Saturday, 19 December 2015

SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT: IS IT A BIBLICAL PRACTICE?

Are there valid biblical references for such an experience? Have those who have been “slain” become better believers with changed lives and reverence for the Word? Or have they merely placed greater emphasis on supernatural experience over objective truth?


Being ‘Slain in the Spirit’ is a phenomenon that occurs in some charismatic churches. Some Christians believe that when God’s presence is so strong, we can be overcome by the Holy Spirit, lose control, fall to the ground and become incapacitated for a while.

This may happen in a meeting where there is an atmosphere of heightened expectation after a considerable period of worship and preaching. Then the speaker invites members to come forward to be prayed for. Often he or she might touch the forehead of believers to “impart the anointing”. Some believers fall backwards—‘slain in the spirit’. Attendants or “catchers” stand behind believers to cushion their fall.

One of the favourite passages used to support this practice is found in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, where the glory of God descended upon the house of God as the people worshipped. The priests were unable to continue ministering because of the overpowering presence of God. There is no mention of them falling backwards.  

Falling under God’s presence in scripture is often related to adoration or worship. Awed by God’s presence, believers fell on their faces, not backwards (Ezekiel 3:23, Matthew 17: 5-6). But they did not lose control of their faculties. It is a spontaneous, conscious act of worship. The catch is there are no “catchers” behind ready to cushion their fall. 
  • "As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking" (Ezekiel 1:28).
  • “Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground” (Daniel 10:9).
  • “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last" (Revelation 1:17).
When the men, led by Judas, wanted to arrest Jesus, they had to identify Him first. At Jesus’ voice, “I am He”, they fell backwards (John18: 3-6). But this is an act of judgment on evil men, unrelated to believers coming under God’s power.

A clear reference to being 'slain in the spirit' is found in the chilling account of Ananias (Hebrew, ‘the Lord is gracious’) and Sapphira (Aramaic, ‘beautiful’) in Acts 5:1-11. They were slainphysically and literally. But this was negative—an act of swift judgment on God’s part, not an act of falling backwards under the favour and power of the Holy Spirit. 

Some say that, in light of John 21:25, not every miracle can be recorded. But this is an extremely weak reason to use in support of a practice that is widely accepted in charismatic circles. 

That said, God can still work miracles today (John 14:12, Ephesians 3:20) and we should not put Him into a box like what cessationists would like to do. God can work in wondrous and diverse ways that blow our minds as even the shadow of Peter and the handkerchief blessed by Paul had healing properties. So we should not limit the workings of an infinite and a limitless God, just because we have not experienced something miraculous.

Even so, this phenomenon of being slain in the spirit does not have any clear scriptural support. We should not try to show we are anointed—like pushing a believer down—as He is sovereign and can choose when to act and when not to. We must always be aware of the corruption and weakness of the flesh. Both ministers and believers on the receiving end can be equally guilty of faking the experience to appear good before men.

The danger of deception must be stressed—transmission of strange spirits through the laying on of hands, especially by visiting speakers, whose background of involvement with the occult cannot be ascertained. 

If this ‘slain in the spirit’ phenomenon is not clearly mentioned in scripture, why are so many charismatic believers coming forward, eager to be “slain”, at meetings held by illustrious speakers? Is it because they are spiritually dry and want to experience God’s power, favour or presence?

If there is no precedent in scripture, could we be opening ourselves to autosuggestion, self-deception or possible deception by strange spirits when we seek to be slain in the spirit?

Have we asked ourselves whether we have been manipulated by the following? 
  • “man of God” (big name, what can go wrong?)
  • ambience of the meeting (soothing music and worship, sign of God's presence)
  • our own emotional state of heightened expectation (haven’t I come to experience God’s “presence”?)
  • a mindset that tells us, since others are “slain”, we must not be left out; otherwise we may be deemed as having hard hearts (peer pressure)?
  • no need to worry (since there are catchers to cushion the fall)
Every believer can come into God’s presence in the quietness of their own prayer closet (Hebrews 4: 14-16, Matthew 6:6). Though we acknowledge the power of ministry through anointed servants of God, believers need not necessarily run after special meetings in order to be ‘slain in the spirit’. Our own daily personal devotion is more powerful. 

Rather than choosing to run to meetings where we can get zapped—‘slain in the Spirit’—we should seek God ourselves: Bow down, fall down on our knees or fall on our faces as an act of worship and adoration.

To be fair, nothing is amiss if believers allow a minister to lay hands and pray for them. But let us leave the results to God and not turn this ‘slain in the spirit’ phenomenon into the “must have” thing for spirituality, the ultimate sign that we have God’s favour and power. Do not forget that after we come down from the ecstatic, mountain top spiritual experience, we still have to face the day-to-day battles in the valley.

The choice is ours, whether we want to follow the teachings and practices of man, or rethink this common charismatic practice in light of scripture. 


EXTERNAL LINKS

SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT: IS IT A BIBLICAL PRACTICE?
With special thanks to the author, Kevin Reeves, and Lighthouse Trails Research for the above link.  

SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT – The Absolute Biblical Truth
A video to expose this controversial phenomenon
Do not forget to read all the comments accompanying the video.
                                                                        
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

DOES GOD EVER GIVE UP ON SINNERS?

Can God run out of patience towards sinners? Is there a limit to His abundant grace and mercy?

In the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), the crowd was so vicious towards her that they wanted to stone her. But Jesus showed her mercy and forgave her. However, He required repentance and holiness from her. Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

However, can God run out of patience towards sinners? Are there occasions when He gives up on sinners and leaves them to face His judgment?

We can harbour extreme views of God in our minds. If we embrace the notion that God is always loving and merciful, we think that He is like an indulgent Santa Claus. But when we picture Him as holy and just, we sense that He is like a no-nonsense, strict Judge. The true picture is somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

  • “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14).


  • “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will by no means clear the guilty” (Numbers 14:18).


  • “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing” (Proverbs 29:1). 

In Romans chapter 1, with regards to those who have unnatural lusts, the expression ‘God gave them up’ appears three times:

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1: 24).

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1: 26,27). More on those whose sexual orientation is against the order of nature: http://bit.ly/1T504sn

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1: 28).

Why did God give them up? “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).

Secondly, when God sent various plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh did not relent by letting the Israelites go as requested by Moses. The ruler repeatedly hardened his heart (Exodus 8: 32). Later, as more plagues were released, God further hardened his heart (Exodus 11:10). This hardening of man’s heart by God is reiterated in the New Testament: “So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and He chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen” (Romans 9: 18).

The danger is when our hearts become hardened and calloused, like Pharaoh, to the extent we are no longer willing to repent.

So far we have looked at God’s dealings with unbelievers—how, on certain occasions, He got so fed up that He gave up trying to get them reconciled to Him; instead He let judgment take its course.

                                                                        
Now let us consider how God deals with believers. Does He ever give up on them because of stubbornness and the severity of their sins?

Delivered from slavery, the Israelites who left Egypt in a great exodus fell into sin in the wilderness. They committed idolatry and sexual immorality. They rebelled against God and hardened their heart. And, consequently, they perished in the desert and failed to enter the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:14-19, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

If we continue to willfully live in sin and persistently harden our heart, we pour contempt on the forgiveness of God made available through Christ’s blood. Finally, we will have to face God’s judgment. The point of no return has been crossed. The die has been cast.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(Hebrews 10:26-31).

In fact, believers who willfully live in sin stand to receive even worse judgment than  unbelievers because they have been enlightened about the truth but choose to turn away from God’s ways (2 Peter 2:20-22).

If we take God’s grace and mercy for granted by sinning repeatedly, and by hardening our heart, we may pass the point of no return and face God’s judgment.

The danger of hardening of our heart has been stressed three times in consecutive chapters—Hebrews 3:7-8; Hebrews 3:15 and Hebrews 4: 7.

                                                                   
There is always tension between God's grace and mercy AND His justice and righteousness. As believers, we do not lose our salvation when we sin—provided we repent (1 John 1:9). But if we abuse this privilege, continue to willfully live in sin and persistently  harden our heart, a stage will be reached when we pass the point of no return (Hebrews 10:26-31).

God always deals with man in accordance with the two contrasting sides of His character. He is loving and merciful as well as holy and just. If we are forced to make a difficult choice between them, it is better to err on the side of His holiness rather than on His mercy. We have everything to lose if we think He is an indulgent God and, finally, it turns out He is not!

Paul says, on one hand, that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8: 39).  On the other hand, he also says he has to be disciplined in running the spiritual race so that he will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Though God will eventually bring to completion the good work He began in us (Philippians 1: 6), we still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

We need to have a healthy, reverential fear of God because He is coming again as the ultimate Judge (whereas He first came as the gentle Lamb of God, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins).

Living in sin, presuming upon on His grace and mercy—but not recognising His attributes of justice and righteousness—may lead us along the path of eternal damnation.

In summary, God does give up on people if they continue to willfully live in sin, remain stiff-necked and rebellious, and persistently harden their hearts. They will then have to face His judgment.

We see this principle illustrated in three different accounts in the Bible:

  • How God deals with those who have unnatural lust (Romans chapter 1: 24-28)

  • How God deals with Pharaoh’s hardening of his heart (Exodus chapters 8-11)

  • How God deals with the rebellious exodus generation who failed to enter the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:14-19). This is specifically addressed to believers.

                                                                    
How do we know when we have reached the end of God’s tolerance for sin in our lives?

Nobody knows except God. But we can be assured He is a righteous and fair judge. He knows our heart’s true condition—whether we are living in sin or deep in our heart we want to please God but fall into sin on and off.

God alone knows those who belong to Him—those who are really sincere in wanting to please Him. Let everyone who confesses the name of God turn away from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19).

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LOSS OF REWARDS VS LOSS OF SALVATION
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ONCE SAVED, FOREVER SECURE?
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Thursday, 10 December 2015

STARTING WELL, ENDING WELL

If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well? 

Four accounts in the New Testament tell us why believers may not reach the intended final destination if they do not fulfill certain conditions.  

The accounts are found in the writings of the apostle Paul and Jude, the letter of Hebrews and the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Moses led about two million Jews out from Egypt. But they were not grateful to God who delivered them out of slavery. They had experienced supernatural guidance through a cloud that moved ahead of them. And they had narrowly escaped the fury of Pharaoh’s army when they miraculously crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land. Yet, through it all, they did not remember God’s faithfulness.

Despite experiencing God’s supernatural provision of food (manna) and water that gushed out from a rock, they worshipped idols and indulged in pagan revelry and sexual immorality. As a result of their rebellion and sinful acts, they did not inherit the Promised Land but perished in the wilderness.

This falling away, according to the apostle Paul, serves as a warning to believers today that we need to persevere in our faith in order that we might not be destroyed. We must not think we are spiritually strongfor we might just fall like the exodus generation (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

                                                                      
Though God will eventually bring to completion the good work He began in us (Philippians 1: 6), we still have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Though Paul is sure that God is able to guard what he has entrusted to Him (2 Timothy 1:12), he does not keep us guessing about the need for personal responsibility. He himself set the example.

  • He tells us that he subjects himself to strict discipline like an athlete, lest after preaching to others he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).


  • In the last days of his life, he proudly proclaims: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Paul had to remain faithful till the end before he could receive heavenly reward. This is in keeping with the fact that only overcomers receive the ultimate reward—salvation. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).

Similarly, Jude, the author of the penultimate book of the New Testament warns “that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful” (Jude 1:5).

Though God is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24), we too have to play our part—build ourselves in the faith and keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1: 20,21).

Thirdly, the writer of Hebrews warns that if we willfully and deliberately live in sin, we can no longer expect a sacrifice to cover our sins; instead, we have to be ready to face God’s judgment (Hebrews 10: 26).

Once again referring to the rebellious generation who left Egypt but failed to inherit God’s promise, we are told that we share in all that belongs to Christ only if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed; and so we must not harden our hearts as Israel did (Hebrews 3:14-15).

Elsewhere, it warns us that we need to patiently endure and do God’s will—that we might receive the reward God promised (Hebrews 10:36).

Believers who do not keep themselves strong in the faith but shrink back will be destroyed (Hebrews 10:37-39).

Yet, the most serious warning is directed to apostates: It may be impossible to bring back to repentance believers who turn away from God, even if they have a genuine conversion experience (Hebrews 6: 4-8).

                                                                        
Lastly, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus warns us to be spiritually prepared as we await the appearance of the bridegroom, who is a picture of Christ returning to earth for the second time. All these ten virgins carried lamps filled with oil. Keeping one’s lamp filled with oil means staying close to God, constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.

When people think that they have more than enough time to get ready, they tend to be complacent and spiritually lax. That is what happened to the five foolish virgins, who started out well with oil in their lamps but later ran out of oil when the bridegroom got delayed. And so they were left out of the wedding feast. Meanwhile, the five wise virgins followed the bridegroom to the wedding feast as they had sufficient oil in their lamps. For more on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, please check out: http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F

To recap, it seems clear from the four accounts above (the writings of Paul and Jude, the letter of Hebrews and the Parable of the Ten Virgins) that our eternal destiny is not determined merely by a decision we made once upon a time in the past—when we asked Christ to come into our lives.

We are saved by faith to enter into a journey of faith. Mind you this is not salvation by works but a salvation that requires us to have enduring faith (Hebrews 10:36-39, 2 Timothy 4:7). If we fail to abide in Christ, we will be thrown away like a useless branch and burned (John 15:6). Likewise, if we fail to continue in God’s kindness, we will be cut off (Romans 11:22). 

                                                             



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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

FROM BROKENNESS TO MINISTRY

A “burning bush” experience with God set a broken soul free and launched him into an ‘inner healing’ ministry.

A senior pastor shared his testimony that he was rejected by his own father when he was a child. He wanted love and affirmation from his father but to no avail. When he became a young adult, his hate for his father grew worse. Trying to cope with the pain of rejection, he immersed himself into a busy career. Though he quickly scaled the corporate ladder, success did not help him overcome his inner conflict. Alone after work, he would return home, only to slump on his bed and stare at the ceiling—his soul racked by bitterness and anger towards his father. 

Trying to pull himself together, he decided to seek God every evening after work by reading His word, praying and worshipping Him with the help of online worship songs. That went on for several months. One day, he suddenly felt God’s presence in his room. He could never forget that experience. It was as if God was speaking to him in an audible voice: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”

                                                                 
From then on, he gradually recovered from his inner turmoil. He found a sense of belonging, value and significance through that close encounter with God. And aren’t these the qualities everyone needs? Everyone needs affirmation and acceptance. Everyone needs to have self-esteem. Everyone needs to find purpose and meaning in life.

Today, he ministers inner healing to broken people through prayer, counseling and deliverance. And because he himself has found victory from brokenness, he is able to empathise with those who are hurt inside. (1)

As he travels around the world to minister, he confidently proclaims, “The answer is found in Christ, who has come to set us free.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

                                                                            
This pastor’s story illustrates the fact that believers may be broken though we are saved. We may be living in fear, worry, bitterness and anger, or in bondage to evil spirits and bad habits. Like old plumbing, our mind and emotions may need “fixing”—we need inner healing. God isn’t just interested in getting us to heaven but restoring us completely so that we can live victoriously and fruitfully for His glory. (2) 

We may think that, as a result of the new birth, every part of our lives becomes brand new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Truth be told, only our ‘spirit man’ becomes new. Our mind and emotions still need to be progressively renewed so that they are aligned with godly principles found in the Word. We need to forgive those who hurt us and be set free from bitterness, traumatic memories and emotional baggage of the past.

                                                                      
Secondly, this story also underlines the importance of a healthy relationship between father and child. Bonding, based on love and discipline, should preferably start when the child is young. Any conflict between father and child needs to be restored. If a father is a role model of responsibility, loving discipline and moral uprightness, his child will be more likely to grow up into a well-balanced, productive, law-abiding and God-fearing individual in society. Conversely, a troubled father-child relationship may lead to deep-seated hurts and bitterness in the child when he attains adulthood. This brokenness may, in turn, affect his relationships with his future spouse, children and colleagues and superiors in the workplace. 

It is easier to raise a child than restore a broken adult. As the family is the basic unit of society, the father’s role as head of the family cannot be overemphasised. He has an onerous task to fulfillbuilding a foundation for happy and harmonious homes in a stable society.  (3)

                                                                     
In this context, we are reminded of the last verse in the Old Testament. It is about the advent of John the Baptist, who has come in the spirit and authority of the prophet Elijah, to restore the relationship between father and child: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6). The original meaning is that the God’s people, His children, will walk in the ways of their patriarchs (spiritual fathers) until they are all united in fear and obedience to God; if not, they will have to face God’s judgment.

However, even when a positive parental role model is missing in the child’s formative years, he may still be able to grow up into a responsible individual if he experiences the reality of the Father Heart of God. (4) Though this may not be the best model for nurturing the young, we do see children from broken homes turn out well as adults because they experience the unconditional love of God the Father as this story illustrates.


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Saturday, 21 November 2015

TITHING AND THE BELIEVER

Should modern-day believers be guided by the principle of tithing? 


                                                                   
In some churches, believers are constantly reminded to tithe. Many churches include tithing as an important doctrine in its pulpit ministry.

The principle of tithing has its roots in the Old Testament (OT) and scholars differ in their opinion as to whether it is relevant for believers today. 

The tithe is a tenth of the produce of the earth (crops or animals) set apart to meet the needs of the Levites (who had no land) and the poor. The paying of tithe was an important part of the Jewish religious worship under the Mosaic Law in the Old Covenant (Leviticus 27:30-32). However, today, the word ‘tithe’ is often used to denote a tenth of our gross income consecrated to God for special purposes. 

                                                                 
If tithing is relevant for believers today, why is the New Testament’s apostolic teachings SILENT about the amount we should set aside when giving to God’s work?

If tithing, an OT concept, is given prominence in today’s churches, why are other OT practices—such as circumcision—not given the same emphasis?


Let us now briefly examine some references from the New Testament (NT) on tithing:

Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, a priest, 400 years before the Law came into being (Hebrews 7:2). The latter is a type of Christ. So, as some argue, we should tithe even as Abraham did. However, when Jesus—the eternal High Priest—came, He established a new covenant and made the old one obsolete (Hebrews 8:7, 13). 

Abraham gave to Melchizedek out of gratitude to God, not under compulsion to obey a written commandment in stone. In this, Abraham becomes our New Testament example for motivation in giving. Furthermore, he gave only once; no evidence that it was repeated regularly. Notice also that he did not give from what he produced (like crops or animals) but what he looted from his enemies. Do believers have to follow his example of looting before we give to God? And there is no record that Isaac, his son, gave tithes. 

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for they were tithing to the penny but neglecting more important issues such as justice, mercy and faith. Jesus was then addressing teachers of the law who taught about tithing. For the early Jewish believers, tithing was a lifestyle since they were under the law. But is tithing a requirement for us who are Gentile believers today? 

The decision reached by the early church at the Jerusalem conference was that the Gentile believers should not be unnecessarily burdened except that they should “abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15: 28-29).

Furthermore, Paul stressed that Christ has set us free from legalism. And we are to stand fast on this bedrock truth of our Christian liberty. This does not mean that we free to break the Ten Commandments (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) but that the Jewish laws, including the need for circumcision, no longer apply to Gentile believers. If circumcision is no longer relevant, then why should other OT laws—such as tithing—still apply to believers today (Galatians 5: 1-2)?

Let us now explore other models of ministry support:

Why do churches promote tithing and pledges among believers when George Mueller funded so many orphanages by praying to God alone, without directly asking from men?

And Nehemiah completed what God called him to do just by praying to God. We talk so much about having faith in God but where the rubber hits the road, we are not putting our money where our mouth is.

The apostle Paul epitomised the self-sustaining, tent-making model of ministry—as opposed to depending on donor support. He did not make use of his right to make a living out of preaching the gospel, though it was legitimate to do so.

Why is the apostle Paul silent on tithing if it is such an important doctrine for the church to follow?

Though we are told to give generously and cheerfully, there is no mention about the percentage or amount we should give in the teachings of the apostle Paul:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

It is clear from Paul’s teachings that generosity and cheerful giving are to be encouraged. Giving is voluntary, without any compulsion, in response to God’s love for us.

But it seems that, in some churches, believers are cajoled to give—constantly bombarded with the “GIVE, GIVE, GIVE” message. The incentive that accompanies such repeated calls to give is this: “God is going to bless us bountifully when we give.” Though we do reap when we sow towards God’s work, unscrupulous people can abuse this truth for their selfish ends.

If leaders place inordinate emphasis on tithing and giving (and they usually package this call with the “sweetener”—so that God will open the windows of heaven and pour down unimaginable blessings on you), it may demonstrate a lack of faith on the part of the former.

Leaders often preach on the importance of having faith. But do they put their money where their mouth is? Do they show through actions, and not just words, that they believe in what they are preaching?

After all their preaching on Philippians 4:19, do they really trust God, the One who supplies all their needs?

If members have truly been ministered to, and leaders believe in a providential God who knows all our needs, will He not move people to spontaneously give to the church or ministry—without the need for frequent appeals for money, verbally or through pledges?

One of the dangers about overemphasising tithing and giving is the potential for church funds to be abused once it reaches mega proportions. The principle of ‘seed faith’—the more you sow, the more you will reap—can be abused and hijacked by ‘prosperity gospel’ teachers for their own selfish ends. The mantra of these false teachers goes something like this: “The more you give, the more blessings you will get.” But they will never reveal who ultimately gets to enjoy the mega share of the blessings. Some are so blessed that they fly around in private jets and live in mansions filled with unimaginable luxury and opulence, a lifestyle akin to that of film stars and pop stars.

When tithing and giving are overemphasised—and transparency and accountability lacking—financial scandals may result. This has already happened in megachurches where massive funds from church coffers have been diverted towards fulfilling questionable goals and personal ambition. These fallen leaders initially start out with good intentions. But, along the way, as power, fame and money increase, their heavenly focus steadily diminishes and they get sidetracked from their noble pursuits. Such leaders, who are often hero-worshipped and surrounded by an elite ‘inner circle’,  are then tempted to dip into the church funds and whitewash their acts through sham bond investments andround-tripping” transactions.

The sale of promotional materials such as books, CDs and DVDs is another area which has to be considered. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such practices, there is no need to use high pressure sales techniques to get members to purchase them. We should not turn a house of prayer into a place to do business. If a minister is truly worth his salt, people will be queuing up at the end of the service to purchase these materials without the need for much cajoling.

Tithing illustrates the fact that when a doctrine is constantly being preached over the pulpit, gradually it gets assimilated into our mindset and becomes entrenched as truth—even when scriptural support for it may be vague or flimsy.


                                                                           
That said, it does not mean that we should be less than generous when giving to the Kingdom. Jesus commended the widow who gave whatever little she had (Luke 21:1-4). Paul commended the Macedonian church for their sacrificial generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-3).

Indeed, when it comes to giving, generosity should be the principle that should guide believers today—and often that means much more than 10 % of our income.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).

After all, all we have come from God and we only give away what is, in fact, His.


                                                                   
To reiterate, tithing cannot be the New Testament standard for giving simply because we are now under grace. We are supposed to cheerful and generous when we give. And how can we be cheerful if we give under compulsion in order to meet a certain quantum?

To the poor, who can barely survive, the tithe may be too burdensome. To the rich, however, the tithe may be too paltry to be deemed as generous. So why set rules? Christ has set us free. Why let legalism shackle our Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1)?

Furthermore, some may think they have already discharged their responsibility towards God by tithing so they can spend the rest of their income any way they like. Truth be told, we are to be accountable to God for all the resources given to us, not just a tenth of it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to giving, our mindset has largely been shaped by this passage in the OT: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).

However, when modern day believers look for guidance on the subject of giving, we cannot allow this Malachi passage to overshadow Paul’s teachings on giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). The former seems to be more relevant for a group of people living in a bygone era. The New Covenant must definitely supersede the Old Covenant in all matters of doctrine and conduct (Hebrews 8:13) whenever there is any theological dispute or controversy.

And, specifically, it is the apostle’s teaching (Acts 2:42) to which we must pay special attentionfor the church is built on the foundation of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20). What does the apostle’s teaching say about tithing? Nothing. In contrast, what does the apostle’s teaching say about giving? A lot. The guidelines on how believers should give are spelled out in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9

If tithing is an important principle for the modern day believers, the apostle’s teaching would definitely have revealed it to us, not once but repeatedly. For example, warnings against sexual immorality and false teaching are emphasised on many occasions. We may reasonably conclude that since tithing is not mentioned even once by the apostles, it is an unimportant principle for believers today. Why then do some leaders continue to harp on tithing so earnestly? 

POSTSCRIPT

The purpose of this article is neither to stir up controversy nor to discourage believers from giving to the local church or any ministry.

Firstly, this article illustrates the fact that a doctrine can be widely accepted even if there is no firm theological basis for it.

Secondly, it is to warn believers that there are leaders who misuse this Old Testament concept of tithing (Malachi 3:9-10) to convince believers to give—whether out of guilt (robbing God if we don’t) or reward (God will open the windows of heaven to bless those who give).

The New Testament stance for giving does not set any percentage or amount. We are to give regularly, cheerfully, generously, according to our ability, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Though he who sows abundantly will also reap bountifully, rewards or blessings should not be the primary motivating factor in our giving. 

VARIOUS MODELS OF MINISTRY SUPPORT

GEORGE MUELLER’S APPROACH
He had child-like faith, trusting that God will supply (Philippians 4:19). Through earnest prayers, he received millions to build orphanages, never asking anyone directly for money. He merely trusted God to put in people's hearts to send him what he needed. He never borrowed. Yet neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry.

NEHEMIAH’S EXAMPLE
When Nehemiah heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, a burden arose in his heart. He mourned, fasted and prayed, imploring God to grant him success as he considered embarking on a mission of reconstruction in his fractured homeland. But who would think that an insignificant cupbearer, exiled in a foreign land, could accomplish such a massive project?
Without even mentioning his needs to anyone (Nehemiah 2: 12), Nehemiah’s burden moved the king he was serving to grant him special favours. He gained special permission to pass through foreign territories on his long overland journey from Persia to Judah. Furthermore, he was supplied with timber from the keeper of the king’s forest. 
Surely the king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1). This was certainly a fulfillment of this adage: “When God calls, He provides.”

PAUL’S TENTMAKING MODEL
As a tentmaker, the apostle Paul supported himself while he preached the gospel. He did not make use of his right to make a living out of preaching the gospel, though it was legitimate to do so. 
Paul’s priority was not money but sharing the gospel. He willingly set aside his right to financial support so that people would not think he was in ministry for the money.
“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9: 14-15, 18).

EXTERNAL LINKS


IS TITHING THE NEW TESTAMENT STANDARD FOR GIVING?
https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-4-why-you-should-not-tithe-selected-scriptures

DO JEWS TITHE TODAY?
Thankfully, Jewish theologians know better than their Christian counterparts. They are well aware that only Levites have the right to receive tithe of the people. After all, the Jewish leaders have the Old Testament as their Scripture and that’s what it commands. And since there is no Temple in existence (and consequently no ordained Levites or Priests serving in a Temple), then a major factor in fulfilling the laws of tithing does not exist in our modern world. http://www.askelm.com/tithing/thi003.htm

SHOULD THE CHURCH TEACH TITHING?

Churches showcase success stories but fail to mention the testimonies of those who have tithed for generations without escaping poverty. Today the very lowest income class pays the largest percentage to charity. Yet most remain in poverty. Meanwhile many atheists become wealthy by simply following principles of money management which also makes many tithers successful. Neither the lottery, nor the tithe is a magic get-rich-quick answer to replace education, determination and hard work. If Malachi 3:10 really worked for New Covenant Christians, millions of poor tithing Christians would have escaped poverty and would have become the wealthiest group of people in the world instead of remaining the poorest group.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYFkEh5bEXw


'TITHING BEFORE THE LAW' ARGUMENT REFUTED
We must not try to establish a doctrine by using tenuous, flimsy arguments.


SOWING IN ORDER TO GET MORE?
Are tithing and "seed faith" sowing biblical? Or have these concepts been hijacked by selfish leaders who want to be prosperous themselves?
http://on.fb.me/1Ri5SSy

THE MALACHI TITHING PASSAGE: ITS PLACE IN THE LIFE OF THE MODERN DAY BELIEVER
Is the passage in Malachi 3:8-12 merely God’s address to His chosen people at a particular time in history or is there something else for us to take heed today?
http://www.sats.edu.za/userfiles/vd%20Merwe%20J%20MTh%20final%20thesis%20Jan2010.pdf