Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – Friendship Matters (2 Timothy 4:11-13)

2011-alistair-begg

Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg.

Sermon link: Friendship Matters

The Apostle Paul faced his approaching death with confidence in God, but also with real vulnerability. In this message from the concluding verses of 2 Timothy, Alistair Begg directs our attention to the important roles that Luke, Mark, and Tychicus played in the life and ministry of Paul. By their loyalty and usefulness, these men illustrate the practical value of faithful ministry to Christ and the providence of God in ordering even missteps and failures for His glory.

Sermon Text

2 Timothy 4:11-13 (ESV)

11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

John called Mark

Now, for a little background (some of which Alistair Begg will provide), let’s take a walk through Acts, noting where John called Mark interacted with the Apostle Paul. In chapter 12 of Acts, James killed and Peter imprisoned. God sends and Angel to free Peter from the inner jail, though Peter initially thinks it is a vision or a dream. Let’s pick up with the story in verse 11:

Acts 12:11-25 (ESV)

11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and tothe brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

So we see here introduced this John whose other name was Mark in the heart of what is going on among the brethren in Jerusalem. He is witness to the miracle of Peter’s release and probably to a great deal more. The Word of God increased and multiplied. Upon leaving Jerusalem, Saul and Barnabas brought along John-Mark as they returned to Antioch.

Acts 13:1-14 (ESV) | Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia

13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

The Holy Spirit sends Paul and Barnabas out on a missionary journey, and John-Mark goes with them to assist. We aren’t given much detail on the matter, but for whatever reason, John-Mark leaves the mission at Perga in Pamphylia to return home to Jerusalem. There could have been some majorly compelling reasons for why John-Mark chose to return to Jerusalem, or it could simply have been fear or immaturity. Whatever it was, the Holy Spirit did not include it in Scripture. Suffice it to say that it left a mark on Paul. Paul and Barnabas travel throughout the region preaching the Word of Christ. Meanwhile, the council of Jerusalem regarding the matter of Gentile Believers and the Mosaic Covenant convened. Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem to testify of the Holy Spirit’s work among the Gentiles, and the council came to an agreement and drafted a letter to be sent out to those outside of Jerusalem. We pick up in Acts 15:22.

Acts 15:22-41 (ESV) | The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia,greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Barnabas chose to mentor John-Mark while Paul chose another to travel with him to do the work of the ministry. Too often, this becomes a matter of friendships being broken or family discord, but this was about the work of the ministry. Paul sought to encourage and strengthen the planted churches and John-Mark was not up for the task. Barnabas, on the other hand, felt led to pour into John-Mark’s life, to nurture him, to equip him for the ministry. Luke goes on to follow Paul’s ministry rather than that of Barnabas, but in Paul’s letter to Timothy, we see that John-Mark becomes a particularly useful brother in the faith. Despite all that has taken place, most of it not recorded, when Paul was at the end of his race, he wanted the company of friends… of whom John-Mark was mentioned by name.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | “A Man in the Night” by Alistair Begg

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Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. Today’s sermon aired yesterday (May 14th, 2015). I found it a good way to bring this week’s theme to a close. We’ve been focused on Resting in Christ, in His Saving grace, by faith. The occasion of Nicodemus sneaking in the night to speak to Jesus gives us an opportunity to recognize that works of the Law are not where we find our rest, our peace, nor our assurance. Rather, it is in believing in faith the work that He has done for us.

Sermon link:  A Man in the Night (Part 2 of 2)

Nicodemus was a law-abiding, religious man. But when he encountered Jesus, Nicodemus was surprised to learn how little he actually knew about entering the Kingdom of God. Sincerity, and even following all the rules, was not enough to qualify.

Sermon Text

John 3:1-16 (ESV)

You Must Be Born Again

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you dounless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him,“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in himmay have eternal life.

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Supporting Texts

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV)

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Numbers 21:4-9 (ESV) | The Bronze Serpent

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the peoplespoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

 

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 9:9-38

bibleLast week, we followed Jesus as He continued to perform miracles demonstrating who He is, the Messiah, the Son of Man prophesied to come. We left off with Jesus making a major point that He was given authority to forgive sin, and the demonstration of that authority was given in the form of healing a paralytic. The crowds are following the spectacle and seeking healing and deliverance from demons, but Jesus purpose is an eternal one, not merely temporal. So that we do not get mired in analyzing miracles in isolation, today we’ll work through the rest of Matthew Chapter 9 so that we can keep the over-arching context of what we are seeing here. Jesus is the Gospel, not the miracles. The Miracles testify of Him.

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

Matthew 9:9-38 (ESV)

Jesus Calls Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is a good opportunity to point out the principle of interpreting the unclear with the clear in Scripture. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is a bit of pointed sarcasm here. The last statement is the key to the sarcasm, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, He came to call sinners. Is He saying the Pharisees are righteous? Only in their own sight, by their own measure. The Apostle Paul addressed this very well in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18   “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Clearly, Jesus was not acknowledging the righteousness of the Pharisee, but dismissing them according to their unbelief. A sick person needs a physician, but a sick person who believes himself to be well will not seek a physician. In fact, even when a physician tells the person, “you are not well” the sick person who esteems himself more highly than the physician will think the physician a fool and reject his call. When it comes to sin and salvation, there are no valid “second opinions”. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, for there were none to be called. All have sinned. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Matthew 9 | A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

I’ve seen this passage used to justify mandating some proposed change in church practice, structure, or doctrine. Such approaches usually compel the listener to git rid of the old and become new so that you can get a new and fresh (word/anointing/impartation/etc.). That is not what Jesus is teaching here. Notice that the disciples of John include themselves with the Pharisees in the fasts being questioned. The old wineskin is NOT about orthodoxy, stubborn resistance to change, or Pharisaism. What fasts are these disciples (and Pharisees) observing that Jesus’ disciples were not? The fasts of the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant points forward to Christ. Now that Christ had arrived, He would usher in a New Covenant (wineskin) by His body and by His blood into which He will pour His Spirit (Pentecost) to all who are brought into the covenant by faith.

Hebrews 8:1-7 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Jesus made it clear that fasting in and of itself was not going away, just that the mandated fasts of the old covenant were not binding on the disciples who lived in the presence of God the Son, Jesus.  A time would soon come when the disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. New wine in a new wineskin, we fast in worship to God in light of the Gospel, not the mere observances of the Law.

Matthew 9 | A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live. 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Faith. The father had faith that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead. The woman had faith that touching His garment would make her well (as opposed to making Him unclean). I’ve seen many a teaching follow rabbit trails out of this passage, stay focused on the message of faith in the person of Jesus. There were doubters (the flute players and crowd making commotion) who laughed at Jesus. These were unable to interfere with God’s work. Jesus put them outside, and healed the girl. The focus is on faith in Who Jesus Is.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Faith. Not in the miracle, but in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Unbelief. Dangerous, stubborn, prideful, arrogant, narcissistic, unbelief. The sin of unbelief is our birthright in Adam. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for by His blood we might be made sons and daughters of the Most High, adopted into the kingdom of Heaven and into the Promise of Eternal life as our inheritance, in Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Amen. I want to take this moment also to point out a major distraction within the Pentecostal community. An unhealthy fixation on the apostolic signs and wonders is unhelpful for the preaching of the Gospel of Salvation. Jesus was walking in the flesh, preaching of His Father’s Kingdom and performing miraculous signs and wonders and unbelief yet remained. As the Apostles were sent out from Pentecost, the signs and wonders that followed them did not end their persecution either, but served as a testimony to their preaching, that they were indeed sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to preach. We have that word and the same Holy Spirit, but we dare not trade the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of signs and wonders. That is backward and a huge distraction from our Commission as Stewards of the Gospel of Grace. Preach the Word, and God the Holy Spirit who remains Sovereign over His Gifts will convict the hearts and call sinners to repentance. I think it is fair to say to the Evangelical Church in general, “Stop trying to major in the minors, preach the Gospel, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded.”

Matthew 9 | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We serve a truly Great and Compassionate God. Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. He healed every disease and every affliction. There was nothing He couldn’t heal. There is nothing He can’t heal. Did everyone believe in Him? No, for if they had there wouldn’t have been anyone to plot His death.

We need more laborers today. Jesus told His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. One final warning for this post to the modern-day evangelical church industry… the Lord of the Harvest sends out laborers into His harvest. It does not fall to men to scheme, manipulate, woo, and entice the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no call to “church the unchurched” or to make the Gospel “more Relevant” to our culture. That’s not our call, that’s not our commission.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – A Superior Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-13)

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Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. Given yesterday’s tough examination of Tithing and the Malachi 3:8-10 proof text, I thought it best that we reach into the archives of Truth for Life and listen to Alistair Begg teach on the topic of understanding the covenants, and really about how to approach the whole of Scriptures.

Sermon link: A Superior Covenant

The Bible is like a two-act play: the second act makes no sense without the first. The New Testament is understandable and significant only in light of the Old Testament. In this passage, the writer helps us understand the necessity of the Old Covenant sacrificial system as it foreshadows the perfect sacrifice of the New Testament Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Alistair shares a breakdown of the Bible (from his Sunday school teacher back in Scotland) that I find extremely helpful in recognizing how we should approach the Scriptures.

  • The Old Testament – Jesus Predicted
  • The Gospels – Jesus Revealed
  • The Acts of the Apostles – Jesus Preached
  • The Epistles – Jesus Explained
  • The Revelation – Jesus Expected

Sermon Text

Hebrews 8:1-13 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Will Man Rob God?

Today’s post is a continuation of sorts from Monday’s CTT post, “Sow a Seed?”

It is time to deal with the issue of the Tithe. This will not be a short post. The issue of “tithing” is one of great abuse in modern-day churches. Let us begin with the most abused proof-text found in Malachi.

Malachi 3:8-10 (ESV)

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Sometimes, even this proof text is reduced only to verse 10 in order to present a quid-pro-quo promise of prosperity. Is this valid? No. Let’s work through the context of this passage.

The Context of Malachi

This book is one (of many) of Prophecy. Though an exact time-frame isn’t possible to nail down for Malachi, this book was written after the Exile from Babylon and after the temple was rebuilt and worship resumed. This book of prophecy is intended for a specific people for a specific purpose. Let’s look at the first chapter to see how it plays out.

Malachi 1:1-5 (ESV) | The Lord’s Love for Israel
1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

The very first section is addressed to Israel. God declares “I have loved you” to Israel, and then God repeats Israel’s complaint of “How have you loved us?”. Israel is suffering and blaming God for it. They question God’s love for them. God’s answer to them is interesting. He points to Jacob (whose name God changed to Israel) and Esau. God’s Covenant with Abraham didn’t extend to Esau, but to Jacob. Indeed, Israel is suffering, but not like Edom. God declares that once Israel sees Edom remain in ruin while they receive His promise, they’ll Praise God for His Greatness. Now the next section.

Malachi 1:6-14 (ESV) | The Priests’ Polluted Offerings
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

After addressing Israel as a nation, the Lord specifically calls out the sin of the priests. This is no small matter. We’ll see just how serious in the next chapter.

Malachi 2  (ESV) | The Lord Rebukes the Priests
1 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name.6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.

God is invoking His covenant with Levi. The priests had forgotten their place. They had profaned the Covenant of Levi.

Malachi 2:10-16 (ESV) | Judah Profaned the Covenant
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts! 13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.

Malachi narrows the language a bit in the next portion to that of Judah, which brings God’s current reproach into the present-day of Malachi, for only Judah, the Southern Kingdom remains after the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles. God preserved Judah by covenant, for the Messiah is to be the Lion of Judah. Jerusalem and the Temple are within Judah, so God has not moved away from the Priests just yet, God is calling out the sin of Judah that have been blessed off on by the Priests. Malachi is confessing the sin of Judah before God and before the Priests by way of accusation. This confession should be coming from them, but Malachi is offering them while prophesying the consequences should they refuse to repent. He closes out this section with a Word from the Lord. This is another one of those places in Scripture where Adultery and Idolatry are held in equality. Both demonstrate faithlessness.

Malachi 2:17 (ESV) | The Messenger of the Lord
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Not only has Israel doubted, the priests profaned the covenant of Levi, and Judah been faithless… they have declared evil doers “good in the sight of the Lord” and even claimed that He delights in evil doers. Remember what the Apostle Paul closes out Romans 1 (ESV)

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Now, we’ve caught up to Chapter 3. Let’s see how it flows into our proof-text.

Malachi 3  (ESV)
1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Here we have a Messianic prophecy. If you’ve ever been puzzled by Jesus’s harshness toward the Chief Priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, think back to Malachi.

Malachi 3:6-15 (ESV) | Robbing God
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. 13 “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”

So, here we are. It really didn’t take very long, 3 short chapters. Is this some generic proclamation of “principles” such as Proverbs? No. This is a specific rebuke to the children of Jacob, regarding the covenant with Moses and Levi. God points out that they had turned aside from His covenants and statutes from the days of their fathers. That would be the covenants and statues handed to them via Moses. They were indeed under a curse, the Mosaic Curse. You don’t need to guess or divine what curses were being invoked, they come from the Law. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 (ESV). Here are a few relevant examples:

  • Deu 28:23 And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
  • Deu 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless.
  • Deu 28:33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, 34 so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.

So you see, Malachi isn’t saying that failure to give 10% (tithe) is the root of the curse, nor is he saying that simply tithing unlocks divine financial blessing. God is calling Israel to repent and return to Him under the Mosaic Covenant.

Bro, Do You Even Tithe?

The obligation of the Tithe can only be found in the Mosaic Covenant. Before the Covenant, it was freely given as an act of worship and thanksgiving to God by Abraham. So, if we are talking about the “cursed portion”, “robbing God”, “bringing the full tithe to the storehouse” we must be talking about the Mosaic Covenant. Let’s give it a look.

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (ESV) | Tithes
22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

What does it mean that the Levite has no portion or inheritance? Well, let’s look to their portion as recorded in the book of Numbers.

Numbers 18:21-32 (ESV)
21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance.24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance.Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.

So, are they then expected to offer a Tithe? Yes.

Numbers 18 (ESV) cont…
25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all the gifts to you, you shall present every contribution due to the Lord; from each its best part is to be dedicated.’ 30 Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress. 31 And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.’”

Finally, we’ll look in Leviticus at a key conclusion statement after the instructions on Vows and the Tithe:

Leviticus 27:30-34 (ESV)
30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”

34 These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

The Mosaic covenant cannot be kept anymore. There is no Earthly Temple where God chooses to Make His Name Dwell. You don’t Tithe, not in accordance with the Law of Moses. Therefore, you do not incur the curses or the blessings of the Law as found in Deuteronomy 28. You simply don’t. We are not grafted into the Mosaic Covenant. We are partakers in a better covenant.

Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

Hebrews 8 (ESV) 
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Closing Thoughts

Is it a sin to give a tithe, as in 10% of your income? No. Not at all. Is it a sin to encourage brothers and sisters to shoot for 10%? No. But be very careful in your “encouragement”. Do not offer them promises that are not for them, and do not place a yoke on their necks that you are unable to bear. We cannot keep the Law of Moses by our own doing. Jesus kept the Law and His righteousness is imputed to us by Faith, not by works of the Law. God loves a cheerful giver, indeed. God blesses those who give freely and not under compulsion. He also punishes those who would abuse His children and cause even the littlest one to stumble. Fear the Lord, and know that we are part of the New Covenant, secured by the Blood of Jesus, our Great High Priest.

Hebrews 9:23-28 (ESV)23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Amen. We look forward to the Great Day of His Return.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge