Category Archives: Practical Christianity

Are Our Past, Present, and Future Sins Already Forgiven?

A falsehood spreading among the Christian church today is that at our conversion, Jesus forgives not only our past sins, but also our present and future sins—those we haven’t even committed yet.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll hear something along these lines, “Jesus has already forgiven all our sins—past, present, and future.” This is patently false.

Now to be clear, Jesus’ death was indeed a sacrifice given once for all sin. He is not sacrificed over and over again into eternity. However, just because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all sins that ever were and ever will be committed does not mean that all sins are automatically forgiven. This would be universalism. No, rather it means that the opportunity for forgiveness exists for all mankind, with conditions for God’s forgiveness based on each individual’s response to the gospel.

As Christians, when we are born anew, Jesus’ death provides forgiveness for all the sins we’ve committed up to that point, while also creating a means of forgiveness should we sin in the future. Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice does not, however, mean that our future sins are already forgiven prior to being committed.

Forgiveness in both the Old and New Testaments is only for past sins. As born-again Christians, we are taught to regularly to ask for God’s forgiveness when we sin. We seek this forgiveness through coming humbly before God in true repentance and confessing our sin before Him. This is a foundation teaching of Christianity. One that has been taught in the early church through present time. It has been accepted by Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants, showing it’s a core historical teaching of the Christian faith, regardless of denomination.

In this post, we’ll cover the following points:

  1. According to Scripture, God’s Forgiveness Is For Past Sins Alone
  2. Repentance and Confession Are Required for Continued Forgiveness
  3. These Conditions (Confession & Repentance) Limit Forgiveness to Past Sins Alone
  4. Historical Church Universally Taught Confession for Forgiveness of Past Sin

1. According to Scripture, God’s Forgiveness Is For Past Sins Alone

One of the clearest scriptures regarding what sins are forgiven when we become Christians is found in 2 Peter 1.  Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that if we possess godly qualities, we will be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v 8) However, regarding those who do not have these spiritual traits, Peter writes:

He who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:9)

Peter clearly specifies that Christians have been purified—not from their future sins—but from their past sins, the sins formerly committed.

James also makes it clear that saved believers can have sins that are not yet forgiven. He encourages elders to pray for those who are sick in the church, and “if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” (James 5:15) A saved believer can have unforgiven sins which, according to James, can cause sickness, proving that future sins are not already forgiven. The elders are instructed to pray over such person for them to receive forgiveness.

This foundational truth, that only past sins are covered, is woven throughout scripture. In Ezekiel, we read that God will forgive unfaithful Israel for all their sins they had committed in the past, establishing an eternal covenant with them.

Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares. (Ezekiel 16:62-63)

Just as Peter and James both clarify that only our past sins are forgiven, Ezekiel states the same truth. God says that He will establish a covenant, “when I have forgiven you for all that have done.” He is not forgiving all that they will do in the future, but rather all that the have done in the past.

2. Repentance and Confession Are Required for Continued Forgiveness

The cleansing of past sins alone is reinforced by God’s requirements for forgiveness seen in all of scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. We are forgiven by the blood of Jesus—not by our own deeds or worthiness. However, in order to receive the cleansing benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice, we must abide by the conditions set by God himself—namely true repentance and confession of our sins before Him which accompany true faith.

Examples in the Old Testament. Repentant confession before receiving forgiveness was illustrated throughout the Mosaic Law, which was a shadow of the reality we now know in Christ. On each Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed to “lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins.” (Lev. 16:21) Confession of sin prior to atonement was required for all guilt offerings.

King David writes of confession and subsequent forgiveness in the Psalms:

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalms 32:5)

Finally, in Proverbs, we read that, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Proverbs 28:13) In the Hebrew scriptures, confession and forsaking of sin (repentance) is a condition upon receiving God’s mercy.

Examples in the New Testament. The requirement of confession and repentance continues in the New Testament. We all know the words of the Lord’s prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Mt. 6:12) This is another way of asking God to forgive our sins.

This prayer was not given for the lost, but for Jesus’ disciples. It teaches us, as followers of Jesus, to regularly ask for God’s forgiveness, not only at conversion, but whenever we sin in our Christian walk.  If we were already forgiven when we sin, there would be no need to pray this prayer. However, Jesus taught us that even born again Christians must readily acknowledge their sin before a Holy God in order to receive forgiveness.

The apostles and earliest church leaders also taught believers to confess their sins. James, the brother of Jesus, admonishes church members to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Similarly, John writes:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Clearly, our forgiveness and cleansing from sin is contingent upon repentant confession before God.

3. These Conditions (Confession & Repentance) Limit Forgiveness to Past Sins Alone

These required conditions for our forgiveness—repentance and confession—also are clear evidence that God’s forgiveness is for past sins alone, not present or future transgressions. This is simply because we can only repent and confess sins already committed.

Present sins, by definition, are those actions of disobedience that are being committed the very same moments we are seeking God’s forgiveness. Since no one can be simultaneously sinning and repenting, this shows “present” sins are not forgiven by God. Only when a person ceases to commit the sin and confesses them before God can their wrong-doing be atoned for.

Regarding future disobedience, it is impossible to repent and confess of such sin, thus barring the possibility of forgiveness. First, we don’t know what those future sins are, so we can’t confess them. Secondly, we can’t truly repent before God for sin we plan on committing in the future, since repentance consists of truly turning away from sin. God, who knows our deepest thoughts, isn’t fooled.

4. Historical Church Universally Taught Confession for Forgiveness of Past Sins

In agreement with scripture, the church has universally taught from the early church until today that a Christian’s confession of sins before God is required to receive forgiveness, even after baptism. Different denominations vary on the particulars, but the foundational truths stay the same. The Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and various other Protestant denominations have all taught that confession of sin for the believer is necessary to continue to receive forgiveness of sin.

This requirement of confession, as we’ve shown, is based on the teaching that sin committed after conversion or baptism is not automatically atoned for. God requires the believer to recognize when they sin, repent, and confess for forgiveness.

Likely the earliest Christian document outside of scripture, the Didache (70 AD), mentions confession of sin twice. Describing the way that leads to eternal life, it says, “Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience.” (Didache; 4.14) And later, describing a church service and communion, “On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (Didache; 14.1)

Ignatius (35-108 AD), a prominent Christian bishop on his way to martyrdom in Rome, wrote to many churches with final encouragements. To the church Philadelphia, Ignatius warned the Christians there to cease divisiveness and repent for forgiveness:

For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. (Ignatius to the Philadelphians; 8.1)

In later years, after the schism in 1054 AD, both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions still taught confession for sin. After the Reformation, public and private confession was also taught in Lutheran churches. More recently, private confession has since ceased to be practiced, but the Lutheran liturgy still includes a call for confession prior to communion. While the more liturgical traditions often require coming before a spiritual leader to confess sin, many Protestant denominations teach that Christians can confess their sins directly to God without an intermediary.

I point out this historical evidence for the sake of perspective. Confession and repentance of past sin after conversion has been taught by nearly all denominations of Christianity. The idea that future sins are already or automatically forgiven is foreign to the Christian faith and is contrary to the clear scriptural evidence already presented here.


Scripture teaches us that when we are forgiven, whether at our conversion or later as Christians, this forgiveness is only for past sins—not those yet to be committed in the future. Should we sin after being filled with the Holy Spirit, we must repent from this sin and confess our sins to Jesus. He is our advocate with God the Father. (1 John 2:1)

Every day we must seek to live a holy life in Jesus, putting off all sin. If there is an area of disobedience, whatever it is, we must completely stop and confess it. This isn’t optional, but is a necessity as Christians. In Revelations, Jesus warned those believers in Pergamum who were living in sin, “Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Rev. 2:16)

Eternity is at stake here, which is why repentance and confession is so important. We can’t presume upon God that our future sins are already forgiven, because they’re not according to His word.

Lessons of Forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer

When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Mt. 6:12), we learn that seeking forgiveness is a continual process and that when we ask God for forgiveness, we must already be living a life of mercy towards others.

First, through the words of this simple prayer, Jesus teaches us that we need to be consistently seeking God’s forgiveness when we sin, not only when we “become saved.” It must be a part of our daily walk with God. Only our past sins are forgiven at conversion, not future sins that may yet still be committed. If and when we sin as Christians, we must humble ourselves before God in repentance and seek His forgiveness. This is not some formality that allows us to continue in our sin. No, we must be actively turning away from our wrongdoing in deed and not just word. God, who sees our heart, will cleanse us from our sin and purify us anew.

Second, Jesus assumes that when we request God’s forgiveness, we have already forgiven others in our lives. If we haven’t forgiven someone who’s sinned against us, we can not pray this prayer with a clear conscious. In fact, we would be lying to God. Only those that are merciful towards others, not holding resentment and hate in our hearts, can pray truly pray the Lord’s prayer.

Jesus’ word’s immediately after the prayer clarify the importance of forgiving others:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Just as Jesus taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that the merciful will be shown mercy (Mt. 5:7), so too here Jesus clarifies that the converse is also true. The unmerciful will not be shown mercy. If we don’t forgive others their sins, God will not forgive us.

Not only does this apply to unrepentant unbelievers, but it also holds true for Christians. In Matthew 28, Jesus relays a parable about the unmerciful servant. The servant is forgiven a great debt by his master. Rather than showing this same mercy towards others, he refuses to forgive the debts of a fellow servant. When the master, who represents God, finds out that the forgiven servant (representing those already forgiven, aka. Christians) has been unmerciful, he gives him over to be tortured for his former debts. Jesus makes it clear that God will treat us this way if we don’t forgive others after being forgiven. He says, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Mt. 18:35)

So when Jesus instructs us to pray, ““Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” there is an underlying truth that our forgiveness of others is necessary if God is to forgive us. As we are merciful to others, God’s mercy will abound to us.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:36-38)

I recently published a related post, analyzing the often heard incorrect belief that at conversion, our present, past, and future sins are already forgiven. Read the whole post here.

Scripture vs. Tradition: Jesus on Fasting and Ashes

It’s always fascinating to compare long-ingrained Church traditions with the words of Jesus.

As I write this post, today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the first day of Lent—a period of fasting leading up until Easter Sunday. It is observed by the Roman Catholic church, as well as a number of Protestant denominations.  The Orthodox church observes 40 days of fasting, although the dates of observance differ slightly.

In most churches, Ash Wednesday is observed with the smearing of ashes in the sign of the cross on congregant’s foreheads. It is meant to be an outward sign of the inner spiritual state of the believer. Apparently, the use of ashes was standard practice in Western Europe by the 10th century and in 1091 it was officially implemented in Rome by Pope Urban II.

Even though most Evangelical Christians don’t observe this, the practice of fasting in repentance and spiritual humbleness before God is very biblical, especially if it is not merely an external formality. Jesus fasted, and He said his disciples would fast when He was no longer with them. (Matthew 9:14-17)

That said, I have to chuckle when I read Jesus’ words about how Christians are to fast—especially in light of Ash Wednesday. In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 NASB)

Jesus instructs us not to look “gloomy” and “neglect” our outward appearance, but rather fast in secret. His instructions, which apply particularly to that culture and time, specifically speak to maintaining a clean and healthy appearance.

Jesus commands his followers to “anoint” their heads. Anointing, although often used in a spiritual sense, simply means to smear with oil. Oil, rather than soap, was often used when cleaning yourself during that time. Oil would be rubbed on the skin, and then scraped off to remove dirt. One could then wash with water.

The point is, people aren’t supposed to know when you are fasting. We aren’t to seek public recognition when we fast.

That brings me back to the tradition of Ash Wednesday. It’s just one of many examples where traditions have become ingrained, despite clear scripture verses which contradict it. Jesus said to wash our faces, not to put dirt on them to let people know we are fasting.

Fortunately, God looks at the heart. If someone is observing Ash Wednesday out of a sincere attitude of repentance, God will honor their obedience. But for those who are proud about their outward sign of piety, Jesus’ words ring quite true.

Early Church Teaching on Abortion

Abortion has been a hot political topic in the United States for many years.

Especially in Western culture, where Christianity historically has had influence, it can appear at first glance to be a purely modern, politicized debate. Those arguing for the “right” of a woman to abort her child, frame the issue as one of progress. They argue that our society should be unshackled of old-fashioned morals and brought into a more enlightened future.

This, of course, is utter nonsense.

When we study history, it becomes quickly clear that abortion and infanticide (essentially abandoning babies) were both common practices during the first couple centuries. Abortion is not some progressive ideal unknown to ancient society. The Roman Empire was thoroughly secular, although not in the modern atheistic sense. Living conditions for the average citizen was quite poor and degrading. The cultural sexual mores were not yet positively influenced by Christian teaching. Consequently, it is little surprise that abortion was quite commonly practiced, just as it is today.

Everett Ferguson expounds upon this in Backgrounds of Early Christianity:

The Hellenistic world lived under the shadow of too many mouths to feed. This fact meant that many children were abandoned, exposed to die. W. W. Tarn has presented evidence that from 230 B.C. onward, the one-child family was commonest in Greece. Families of four or five children were very rare.  […] The answer to overpopulation was infanticide. Abortions were often attempted, but not infrequently were fatal to the mother; they were made illegal under Septimius Severus. More frequent was the exposure of the newborn child. The unwanted child was simply left to die on a the trash heap or in some isolated place.  (Ferguson, 80-81)

He goes on to explain that Greek and Roman society did not consider a newborn as a legitimate family member until the father accepted the baby into the family. “Thus,” Ferguson writes, “they did not consider exposure murder but the refusal to admit to society.”

These secular attitudes towards newborn children stood in stark contrast with Jewish and Christian teachings. The early church, in agreement with Judaism, strongly prohibited aborting or abandoning children.

The early Christian document known as the Didache (50-70 AD), listing the basic rules of Christian practice, includes both acts as completely impermissible:

The second commandment of the teaching is: You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt children; you shall not be sexually immoral; you shall not steal; you shall not practice magic; you shall not engage in sorcery; you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide. (Didache 2. 1,2; Holmes, 3rd Ed.; bold mine)

History is not on a continuum from ignorance to progressive “wisdom.” Just like today, abortion was commonly practiced in Greek and Roman society. It was only later, influenced by Christian teachings which truly valued children, that Western practices and views gradually shifted.

Formerly Christian societies have seen a resurgence in these ancient sins while Christian faith has simultaneously declined. This, of course, is no surprise. Jesus told us that in the last days “most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) Even a parent’s heart for their child.

Beware of the Christ-merchant! (Didache 12:5)

I came across this fascinating passage from the Didache (50-70 AD), possibly the earliest Christian document we have outside the New Testament. It gives guidance to the church on how to treat itinerant Christian teachers and evangelists passing through the area, as well as what to do if they decide to settle down.

Everyone who comes in the name of the Lord is to be welcomed. But then examine him, and you will find out—for you will have insight—what is true and what is false. If the one who comes is merely passing through, assist him as much as you can. But he must not stay with you for more than two or, if necessary, three days. However, if he wishes to settle among you and is a craftsman, let him work for his living. But if he is not a craftsman, decide according to your own judgment how he shall live among you as a Christian, yet without being idle. But if he does not wish to cooperate in this way, then he is trading on Christ. Beware of such people. (Didache 12.; Holmes, 3rd Ed.)

Christians are to show hospitality by welcoming fellow believers, helping them out as much as they can. This assumes the travelers are only staying in town for a couple days. If the stay is any longer than that, they must work for their living.

This advice is completely scriptural. Paul himself taught the Thessalonian church that people should work if at all able, rather than rely on others. He writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” For those that have families to support, Paul elsewhere writes, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

However, it’s the second-to-last sentence that really caught my attention, “But if he does not wish to cooperate in this way, then he is trading on Christ.” The last phrase, “trading on Christ,” is a unique one-word construction in the original Greek (christempros; χριστέμπρός), combining the Greek word for Christ (Christos; Χριστός) and merchant/trader (emporos; ἔμπορος). It could be translated “Christ-merchant” or “Christ-mongor.” It essentially means one who is peddling Christ for profit. A “Christ-merchant” is one using Christ for their own material gain.

Keep in mind, this was written very early, possibly earlier than some of our New Testament epistles. Even at this point, before Christianity became a state-religion under Emperor Constantine, people were abusing the gospel for wealth. Not much has changed in two thousand years, has it? I’ve written about biblical tithing and giving before, because it’s an important topic that many pastors shy away from teaching in clear terms.

People start “Christian” ministries all the time to get rich, and it was no different back then. Although we live in a completely different time and culture, somethings don’t change. If someone wishes to be financially supported by other Christians, but refuses to work for a living, they are a Christ-merchant. “Beware of such people.”

A Typical Church Service in the Second Century

Several weeks ago I published a series of posts on the biblical understanding of tithing and giving.  (You can read them here: Part 1Part 2 & Part 3). I discussed how the early Christian church collected funds specifically for the purpose of redistributing back to those in need. We read about this in Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-35.

This practice continued to go on well into the second century, as evidenced by the writings of Justin Martyr, a major Christian apologist during the second century. The following is an except from his First Apology, and in it Justin describes a typical church service.

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours [uses it to help] the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, Justin Martyr’s First Apology, Chapter LXVII.)

The typical meeting consisted of (1) the reading of scripture, (2) a teaching/exhortation related to what was just read, (3) communal prayers, (4) the partaking of communion, (5) and the giving of donations by well-off members as they saw fit. These donations were then given to orphans, widows, prisoners, foreigners, and anyone else in need.

This was written around 155 AD, showing the continued practice of giving collected funds to the needy. It did not cease to be practiced for more than one hundred years after Jesus ascended into heaven, which shows remarkable consistency.

I’ve said it before. Churches should show more serious intention to follow scripture and the example demonstrated by the early church. Love for money inhibits the church from fully functioning as the body of Christ. When financial abuses occur by churches and church leaders (and they do occur), this blasphemes the name of God. As Jesus said, “you cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) As our country contracts economically and people struggle to make ends meet, this will become increasingly important.

The other aspects of corporate worship may sound familiar. Some Christian denominations still have a public reading from scripture, although it seems to be conspicuously absent from your typical evangelical service. To be fair, public reading had even greater need then, as access to scripture was much more limited than today. Illiteracy was common among the poor, and the cost to copy manuscripts was much more prohibitive.

The rest mentioned by Justin—the teachings, prayer, and communion—still occur in churches today, with variation in the particulars. He does not mention musical worship in this excerpt, although we know that “hymns and spiritual songs” are mentioned by Paul in scripture (Ephesians 5:19). Obviously, the concert style of worship music now would be altogether foreign to these early Christians.

Of course, this description is not scripture. There is no command that a church needs to be conducted in this particular way. However, if we understand where the church came from, it can free us from traditional expectations that aren’t found in scripture. It can free us to worship in ways that spiritually edify the church and bring glory to Jesus.

A Biblical Understanding of Tithing (Part 3: Application)

In my first and second posts, I outlined the biblical instructions on tithing and giving.  Now that we have a solid scriptural foundation upon which to build, let’s think about what this means for Christians and the church today.  There are no easy answers. Even if we understand the biblical concepts, the application of these principles requires guidance by the Holy Spirit and discernment in each unique situation.

Let’s Give Generously in Freedom

The Bible is clear on the what Christian giving in general should look like. We are to give as we have purposed in our heart, not according to some external command.  There are no specific mandates on percentages or amounts. Even though the tithe is often used as a basis for saying congregants should give ten percent to the church, that is misapplying a Mosaic Law system in a completely unrelated context. Both the believer that feels compelled to donate ten percent and the believer that gives a different amount are free to do so.  We have freedom to give as we feel led by the Spirit. That freedom, however, should not be an excuse to be uncharitable with our finances.  Rather, true Spirit-led giving is both generous and wise.

Let’s Drop the Term “Tithing”

There is certainly continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The sacrificial system, appointed times of the Lord, and so forth all are shadows the lead us to the bright reality in Jesus Christ. So we need to have a biblical understanding that brings from both the old and new.

That said, using the term “tithing” when talking about donations to the church just causes confusion. Pastors begin to misuse verses (see Malachi 3:8) in an effort to increase giving. Different scriptures are thrown together willy-nilly without any consideration to a holistic, accurate understanding of the scripture. Tithing was clearly a mandated system with specific application to the nation of Israel. Only those under the Mosaic Law were bound by its requirements. For Christians, we are not under the Mosaic Law, and consequently can only apply the general concepts as we walk by the Spirit.  Any more than that, and we are missing the big picture. As Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23)

Let’s Redistribute Church Offerings Back to Members in Need

The early church in Acts left a undeniable example for us. Collections were taken up by the apostles, only to be redistributed back to those in the church who needed help. This would have included widows who did not have family members to support them. If a need was found, the money collected was there to provide for it.

When we look at any given church budget, does a significant portion go towards helping its members who are struggling financially? As long a church owns a building and has some level of staff, there will be overhead costs that cannot be avoided. But does a significant portion of the additional surplus go into a fund that is then used to support the needy? Or are funds being used primarily for new buildings, more (unnecessary) staff, better equipment, and so forth.  We need to take a good look at where money is being spent and discern if it honors God and is in accordance with scripture.

Of course, if money is being redistributed to church members in need, there is a practical discernment that needs to be applied by elders and deacons to ensure people aren’t taking advantage of the system. Those who can work should work (1 Timothy 5:8) to ensure that those who are the most vulnerable are cared for.

Implications for Salaried Church Staff

This is a complicated subject, so I’ll just share some high-level thoughts.

When we look at Paul’s example, he made an effort to not financially burden those he was ministering to. However, when we look across the large majority of churches in America, how many pastors have a part-time job, let alone a full-time position outside the ministry? They are out there, but it’s not the norm.

Instead, what we see are churches with significant staffing costs. Not only is there a lead teaching pastor, there may be a worship pastor, operations pastor, youth pastor, children’s pastor, men’s pastor, women’s pastor, and the list goes on. This doesn’t count everyone who works behind the scenes. These large churches have become corporate behemoths, burning through cash quickly. The entire modern church model needs a revamp, but that’s for a different discussion.

This is the exact opposite of the early church we see in scripture. Church leaders were normal guys with normal jobs. Seminaries did not exist at this point, so their qualification rested on their spiritual maturity. Traveling evangelists were typically supported by churches or patrons, but this was a practical accommodation because of their constant travel.

It’s safe to say we as the American church have a lot to learn from Paul. In too many instances, ministries have become a financial burden on the people, greatly hindering the gospel.  A church model where the leaders have normal jobs in addition to their ministry positions would create a financially-resilient church with the cash-flow to provide for those who need it the most.

The Fulfillment of Tithing is Love

In everything we do, we are to walk in love and by the Holy Spirit.  That is the key.

The tithing commandments and all the New Testament instructions on giving find their fulfillment in godly love.  It’s not about rules and regulations, but about meeting needs wherever we see them. If we live this way, we’ll truly be disciples of Jesus Christ.

A Biblical Understanding of Tithing (Part 2: New Testament)

In the first post on tithing in the Mosaic Law, I outlined specifically how the tithe was to be used by the Israelites. The tithe, always food, was both eaten in celebration for God’s provision and also used to provide for those who were in need. Only a tenth of the tithe was specifically taken in the third and sixth year for those Levites ministering within the temple itself.  As we saw in Malachi 3, when the Israelites neglected to follow these commands and did not provide for those in need, God placed the land under a curse.

With the Old Testament tithing regulations alone, we already know the heart of God in giving is focused on providing for those who are truly in need.  God cares for the weak, the humble, and the down-trodden. This becomes even more clear as we begin to study what Jesus and the Apostles taught in the New Testament.

Christians Aren’t Bound by Tithing Laws

There actually is very little said about tithing in the New Testament.  This is mostly because tithing is something that was specifically for the Jews who were under the Mosaic Law. Once the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, it would be impossible even for practicing Jews to fully observe the tithing commands.

When the question of whether the Gentile believers needed to submit to the Mosaic Law through circumcision, the church leaders were clear that they were not under the Mosaic Law.  Instead, they were only told “to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:20) Of course, we are still under the Law of Christ (which is different than the Mosaic Law), since obedience to God in regards to good and evil existed since the beginning of time.

So instead of focusing on tithing, we’ll have to study the heart of the matter.  We’ll look at financial giving in the New Testament and apply this to our understanding of modern “tithing.”

Jesus Emphasized Giving to the Needy

One could easily write a book about Jesus and giving, since generosity was a major theme of His teaching. We’ll touch on a couple key verses here, but they consistently teach us to care for those in need.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directs us to not hesitate to give when someone asks us for something.  He told his disciples, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42)  This applies not only to our friends, but even our enemies.  We are not to show partiality.

Later Jesus taught in parables, explaining the Day of Judgement when all the nations are gathered before Him.  Those who are welcomed into the kingdom are those who cared for the needy.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ (Matthew 25:34)

I could go on, but Jesus’ teachings are clear and consistent. Those who are obedient to Jesus are generous with their possessions towards those in need. And when we give, we are not to “sound a trumpet” before us, so our charity is noticed by others. Rather, we are to give in secret and God will reward us in eternity. (Matthew 6:4) There is a reason why Jesus told the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) Only those who are willing to put the needs of others above their own are worthy of the kingdom of God.  This is key to understanding God’s intention to giving.

Practices in Early Church

After Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, the early believers lived out Jesus’ teachings within the Christian community almost immediately.  Luke tells us in Acts 2:44-45 that “all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;  they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”  They were not only supporting one another financially, but sharing life with one another.

As time went on, this attitude of sharing only continued within the fledgling church in Jerusalem.

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

Notice what happens after the financial proceeds were given to the apostles. It did not go to acquiring land for a church building or to the leader’s salaries. No, it was distributed back to the believers “as any had need” (v. 35). This was not a mandatory practice, but was done freely without compulsion.  As Peter told Ananias when he brought only a portion of his proceeds, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” (Acts 5:4)  Whenever someone did freely give to the church, the apostles redistributed back out to the church members.

Contributions Towards the Jerusalem Famine

In addition to the mutual support occurring within the local church, more extreme circumstances within the larger geographic area required special care.  Through the Holy Spirit, the believers learned that a severe famine would soon arise.  This required additional financial contributions to be taken across all of the Christian communities to support those most adversely affected.

27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders. (Acts 11:27-30)

In 1 Corinthians, we read the specific instructions Paul gave to the Corinthian church in regards to this specific collection.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)

Addressing practical concerns, Paul instructed the Corinthians to put aside a portion money every week, as they were willing and able. Essentially, Paul was encouraging them to start a savings plan, in order that the contribution would already be together upon his arrival. This monetary gift would then be sent to the Jerusalem church where the famine hit the hardest.

In Paul’s second letter to the same Corinthian church, he speaks of the generosity of the churches elsewhere towards their fellow believers. They gave “of their own accord,” meaning they gave exactly as each personally decided, regardless of the amount.

For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:3-4)

Clearly, we see a biblical example being set by the early church. Financial giving was done specifically in response to a known need among the church.  Furthermore, any giving that was done was not mandated by the apostles, but was rather done freely as each felt led.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  And that’s exactly what we see in scripture.  The early church gave cheerfully out of their abundance to support the needs of their brothers and sisters, so that “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:15)

Paul’s Pastoral Example

The closest example we have from scripture that reflects the current practice of giving to support church leaders can be seen through Paul’s ministry. Paul, like some of the other apostles, traveled from city to city throughout the Roman empire preaching the gospel.

This itinerant lifestyle made it more difficult to earn a living for most evangelists.  For this reason, Paul is clear that those who work for the gospel should be allowed to receive compensation so they could continue their work.  He appeals to Jesus as the authority for his instruction, saying “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

Despite having this right to be supported by the church, Paul said “we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12) He was able to do this, since he could support himself through his tent-making business (Acts 18:3), allowing him to be financially independent. Paul again emphasizes his decision to not receive compensation from the Corinthian church several sentences later in verse 15.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:15–18)

Although Paul did not take money from those he directly ministered too, we do know that at one point he received some support from the church in Philippi. (Phil 4:15)  We also find this mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians.

And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. (2 Corinthians 11:9)

What can we take away from this?  1) The Lord allows those who are working for the gospel to receive a living from their work, especially in a culture where itinerant travel hindered any ability to hold down a job. 2) Despite having this right, Paul wanted to ensure he was not hindering the gospel by accepting compensation.  He sets an example by working hard as a tent-maker to support his own needs. 3) Even when he did receive some funding, this was not from those he was directly ministering to. By his own admission, Paul “worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone” while preaching the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

Summary of Biblical Teachings on Tithing and Financial Giving

As we covered in part 1, the heart of the Mosaic Law tithing commandments focused on giving thanks to God for his provision, and just as importantly, providing food for those in need. Even the tenth of the tithe brought to the temple was to provide food for those ministering there. We saw God’s love for the down-trodden through these commands and the consequence of ignoring it was severe.  In Malachi, God rebuked the Israelite’s for neglecting the Mosaic tithing system. They would be under a curse until they would obediently begin to provide food for their needy widows, orphans, foreigners, and Levites. Overall, the tithing system was designed specifically for the Israelite nation, and only the heart of caring for others can be applied within our modern churches.

The importance of providing for the needy, seen in the Old Testament, is even more pronounced in the New Testament. Jesus repeatedly taught to give generously, just as God has provided for us. The early church shared everything in common, even selling property and redistributing the proceeds back out to those who needed it the most. When the famine arose, a voluntary collection was taken from churches across the Roman empire and many generously contributed. It was important to Paul that financial resources be used wisely and only as necessary. Consequently, throughout his own evangelistic ministry, Paul went out of his way to not receive support from those he was ministering to despite having the right to do so. He sets a high standard to anyone wishing to go into ministry full-time.

Now that we know what the scripture teaches in regards to tithing and giving in general, what does this really mean for us? How do we apply this within our Christian communities?  These are more difficult questions, some of which don’t have clear cut answers. I’ll reflect on this in part 3, and share my thoughts now that the foundation of scripture has been established.


A Biblical Understanding of Tithing (Part 1: Old Testament)

Tithing is a sticky subject. It’s not a particularly popular topic to preach on. Talking about giving money in general is uncomfortable. There’s always an example of a church that tries to open up people’s wallets in order to fund a bigger building, better sound system, hipper stage, and the list goes on. Usually there’s a sermon or two on the concept of sowing and reaping, with a not-so-subtle hint thrown in about giving above and beyond your means.  At least it’s for God, right?  I’m being facetious, although that is unfortunately a fairly accurate account of what occurs at many churches.

The scripture on this topic isn’t complicated. The great spiritual truths are simple. Rather than ignore this topic, let’s delve right in and talk about it. I’m not going to give you a rah-rah speech with a superficial reference to a verse taken out of context, but rather a thorough explanation of tithing and giving as taught in the Bible. As we’ll see, what is commonly called tithing in churches today really stems from misapplying scripture. The New Testament does clearly speak on financial giving, but there is a freedom and a holy purpose to giving that is often obscured when we attempt to mandate an Mosaic Law tithing system within a New Testament context.

In this post (part 1), we’ll begin by deciphering the Old Testament system of tithing under the Mosaic law.  In part 2, we’ll bridge the gap into the New Testament and see how the heart of the Mosaic Law is fulfilled when we walk by the Holy Spirit.

Tithe Means Tenth
Before we get started, we need to understand that a tithe means one-tenth, or ten percent. Some older English translations of the Bible, such at the King James Version (KJV), specifically use the word tithe.  However, in most modern translations, you’ll notice the same word is translated tenth. A tithe and a tenth are one and the same.

The Tithe of Abram and Jacob
We are first introduced to the tithe in Genesis 14:18-20, where Abraham, still Abram at this point, meets Melchizedek king of Salem after rescuing Lot and his family. As Hebrews 7:2 explains, Melchizedek in Hebrew means “king of righteousness” and king of Salem means “king of peace.”  Such a description clearly associated Melchizedek with Jesus Christ himself, although that is a topic for a different day. After Melchizedek blessed Abram, we read that Abram “gave a tenth of all” to him.  This is the first recorded tithe in scripture.

There are two things to observe here.  First, in this particular event, the tithe was a tenth of the spoils of war. Later, we’ll see that the tithe mandated in the Mosaic Law refers specifically to food, rather than money or material goods.  Second, while this sets a good example of giving, this did not occur because a command from God.  Abram gave to honor Melchizedek, rather than under compulsion.

The second mention of tithing is found later in Genesis, after Jacob fled his home.  God appeared to Jacob and promised to greatly bless him.  Upon waking, Jacob named the field Bethel and promised to give God a tenth of all that he received. “This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:22)  Again, this sets a good example of generosity towards God, but was not a command. The specifics of tithing as a mandate are established later, after the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt.

Tithing under the Mosaic Law
All tithes under the Mosaic Law were essentially food, whether crops or animals from the herds or flocks. It was not money, since it’s specific purpose was to be eaten, as we’ll see.

“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.”‘ (Leviticus 27:30-33)

The tithe was not something offered every week or even every month.  The tithe varied depending on what year it was during a seven-year cycle that concluded in the seventh year with a sabbath rest of the entire land. We read this instruction in Exodus 23:10, “You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it.”

The tithing system was based on a three-year cycle that repeated twice before the seventh year rest. The practice of tithing in the first and second year of the three-year period differed from the third year.  This three-year cycle then repeated once more before the seventh year, when no tithe was given.

Tithing in the First and Second Year
In the first and second year of the three-year cycle, the Israelites were to bring their tithe, along with the various offerings and gifts as prescribed the the Mosaic Law, to the temple in Jerusalem. Once there, they would actually eat their tithe before God in thanksgiving and celebration for God’s provision. For these first two years, it seems that God essentially mandated a vacation holiday. They set apart their produce like we allocate savings to have a (God-centered) party with their friends and family.

But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you. (Deut. 12:5-7)

“You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.” (Deut. 14:23)

If they could not feasibly bring their tithe to Jerusalem, they were allowed to sell their tithe and then use the money received to buy whatever food they wanted once they arrived in Jerusalem. God specifically instructed in this situation to “use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.” (Deut. 14:26)

During these festivities they were not to forget the Levites, but were to share their food with them.  Since the Levites did not have any inheritance (which means land to cultivate crops, etc.), they could not supply their own food to eat and drink in celebration before God.

Tithing in the Third Year
In the third year, rather than traveling with their tithe to Jerusalem, the Israelites were to take the tithe and put it in storage within their towns. This tithe was specifically for those who could not provide food for themselves, namely Levites, foreigners, fatherless, and widows. The tithe here was essentially a mandated tax to be used a social safety net, to ensure those who needed it did not starve.  If you did not own land, whether being a Levite, orphan, etc., you could come a eat from the storehouse.

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deut. 14:28-29)

After the food was brought to the storehouses, the Levites were instructed to then take a tenth of this initial tithe (or a tithe of the tithe) and bring it into the Temple.  This portion was for those working within the Temple, for the “ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the singers.”  Rather than worrying about where their next meal would come from, they could focus on serving God in all that God commanded for Temple worship.

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD’s portion to Aaron the priest. You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’” (Numbers 18:25-29)

“Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and oil to the storerooms where the articles for the sanctuary are kept and where the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the singers stay.” (Nehemiah 10:37-39)

The Remainder of the Seven-Year Cycle
This three-year cycle described above repeated once more.  Two years in a row they would again bring their tithe into Jerusalem and eat it in celebration before God.  The year after that they would bring their tithe to the town storehouse for the needy.  The Levites would then take a tenth of that tithe for those ministering in the Temple.  So we see the three-year cycle occurs twice, covering a six-year time frame in total.  The seventh year was a year of rest, and no tithe was given since the land was not harvested.

Prophet Malachi on Tithing
Now that we understand what tithing involves, we can apply our knowledge. One of the most common verses on tithing, found in Malachi 3, is frequently cited and abused to increase financial giving. Whenever a church needs to fund a new project, you can be confident Malachi 3 will be quoted.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:8-10)

Generally, this verse will be used without explaining how the tithe worked in ancient Israel. They don’t explain that the tithe was not used to pad the wallets of ministry leaders, but to fill the bellies of the hungry. They’ll say that if you don’t give money to the church you are under a curse and if you do give, God will bless you above and beyond your wildest expectations.

However, that’s now what it means at all.  God is saying here that if the Israelites begin to act obediently by providing food for the hungry, God will begin to bless them again. This is consistent with what we know about God throughout all of scripture.  When the Israelites were disobedient, God would place them under a curse in order to turn them back in repentance to Himself. The disobedience seen here in Malachi was the clear neglect of widows, orphans, foreigners, and Levites who had no land of their own.

Summary of Part 1
There are two clear purposes for tithing under the Mosaic Law.  The heart of these concepts can be easily applied within our own lives and our churches. However, as we’ve seen, the specifics of the tithing regulations are far different than anything we would normally associate with tithing. I don’t know the last time a pastor instructed his congregants to use their tithes to buy food and have a giant pot-luck feast in the church.

The two key take-aways from the Mosaic tithing system are:

  1. Tithing encouraged people to truly give thanks to God for all He gives us. God found pleasure when the people truly rested and enjoyed His provisions.
  2. God cares for the needy. He instructed that a tithe be set apart for those who could not easily provide food for themselves.

We’ll bring these concepts back around in the part 2, where we’ll begin to look at the New Testament instructions on giving.  There is a consistency between the heart of the Mosaic commands and God’s will for us in the Spirit as we’ll see.

My Heart in Teaching

My desire is to teach in clear, precise terms what we find in the Bible. Once we understand what the Bible teaches, it can have an effect on our lives. We can put it in practice, and so truly become Jesus’ followers.  As Jesus said to believing Jews, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” (John 8:21)

There has never been a time when we’ve had so much access to scriptural tools, Bible teachings, sermons, and so forth. The sheer amount of material we have is overwhelming. Yet, as many resources as we have, I find myself frustrated at a lack of sound biblical teaching that is both thorough and understandable to the typical believer. Granted, there are spiritual mysteries that we will never fully grasp while on this earth. But where we do have revelation, we have a duty to teach the complete truth of God. And that is my goal with this blog.

Many errors have crept into the church. Many concepts taught from the pulpit are recent inventions of man, with no basis in scripture or in the biblical positions held by the universal church over the past two millennia. Especially in Protestant and Evangelical churches, there is little connection to the development of doctrine. The evangelical consciousness seems to go back to the Reformation, and even that is skewed to fit modern notions. When a new teaching surfaces, people are easily swayed since there is no sense of history, let alone solid biblical understanding and true Spirit-filled living. Of course in the Catholic and Orthodox churches where tradition plays a stronger role, there has been a gradual accumulation of the man-made teachings, teachings that have clearly deviated from scripture. This is not unlike what Jesus ran into with the Jewish teachers of his time. The oral traditions that were supposed to clarify the Torah effectively nullified God’s original commands.

In this blog, the foundation of teaching will be scripture. We will look at the plain meaning of scripture, but also draw upon the historical context, original languages, and early church teachings. It is my hope that such a well-rounded approach to scripture will open our eyes to more fully understand the truth. And this understanding will motivate us to apply it practically within our lives, so we would know the living truth personally as we grow into the full knowledge of Jesus Christ.