I am pleased to make a departure from my usual single presentation to a two-part message concerning the body of Christ. The urgency of the hour presses me to show how much the law hinders the body of Christ from seeing the fullness of Christ and assume its proper gift in the Body of Christ. There can be no mixing of the two because Christ will not share His glory with any other doctrine. “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principalities and power:” Colossians 2:9-10
v In chapter I “Christ our better hope”, I will discuss the unprofitableness and weakness of the tithe and the law as expressed by the Hebrew writer in giving revelation of Christ our Great High Priest, our better hope. Hebrews 7
v In Chapter II “Vision of the Church”, I will discuss Paul’s work in the Corinthians church to mature them in the faith and knowledge of spiritual gifts, motivation as well as the order of assembly when the church comes together in one place.
Chapter I - “Christ our better hope”
The central message of the gospel is hope. Man is in constant search for hope! Without God, man seeks an idol god that has no life, inspiration or reality. The temporary gratification of our idol gods in the world manifests only in lust - lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. I John 2:16 Christ is the hope of the world to resist lust. Christ is our only hope. The Hebrew writer writes “For He testifieth, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the we draw nigh unto God.” Hebrews 7:18-19 Here in this scripture, the Hebrew writer goes right to the heart of why we should not continue in the law. Specifically the Hebrew writer draws the line between the Mosaic Levitical priesthood of the sons of Levi in contrast to the priesthood of Christ patterned after the order of Melchisedec. Where as the sons of Levi were commanded to take tithes of the people, we find none such commandment in the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchisedec. “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:” Hebrews 7:5
To support his testimony he explains “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” Hebrews 7:12-14
Nowhere in the Old or New Testament will we find God commanding New Testament ministers of Christ to take tithes of the people. The commandment was to the sons of Levi to take tithes of their brethren the sons of Jacob. In fact, the Jerusalem church counsel headed by James and others as Peter settled the issue of the Gentile conversion recorded in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas were abundantly blessed in the conversion of the Gentiles; nevertheless some Jewish men began teaching the new Gentile believers also needed to keep the law. “And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” Acts 15:1-2 So Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to settle the issue of what commandments were necessary for the new Gentile converts. Peter rose and offered opening remarks, he too being led of the Spirit to one Gentile Cornelius and his household converted on the preaching of Christ. “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Acts 15:10 Finally James spoke in support of the freedom of the Gentiles bearing witness of the scriptures in prophesy of the liberty of the Gentiles in Christ. To this intent he proposed sending them a letter of encouragement stating their position. “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood”. Acts 15:19-20 This is the final word of authority from the apostles of Christ and elders of the Jerusalem church on the commandments of the Gentile converts. The apostle Paul alone was given the commission to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery of the salvation of the Gentiles. Nowhere in scripture do we find Christ continuing the laws such as tithe. Christ fulfilled the law through His death on the cross. Nowhere will we find Paul, charged with the responsibility of teaching all the counsel of God, teaching tithes. “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” Acts 20:27. If we believe Paul declared all, then what he taught was complete. The theme of the New Testament church is love. The act of love is giving, of which Paul devoted much of his letters instructing the churches on giving cheerfully and not of necessity I Corinthians 9 and II Corinthians 9. In Luke 6:38 Christ likewise specialized on encouraging the believers to give. By example God gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him might be saved.
Malachi 3:10 is one of the most quoted misunderstood defense of tithing preached in thousands of pulpits across the country. Let us take a brief look at Malachi 3.
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and He shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of host. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:1-3 This is clearly the prophesy of Christ’s coming. Christ had not come at this writing. Note also what would characterize Christ’s priesthood - the purifying of the sons of Levi to offer offerings in righteousness.
This is why Christ being a better hope came with better promises than the Levi’s commandment of tithes. The work He would do will bring forth offerings in righteousness not a ten percent of gross earnings. Christ came to produce Spiritual fruit not a carnal monetary offering. The rest of Malachi 3 is God’s scalding rebuke for their unfaithfulness and His commandment to return to obedience by approaching Him through tithes and offerings. “For I am the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:6-10 Upon this one scripture hangs all the justification for those that preach tithes. There is not a witness of this as a true doctrine throughout the New Testament. Let us be certain, God was not commanding the New Testament church nor the new Gentile converts to tithes. Clearly we see God was commanding the sons of Jacob - Israel. Furthermore, this was a rebuke to return from their disobedience. It could not have been for us since the Gentile conversion came with the coming of Christ who had not come at the writing of this prophecy. We could not possibly be living under the curse since in Galatians 3:13 Paul writes “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”. Through Christ, the Gentiles received the promise of the Spirit through faith, not by the works of the law but by the hearing of faith. Finally, there is no hope for the church in obeying any of the law. Paul writes “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4 Paul’s letter to the Galatians as well as the letter to the Hebrews sounds a loud call to the church not to mix the law with the grace of God. Christ is our Great High Priest of our professions seated at the right hand of God in glory where as we no longer approach Him through the law but rather by the new and living way. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from and evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;)” Hebrews 10:19-23 Let the church agree with the counsel of God that in the commandment of tithes and all the law there was a “disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” because of the bringing in of a better hope by which we “draw nigh unto God.” Approaching Christ to receive His blessings require that we draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from and evil conscience. Only faith pleases God to receive blessings. A guilty conscience can only mean unanswered prayers. If we cannot come away from this false doctrine of tithe in the New Testament Church then the church will continue being blind to the true revelation of Christ to take up the power it needs in these last days to overcome the works of Satan. What’s at stake? Thousands will be lost because God will not make us effective witnesses through His Spirit in presenting the truth to a lost and dying world to make them free.
“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body…And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way….” I Corinthians 12:18 - 31
Paul was given the unique ministry of describing the details of the church. God gave Moses the vision of the Tabernacle, the testimony of the Temple of God in the wilderness, which then was a revelation of Christ and of His many member Body.
The message was drawing near God for His blessings and fellowship. Whether Old Testament or New Testament we were all made to drink of that same Spiritual drink of the Rock of Jesus Christ. When Christ gave revelation of the church to His disciples on the coasts of Caesarea Philippi recorded in Mathew 16:13-19, this was a turning point in Christ’s ministry. It began with a question. “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Christ could not go to the next level of His teaching until they learned the primary lesson having to do with His identity and hope in His calling. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In Ephesians 3 Paul writes For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in Christ the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.”
Beyond a doubt Paul is our authority on the church. Only Paul was given the responsibility Its through Paul’s eyes do we see the church the way God intends. This is a hard thing for believers to hear. God created all things by Christ Jesus. If we are able to receive this one fundamental principal, we can dispel in our minds any thought that the Old Testament is in any contradictions to the New Testament. Agreement is hallmark of the Holy Scripture. Without agreement the basis of faith is lost. God used the testimonies, revelations, and signs and prophesies to confirm the immutability of His word through two or three witnesses whereby it is impossible for God to lie. The issue with obtaining the vision of God is all about the rightly dividing the word of truth. To rightly divide the word of truth we must have“hearing ears”. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 Inherent in our ability to hear and rightly divide truth is discernment. Most importantly, we must discern order. Every day we are responsible for discerning order. “Time” is the orderly division of the day. Some things we do in the morning are different than what we do at nighttime. Our bodies operate orderly according to the prescribed plan of our anatomy. We would never expect food to properly assimilate in our body without proper digestion. Food must go through definite processes such as insulin break down in the pancreas etc. before we can utilize our nutrients effectively and efficiently. So likewise when Paul speaks of the body of Christ, his knowledge is derived from God’s personal revelation of Christ. When God created the world, he did not let man know everything about it at once. Many truths were hidden from the foundation of the world until an appointed time as it pleased God. One of these was the “Fellowship of the mystery, hid in God who created all things by Christ Jesus”. This same purpose was purposed in Christ so we would have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Christ. All these things were done in its own order according to the will of God. In I Corinthians 12 Paul reveals the body of Christ as having diversity of spiritual gifts under the authority of One Spirit, One Lord and One God:
1. Diversities of gifts - Same Spirit
2. Differences of administrations - Same Lord
3. Diversities of operations - Same God which worketh all in all
4. Manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with all
Note one thing here - there is order in these divisions
Many believers read the word and fail to recognize the distinction Paul is placing on different elements of the body of Christ. A gift falls under the heading of an administration, which operates in a certain manner to produce a manifestation of the Spirit to profit the entire body of Christ. With this in mind Paul begins to list in order the nine gifts in the Body recorded in verse 8-10:
1. Word of Wisdom
2. Word of Knowledge
4. Gifts of healing
5. Workers of miracles
7. Discerning of spirits
8. Divers kinds of tongues
9. Interpretation of tongues
In the next several verses 11-27 Paul brings these diverse elements into a practical perspective by portraying the body of Christ as having the same characteristics at work as our natural body.
By example members in the body of Christ are no different in its needs for healthy functioning than our natural body.
Whether comparing our foot with our hand or our eye relationship to our ear, each member of our natural body serve an essential part in making the whole function normally. If any member is in pain, the whole body suffers. The same principle applies within the body of Christ. This understanding should give us a concept of how ineffective we are by omitting or disregarding the need for even the smallest member of the body of Christ. More so we should always acknowledge the source. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” Vs 18 We cannot add nor subtract anything from God’s creation. Some fellowships today have forgotten that God created the church by Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. Paul’s ministry was to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery. As a building begins with a foundation, Christ is the cornerstone. Now that we have a general blue print of the body of Christ, in verse 28 Paul reveal God’s order of the gifted saints He set in the Church. “And God hath set some in the church:
1. First apostles
2. Secondarily prophets
3. Thirdly teachers
4. After that miracles
5. Then gifts of healings
8. Diversities of Tongues
In verse 29 Paul gives us a short pop quiz to see if we got the message. A. Are all apostles?
B. Are all prophets?
C. Are all teachers?
D. Are all workers of miracles?
E. Have all the gifts of healing?
F. Do all speak with tongues?
G. Do all interpret?
If you answered no to all the above, then you are ready for the next lesson in chapter 13.Paul ends this lesson in I Corinthians 12 on an encouraging note to covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way!
In changing the course of his teaching, Paul does not here compromise nor negate the significance of the gifts in the Body. On the contrary, Paul reinforces it yet leads us to a higher level of comprehension of gifts in the Body of Christ. (“Covet earnestly the best gifts, but let me show you a more excellent way of edification”). In I Corinthian 13 Paul instructs on the proper motivation of the gifts - that being love. Gifts are for edifying the Body of Christ. (Building up the Body in the faith of Christ) When we reach this conceptual level of maturity in discernment in the Body, we are in the place where God can use us to win souls for Christ. As long as we stay in that infantile understanding of the church and gifts we are just still babes needing milk, thinking as a child. Only love helps us endure the trial and tests of faith to run the race of patience to win souls to Christ. Paul writes “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemingly, seeth not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face-to-face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth, faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity (love)” I Corinthians 13 Stay tuned. There’s more in chapter 14
Richard A. Prince MinistryMotivationManifestation (Calling) (Operations) (Fruit) Eph.4:11&ICor.12:27-28 Romans 12:1-8 I Cor. 12:7-10 Apostles Prophecy Word of Knowledge Prophet Serving Word of Wisdom Evangelist Teaching Faith Pastor Exhortation Healings Teacher Giving Miracles Miracles Ruling Prophecy Healings Mercy Discerning of spirits Helps Different Kinds of Tongues Administrations Interpretation of Tongues Varieties of Tongues