Summary: This message focuses on the newly converted Gentiles not being required to live under the Law. It also reviews Jesus' teaching from Matthew chapter 25.
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In my message last week I shared with you that from my understanding of Scripture, tithing, as it is taught in Churches today is wrong because it was part of the Old Testament Law. I shared with you how we make it even worse as some pastors elevate their members who tithe while telling those who do not that they are cursed and will not be blessed financially. When you read the Bible and examine Jewish history and customs, you will find that what some teach as it relates to tithing is scripturally inaccurate. Understand, I am not saying that we should not support God’s work financially; but what I am saying is that you are not required under our new covenant to tithe. While this knowledge may bring some relief, you may be shocked to know that in some cases God wants us to give more than ten percent. Regardless, the choice is ours and what we choose to give we must do it cheerfully. But as we grow in our relationship with God we must listen because God will direct our giving if we begin to use the money that He places within our hands according to His will. This morning I want to share a couple of situations with you pertaining to the conversion of the Gentiles and how dissension arose when some of the Jews “tried” to make them Jews and discuss God’s expectation of a return on His investment in us. Let’s start with Acts chapter fifteen.
I. Save By Faith, Not The Law
In Acts chapter 15 a story is told of a group of Jews that began teaching the newly converted Gentile that they must be circumcised in order to really be saved. Now this was after they had accepted Christ and God had filled them with His Holy Spirit. Imagine being touched by God and then being told it did not mean anything unless you were circumcised. (This is what some are doing as it relates to tithing – telling people their salvation means nothing if they do not tithe.)
In the Jewish culture and according to God’s instruction to Abraham, the rite of circumcision is performed on the eighth day of a boy's life. The ritual usually takes place in the morning at the family's home. Circumcision is commanded in Genesis 17:10-14 as an outward sign of a man's participation in Israel's covenant with God, as well as a sign that the Jewish people would continue to exist or be remembered through Him. The commandment is incumbent upon both father and child - fathers must see that their sons are circumcised, and uncircumcised grown men are obligated to perform the rite. Those who are not circumcised suffer the penalty of losing their divine connection to God, no matter how otherwise observant they may be of the Law. This is why these men, when learning of the conversion of the Gentiles, felt obligated to tell them that they needed to be circumcised. As far as they were concerned, when the Gentiles accepted Christ they became the same as them (Jews) and as a Jew they had to observe this part of the Law in order to “really” be saved. It became such an issue that Paul and Barnabas were sent back to Jerusalem to receive an “answer” from the council of apostles. During the debate Peter stood before the assembly and said the following: “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did us: and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:8-10) What Peter was referring to was the burden of the Law which Jesus had delivered them from. He was stating that both Jews and Gentiles would be saved through grace without the yoke of the Law or the rite of circumcision. After the discussion, James, the half-brother of Jesus and president of the council made the final declaration in Acts 15:19-20. He declared “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” In order to promote peace between Jewish and Gentile believers, the Gentiles were “asked” to abstain from any practice abhorrent to Jewish Christians. The Jewish Christians would then socialize with them. Although the decision was given as a compromise it served to open the door for the Jewish Christians to be able to fellowship with the newly converted Gentile Christians. In this situation we find that the Gentiles were never expected to begin to live under the Law which never applied to them. However, the opposite was true – they were expected to live a holy and righteous life by faith in Jesus Christ! Let’s examine the second situation that actually stems from this one. Remember, in this situation Peter was the one who stated that God had made no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles and asked why they were considering putting a burden on the Gentiles that even the Jews could not carry. Turn to Galatians 2:11-21.