Lecture 3: World As It Is

WE ARE HERE FOR THERE

 We were created for eternity. We are blessed with a spirit from God that is conditionally eternal only in the presence of our eternal God (2 Th 1:6-9). We are the result of an Eternal Love, and thus, we are headed for an eternal presence with this Love. In order that our transition from here to there happen, God had to guard His justice by offering instructions on how to find the Way (At 9:2). This offer was made for those of His creation who would chose to follow His directions into His eternal presence. In order that God’s justice be true and unaccused, an opportunity from the confines of this material world for the eternal presence of God was made possible through the sacrificial offering of God Himself. The totality of His intervention among men, therefore, is based on the promise that God is working to get us from here to there. For this reason, we must view all that transpires in the present world as God’s efforts to get as many people as possible into His eternal presence. We are thus not confused by the chaos that prevails in many places of the world. We are not confused or discouraged because we know that our God is at work to deliver us from this testing environment.

In answer to the question, “Why was the world created?” and “Why Israel?” the answer can be found only in the statement that will be made by Jesus at the end of the world, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation [creation] of the world” (Mt 25:34).

The world was created by a loving Father who seeks to bring His loving children, whom He now claims as His own, into His eternal presence, in which presence, their eternal existence is guaranteed. Now we must consider this for a moment. Since the creation was never meant to be an end within itself, then there must be a reason for its existence, and ours. Its existence was to produce an environment for those who will exist beyond its termination. There is no Bible teaching that says that the world will continue as it is without end. If one were to adhere to the philosophy of evolution, then he might come to the conclusion that matter (the earth) is eternal. But if one believes the Bible, then there is an end to the heavens and earth that we now experience (Compare 2 Pt 3). The world as we know it will come to an end, but not those children of faith whom God has prepared for His presence in a new heavens and earth (See 2 Pt 3:13). They are His children in this present world, but they are not of this world. The fact that this world is temporary, therefore, establishes the conclusion that the world was created for an eternal purpose that will exist beyond the termination of the world itself.

We are here in order to prepare for being somewhere else. Christians are only “sojourners and pilgrims” on their journey through the existence of this world (Hb 11:13). This world is simply not their home. It is a place of transition to the eternal presence of the Father of their spirits (Hb 12:9). Since this world is a place of transitioning sojourners and pilgrims, then when there are few sojourners and pilgrims to transition, then the world will no longer be useful for the purpose for which it was created.

If there is a finality to this world, then this world exists for the purpose of those who will exist beyond this world. Those who will exist beyond this world are those who are of the faith of Abraham. By Jesus “all things were created …. All things were created through Him and for Him (Cl 1:16). All things were created for Jesus, including all humanity. All was created for a purpose, that purpose being “for Him.” Jesus would have no need of an eternal earth as it now is, since the eternal existence of the faithful who now inhabit the world are not dependent on the existence of the world. But as one with the loving God, the Son of God has an eternal dwelling for us that is not dependent on the world as we know it. He will thus discard the created world in order to preserve that which does not depend on the material for its existence.

So what would be His purpose in creating a temporary environment for us? If this environment is coming to a close, then those who walk by faith will exist beyond the end of this world. As we move closer to the end of all things, we must conclude that His allowance of the continuation of this present world is simply for the purpose of giving birth to more sons of faith who will dwell with Him in eternity. Since this world is coming to an end, then we would conclude that there is some reason why God would bring this world to an end. And since we would conclude that there is no limit to the population of heaven, then we must also conclude that this world will exist until it has fulfilled its purpose.

Now Paul revealed that there would be living Christians around at the time when Jesus would appear for a second time (See 1 Th 4:13-18). We would correctly assume, therefore, that God has planned a specific time for the termination of this present world. We will never know that time until we hear the final trumpet. It will be the remaining faithful “Noahs” who will hear the trumpet. At the sound of that trumpet the resurrected and changed saints, will with the with the living saints, enter into an eternal existence in the presence of God. Whatever God does with the present world is not our concern. We only know that we will be restored to eternality, which thing Adam and Eve gave up in the beginning (See Gn 3:22-24).

If the purpose of this world is to populate that which is to come, then this world is useful for this purpose as long as citizens are produced for eternal dwelling. But when this world is no longer conducive to the population of that which is beyond this world, then this world is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was created. This brings us back to the teleology (the end purpose) that was expressed in Genesis 6:5-7. In the flood, God terminated the population of the world because the world produced no more sons of faith. When this world no longer produces that for which it was created, then it is gone, in a moment, at the voice of an archangel, at the sound of the last trumpet (1 Th 4:15,16).

If the world is here, therefore, for the purpose of populating of heaven, then our business is God’s business to get people into eternal glory with Jesus. Since the Christian is no longer his own, but has been bought with a price (1 Co 6:20), then it is simply senseless for him to consume upon himself that which is temporary. It is his primary mission to bring glory to God by focusing on the mission of God and the purpose for which this world was created. Terms and phrases as “materialistic,” “worldly minded” and “carnal” define those who are caught up and confined to this temporary existence. But terms as “evangelism,” “mission minded” and “hope” define other-world minded people. These terms find the centrality of their biblical definition in the purpose for which God created all things, and then gave a mission to those who are of faith.

The closer one gets to the heart of God, the closer he gets to the mission of God that is inherent in the creation of this world. Evangelistic minded Christians are in touch with God. They are in touch with the mission of God and His purpose for the creation of this world. Their world view is centered around the purpose of taking as many people as possible into eternal glory. It is the love response of their hearts to follow after their loving Creator, whose mission it is to have loving beings in His presence for all eternity.

In order for the loving to be with the eternal Lover, God came in the likeness of the created (Ph 2:5-11). He was incarnate in the flesh of man (Jn 1:14). However, after His resurrection, His body of flesh was changed into that which we will also be changed after our resurrection (See 1 Co 15:35-58). We do not now know the nature of His resurrected and changed body. But we know that when He comes again, we will be changed to be like Him. John wrote, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we will be. But we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).

When we consider this one statement of the Holy Writ, we are held in awe at the sacrifice that the Son of God made for us. The Son will “appear” a second time. In order for Him to appear, there would have to be substance to His presence. We will “see Him.” In order to be seen, there must be a body that would reflect His glory. His will be a bodily appearance. John says that we will be like this body of His. Ours will be a changed body (1 Co 15:50-54). But we will see Him as He is, in His permanently incarnate, but changed body. John is saying that the Son of God permanently incarnated in the flesh of man on our behalf (Jn 1:14). Though He was changed in His resurrected body, there was something permanent about Him giving up the form of God (See Ph 2:5-11). He did this for us. The permanency of His eternal sacrifice wonderfully manifests His abiding love for us throughout eternity. What words are there in any human language that would explain this love, this sacrifice? He did this for us!

If Jesus, the loving Creator of all things, created us for an eternal existence with Himself (Cl 1:16), then this is love beyond what any man can experience on this earth. We are driven to be in the presence of this eternally incarnated loving Creator. We cannot help ourselves. And we cannot but seek to take everyone we know with us into this awesome love and freedom from the sufferings of this present world that has gone wrong in so many ways. We cannot help but cry out as John when he was so emotionally overcome with the awesome visions of Revelation, Come, Lord Jesus (Rv 22:20). We realize that we were created not for here, but for there with our Lord Jesus.

Lecture 4: Godly Giving

TAKING OWNERSHIP OF ONE’S LOAD

 The letter to the Galatians may have been the first letter of inspiration written to the early Christians. It was written to the disciples in the region of Galatia where Paul and Barnabas went on their first mission journey (At 13,14). If the letter was written early, then we assume that the teaching of the letter was directed to new Christians. They may have been less than five years old in the faith. This fact is important because it gives us an idea of what God expects of His children even from their early years in the faith. In the letter, Paul not only addresses the threat of legal religiosity, but also exhorts the disciples concerning responsibilities they must assume as God’s children.

In the first chapters of the letter, Paul addressed the doctrinal challenges that faced these new Christians. In chapter 5 he gave a final exhortation to stand free in Christ as opposed to being brought into the bondage of legal religiosity (Gl 5:1,2).

It is in chapter 6 that the Holy Spirit, through the hand of Paul, reveals some very practical responsibilities of our function as members of the universal body of Christ. In 6:4 he admonished that each disciple must take ownership of his or her own work by not boasting in the work of others. The disciples should not behave as some in Corinth who took glory in the work of others (See 2 Co 10:13,16). On the contrary, “… each one will bear his own load” (6:5). Paul laid the foundation for what was coming. When it comes to taking ownership, “each one” must assume the responsibility of being a disciple. Every disciple must take ownership of that which one should assume as a productive member of the organic body of Christ. Christians cannot pass off on others their responsibilities. If one would be a Christian, and thus a disciple of Jesus, then he cannot assume that someone else will bear his load. Christians seek to give physical things freely as they were freely supplied with spiritual things (See 2 Co 8:14). A disciple of Jesus simply cannot ask someone else to bear the load that God expects him to bear.

In the context of Galatians 6, Paul led his readers to the responsibility of verse 6. “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with the one who teaches.”

The word “share” is from the Greek word koinonia. The meaning is “joint partnership.” We hear of many unfortunate definitions throughout the world of the word “partnership.” To many, partnership means, “Give me the money and we will do the work of spending it.” This is one’s “cuffed-hand” culture speaking. But this is certainly not what Paul was saying in the context of Galatians 6:6. The ownership that is expressed in 6:5 must be continued into verse 6. “Each one” must join in partnership to support the teacher. The student must take ownership of his teaching by supporting his teacher. Whether his teaching comes through the person of the teacher, or through the book a teacher might write, the student has the responsibility of personally paying the teacher or buying the teacher’s book. Disciples who do neither are simply walking contrary to the instructions of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 6. They walk as dysfuncational members of the body, and thus in violation of fellowshipping those who are teachers of the word. One cannot expect to grow spiritually in study of the word of God if he seeks to acquire his knowledge of the word without taking ownership of his source of teaching.

In the use of the word koinonia in 6:6, money is involved. Obligation and responsibility are incurred. Each student has the responsibility to pay the teacher.   The student cannot sluff off on another his or her responsibility to pay his or her Bible teacher. Any disciple, therefore, who does not pay his teacher is behaving in a manner that is contrary to Paul’s instructions in Galatians 6:6. He is trying to come to his teacher empty handed. He sins while trying to grow spiritually by being taught the word of God without paying the teacher. It is a spiritual contradiction. And thus, we now understand why those of some societies who have freely received to many contributions find it difficult to grow to the spiritual levels of true discipleship in stewardship. The culture of their outstretched hand always hinders them from taking ownership of their responsibilities to be Christians who give.

Any student who would walk out of a Bible class, without feeling his responsibility to make sure that the teacher was supported for his labors in teaching, has certainly left the class to walk disorderly. Anyone who would seek a free spiritual book written by a teacher is working against the spiritual nourishment that he would receive from the book. We are dysfunctional disciples when we expect a free ride in reference to the sources of our being taught.

It would be good to offer some suggestions on this point since this fundamental teaching of the word of God leads us into many of the texts that we will discuss later. We remember in the early 1980s when we went as evangelists to the West Indies (Caribbean). We lived on the island of Antigua. In the first few months of going from shack to shack in teaching, we were pleasantly surprised by the giving of the people. These were truly “Third World” (developing world) residents. According to Western standards they were very poor, living in shacks across the island and eating from their own gardens. But in every house we entered and taught the word of God, after the class the people of the house, the students, would collect up some fruit in the house to give to us, for they had no money. We graciously accepted their “pay” for the class, and went on our way thinking, “These folks got the point. Someone in the past taught them well.” There were no cuff-handed people on the entire island.

Their history had taught them a great lesson of ownership. In the early 1950s, the general population, which was held in economic bondage by the land owners, went on strike. In doing so, the people had to struggle for themselves to survive. During those years of trying to feed their families, the people ate anything to stay alive. In all their struggles to survive, they learned a great lesson of life. They learned to take ownership of their own lives and their own destiny. And when some foreign teachers later came by, they would not take something (teaching) for nothing. The West Indies people could teach the post-colonial, post foreign-aid cultures a few things about financially taking ownership of oneself by paying their teachers. People look at the West Indian culture with respect because of who they are. But people will always look down on a cuffed-hand culture. The word “partnership” has a difficult time being understood correctly in such cultures.

 

 

Lecture 2: World As It Is

THE RIGHT PLACE FOR NOW

 God is love, and our existence is evidence of this fact. So in creating us, He has said, “I love you.” If our response, “I love You, too,” that we would make to our Creator is to be sincere, then we must have the freedom not to make the statement. We must be able to rebel, to sin, to morally corrupt ourselves to the lowest level of sinful degradation. If we are truly free-moral beings, then we must have the option to turn our backs on our Creator; to live and to die in eternal extinction. Unfortunately, such is the choice of most people to turn their backs on the God of love. Though sad, the option for eternal doom is inherent in our being truly free-moral individuals. It is not that we inherently sin. It is that within inherently free-will people there is the possibility of making sinful decisions. And we all make such decisions. And when the norm of society chooses to make bad decisions, then we end up with the condition of society that is explained in Genesis 6:5.

But you might ask, “If God is love, and thus had to created a truly free moral individual who could go wrong, then why would He even create us in the first place?” The answer is that He had to. It is simply the nature of love. Love must love something, else it is not love. A loving God cannot exist alone in eternity with a simple proclamation that He is love. Love is meaningless without action. And since love had to create, then love also had to provide a means by which the loved could perpetually exist in the presence of a loving God. This too was a loving act on the part of our God of love.

This brings us to questions concerning the environment in which God placed us, an environment wherein we can go wrong. We can become unloving. So here we are, in the best of all possible environments for the existence of a truly free-moral individual with all the possibilities to love as our Creator, but with the possibility to go incredibility wrong.

Ours is an environment where choices can be made between good and evil. It is an environment in which we can be held accountable for our moral fallibility. It is even an environment where we pay the consequences for violating both moral and physical laws. And yet in all the evil and suffering of this environment, we can think of no better environment for the existence of a truly free moral person to make choices of either good or evil.

We must keep in mind that we are not alone in this environment. We must never forget that in this environment there are other individuals who also have the right to choose. And some of those in our environment, as we, also make bad choices. For example, it is often the desire of a free moral being to exalt himself above or against his fellow man. He seeks to rule over his fellow man. All these desires define the nature of a free-moral person. These desires also answer the question as to why evil and suffering exist in the best of all possible environments in which a truly free-moral being must exist.

In all our consideration of these matters, we must not make the mistake of blaming the physical environment for the bad moral choices we make. When we say the “best of all possible environments,” we mean that this must be an environment wherein a physical being can function with the opportunity to go morally wrong. And for this created physical being to exist, there must be physical laws that govern its existence. And if these laws are violated, then there are consequences that are usually immediate. If one jumped from a ten-story building, he would immediately discover the consequences of his violation of the law of gravity upon his arrival at the foundation of the first story. The problem comes when others suffer when one violates a physical law of this best of all possible environments. A speeding vehicle can kill others than the irresponsible driver of the speeding car.

A.  Freedom and destruction:

Now we come to a true understanding of the historical statement of Genesis 6:5. God created man and placed him in the best of all possible environments to make moral decisions. Because it is not in man to create his own moral codes that are constant and universal, God delivered to man eternal standards of moral conduct by which he must walk in order to prevent moral chaos (See Hb 1:1). But as the centuries went by after creation, evil prevailed over good as man as a whole sought to walk after his own moral standards. It came to the following moral low that is stated in Genesis 6:5: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gn 6:5). And if you know the rest of the story, only Noah and his family made it out alive from this moral self-destruction. Movies are made with this theme.

It is imperative for the biblical historian to understand the purpose of the flood of Noah’s day in order to understand God’s work with man throughout history. So many questions are answered. Particularly, we ask concerning the existence of the nation of Israel, and then, the existence of the church. The existence of both are related to one another in reference to what Genesis 6:5 explains concerning the nature of free-moral individuals who choose to live outside the will of their Creator.

In all the mess of sin, the cross of the Son of God reveals that it was not fiendish of God to create man. It does so by His offer of a plan of escape to free-moral individuals He knew would go wrong in sin. The cross also explains the purpose for which God created man in the first place. Only in the cross do we have answers concerning why we are here and where we are going. And only in the cross do we discover that this world was created for a specific purpose. If we miss this purpose, then we will live with a host of unanswered questions, if not a life of despair. We will also be faced with the accusations of atheists as to why we would believe in a God who would create that which He would eventually have to condemn to an unfortunate end. (Noble Student Research: www.africainternational.org, Biblical Research Library, Book 25, chapter 5.)

 B.  Preservation through a nation:

If it is not possible for those of society to save themselves and escape moral degradation that comes by living outside the moral bounds of God’s law—and it is not—then God will work through those who walk by faith in Him to accomplish His eternal purpose for all that now exists. Though societies go wrong, individuals can go right. And right living individuals can exist in the midst of societies that have gone wrong. Noah did it. God chose to work through the fathers of faith that began with Noah, extended through Jacob, and then through the descendants of Jacob in the children of Israel. God continues to work through individual heroes of faith in order to accomplish His plan for His creation.

Israel was chosen out of the people of the world in order to preserve a segment of society, and a moral environment for individual heroes of faith until the cross of the incarnate Son of God. Israel was chosen to fullfil promises to Abraham, our father of faith, until the Blessing that would come through him could redeem those who walk by faith (See Gn 12:1-4). The nation of Israel was chosen through Abraham even before its existence. God made this choice through Abraham in order to create a “spiritual Israel” after fleshly Israel as a nation was dissolved into the One who would be the Messiah for all people who walked by faith. Therefore, Israel, as a social environment for the remnant of the faithful, was only a means to an end. When the end came—Christ—then the means was termination, which termination included the special covenant relationship that God had with the nation of Israel. The faithful have since the cross moved again into a worldwide moral environment as it was from creation to national Israel. God is still focusing on individuals of faith who now make up the remnant of His people in this worldwide environment. (Do not forget this point for later discussions.)

It might be said that God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to continue His purpose for the creation of the world, but ended up with Israel, a stiffnecked nation of people. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were men of great faith in a world environment that had morally gone wrong.

The cultural environment of Israel was as God identified them to Moses: “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiffnecked people” (Ex 32:9; 33:3-5). Even Moses confessed to God, “… go among us, for this is a stiffnecked people …” (Ex 34:9). And in reference to God giving Israel the land of Palestine, Moses stated to the Israelites, “Do not say in your heart …, ‘Because of my righteouness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land ….’ Not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to posses their land … for you are a stiffnecked people” (Dt 9:4-6). But God used their “stiffnecked culture” to preserve a segment of humanity in order to bring His Redeemer into the world. If He could get a stiffnecked people headed in the right direction, then at least a remnant of faithfuls would survive until the fullness of time and the revelation of the Redeemer.

God used Israel to drive out the morally wicked who possessed the land “in order that He might accomplish,” as Moses said, “the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Dt 9:5). As we said, God chose the fathers of faith, but ended up with a stiffnecked people in order to bring the Savior of the world to those who have chosen to walk by faith. Nevertheless, Israel was used as a vehicle through whom God would seek to accomplish His purpose for the creation of the world. We learn something in God’s use of Israel that identifies how He works today. He can use the worst case scenario of this world in order to accomplish His mission. We must not think for a moment that the wickedness of man can in any way detour the plans of God for the purpose of this world and the destiny of His children.

Lecture 1: World As It Is

A WORLD VIEW WITHOUT A WORLD 

Unlike animals, man is an inquisitive being. And being inquisitive we wonder. Since we are moral beings in a world that is corrupted with moral chaos, we wonder why “in the world” are we here?

If we could answer the question as to why the world exists, and why we are here, then we can understand our purpose (mission) as children of God. And when we understand our purpose, then the world begins to make a great deal of sense, even to our finite minds. Since we are all wondering about who we are and why we are here, then it is incumbent upon all of us to ponder a few concepts that will help us to be more content with the state of things as they exist in this world.

 A.  The necessity of creation:

We would begin our quest to understand our existence by answering questions concerning the existence of a world that seems to have gone morally wrong. It is a world full of the most heinous violence that man can conceive against man. Genocide is a word that is found only in the dictionary of man, for no animal behaves in such a hideous manner. But we wonder why such behavior is uniquely characteristic with man.

These ponderings are all answered in one statement of Scripture: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This, ironically, explains everything. We say “ironically” because we wonder how a world filled with hate could have originated from an eternal source of love. But the answer is simple. Love must have an object upon which to pour out love. And since God is love, then there must be those upon whom He can pour out His love. So here we are with all our moral warts, unconditionally loved by a loving Creator who seeks that we be with Him for eternity. In order to create creatures of love, we need an environment in which they can love. We need an individual who can make decisions of good and evil within this environment. Does this make any sense?

In order to be lovable, there must always be a response to love. In other words, when one says, “I love you,” the answer that is desired by the one who makes this statement is, “I love you, too.” In order that the statement “I love you, too” be sincere, there are conditions. The one upon whom God would shower His love must be truly free to say, “I love you, too.” If there is no freedom, then the responding statement to love would only be robotic. So we must be created truly free in order to make a sincere statement of love. Add to this the necessity that we must be in an environment wherein freedom to make such a statement is neither hindered nor programmed. This means that we must be truly free-moral individuals with the ability and freedom to make our own statements that are based on our own volition. This must be true since it would be difficult for God to love a pre-programmed robot.

B.  The curse of fallibility:

God knew that His free-moral creation would go wrong. Our free-moral freedom comes with this risk. This risk is based on the fact that truly free-moral people must be fallible. We are indeed human because we are fallible. And because it is not possible that a free-moral being could ever live without going wrong, then there had to be a plan in place before creation to reconcile the fallible to his infallible Creator. And so after the first sin of His first two free-moral and fallible beings, God said in Genesis 3:15 to the tempter of our fallibility, “And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise His heel” (Gn 3:15).

This is the first announcement for the purpose of the existence of the world and its inhabitants. It is ironic that the first statement in the Bible concerning man’s redemption from his fallibility was made to Satan, who, through temptation, led man from his innocence.

Love demanded creation. Creation demanded freedom. Freedom comes with the risk of sin. And sin demands redemption. If there was the need for redemption—and there was—then we would ask, “Redeemed for what?” All this is in the statement of Genesis 3:15. It was a plan conceived before the creation, but enacted only when the fullness of time came on a wooden cross outside the city limits of Jerusalem of Palestine. Sin first came, then the Son, and then, the salvation. But again, salvation from what and for what?

 C.  Signpost to our destination:

The concept of redemption for salvation means little to most people of the world. But it means something incredible to those who stand at the grave of a departed believer. What salvation means was revealed only a short time after the Creator confronted the first two fallible sinners in a garden of paradise. Their deportation from that garden, which was meant to be an eternal dwelling, reveals the original purpose for which creation was enacted. The eternal triune God said among themselves, “Behold, the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, he must not be allowed to put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever (Gn 3:22). And therein is revealed the meaning of “salvation.”

Saved from sin without the promise of living forever is meaningless. In order to restore eternality to the created, there must be an answer for that which separates the created from the presence of the One who only has the gift of eternality. Therefore, in order for God to be a just God in the creation of man, then He had to provide the means by which the sin, which He knew would occur, could be rectified. The answer to the problem of fallibility had to be a sufficient means by which the fallible sinner could once again be restored to that which brings eternal life, that is, his walk with God. This is the salvation for which all of us yearn. We are told little when this drama was played out in the garden of Eden. But enough was revealed that all believers from that time were looking for a “crushing blow” that would rectify what was given up by two fallible people who resigned themselves to their own flaw of fallibility.

 

Lecture 3: Godly Giving

A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

 Jesus’ mission during His ministry to the Jews was to lead them into a new paradigm (covenant) in their relationship with God. This meant two things: (1) He had to lead Israel to Himself as the Messiah (the Christ), and thus, the cross. (2) He had to prepare the Jews for the end of national Israel and their new covenant relationship with God (See Jr 31:31-33; Rm 7:1-4). The cross would end the old covenant. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 would end the Jewish state. Jesus’ ministry, therefore, was transitional in reference to God’s work among men on earth. God was transitioning His relationship that He had with all men from creation to the cross to a new era from the cross to the final coming of His Son. During this new era He would work with all mankind through Jesus Christ.

It is crucial to understand that Jesus’ ministry was a time of transition. During His ministry, Jesus made many statements concerning offerings that were meant to transition the thinking of the people to the time when they would accept Him as the Savior of the world. The Jews would be transitioned out of the legal structure of the Old Testament law in reference to offerings into a new covenant wherein there would be grace-motivated giving in response to the cross offering of Calvary. We thus understand Jesus’ teachings on giving during His ministry as teachings to bring the Jews to a time when they would not be governed by law under the Old Testament, but by the law of faith and grace that would, in the context of giving, move them to give far beyond the restrictions of a ten percent tithe. In fact, giving out of the motivation of grace would move them to give beyond their ability (See 2 Co 8:1-4; compare 1 Co 15:10).

 A.  Golden-rule giving:

On one occasion during His ministry, Jesus said to the Jews the following statement:

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, it will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured to you again (Lk 6:38).

Some misunderstand this passage. It is not that giving is an investment plan with God. In other words, some believe that the more they give, the more God will give to them as “interest” on deposited money. They give as if investing in the stock market. This is selfish giving. Our brethren who live in poverty stricken areas of the world would argue that this motive for giving has certainly not helped them financially.

Look at the passage again. Embedded in the statement is the “golden rule” in action. “All things whatever you want men to do to you, even so do also to them …” (Mt 7:12). Now look again at Luke 6:38 above. Jesus first speaks about our giving to others. When we measure out grain to another person, we must “press it down” and “shake it together” in order that a full measure is given. And then, Jesus said, go the extra mile by letting it run over the top of the container. If one does this in his business dealings with others, then others will do the same in return. However, if one tries to cheat a person on the amount of grain that is given for a specified price, then others will cheat you.

Christians must take the initiative to do that which is right and fair to others. Jesus said that they must initiate the lavish giving. They must do so in a manner that will be reflected in how people will return the gift. If this is done, then others will treat the Christian with respect. This is giving according to the golden rule; it is giving according to how one would like to receive. One should give as he would like others to give to him.

 B.  Grace-driven giving:

Jesus was once in Jerusalem, standing where people came to give the temple tax, which was required of everyone. “Now He looked up and saw the rich men putting their gifts into the treasury” (Lk 21:1). These who could afford to do so, were also contributing their tax. But there was no sacrifice in their giving.

 Then He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins (Lk 21:2). The poor also came to pay what they were obligated to give. We might think that the poor should be exempt from the temple tax. After all, they were poor and had little of this world’s goods. But they were not exempt. So Jesus just stood there and allowed the poor widow to take ownership of the maintenance of the temple by doing that for which everyone was responsible and no one was exempt.

Jesus spoke concerning the widow’s contribution, “Of a truth I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all (Lk 21:3). It was “more than all,” because it was all that she had. Jesus said, “She out of her poverty has put in all the livelihood that she had (Lk 21:4). Mark’s account explains more of what the poor widow did. “… for they [the rich] all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, even all her living (Mk 12:44). The poor widow was as the Philippians, who would later after the cross, and out of their deep poverty, contributed beyond what was expected of them (2 Co 8:1-4). What makes poor people do this?

Jesus just stood there as the poor widow cast in all her livelihood. He did not tell the collectors to return her contribution. He did not because she was obligated to give, even out of her poverty. When one becomes a Christian, and considers what Jesus sanctioned in reference to the contribution of the poor widow, poverty can never be an excuse not to contribute to the financial function of the body of which one has become a member.

One does not become a member of the body of Christ in order to be financially supplied, but to supply the needs of others (see Ep 4:16). Those who cry out poverty in an attempt to exempt themselves from that which is their duty to do, need to talk to this poor widow. We would never consider robbing God by failing to return to Him what is rightfully His. The poor widow new that in order to take ownership of her relationship (partnership) with God, she had to sacrifice all that she had. No one else can pay for our partnership with God and fellowship with the universal body of Christ. If we do not give our gift for our partnership with God and the body of Christ, then we are not manifesting our thanksgiving for what He has done for us. This is why the poor Macedonian disciples begged Paul to take their contribution for the famine victims of Judea (See 2 Co 8:1-4; more later).

Christianity is about being godly. And godliness is about giving. If we are not giving as the poor widow, then certainly we are not seeking to live godly after the God who gave His only begotten Son in order to give us something that was free, but so costly on the part of Jesus. Our sacrifice for the work of God, therefore, is our signal to God that we want to partner with Him in His universal ministry to take the message of the cross to all the world.

It is interesting that the poor widow gave all her livelihood without any knowledge of the grace of God that would later be poured out on the cross by the One who stood by her as she cast in her thanksgiving gift. If she so gave simply to assume her responsibility as a faithful Jew, then how much more should we be willing to give as faithful Christians who have a full knowledge of the cross? Does her faithfulness in giving according to law bring judgment on our unwillingness to give in response to grace?

As Jesus took Israel to the gift of the grace that was revealed on the cross, He not only taught on the subject of giving, but He also, through the example of poor widows, sought to reveal that which was coming. Those who could be His disciples in the future would not live under the limitations of the legal tithing of the Old Testament law. The motive for the giving of His disciples would be increased greatly because of the grace that would be revealed. They would experience in the cross of Christ something that was far beyond their imagination. God would work something wonderful through His Son that would draw out of people giving beyond their imagination. Those who would seek to take ownership of the new covenant they have with God would no longer make their offerings according to law, but according to grace. And once one realizes his salvation by grace, there is no limit to what he will give, and thus, no limit to the joy of offering to God in response to what God has done for us through the cross. This is the secret to cheerful giving.

When we study through all the instructions in the New Testament concerning giving, the secret to understanding the Holy Spirit’s instructions is discovered in the reason why the poor widow was willing to give all her livelihood in order to take ownership of God’s business. The Christian does not now give according to law. He gives in order to take ownership of the new blood-bought covenant of grace that he now has with God. It is not that we are trying to buy legally into this covenant relationship with God. The opposite is the truth. Because we have come into this covenant through our obedience to the gospel, we now “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Ph 2:12). Since we have been saved by grace (Ep 2:8), we are now God’s “workmanship”(Ep 2:10). It is as someone said, “Man, you are now on the ship, so get to work with your contributions.”

In order to take ownership of the ship we are now on (the church), as the poor widow took ownership of her covenant relationship with God through the old covenant, we must understand that we are only stewards of all that we possess. Her sacrificial giving was a manifestation of her appreciation, not for the purpose of paying for an entry fee into the covenant, but in thanksgiving for the covenant. She gave in thanksgiving of the covenant that she and all Israel had with God. As the poor widow, the Christian manifests his appreciation through sacrifices in order to take ownership of the house of God, of which he is a part (See 1 Tm 3:15).

No matter how poor one might think he is, if he desires to be a part of Jesus’ ministry, and to show thanksgiving for the covenant of grace, he must respond to grace with a free-will offering according to how the grace was freely and lavishly poured out on him. However, if we seek to respond to the free and indescribable grace of God through law giving, then we have not yet discovered the spirit of cheerful giving. When preachers cry to the people to give their tithe (tenth) according to law, they are actually cheating the people of cheerful giving according to grace.

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NOBLE STUDENT RESEARCH: To all the students who want further information on the passing of the Old Testament Covenant that God had with the nation of Israel, please read Law and Covenants, Book 6, Biblical Research Library, www.africainternational.org

 

Introduction: World As It is

Our world view determines how we view the world in which we live. Our world view is that mentally deep-seated, sometimes subliminal view of all things that determines our values and our behavior. Our world view is developed through our social experiences and education. If our experiences and education are dysfunctional in our relationship with our Creator, then we will view our lives, and the world in which we live, from a distorted point of view. Our values and behavior will follow. This is a particular problem with those who do not have God and His word in the formation of their world view. But for those who do, it is still often difficult to look beyond the twisted morals, philosophies and theologies within society in order to see the world as it is in God’s eternal purpose to bring inhabitants of this world into His eternal presence. In order to correctly form our world view, it is essential to saturate ourselves with God’s word. The more knowledge we have of His communication to us through His word, and the more we implement that word in our lives, the better we will understand the world that He created for us. And the better we understand our world, the more patient and steadfast we will be as His children until this world has fulfilled its purpose, and is gone.

 Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t worry. It will get worse before it get’s better”? We live in a world that seems to have all gone wrong with no hope of anything getting better. When we factor in the consequences of sin, it is not hard to believe this. In fact, if we were to ask those Christians to whom the letter of Revelation was written, they would agree with the forecast that it is going to be a gloomy future. It would get worse for them before it got better. What was coming was not good. John’s literary picture of the future for the Christians of that age was that things were definitely going to get worse before it got better. That is why the Holy Spirit lifted John’s hand to write the prophecy of the letter.

Though there was gloom and doom in the future, the message of Revelation was one of hope. In the midst of a future that seemed to be only gloom, the angel’s message to those early Christians and us through John will always be, “These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful (Rv 17:14). We must never forget this. Though news reporters would continually flood our minds with pictures and reports of sin ravaging the world in which we live, there is an undeniable hope for those who believe. There is always hope for those who side themselves with the King and Lord of all things. The “better” may not be of this world, but it will certainly be in the new heavens and earth to come. So hang in there.

We would now sit back for a moment and take another look at some of those forces that seem to “make war with the Lamb.” As Christians, we see the futility of the efforts of those who would steal away peace from our world. Those social anarchists who would presumptuously walk contrary to the word of God are viewed through the eyes of the Lamb as futile enemies of truth. The angel of Revelation would proclaim their efforts to be futile if they would set themselves against those who are more than conquerors through the One who loved us. Their efforts are futile in reference to that which we yearn, eternal life. They are futile because of the statement, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rm 8:31).

Though we might come to the conclusion that all that is happening can only come to a gloomy end, we must remember that the final outcome of all things will be victory for those who are in Christ. We are not one of those prognosticators who would instill fear in hearts concerning the “signs of the times” in order to generate repentance and fill church houses and coffers. We are of the assembly of the victorious who remain faithful because of the cross of grace that was revealed outside Jerusalem over two thousand years ago. Our faith is built on what He did for us, not on what we can do for Him in response to fear of present and impending dangers, either imagined or real. We will continue to believe that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rm 8:37).

As we work through the concepts of this series of study, we must focus on the God-defined purpose of this world. God is working. He has headed us toward heaven. Though our world may seem somewhat chaotic at times, we must always remember that out of chaos will come better things. We must never be tempted, as the Hebrew Christians, to turn back from Jesus as a result of present tribulation. We must make a bold statement as the Hebrew writer made after reviewing a series of better things we have in Christ: “But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hb 10:39).

Lecture 2: Godly Giving

THE HAPPY STEWARD

Giving to help others is a fun thing to do. In fact, after Jesus washed twenty-four dirty feet, and 240 stinky toes, He said to His disciples, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them (John 13:17). What He said to His disciples was if they wanted to be happy, then they must find ways to give themselves away to the needs of others. If they find themselves at any time unhappy, then they must just look around for some dirty feet.

The struggle of the Christian is not so much in learning how to become a good steward, but in learning that as a disciple one is a steward by life-style. Once the disciple of Jesus fully realizes that he has been bought with the price of the precious blood of God’s Son, then he begins to understand that he is not his own. All he has and all his life belongs to the One who bought him. All that the disciple owns, therefore, is returned to its rightful owner. Once one comes to this understanding of discipleship, all struggles to return what is rightfully God’s is over. It simply becomes a joyous thing to return to the Rightful Owner that which one has for so long selfishly consumed upon his own lusts. This was the secret to Christian maturity that the early disciples discovered. It is the reason why they were so sacrificial and happy in their giving immediately after they gave themselves wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ.

All our studies that we would do in reference to offerings and contributions are of no avail unless we learn what stewardship is as a Christian resident of this world. It is absolutely imperative that the concept of stewardship be understood from every angle of obedience since this is the answer concerning why the early Christians were so sacrificially giving in reference to one another and the world in which they lived. Theirs was simply a benevolent culture that we in our world of consumerism and possessions have a very difficult time understanding.

The recorded examples of stewardship in the Old Testament were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). Abel, David, Abraham, and the other Old Testament heroes of faith, realized that personal ownership of the things of this world was never a concept to be applied to man in his relationship with God and the things of this world. We are not the true owners of that which we possess. We are stewards. The patriarchs realized that it was not possible to have a wrong attitude toward the things of this world, and at the same time, have a right faith toward God. In order to have the right attitude and faith toward God, they first realized and confessed that “the earth is the Lord’s and its fullness …” (Psalm 24:1). They realized, as Moses instructed Israel, that “the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s your God, the earth also, with all that is in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14). And notice carefully what David said to the people after they had made their free-will offering for the construction of the temple: “For all things come from You and from Your hand we have given to You (1 Chronicles 29:14). Every Christian must ask himself what Paul asked the Corinthians. And what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). When one answers this question correctly, then he has confessed that he is only a steward of all that he has. He is on his way to being a happy disciple. But realizing that one is a steward of God’s things, and behaving as a steward, are two different things.

 A.  Stewardship beyond the collection plate:

One of the unfortunate “religious practices” that has crippled the teaching that we are only stewards of that over which God has given us dominion, is the culture centered around the “church collection plate.” With this practice has come selfishness and a justification for material excess. We need to see the theology of the collection plate for what it really is, and the culture that it develops in the minds of God’s people. It has developed the following:

1. Legal giving: The collection plate has developed a legal approach to giving. When the collection plate is coming our way, we think, “How much should I give?” Such thinking is an appeal to a sense of what we feel is our duty to give. If we place anything in the plate, regardless of the amount, we feel that we have performed our duty before God. We have settled a legal account for “worship.”

2.  Guilt giving: By thinking that we must legally give, and then pass such off as some “act of worship,” we have concluded how little we can give in order to relieve our conscience about our giving. We have led ourselves to believe that the legal “act” of giving has somehow constituted our worship before our God. We have led ourselves to the conclusion that God is satisfied with a trivial gesture to contribute some small amount. We have thus satisfied conscience that we have performed an “act of worship,” and are then released from worship with a “closing prayer.”

It is unfortunate that we have propagated such thinking and behavior throughout the world. Teaching has conveniently worked in those cultures of the world in which there are those who are always looking for something to be given to them. But in their culture of asking and expecting from others, they have failed to understand their stewardship of those things that surround them every day. So with the flip of a coin in the collection plate, such people sign off God and any feelings of guilt that they are responsible to God for all that they posses. But we cannot sign off our discipleship by the deposit of a coin in a collection plate. Disciples give to the collection because of who they are, not in order to become a disciple.

3. Selfish giving: Once we have relieved our conscience by a trivial gift, we then deceive ourselves into believing that what we did not give now belongs to us to consume upon our own lusts. But we have forgotten that we have no claim to that which is left, for it too belongs to God. The faithful steward realizes that that which remains in his pocket after the passing of the collection plate, is as much the property of God as that which was given. The only difference between that which one places in the collection plate and that which remains in his pocket, is that which has been placed in the collection plate has been turned over to be distributed by the decision of the group, whereas that which remains in our pockets remains in the power of our own decision as to how we will use it for God’s glory. Whether in one’s pocket or in the collection plate, it all still belongs to God. Peter reminded Ananias that when his contribution was yet in his pocket, it was his to use (At 5:4). He had no right to lie about the amount given, since all that he was actually belonged to the God before whom he lied. Haggai reminded the people that the silver and gold belong to God, whether given or kept in one’s own possession (Hg 2:8). The faithful steward understands this. He is the one who will give to the collection plate, but after the “closing prayer,” he will also give to the poor man begging on the steps of the temple.

B.  Stewardship beyond the tithe:

Efforts to bring over the legal “tithe” (tenth) of the Old Testament law into our new covenant relationship with God is sometimes a selfish effort on the part of some. Such destroys the New Testament teaching that Peter explained. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ …” (1 Peter 1:18,19). Paul told the financially dysfunctional Corinthians, “… you were bought with a price …” (1 Corinthians 6:20). And that price was the precious blood of the incarnate Son of God. Whoever would want to stop at ten percent in his giving to God has totally missed the point of the high price that was paid for his salvation.

When one comes to Christ, he should be careful. He must not bring his selfish behavior of the world into the organic function of the body of Christ. In reviewing the behavior of the Old Testament faithfuls, and the mandates concerning the contributions and offerings of Israel, we learn that those who would live by faith are sacrificial stewards in reference to those things over which they have control. Now the question is, How does one behave as a good steward?

In leading Israel to the sacrificial new commandment that He would introduce to those who would follow Him (John 13:34,35), Jesus taught that there were the faithful and wise stewards, as well as the wicked and lazy stewards. He taught that there were stewards who had little, but did much (See Luke 16:10; 19:17). He taught that there were those stewards who did little with little (Matthew 25:26). And He taught that there were those stewards who did much with much (Matthew 25:20). But when stewards would come to Christ in order to be His disciples, they would learn how to do much with little (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-4). As disciples of Christ, the task is to learn that we own nothing, but owe everything. And because we know that we owe everything, we are as Paul confessed, I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise” (Romans 1:14). Paul was a debtor because he realized that the entirety of his life had been bought. This realization moved him. He wrote,

I have been crucified with Christ. And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

The crucified disciple is not concerned with percentages of time and money, but with the principle that the totality of his life has been given in payment for what Jesus paid for him at the cross.

It is often an unfortunate shame that those who legally bind the tithe on their adherents today often give more than those who claim they are disciples, but not under the tithing system of the Old Testament. We must first remember that the percentages that are given by legalistic givers, does not justify bringing Old Testament laws over into the law of Christ. The lack of commitment on the part of those who have supposedly given themselves as living sacrifices to God must be reconsidered (Romans 12:1). Our commitment to Jesus is not based on percentages, but on the principle of one who has crucified himself with Christ. If we would be as Paul, we no longer belong to ourselves, but to Christ. This would include everything we are and have.

If we fully understand the cost of our salvation, there is no limit to what we will give. We will never allow ourselves to be bound by percentages in our giving. The problem actually lies in the fact that those of a consumer society have created a “Christian giving” after the desires of entitlement. We have convinced ourselves that that for which we have worked so hard is certainly ours by ownership, and thus we have a right to consume what we have upon our own lusts. But we forget that we have been bought with an eternal blood offering. Our love for God for this offering must motivate our sacrificial offering for Him. Philip’s translation of 1 John 3:18 is appropriate: “Let us not love merely in theory or in wordslet us love in sincerity and in practice.” Any discussions concerning giving, therefore, must certainly conclude that our giving exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees who gave only a tenth. Our problem is often that we give only a tenth of that which we should be giving.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that death will be swallowed up in the victory of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Now immediately after he spoke of things concerning death, he turned his discussion to, “Now concerning the collection for the saints …” (1 Corinthians 16:1). Maybe he was trying to remind us us something in the background that we must seriously consider when we discuss the subject of contributions. Two men once stood at the grave of a rich man. One turned to the other and asked, “How much did he leave?” The other responded, “All that he had.”

Stewardship begins with a penitent heart. Before we came to Christ, we lived after the selfishness of consuming upon our own lust, walking according to the ways of this world (Ephesians 2:2). We were dead in our sinful way of life. But in repentance, this life-style was reversed. All our personal goals in life and standards of living changed when we allowed ourselves to be bought with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18,19). Purchased people are debtors to the One who bought them.

God seeks for the broken and contrite heart of repentance (See Ps 51). In our repentance, God looks beyond a legal sacrifice in fulfillment of law. He looks to the heart of the one who gives the sacrifice (See 1 Samuel 16). Our stewardship, therefore, is a manifestation of our most inner repentance. If our stewardship is crooked, our heart has not yet been fixed with repentance. We will continue to give into the collection plate. But when it comes by, we realize that we are actually measuring our spiritual health as a steward of God by what we release back to God who give it.

Lecture 1: Godly Giving

OLD TESTAMENT GIVING

 God is the creator of all things, and thus all things belong to God. He is the creator of man. Notice very carefully what God said when He created man.

And God said to them … have dominion …. I have given you every plant bearing seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree …. To you it will be for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth … I have given every green plant for food (Gn 1:28-30).

The above makes man only the steward of what was created for him by God. Man, therefore, must remember what God says, “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine” (Hg 2:8; see Ez 18:4). Also, “… the world is Mine and its fullness” (Ps 50:12; see At 17:24-28; Cl 1:15-17). It is as the Psalmist wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness, the world and those who dwell on it” (Ps 24:1). “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. … for the world is Mine and its fullness” (Ps 50:10,12).

If we would seek to take personal possession of that which belongs to God, then we are irreverently trying to take ownership of that which does not belong to us. We must always remember that we only have dominion over that which already existed before us.

One of the first challenges that faces the new Christian is to realize that all that he has first originated with God, and thus all things belong to God. We are only stewards of that which we have control. We must grow out of claiming our own wealth, for it is God who gives us the opportunity to have wealth through the things He created (See Dt 8:11,17,18). God eternally owns all that exists since He is the origin and eternality of all that will exist.

Because of the benevolence of God, man has been given the right to possess and use (“have dominion”), but not the right to take ownership of that over which God has made him a steward. God can never give up His ownership of all things. He cannot because He is the creator and sustainer of all things. It is necessary to understand that, “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tm 6:7). Job realized this truth. After having lost all, Job declared, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb and naked I will return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed is the name of the Lord” (Jb 1:21). When we consider the things of this world over which we have dominion, we are actually “naked possessors.”

One of the first evidences that one is truly a mature child of God is discovered in one’s realization that everything belongs to the Lord. At the same time, one of the evidences of unrighteousness is when one seeks to take ownership of that which is God’s. Good stewards seek to be righteous, and thus, they follow the life-style of Proverbs 3:9: “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase ….” The righteous are thus known for being good stewards of that which God has allowed them to have possession (See Lk 16:10-12). The good steward, therefore, uses that which has been given to him by God in order to honor God (See Mt 24:24-27). Paul wrote, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy (1 Co 4:2). But when the steward seeks to lay claim to that which is truly God’s, then he has turned into a idolater. He is not trustworthy. He idolizes the material by excluding the rightful owner of all things. Every materialist is an idolater. Of such people, the Holy Spirit charges in reference to our personal struggle with materialism, “… put to death your members that are on the earth … covetousness, which is idolatry” (Cl 3:5). With these principles in mind, consider God’s teaching on being a good steward by faithfully offering to God that which manifests one’s reverence for Him.

 A.  Abel offered to the Lord:

The reverential action of offering back to God that which is His has existed from the beginning. The offering of that which is of this created world did not originate with Old Testament teaching through the law of Moses. On the contrary, from the very beginning, it was required of man to manifest his reverent worship of God through commanded sacrifices.

“Now in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought the fruit of the ground as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord looked with favor on Abel and on his offering (Gn 4:3,4).

We do not learn until the writing of Hebrews 11:4 why God looked with favor on the offering of Abel. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous ….” God had favor with Abel’s offering because Abel was righteous, that is, he did that which was right according to the will of God. And in order to do that which was right according to the will of God, the will of God had to have been revealed to both brothers. What God would accept as a correct offering was not a guess on their part. Both Abel and Cain offered according to acceptance or rejection of the instructions of God concerning sacrifices. Abel walked by faith in the word of God (See Rm 10:17). Cain sought to walk contrary to the instructions of God concerning an appropriate offering. His offering thus manifested his unrighteousness, which unrighteousness was later revealed by his killing of Abel. It is imperative, therefore, that when it comes to doing what God would require of us concerning offerings, we must follow His instructions.

B.  Abraham and Jacob offered to the Lord:

 Four hundred years before Moses inscribed any laws concerning offerings and contributions, Abraham had given a tenth (tithe) offering to Melchizedek (Gn 14:20; Hb 7:4-10). Melchizedek was functioning as a priest of God, and thus Abraham was obligated to continue Melchizedek’s ministry as a priest by giving sustenance to him. Long before Jews existed, Abraham, as a Gentile, was giving to a Gentile priest of God, Melchizedek. Sacrifices and offerings, therefore, were not confined to Israel alone. Such things were not an invention of the Israelites.

The grandson of Abraham, Jacob, also gave an offering (Gn 28:20-22). Both Abraham and Jacob made their contributions and offerings before the law of Moses was given on Mt. Sinai around 1445 B.C. We must assume that God instructed the people of faith that the spiritual representatives for God must be supported (See Hb 1:1,2). Since tithing was practiced by the patriarchs before the law of Moses was given to Israel, then we must assume that it has always been a command of God to contribute to His spiritual workers. And when sin came into the world, God instructed that sacrifices be offered for sin. From the time man first sinned and needed atonement before God, and direction in living through spiritual leadership, God has required sacrifices and contributions from man.

C.   Israel offered to the Lord:

The Old Testament law of Moses (the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Old Testament), were given to the nation of Israel on Mt. Sinai as the law of the covenant that God made with the nation.

Within the Old Testament law, there are numerous instructions concerning offerings that were to be offered for sin, and contributions that were to be made to the Levites as God’s spiritual leaders among the people (See Lv 27:30-34; Nm 3:11; 18:20,21; Dt 14:22-29:

NOBLE STUDENT RESEARCH:

www.africainternational.org – Book 45

There were several different tithes that were required of the Israelites. There was the first tithe that was “holy to the Lord.” The tithe of the firstfruits of the crops was also to be given. There was also the second tithe that was eaten by both the Levities and the one who offered the tithe. In the following statement, notice why God enjoined these tithes on the people:

You will surely tithe all the increase of your seed that the field brings forth year by year. And you will eat before the Lord your God in the place that He will choose to place His name there, the tithe of your corn [maise], of your wine and of your oil and the firstborn of your herds and of your flocks, so that you may learn always to fear the Lord your God (Dt 14:22,23).

Tithing reminded people of God’s ownership of all that exists. When they offered their tithe, they were manifesting their reverence to God for all that He had given to them as a blessing. If they failed in their tithes and offerings, therefore, they would not be offering worship to the Lord who created them as a nation among nations.

Besides all the tithes for their spiritual leaders, there were many other laws given to Israel in reference to being benevolent to the poor. There were contributions that were to be made as freewill offerings. When Moses built the tabernacle, the people gave abundantly to its construction, even to the point that he had to ask them to stop giving (Ex 25). When the harvesters cut the crops of the field, the Israelites were not allowed to cut the corners of the field in order that the poor glean from the harvest (Lv 19:9; see Rt 2:15). They were not to gather every grape from their vineyards in order that the poor be able to glean from the harvest (Lv 19:10).

When people today seek to bind legally on God’s people the commanded contributions and offerings that were required of Israel, they seem to forget that God required of Israel more than the ten percent tithe. What was required of Israel in offerings amounted to more than thirty percent of the products that they generated through their labors. We must keep in mind that the contributions and offerings that were required of Israel were for the support of the nation, not just the Levites. If we would seek to bring laws from the Old Testament over into the new covenant that we now have with God, then we must to bring over all the laws concerning contributions and offerings that were required of Israel. It may be convenient to think only of the ten percent, but to be consistent, when considering the contributions and offerings of Israel, one must think of thirty percent and more. What we do learn from God’s requirements of Israel is that He required contributions and offerings. We must also continue contributions and offerings for our spiritual growth in Christ today. The nature of our contributions and offerings have changed, but not the principle of giving.

 D.  David offered to the Lord.

At the end of his life, David prepared for the building of the temple. All that he did in reference to preparations for the building truly identified him to have a heart of worship.

In 1 Chronicles 22:5 it is stated that “David prepared abundantly before his death.” His free-will giving was planned, and it was planned to be in abundance. David purposed and planned for the building of the temple, which his son, Solomon, would eventually build. Though God did not permit David to build the actual temple, this did not mean he could not prepare materials for his son to use in building the temple after he died. In preparation for the building of the temple, David was even given by God a building pattern. “All this,” David said, “the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand on me, even all the works of this pattern (1 Ch 28:19).

Now when it came to preparing for the building, David had the plans, and thus, he knew what it would take to build the building. So the people partnered with David in the preparations for the temple.

And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced for what they offered willingly, because with a whole heart they offered willingly to the Lord. And David the king also rejoiced with great joy (1 Ch 29:8,9).

It is significant to notice what David said after the contributions were made. David realized that all that was given actually first belonged to the Lord. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Yours (1 Ch 29:11). They willingly returned to God that over which they had dominion because of their reverence for the God who actually owned what they returned to Him. David continued, “But who am I, and what are my people that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort. For all things come from You and from Your hand we have given to You (1 Co 29:14). They willingly gave out of a heart of gratitude because they realized that they were only stewards of all that belong to God. This is the secret to bountiful giving. Our bountiful giving manifests the depth of our spirituality. It manifests that we understand that all belongs to God, and thus, our contribution to God’s work is only returning to Him that which is rightfully His. Now see if this is not what David said in the following statement:

I know also, my God, that You try the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things. And now I have seen with joy Your people who are present here to offer willingly to You (1 Ch 29:17).

One will not offer willingly to God with a cheerful heart if he does not realize that all things belong to God. David’s uprightness, therefore, as well as the uprightness of the people, was manifested in their willingness to return to God that which was rightfully God’s. David and the people thus worshiped God through their willful giving. We could conclude, therefore, that if anyone would not willingly return to God that which is God’s, then he is not worshiping the God who owns all things. The materialistic idolater allows his possessions to take the place of the God who should be idolized in our giving.

Christians are no longer under the law that was given to Israel (Rm 7:1-4). We are under the law of Christ. However, what is important to remember concerning the laws and practices of the patriarchs concerning offerings and tithes is Romans 15:4. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning …” (See 1 Co 10:11). We learn from the offerings of the patriarchs that God requires offerings from His people. We are not under the tithe of the ten percent, but we are certainly under the principle that as Christians we must give to our Lord. And if anyone does not give to the Lord, then he falls under the condemnation of Malachi. He first reminded Israel, “For I am the Lord. I do not change (Ml 3:6). The people to whom these words were written had turned from the will of God. They had manifested their lack of reverence for God by withholding that which belonged to God. God judged them with the words, Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings” (Ml 3:8). When we withhold from God that which belongs to Him, then we have robbed God of His possessions. Israel’s sinful state was identified by their not returning to God that which belong to God. We would judge any society to be “God robbers” if they lack in giving to God.

The world and all that is in it belongs to God. In her backslidden state, Israel’s fall from God was identified by a violation of the laws that pertained to returning to God that which was His. But their sinful behavior went deeper than violating laws concerning tithes and offerings. They had turned from serving the one true and living God to serving gods they had created after their own imagination. And these gods in their minds said that what they possessed was their own. Their lack of giving their offerings to God, therefore, revealed their covetousness. When one ceases to reverence the one true and living God, then he will terminate, or minimize, his offerings. He will do so because he thinks that the possessions he has acquired belong exclusively to him because of his hard work to acquire them. Offering to God is something that is simply natural for those who know that all they possess belongs to the God who created all things. When one does not give to God, then he is covetous, and no covetous person has a right to be forever in the presence of the One who owns that which he covets.

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Forthcoming Lecture 2: The Faithful Steward

Introduction: Godly Giving

The greatness of Christian integrity is revealed in the life of the one who gives his life for others.  Jesus focused the thinking of His disciples on this principle of faith when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).  And Jesus led the way.  Any who would in turn be the friend of Jesus, will crucify their own lives for their friends (See Gl 2:20).  Crucifying our lives for Jesus simply means that in order that we be a friend of Jesus, we must give our lives for others, just as Jesus gave His life for us.  The body of Christ functions on earth when the members sacrificially give themselves to others.  This is the core nature of the character of those who would follow the example of their Redeemer.  When we crucify our own lives for Jesus, it means giving our time.  And that which represents our time is our money.  The money we earn from giving our time in a job, represents our lives.  Money thus becomes a very important symbol of our being crucified with Christ.  If we do not give our money (our time) for the function of the body of Christ, then we are a dysfunctional part of the body.  No one can be joined and held to the body without being a sacrificial giver to the financial needs of the body.  When Paul wrote that the whole body is “fitted and held together by what every joint supplies,” he meant both time and money.  Without either, one is a dysfunctional member of the body.

There is a simple definition of the word “godly.”  The root meaning comes from the action of God as Jesus explained in John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son ….”  God is a loving giver, and those who would be godly—godlikeness—must be givers.  Therefore, in view of His sacrificial giving, “we love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).

We live in a world of churchianity (Christendom) where there is a great deal of ungodliness masquerading as godliness.  We confess that godliness is always our struggle.  It is a struggle because we seek to be like God, while at the same time, we have these selfish, narcissistic yearnings to consume upon our own lusts because we seek to be “the man.”  It is a struggle that prevails with all men, rich or poor.  In the developing world, this struggle can be traced back to the time when some missionary/evangelist initially took the sweet name of Jesus to some far off nation.  Some godly sender made sacrificial contributions in order that the message of the gospel be preached to all the world.  But something went wrong in that many of the converted did not emulate the godly giving of those first senders of missionaries and evangelists.  The self-proclaimed poor of the developing world offered all sorts of excuses to convince the sending disciples that they were still a “mission point,” even after centuries of holding out their hands to the senders.  In the world in which we live, this is a predominate problem among those who would live after the sacrificial life of Jesus.

We suppose a principle of New Testament missions was violated.  Paul took no bag of money with him to hand out payment to Timothy.  All Paul had was a needle, and thus said to Timothy, “Get to work helping me make tents so we can preach the gospel” (See At 20:31-35).  But that all changed when the financially endowed sent their “money” (missionary) force into all the world in the last three centuries.  A psychology of dependency developed in the minds of some of the converted, and thus the financial function of the body has handicapped in the “mission points” of the world.  A cuffed-hand theology and behavior was developed.  And to this day, the converted are having a difficult time taking ownership of evangelizing their own nations by supporting their own evangelists.

But we must not place all the blame on those godly givers who sent the first evangelists, and continue to send them today.  The messengers only followed, in many cases, the example of colonial governments who built roads, and hospitals, schools, and everything to bring the “Third World” into being renamed the developing world.  These colonial powers built, and then they handed out loans to financially dysfunctional new governments, and then again, forgave the debts.  Now what would we expect of the citizens of these lands, but to continue what was perpetuated by good-hearted people of colonial powers who simply wanted to give people out of “poverty” into our definition of being “developed.”  Unfortunately, all the giving developed a culture of dependency that left the receivers continually subservient to the handouts of former colonial givers.

This is where many of us in the developing world are, trapped in a culture of an extended hand, waiting around for the next NGO, or the next foreign church, to show up and do for us what we should be doing for ourselves.  Those godly givers of the West should not become frustrated with our situation, for our forefathers created these “receiving” societies whose residents have a difficult time in assuming the responsibility for their own destiny.

The good news is that in most of the developing world the younger generation is growing out of the “cuffed-hand” culture of their fathers.  They are taking ownership of their GNP.  They are doing so well in this struggle of financial rebirth that they have recognized the ungodliness of cuffed-hand churchianity of the past and are giving to the birth of a new future.  It is a refreshing wind of change that will take the church of the developing world on to victory, regardless of the sins of the fathers.  It is now time for a true financial partnership of the universal body of Christ to revive the organic growth of the body of Christ, just like it was in the first century.

This change in the paradigm of thinking moves us to focus again on how God would have us think and behave as His children, as members of the global body of Christ.  After all, He sent forth the ultimate example of how we should give in our godliness.  He defined godliness by which godly people take action.  We would do well to rehearse not only His teaching on the matter, but also on how the early disciples financially functioned in partnership with one another as the organic body of Christ.  Their sacrificial giving was seated in what God required of Israel from the very beginning of the nation.  Jesus came with a new message.  His was a message that was encapsulated in the statement, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34).  The early church simply picked up where Israel left off and was illustrated in the living sacrifice of Jesus.  They believed and obeyed the new commandment of love.  Their giving of themselves to the Lord was recorded for posterity, and thus, we have today a beautiful book of how to get the job done in our own lives.  The secret to doing what they did was revealed in one statement that Paul made concerning the Christians in Macedonia:And this [sacrificial contribution] they did … they first gave themselves to the Lord … (2 Co 8:5).  This was the living sacrifice about which Paul wrote in view of the fact of all that God has given to us.  It was thus only natural that the Holy Spirit communicate this appeal: “Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Rm 12:1).

We can always identify those who have sacrificially given themselves to the Lord.  Those who are sacrificial givers are those who have given themselves to the Lord.  Once one gives himself wholly to the Lord, giving of one’s money only comes naturally.  And those who are not sacrificial givers … well … continue to read what follows in this series.