Jan 20 2016
Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5: 17)
To abolish something is to put an end to it. To fulfill something is to complete it, to bring it to reality, or to its destiny.
Let me explain by asking all parents with daughters a question. Why is your little girl pretty? As a parent (especially if you are a father) you may not want to face the answer. The reason your little girl is pretty is because when she grows up she needs to catch a man. Yup, that’s the reason. Her prettiness has a destiny, and one day it will be fulfilled. Her beauty will knock some guy off his feet.
Likewise, when Jesus said he had come to fulfill the Law, he meant that he was going to bring it to its destiny, or what it was ultimately meant for.
Take for example the Jewish temple that was so central to all the Levitcal laws. The sacrifices of animals at the temple pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He was the lamb that takes away the sins at the world. The curtain that separated God’s people from his presence in the Holy of Holies was ripped in two as Jesus died on the cross. It spoke of our sin that is destroyed by the cross. You can see the temple had a destiny, and its fulfillment was in Jesus. Once Jesus came the years of ritual had greater meaning.
But this raises a question. If Jesus fulfilled the Law but did not abolish it, are we still obligated to practice it?
The answer is this: We are not obligated to practice the Law, we are to apply the fulfillment it pointed to. If the sacrifices pointed to the cross then we must apply the cross to our lives. We must receive the righteousness ot Christ that the cross brings. We do this by believing with our hearts, confessing with our mouths, and acting out a new life with our hands and feet. But it all starts with belief in the heart. As we say ‘yes’ to the cross the Holy Spirit stamps God’s heart on our hearts, which means his Law is in us.
Jeremiah prophecied that this would happen. He said, ‘“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah … This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”‘ (Jer 31:31-33)
Under the New Covenant we do not follow a legal system engraved on stone, we follow God’s heart that the Holy Spirit has superimposed on our human hearts at the moment we are born again.
The apostle Paul put it like this, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter (the legal system) but of the Spirit (the third person of God); for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6)
Here you can see that Paul is very clear that the Law has a different nature under the New Covenant. We no longer practice legality, we practice the heart of God given by the Spirit of God. The Law was a tool that pointed to the heart of God, and with the Holy Spirit in us, the heart of God is in us.
As usual Jesus puts it best. When he was asked which was the greatest commandment, he said “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22: 37-40).
Here Jesus reduces the entire Law of Moses to two things; love for God and love for man. He is saying if you love God and man you have completed the Law. Why? Because you are practising the heart of the Law, and the heart behind the law is God’s heart.
The teachings of Jesus and Paul show us how to apply the fulfillment of the Law. Jesus taught the heart of the Law, and Paul taught the Spirit of the Law. Both are much the same thing. At the cross (in Jesus) the letter (legalism) of the Law died, and the Spirit (heart) of the Law was raised.
So how does this all relate to tithing?
Well, tithing was part of the Law. At the cross the Law of tithing died, but the Spirit of tithing was raised. But to fully understand what this means we first need to see what tithing was as a Law of the Old Covenant and then take a look at what Paul says about it under the New Covenant.
Tithing under the Old Covenant
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord … Every tithe of the herd and flock – every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod – will be holy to the Lord.
This scripture reveals that tithing was giving a tenth of the grain, fruit, herd and flock to the temple. Israel was a farming culture, so they were basically being told to bring a tenth of their income to the house of God.
Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name – there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.
This scripture reveals that tithes were counted among the offerings brought to the temple. They were therefore a part of Israel’s worship and were to be presented in a joyful way. It also shows that the tithe was not to be given to just any cause, but taken to Israel’s place of worship.
“I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting … It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord …”
This scripture reveals that the tithes were given to the Levites. The Levites were a tribe set apart to work in the temple. They were given no land (inheritance) when Israel moved into the promised land because they were to be devoted to ministry instead of farming.
2 Chronicles 31: 4-5
He (King Hezekiah) ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.
This scripture reinforces the fact that the tithes were given so the Levites could be devoted to ministry. It also tells us that the crop tithes were to be from the firstfruits – the first part of a harvest.
Nehemiah 13: 10-12
I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms.
This scripture reveals how Israel often neglected to tithe and this forced the Levites to start farming so they could survive. This angered the Lord as it meant ministry at the temple stopped.
Malachi 3: 8-10
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.
ln this scripture disobedient Israelites are being told to tithe, not just so that the Levites would be taken care of, but so that Israel’s crops would be protected and blessed. God Is claiming to be Israel’s Provider. When Israel acknowledged him as their Provider by bringing a tenth of their provisions to the temple, God blessed their provisions all the more.
So, in summary, we see that Old Covenant tithing was firstly a way of acknowledging God as provider in worship and secondly a form of support for the Levites who were in fulltime ministry. In addition the person that tithed was promised that his income would be protected and blessed.
Tithing under the New Covenant
The temple symbolized God’s throne room, and therefore God’s rule. When Jesus said “Go make disciples of all nations,” he was extending that rule (God’s Kingdom) to the whole earth. If the ministry of the temple is extended, then we must continue to support it just like Israel did.
The apostle Paul puts it like this, “Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
Note that in this scripture Paul is saying that ministry under the New Covenant should be supported in the ‘same way’ as in the Old Covenant and that ‘the Lord has commanded’ this. But also notice Paul’s manner of speaking, he is not saying ‘you better tithe because its the law and your leaders are watching to see if you do it.’ He is appealing to believers hearts and inviting them to agree with him because what he is saying makes sense. The Holy Spirit had made these early believers passionate about the church and so it would be natural for them to want to support it just as they had supported the temple previously. Paul’s manner shows that the law has gone, but now believers need to give in the same way from their hearts. This is the spirit of tithing.
ln 1 Corinthians 16: I-3 we see the spirit of tithing again. Paul says, “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.”
Paul does not tell us what this collection is for, but it was taken on a Sunday (first day of the week) and it involved giving in proportion (in keeping) to ones income. Now where did this idea of giving in proportion to one’s income come from? Well, Jews had done it for centuries, it was called tithing. These New Testament believers did not practice a law of tithing, but they easily fitted in with the spirit of tithing. Why? Because God’s laws were now written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit.
A person with the spirit of tithing thinks like this, he says, “God is the number one person in my life, I want to see his kingdom come in all the earth, I want to see it preached and demonstrated, I want to see people saved, people abandoned to God in worship, kids taught the ways of the Lord, marriages blessed, and youth mobilized. If Israel was required to give a tenth to God’s work, I can do the same or better.”
Because New Testament tithing is a matter of the heart, preachers should never push people to do it. Rather they should just say to people, “If you do not tithe check your heart, because people who love the things of God naturally desire to put their money into it. Its a joy to them.”And today I say the same to you. If you do not tithe, check your heart.
If you consider yourself a member of Vineyard Mombasa there are a number of ways you can tithe to our church:
1) You can put cash in an envelope with your name on it and put it in the offering bags that are passed around our church on a Sunday morning.
2) You can write a cheque to Nyali Vineyard Church and put it in the offering bags that are passed around our church on a Sunday morning.
3) You can transfer money to our bank account named Nyali Vineyard Church, account number 0100000652002 at CFC Stanbic Bank, Digo Rd Branch, Mombasa. Some people arrange an ongoing standing order.
4) You can mpesa money to 0722874833.
We have a referral page with these details at http://vineyardmsa.org/giving/
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