug 2013 and 16th Nov 2014, I can remember clearly and observe how my church develop along in this matter. My reflections may not be a big deal to the majority who have been blessed and benefited much in the teaching ministry of JP – especially in the essence of our position in Christ by Grace.

Prior to 4th Aug 2013, terms like ‘our tithe’ and ‘tithing’ are not unknown before the collection bag is passed around.  The audio message on the church website “The Benefits of Tithing” bears this out. Yet there are others who believe that the tithe has been done away, according to Hebrews 7.  I felt it was not fair and discreet when the pulpit began to fault ‘grace pastors’ who do not believe in the tithe without defining and qualifying that ‘grace pastors’ referred to the Levitical system of tithing, and not to giving.  Is there an apprehension that members could be influenced and stopped giving altogether?

Personally I don’t believe the ‘tithing’ is sound.  Essential doctrines and teachings, seemingly ambiguous or vague in the OT are illuminated by our Lord Jesus and the apostles.  So do we see Jesus or the apostles teaching on the tithe?  (see again the entry for 4th Aug 2013).  Our response of honouring the Lord with our substance has been restored to the examples of Abraham and Jacob before the law to tithe was given.  It was willing, wholehearted and the quantum was a personal decision.  In these cases, both chose to give ten percent.  Would the Lord reject or object if the amount was less, or more? The bible is silent on this.  The NT, when referring to our giving, clearly stated that it is to be according to our means.  If the church were to be legalistic, then a ‘taxation system’ not unlike that of secular governments would be a good analogy.  If we are well endowed, would it be possible to say that since we have given the ten-percent, we don’t have any more obligations to be generous (Mark 7:11).  Thus I find the principles in 2 Cor 8 & 9 are indeed a step-up to the restrictive and legalistic quantum of the tithe.  And if we are much challenged in our financial situation, the apostle Paul clearly said about giving “out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor 8:11,12).

Since the sermon on the 4th Aug, I observed that the terms ‘tithe’ and ‘tithing’ were not uttered (at least in the services I attended.)  Instead I often hear “you don’t have to give, you get to give”)

Based on the sermon of 16th Nov 2014, there was the submission to the tithe being done away with.  But there seem to be a creative rationalisation to suggest that our offering is to be ten-percent – ie the tithe.  Well you need to listen to the message “Is there a tithing under Grace?”.  Wonder why the pre-occupation with the ten-percent?  It might not be a big issue with believers in Singapore who are generally middle-class, and definintely not with our church with much trumpeting about material blessings as our legacy.

Anyway, why the pre-occupation on the ten-percent? What about worshipping God according to what one has, whether much or little, according to one’s station in life?

How does the emphasis on the act of giving ten-percent fit in with the Gospel of Grace which our church proclaim as having no demands or expectation on our performance and works?

And aren’t there other more pressing, solemn and serious issues to focus on?  What about

Is there Discipleship under Grace?

Is there a devoted and dedicated life of prayer under Grace?

Is there disciplined personal and group Bible-study under Grace?

Is there practical outworkings of love and loyalty in the Community / Body Life under Grace?

Is there a life of personal witnessing under Grace?

……………..

……………..

Maybe we will hear more messages on our lives bearing fruit, our sanctification by Grace.

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Do Not Go Beyond What is Written

Do Not Go Beyond What is Written

The scriptures never cease to amaze me and lift up my spirits, as I glimpse into the unfathomable glory, grace, goodness and greatness of God.  It is just as Jeremiah said

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart ..”  (Jer 15:16).

The Almighty God, Creator of all things, revealing Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and reaching out to me in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ, and indwelling me in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  It is just too much for me to comprehend or experience!

The book of Hebrews tells me that God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways …..”  Heb 1:1.

I’ve come to learn that God spoke not just in ‘words’ but also through events, miracles, places and people and their names, language, numbers etc etc.  Yes, even numbers.  And from the different levels of biblical Midrash (Peshat, Remez, Derash & Sod – see footnote) the beauty and wisdom of God’s truth in the Hebraic alphabet and numbers indeed enlightens the heart and fascinates my meditations (Eph 1:17-19).

Yes, the number ‘ten’ and ‘one-tenth’ do reveal much about God and our sanctification.

As I wrote in the previous entry, my pastor did spend much time going through various scriptural passages about the ‘ten’ and ‘one-tenth’, and deduced that as we offer the tenth as our “tithe”, we are sanctifying our entire wealth. Many others have also noted the message in their blogs (http://graceunited.sg/sermon-note-4th-svc-5/;   http://www.miltongoh.net/miltons-blog/category/new-creation-church-sermon-notes)

It is true that when scriptures are accurately interpreted (exegesis), we know we are called and named by our Heavenly Father, empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and filled and fulfilled by the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge and experience  (Eph 3:14-19).

But I also realized that having been so convinced of the truth of my Saviour, I can be so enamored and fascinated by a particular truth that I began to find support and validation in passages that might not be germane or in the context of the passage.  People call this eisegesis – reading the meaning into the scriptures, instead of letting the scriptures mean what it says (admittedly it is not always easy to get it right).

Many years ago, my pastor preached on the one parable from Luke 15, about the Son Who searched for the lost sheep (sinner), the Father Who waited for the prodigal son (saint), and the Woman who looked for the one coin missing from her ten coins.  I was perplexed and stumped when it was interpreted that the Holy Spirit (the ‘lamp’) is looking for the ‘tithe’ (one missing coin out of ten) from the church. And this explanation is implied as having been revealed by God, and has never been preached or expounded in such a manner, and if we hear this being repeated elsewhere, it would be from NCC! God is looking for missing tithe in the church! Probably it is so ludicrous that I never get to hear it again. I had wanted to write to my pastor then, but did not get to do so.  I even wanted to suggest that the string of coins is the betrothal gift from the Bridegroom to His bride, the church. The Good Shepherd looking and rescuing the lost sinner, The Loving Father waiting for the backslidden saint, and the Holy Spirit illuminating the church to be complete in all the gifts (missing, not lost).  Yes, I know I could be reading INTO the passage myself.

Paul said in 1 Corithians 4  that I have to learn “not to go beyond what is written

No, I don’t mean to be derogatory towards my pastor.  I know I do appear and sound that way from my reflections. Actually I really do want to experience the community of believers (see posting in September 29th), to relate and engage with all members – but this is a challenge in a church with > 30,000 members. I was in a family group until I moved and have yet to find a cell group nearby. The pastor had mentioned openly that members should not write to him. I fully understand his priorities, his commitments, and how he be not disturbed or distracted. We must free him to serve the believers all over the world. But I did write to him once, in early August 2013 after his message on ‘tithing’, but only through another pastor. I suppose he is right when he mentioned about people in the church who are “bible policemen” (see posting on the 9th June 2014). I was discussing this with a brother over lunch.  He mentioned the Bereans – we do receive the word readily, and “examining the Writings whether those things were so ..” (Acts 17:11 YLT). Just examining the scriptures, and inadvertently those who teach us. Probably that is why James wrote about the heavy responsibility of teachers (James 3:1,2). I do pray for protection for my pastor, and do ask others to pray for him, that the Lord will be his covering, his counsellor and his captain.

P/S 21st Nov 2013: Came across the comments on Joseph Prince message on “The Benefits of Tithing” –

http://www.828ministries.com/articles/Prince-ology-on-Tithing-N-by-Anthony-Wade-Tithing-141117-721.html

Midrash:

  • Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — “plain” (simple) or the direct meaning.
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) — “hints” or the deep (allegoric) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: “inquire” (seek) — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
  • Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in gold) — “secret” (mystery) or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.

You don’t need to give, you get to give

You don’t need to give, you get to give

Or rather

You don’t need to tithe, you get to give

(see also posting in August 2013 – ‘The Teaching to Tithe or the Grace to Give’)

The Sunday message on 16th Nov 2014 was a rehash of the sermon delivered on the 4th August 2013.  Yet, it was indeed strange that the pastor mentioned a few times that the last time he spoke of “tithing” was 6 years ago.  Then, after an afternoon nap, I woke up with the vivid impression that it could be that the Aug 4th 2013 message has to be re-worked to make it acceptable for release in a permanent format, replacing the previous 6-year old “The Benefits of Tithing” message in CDs given to members who committed to “tithe” regularly, and also available for on-line listening.

However, there were slight differences in the latest sermon.  The main thrust was “You don’t need to give, you get to give”.  This phrase used often since September 2013, has noticeably replace references to “the tithe and tithing” used in services before this period.  This is indeed fitting, harmonizing with the teaching in Hebrews 7.  It would be precise if it was phrased “you don’t need to tithe, you get to give.” My pastor went on to dwell much to suggest that our sacrifice and worship through giving is ten percent, the tithe.

The word ‘tithe’ has somehow been universally used and understood to refer to the ten percent required and expected from believers, citing principally the passages from Malachi in the Old Testament while specific and explicit references in the New Testament to giving can be found in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9; and in Philippians 4.

Churches I attended previously which teach tithing of ten percent even advocated giving an additional month’s salary at the end of the year.  I am not sure whether any church or anyone should suggest the amount we should offer, not even ten percent; as the bible clearly teaches that “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart: (2 Cor 9:7).  It is contrary to scriptures when an amount is suggested.  And believers must be taught the delightful worship of honouring God with our substances, spontaneously, whole-heartedly and willingly.

Our “giving” is to be unilaterally personal, as in the cases of Abraham and Jacob, wholehearted and willing.  And according to 2 Cor 8:12 if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.  The Macedonians (2 Cor 8) were generous beyond their means, in response to the grace which they recognised, received and reveled in. Jesus spoke much about riches, and how we can be distracted and deceived by wrong convictions about money (See post on “In God We Trust: What the Bible Says About Money” in September 2014).

I do believer that the tax system of secular governments where people contribute according to their economical situation; might be more in tune with giving “according to their means” (2 Cor 8:3) and “according to what a person has” (2 Cor 8:12). This NT principle could be a more equitable, wise and laudable practice, a step-up from the ten percent; to render to God what is rightfully His (Matt 22:17-21). James 1 reminds the needy to glory in our eternal position and legacy and the rich to glory wisely in the transience and temporal truth of possessions. But we can lay up our treasures for eternity. This is most relevant for believers in affluent countries who have been blessed with positions and possessions; while ten percent from poor believers would even be a challenge (Luke 21:1-4). Advocating a blanket ten-percent by citing various proof-text or passages about the ‘ten’ is a poor interpretation of Christian giving, when there are explicit passages on this matter.

Perhaps we need to move away from the giving of ten percent and focus more on the grace we received, the good works we are to work out, and the harvest the Sower will reap with the seeds we sowed.

The Cheerful Giver (2 Corinthians 9)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

P/S

20th Nov 2014 :
Received a mailer about JP’s latest message delivered on the 16th Nov titled “Is There Tithing Under Grace?”

21st Nov 2014 :
Came across the comments on Joseph Prince message on “The Benefits of Tithing” –

http://www.828ministries.com/articles/Prince-ology-on-Tithing-N-by-Anthony-Wade-Tithing-141117-721.html

http://www.nairaland.com/1016038/tithing-rebuttal-joseph-princes-russell

It is interesting to note that our Pastor attracts so much attention to himself and his teachings. The two blogs from Christian workers are different from the favorable comments from church members / believers. For myself, it is expedient that I pray and search out for myself for all views – especially those that are fair and factual, submitting to the authority of the Scriptures rather than to the subjective meditations of men.

The Whole Counsel – can we really be complete and balanced?

The Whole Counsel of God (2) (a previous blog with the same title can be found here   –  https://wwwpilgrim.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/the-whole-counsel-of-god/)

My family was given a given a guided tour of Moody Church and a few of Erwin Lutzer’s books when we were there a few years ago. Since then, I began to listen online to Erwin Lutzer’s sermons upon returning to Singapore. I even downloaded his message on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ and passed it to a few friends.  Recently, someone who relocated to Moody Church from Singapore’s New Creation Church commented that believers in Moody are requested to search themselves before partaking of the Lord’s supper, while at NCC, we are to examine the Lord Jesus and His sacrificial work on the cross instead of examining ourselves, who have been made righteous.  So is Moody inconsistent or more likely addressing an equally important aspect of our lives as a sojourner on earth?

Yes, indeed we are made righteous by Christ’s death. We are taught – As He is righteous, so are we in this world, right? And Christ is not against Himself, Christ is not against us, and we are disease-free as Christ is disease-free?

Yet we read about Jesus’ words in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 that He is against the believers, and sought for active and practical works of the new creation.

NCC’s Joseph Prince, especially in the west has popular appeal and drawn appreciation from believers who watch him or read his books.  Those who scan the horizon for distortions and deceptions in the church would fault his associations with the WOF and dispute his occasional use of proof-text, anecdotes and devotional interpretations to encourage and build up those who have been distraught by the Christian religion. (see posting on ‘Proof Text’ June 2013).

The radical message of Grace as proclaimed by Joseph Prince has brought untold relief and release to many who have long been exposed to teachings which do not fully encompass the essence, significance and consequence of receiving God’s Grace. However, does this renewed and refreshed teaching of Grace discount or demolish the traditional teachings of discipleship and the ‘working out’ our salvation? (see posting in June 2013 on OSAS?? and OSAS!!!)

Much misunderstandings and heat has been generated when certain convictions are championed and subsequently challenged. This can be seen by the comments against Joseph Prince in his teachings on ‘repentance’, ‘confession of sins’, ‘examining ourselves re the Lord’s remembrance meal’ etc.  It is sad, and rather awry and amiss when someone labelled Joseph Prince’s book “Destined to Reign” as Destined to Ruin.

Personally, such dissonance might be due to the starting definition of terms and points of reference for the various issues.  JP has focused clearly and convincingly on the doctrinal foundation and outcomes of the finished work of Christ and His Grace upon Grace for the believer – our position in Christ, sealed and delivered.  I can fully appreciate his intense and resolute teachings to correct deeply entrenched fallacies of our faith.  The testimonies and reviews of his books in Amazon.com bear this out. However, in any pointed discourse, it would invariably be incomplete, and would have left out other aspects of the scriptures (see posting of ‘The Whole Counsel of God’)

And was I delighted when I read what Roger Nicole wrote in Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us”

http://founders.org/fj33/polemic-theology-how-to-deal-with-those-who-differ-from-us/

James Montgomery Boice was quoted to have commented :- “If there was one man in America I could study under, it would be Roger Nicole.”   (http://9marks.org/article/reflections-on-roger-nicole/)

Roger Nicole wrote: (words in bold, enlarged, etc are edited for emphasis)

Could I be Wrong?

The first thing that I should be prepared to learn is that I may be wrong and the other person may be right. Obviously, this does not apply to certain basic truths of the faith like the Deity of Christ or salvation by grace. The whole structure of the Christian faith is at stake here, and it would be instability rather than broad-mindedness to allow these to be eroded by doubts. Yet, apart from issues where God Himself has spoken so that doubt and hesitancy are really not permissible, there are numerous areas where we are temperamentally inclined to be very assertive and in which we can quite possibly be in error. When we are unwilling to acknowledge our fallibility, we reveal that we are more interested in winning a discussion and safeguarding our reputation than in the discovery and triumph of truth. A person who corrects our misapprehensions is truly our helper rather than our adversary, and we should be grateful for this service rather than resentful of the correction. As far as our reputation is concerned, we should seek to be known for an unfailing attachment to the truth and not appear to pretend to a kind of infallibility that we are ready to criticize when Roman Catholics claim it for their popes!

Our reputation will be better served if we show ourselves ready to be corrected when in error, rather than if we keep obstinately to our viewpoint when the evidence shows it to be wrong. I should welcome correction. It renders a signal service to me! I should respond, “I was mistaken in this; I am glad that you straightened me out; thank you for your help.” People who are unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes, by contrast, may be called stubborn and lose their credibility.

What are the Facts?

In the second place we may learn from one who differs that our presentation, while correct as far as it goes, fails to embody the truth in its entirety on the subject in view. Although what we assert is true, there are elements of truth that, in our own clumsy way, we have overlooked. For instance, we may be so concerned to assert the deity of Christ that we may appear to leave no room for His humanity. As a Calvinist, I may so stress the sovereignty of God that the reality of human decision may appear to be ruled out. Here again, I should feel grateful rather than resentful. The adversative situation may well force me to give better attention to the fullness of revelation and preclude an innate one-sidedness which results in a caricature that does disservice to truth no less than an actual error may do.

Many of the mainline elements of Christianity are thus, “two-railed,” if I may express myself in a metaphor. Unity, yet threeness in God, immanence yet transcendence, sovereignty of God and yet reality of rational decision, body and soul, deity and humanity of the Mediator, justification and sanctification, divine inspiration of Scripture and human authorship, individual and corporate responsibility. One could multiply the examples. When one of the factors is overlooked, one is doing no better than the railroad operator who would attempt to run an ordinary train with only one rail (I do not speak here of monorails!). The person who differs from me may render me great service by compelling me to present the truth in its completeness and thus avoid pitfalls created by under-emphasis, over-emphasis and omissions. Thus my account will be “full-orbed” rather than “half-baked!”

What are the Dangers?

I may learn from those who differ from me that I have not sufficiently perceived certain dangers to which my view is exposed and against which I need to be especially on guard. I may find out notably that there are certain weighty objections to which I had not given sufficient attention heretofore. Here again, I must be grateful for a signal service rendered by the objector. Instead of being irked by the opposition, I should rise to the challenge of presenting my view with appropriate safeguards and in such a way as to anticipate objections that are likely to arise.

Prince has dug his heels in proclaiming the Gospel of radical Grace and restored and inspired many with his own interpretations of the significance and outcomes of the unmerited and undeserved favor which all believers inherit. However, his vivid and vibrant teachings (perennial issues that affect and afflict the average believer) on repentance, confession of sins and the examining ourselves (amongst others) has somewhat elicit both assertions of flawed interpretation and allegations of false teaching, as they seemingly stirred up issues that had been submerged beneath the widespread calls to the ‘cost of discipleship’ and to give ‘my utmost for His Highest’. Comments and critique to Prince fill the blogosphere, with even allusions in the book “Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message” by Michael Brown.

The fog clears when one understands what Roger Nicole wrote “the mainline elements of Christianity are thus, “two-railed”.  I wrote that our finite minds cannot fully fathom the full counsel of God (June 2014).  I believe Michael Brown rightly cautioned against hyper Grace and presented aspects of our faith that could be ignored or neglected while Joseph Prince in bringing back the message of Grace had to be vigorous and robust in addressing the millions of believers hauntingly snarled by the gospel AND the trappings of religious demands for personal discipleship. But in doing so, Prince in denouncing the corrupted and mixed message of grace and works has brought collateral damage to the works of righteousness and the out-workings of our salvation.

I echoed Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 for myself and others frequently.

Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; ….  9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be (1) filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will (2) walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, (3)  to please Him in all respects, (4)  bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [r]to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

So it is more than just seeking after ‘right believing’ and letting the fruiting be automatic.  It is also walking, pleasing and bearing – actions that are part of my life as a pilgrim and sojourner.  Just as I have told my family since the 90’s To Know right (God’s heart and mind), Think right, Feel right, Do right and Speak right.