About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Part 9

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The Acts 15 Solution


If what I’ve said so far concerning tithing not being New Testament thinking isn’t convincing enough, I’ve got another point you might want to  consider.    

Imagine yourself as a new Gentile Christian man in the first generation church living in the province of   Galatia .  The only Christian teaching you’ve heard came from the lips of Paul, and it wasn’t complicated. He told you to repent, give your life to Jesus, and continue to live by trusting Jesus.  Trusting in Jesus alone would put you in right standing before God.  Nothing else would or could do that. 


One day a couple of Jews tell you that in order to be a real Christian you need to become a Jew and obey the Law of Moses.  As a Gentile living a good distance from Judea you’ve heard next to nothing about the Jewish religion and you know very little about this Law stuff.  You’re now confused and you’re not sure what to believe.


Paul had you water baptized when you gave your life to Jesus  but these men tell you to get circumcised. Thoughts of such surgery is disconcerting to you and makes you want to forget about Christianity altogether.        


You soon discover that you’re not the only one trapped between two ways of thinking. It has become a major problem among all the new Gentile Christians.  As a result, the Christian leaders of the day, which includes Paul, Peter,  and James get together to solve this problem.  They conclude that both Jews and Gentiles alike come to God through trusting in Jesus alone, apart from the Law of Moses.  Jews themselves could never obey the Law so why should they expect that you Gentiles could.  (Acts 15:11)


Paul told you that Jesus broke down the wall that separated Jews from Gentiles. (Eph. 2:14)  For the purpose of salvation there’s no longer any difference between the two groups of people.  Besides, Jesus said, “I will build ‘my’ ekklesia”. (Mat. 16:18)  Speaking Greek you understood Jesus to mean that He’d put together His own “called out and separated people”, because that’s what the word “ekklesia” means.  Just as God called out Israel from the rest of the nations in Old Testament times to be His people,  so Jesus “called out” His own people in New Testament times to be His people.  Jesus’  “called out people” is fundamentally different than God’s called out people in times past.  They give themselves to Jesus to obey, not the Law of Moses.


So the men in Acts 15, along with the Holy Spirit conclude that they’d only give you Gentiles four things that you’d “do well to avoid” which were found in the Law.  They are; abstain from foods offered to idols, abstain from blood, abstain from the meat of strangled animals, and also abstain from sexual immorality.  (Acts 15:29)  One thing you notice is that tithing is not one of these  requirements to obey, something these Jewish men wanted you to do as well.


The last part of their decision found in Acts 15:29 says, “you will do well to avoid these things”.  That doesn’t sound like a strong heavy handed mandate to me.  Paul himself didn’t even follow the first requirement.  He saw no problem eating meat offered to idols as long as he didn’t eat it in the context of a pagan ritual, or as long as his eating didn’t destroy a brother’s faith. (1 Cor. 10:14 32)  To be clear, Paul did view sexual immorality as sin, something Jesus called sin as well.


As a new Gentile Christian you’d have been greatly relieved.    You have no obligation to the Law of Moses.  You were never under the Law in the first place, and you’re not under it now, and that includes the tithing laws.  Your obedience and allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ alone.  


Unless these early leaders and the Holy Spirit got it all wrong, which I don’t believe they did, the Old Testament Law according to Acts 15, which includes tithing stays in the Old Testament.  When Christians today revert back to living under  such Mosaic Laws as tithing and keeping the Sabbath they are in direct opposition to what the Holy Spirit spoke in Acts 15.  This whole discussion ended in Acts 15.  I don’t know why we still have to deal with it today.   If we want to revert back and live under the Law, we’re like the Judaizers in Galatia .  Paul tells the Galatians that living under the Law is demonic,  (Gal. 3:1)  which may well alienate or separate you from Christ. (Gal. 5:4)   These are strong words. I’ll let you conclude what they mean.         


Intelligent Giving


1 John 3:16 and 17 says, “this is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”


John says that we should love, which obviously  includes giving money because Jesus loves us.  This means that Jesus motivates us to give, not  a law. John also points out that we have a responsibility to give to our poor brothers.  I believe giving to our poor brothers is the first place where we should give according to New Testament teaching.  Giving to poor brothers should be at the top of  any church’s list of expenditures. 


Giving material possessions which includes money should be done in “action based on truth” according to John.  This means that we give intelligently according to the truth which is found in Scripture.  We don’t throw our money at anything and everything that comes our way.  We think seriously about why, how and where to give.  From my vantage point much of the money we give to the modern church is not spent intelligently according to the truth of Scripture.  Giving to our poor brothers isn’t usually at the top of our expenditure list, but depending on our poor brother’s circumstances it should be.


Think of it this way.  A parent doesn’t indiscriminately give to his child everything his child asks for.  He uses good common sense based on sound wisdom in responding to his child’s request.  The parent thus gives intelligently.  Our giving should be intelligent as well , based on the truth of Scripture.        

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