Monthly Archives: November 2016

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.

The Dual Meaning of Living Water

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

This quote comes from the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan women at the well.  Jesus uses their encounter at the well as an opportunity to explain that God is able to provide not just normal well water, but living water.  Think about that phrase “living water” for a moment. That’s a rather curious phrase to us as English speakers.  How often do we say “living water” outside of referencing scripture? It’s not something we would say, because it doesn’t actually mean anything to us.

Of course, if we have studied our Bible, we immediately know what Jesus is referring to here.  He is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  The living water symbolizes the Holy Spirit which springs up within us to eternal life (verse 14).  As Jesus says in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” We immediately associated “living water” with its spiritual connotations.

Interestingly enough, this phrase in the Greek actually carries a specific non-spiritual meaning.  The phrase “living water” was the way of describing water that had a source, generally a spring or a river.  This was not stagnant water, but flowing water.

When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, they wandered into the Desert of Beersheba and eventually ran out of water.  Hager couldn’t bear to watch her son die, so she went a good distance away from her son and began to weep.  An angel of God comforted her, and opened her eyes to see a water source.  We read in Genesis 21:19, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”  The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, uses the wording “living water” here to refer to a spring water source.  Later in Genesis 26:19, we read that “Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water.”  Again in this verse, the Septuagint uses the phrase “living water” to describe a well of spring water. And I could go on. There are a number of Old Testament references where this phrase is used of flowing water, including verses in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Songs of Solomon, and Zechariah.

As we’ve seen, this phrase was commonly used to refer to fresh flowing water.  So when Jesus begins to speak to her about living water, she doesn’t find it strange.  She’s not confused, wondering what type of strange spiritual talk this was.  Jesus was using wording that had a common usage, but used it to point to a greater spiritual reality.  He was not referring simply to fresh spring water, but the provision of the Holy Spirit that quenches our spiritual thirst and wells up into eternal life.  A gift only God could give.

Introducing the Apostolic Fathers

Imagine for a moment you could get inside the mind of the earliest Christians.  Christians that were alive when the apostles were still with us.  Christians who were directly taught by those who knew Jesus in the flesh.  We’ll never have a perfect understanding of those believers from almost 2,000 years ago, but we do have letters, sermons, and other writings penned by these early Christ followers.  These were not unorthodox teachings of the Gnostic heretics, but from genuine believers, some of whom were appointed by Apostles to oversee the church in their city.

These early Christian writings, all from 70 A.D. through 150 A.D., are commonly referred to as the Apostolic Fathers.  Don’t let the name confuse you.  These were not the writings of the Apostles themselves, but rather those church fathers who closely followed the Apostles in leading the church, namely Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp.  Additional writings included in this collection are from the same time period, although not associated with any known church leader.  These would include 2 Clement, the Didache, the Shephard of Hermas, and several others.

You don’t need to be a scholar to read and appreciate the Apostolic Fathers.  In fact, many of Ignatius’ letters are so short you could read them in one sitting.  There are English translations available online for free (see links on my Early Christianity page).  If you want a hard copy, there’s several options for online purchase.  I personally favor the edition edited and translated by Michael B. Holmes, which includes both the Greek on the left side and an English translation on the right. There’s also a slightly cheaper version with just the English translation available.

In a typical evangelical church, most Christians are not familiar with the Apostolic Fathers. Those with a seminary degree may have a cursory knowledge, but I think it is fair to say that there is a high level of ignorance when it comes to the teachings of the early church.  Yet, many modern Christian authors are highly regarded and their books frequently read.  If we value these teachers who are so far removed from the cultural background and direct influence of the Apostles, how much more should we value those teachings from those who were so intimately aware of the apostolic teachings both in written form and in oral testimony.  They will only serve to deepen our faith and understanding of scripture itself.

Take 15 minutes, and read a couple pages in your spare time. You’ll find the testimony of those early Christians like Ignatius and Polycarp who suffered and died for Christ is a strong encouragement for us as our world gets spiritually darker.

Setting Aside the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

This is second of a two-part post on the most serious warning we find in scripture addressed to believers, the warning to not reject the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Part 1 addresses the warning given by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 to not live in sexual immorality. Paul says that Christians must not “set aside” the Holy Spirit through living in sin. Here in Part 2, we’ll do a more detailed comparison between the Old and New Covenant, between the covenant people according to the flesh in the Old Testament, and the covenant people of God according to faith in the New Testament. We’ll see how those who set aside the Mosaic Law incurred the penalty of physical death. In the New Covenant, those elect who set aside the Holy Spirit through continued sin incur an even greater punishment, spiritual death.

Parallel Between the Old and New Covenants

Scripture is consistent in regards to the consequence for rejecting or setting aside God’s instructions, whether through the Mosaic Law for the Israelites or the Holy Spirit for the church. This consistency between the Old and New Testaments is reinforced by what we find expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews. The Greek word Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 for “rejects” is used again in Hebrews 10:28 when it reads “set aside.”

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

In the Old Covenant, the consequence for setting aside the Law of Moses was death, assuming you had the legal minimum of two or three witnesses. (Deut. 17:2-6) Of course, this practice wasn’t for Gentiles who did not know the Law. It was specifically for the Israelites who were under the Law, meaning they were members of the chosen people of God. It was for those Israelites who God had saved from slavery. After saving them, they willfully submitted to God’s Law as revealed at Mount Sinai.

Then he [Moses] took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:7-8)

By submitting to God’s covenant and the Law, they were now set apart as the people of God. To turn their back on the Law through unrepentant rebellion was to turn their back on the covenant, to say they no longer wanted to abide by the covenant. And the consequence of this willful disobedience was death.

Just as verse 28 applies specifically to the people of God under the Old Covenant, so the parallel that follows in verse 29 applies also to the people of God in the New Covenant. Only now it is not those Israelites under the Law of Moses who are the chosen people, but rather all those who have repented and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Those who repent and believe in Jesus are grafted into the people of God.  They receive the Holy Spirit, which is the Law of Christ written on their hearts and minds. As a chosen and called people, these believers are those who have willingly submitted themselves to the terms of the covenant, established by Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. They recognize that God has called them out of wickedness into sanctification, to be a people set apart for God’s use.

Clearly, when the covenant people reject God through willful sin there are serious consequences. Under the Law of Moses, the rebellious were put to death. Under the New Covenant, those who continue to deliberately sin against God without remorse face even more severe punishment. This is because something even greater than the Law of Moses has been given. God Himself living within His people in the person of the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding them into holiness.


What is this severer punishment? We know that it is worse than physical death. The Old Covenant dealt primarily with physical defilement. Uncleanness was primarily regarding the physical rather than the spiritual. (Hebrews 9:13-14) In the New Covenant, uncleanness is viewed in terms of the spiritual reality. And just as there were primarily physical consequences under the Law, the consequences in Jesus are conversely spiritual in nature. So Paul here is warning not of physical death, but spiritual death apart from God for all eternity. This is consistent with Jesus’ saying, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). These warning occur repeatedly in the gospels, in Matthew Jesus again warns his disciples, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29). In other words, from Jesus’ perspective, we should be far more concerned about spiritual death than physical death. This would suggest the severer punishment talked about in Hebrews 10 is spiritual death.

Fortunately, we don’t have make educated guesses. In verse 26, it states that “if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” This severer punishment includes the cessation of sacrifice for sins. Jesus died once for all time.  We don’t have to offer bulls and goats constantly to atone for our sins. We only need to confess our sins, and he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. However, His sacrifice will only atone for our sin as we abide in Him and turn to Him in repentance. If we cease to abide in Him, we are cut off from the nourishing vine, thrown away and are burned. (John 15:6) Verse 26 simply states that those who continue to willfully sin and thus defile the sanctifying blood have no further opportunity for forgiveness of sin.  Jesus’ sacrifice will no longer atone for their sins, they have been cut off from the people of God.  Of course, when sins can no longer be atoned for, we stand guilty before God and will be justly condemned along with the guilty.  We have spurned the Son of God himself, in whom we have eternal life.

Concluding Thoughts

Remember, this warning is specifically for those who have received the Holy Spirit. Just as those who spurned the Mosaic Law through defiant sin were put to death on the basis of two of three witnesses, so those Spirit-filled Christians who repeatedly spurn and reject the Holy Spirit’s leading will suffer spiritual death, eternity in Hell. The Law came with glory, but we now have something far more glorious. The eternal God in the person of the Holy Spirit living within us, a living law that teaches us to walk in greater holiness.

Invariably, the question becomes, how serious of a sin do I have to commit to be cut off from the people of God? Where is the tipping point?  God is ultimately the judge, but I would say this. Don’t test God like the Israelites tested God in the wilderness. (1 Cor. 10:9) “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) We should not arrogantly presume upon His patience and kindness towards us. Recall Jesus’ parable of the unproductive fig tree. We need to continually abide in Christ, producing fruit of holiness through the Holy Spirit. The patience of God, in all it’s perfection, will not last forever towards those who continue in willful sin.

And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)


Setting Aside the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

This the first of a two-part post on the most serious warning we find in scripture addressed to believers, the warning to not reject the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Part 1 addresses the warning given by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 to not live in sexual immorality. Paul says that Christians must not “set aside” the Holy Spirit through living in sin.  In Part 2, we’ll do a more detailed comparison between the Old and New Covenant, between the covenant people according to the flesh in the Old Testament, and the covenant people of God according to faith in the New Testament. We’ll see how those who set aside the Mosaic Law incurred the penalty of physical death.  In the New Covenant, those elect who set aside the Holy Spirit through continued sin incur an even greater punishment, spiritual death.

Paul’s Warning to the Thessalonian Church

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

In Paul’s earliest letter to the Thessalonian church,  he admonishes the Christian believers to live their lives in such a way to please God. They already are living in this way, but Paul wants them to continue this God-pleasing conduct to an even greater degree. Just as all the liturgical implements used within the Jewish tabernacle had to be set apart for sacred use in worshiping God (Ex. 30:29), so too must the disciples of Jesus be completely set apart from the sinful practices and consecrated as holy to God alone. Practically, this means abstaining from the sexual immorality so commonly committed by those who do not know God.  

This exhortation to live God-pleasing lives is not merely a suggestion, but a command and a strong warning. Jesus himself will avenge those who participate in sexual immorality (v. 6). Paul had told them this before, and he is emphasizing this warning once again. Anyone who rejects the Lord’s command by living in sin is not rebelling against man, but God Himself (v. 8).

To reject God is to stand in willful rebellion. It is to set aside His directives, and make a conscious decision to disobey and continue to do so in unrepentance. In fact, the Greek verb here (atheteo) translated as “rejects” and “rejecting” was frequently used within the Septuagint to communicate unfaithfulness and rebellion of the Israelites who turned their back on God. (See Ezekiel 39:23 and Daniel 9:7 for just a few the many examples).

Paul doesn’t stop there, however. The one who rejects God, also is implicitly rejecting the Holy Spirit whom God provides. Paul literally states that the one who rejects this command is rejecting God “who is giving His Holy Spirit to you.” (v. 8) He does not look only to the past, that God had given the Holy Spirit previously. Rather, this describes the giving of the Holy Spirit as a continuous, ongoing event. God is continuously giving His Holy Spirit to the believers right now. The phrase “who is giving” here (ton didonta) is a present active participle in the Greek, which communicates an ongoing, continual action in the present rather than a one-time event. Therefore, this can be interpreted to mean that the one repeatedly rejecting God through willful disobedience is also rejecting God’s present provision of the Holy Spirit, which is an implicit warning that the Holy Spirit will be removed from them.

The warning of the removal of the Spirit is not a new teaching. King David himself fell into serious sexual immorality during his reign, the same type of sin Paul warns of in his letter. David took Bathsheba, another man’s wife, purposefully sending her husband to the front lines to be killed in battle. After lying with Bathsheba and being confronted by Nathan the prophet for this serious sin, David wrote Psalm 51 in which he pleads for God’s forgiveness and acknowledges his grievous disobedience. In the midst of the prayerful psalm, David writes “Do not cast me away from Your presence / And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11). Just as Paul warned the Thessalonian church, that those who willfully reject God through sexual immorality are rejecting God who is providing the Holy Spirit, here David has behaved immorally and realizes God may remove His Holy Spirit. Thus we see God’s consistency before and after the revelation of Jesus Christ, for with God the Father “there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

In Part 2, we’ll tackle the parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament, specifically looking at the people of God and what happens when they reject God’s instruction.

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.