Chapter 11 –


Now it is possible to address one of the most frequently quoted sections of Scripture used to prove that Christians must tithe to their minister and/or church.

Although Jesus upheld the Law and did not change it, many Christian teachers who claim to be His disciples and ministers have in effect changed the tithing and other Biblical laws. These changes are almost always accompanied by some kind of scriptural justification. For tithing, they often focus on Hebrews 7:12 to establish New Testament authority for Christian ministers to collect tithes from church members. Here is that critical verse:

For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law, also.

Their simple claim is that today's preachers of Jesus Christ constitute a priesthood superior to the Levitical priesthood. This superiority is based on Jesus' superior credentials as an eternal high priest after the order of Melchizedek as compared to the mortal high priests of Aaron's lineage. They contend that this change provides for the tithes to go to the ministry instead of to the Levites and Aaronites; therefore, Christians must now tithe to a minister or church of Jesus Christ.

Do Ministers Function as Priests?

The advocates of tithing usually consider it to be an eternal princi­ple or law of God. They believe that tithing was practiced by the patriarchs, expanded on for the Levites, and changed to apply to the church. According to this approach anyone who claims Jesus as Savior and doesn't tithe is sinning and may risk eternal punishment and/or God's disfavor.

Inherent in this understanding is the treatment of a Christian minister as a priest and the false assump­tion that priests receive tithes.

The phrase "change of law" is interpreted to mean that tithes go to Christian ministers instead of Jewish rabbis (today’s priests) and synagogue (temple). Since Jesus is now the high priest of the Melchizedek order, His ministers are lesser priests of the same order, qualified to receive the tithes in the name of Jesus. They overlook the fact that the tithe never went to the Aaronite priests but to the non-priestly Levites. All Aaronites were Levites, but not all Levites were Aaronites.

Even if the Melchizedek priesthood has supplanted the Levitical priesthood in the rights to receive tithes, and if Christian ministers were functioning as priests in the place or on behalf of Jesus, they still would not receive tithes. Priests never received tithes - only offer­ings. The sons of Aaron received the gifts of the altar of the temple of stone in Jerusalem because the LORD was their inheritance. The Levites received the tithes because their inheritance right to a portion of the Promised Land was replaced by the right to receive a tithe of land's agricultural production as their inheritance.

The Levites symbolize all believers. Just as all Aaronites are Levites, so all ministers are Christians. Furthermore, Jesus is high priest of both layman and minister. Today, God is the inheritance of all Christians. We, both minister and layman, are all equal heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. As heirs of God, we will inherit the Kingdom of God just as Jesus did by the resurrection from the dead. All Christians are His brothers, sons of the same Father. (Hebrews 2:9-18)

All Christians will be priests after the order of Melchizedek upon attaining immortality through the resurrection from the dead, not just ministers. Therefore, all the church - not just the ordained elders - have a right to receive the immortal inheritance and not a substitute or alternative inheritance. The only alterna­tive to immortality is death. The alternative to a province in the land of Canaan become Israel was the tithe of that entire land's production.

Jesus receives mankind's spiritual gifts and sacrifices offered at the altar in heaven. No human minister serves at that altar. He is the only mediator.

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. (I Timothy 2:5-6)

If ministers claim to be qualified to receive tithes, then it follows that they must consciously or unconsciously consider them­selves to be, or in effect function as, priests. This thought relegates lay members to a lesser state as non-priests or sub-Christians. Priests are mediators between God and man. Today, the exercise of any priestly role functionally usurps Jesus' position as the Head of the Church, His temple.

Remember, it was unacceptable for an Israelite to offer sacrifice himself: he had to take it to God's priest at the one, central altar. There the priest would examine the offering, accept qualified sacri­fices on God's behalf, sanctify them, slaughter and cut the animal car­casses, lay the meat on the altar to be roasted in pan and finally burn it up in part or in full by fire - depending on the type of sacrifice required. That is what mediation is all about.

The Christian cannot require mediation by another human being because no one other than Jesus has ever been or ever will be quali­fied to offer the necessary spiritual sacrifice of a sinless life. It is through Jesus' sacrifice that the Christian offers his own life as his rea­sonable service. Through Christ, we can approach the altar in heaven before the throne of the Father. The humbled believer is required to confess sins to God and Christ alone.

Jesus is the only mediator because He is the only priest of the New Testament that now exists. The fact that He is the high priest does not signify that lesser priests of Melchizedek presently exist in office, fulfilling their priestly functions as earthly, sand-in mediators for Jesus, the ultimate mediator. Christians receive the Holy Spirit through Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes through no other mediator, spiritual or mortal. (Acts 4:12)

The change of law mentioned in verse 12 refers to the entire priesthood system, which only indirectly includes tithing. Subsequent chapters in Hebrews discuss the relationship between the Sinai or Old Covenant and the New Testament - the earthly temple and the heav­enly one (Hebrews 8:2,5; 9:23-28). Though a full discussion is beyond this book, a review of a few of the important points will help to put this section of scripture into context, and how it relates to tithing.

Jesus, High Priest and Son of God

Today, Jesus is the only resurrected Son of God as well as the only begotten Son of God. He was begotten and not created as were the angels.

For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee?” And again, “I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me?” (Hebrews 1:5)

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consid­er Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)

And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

“Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee,” just as He says also in another passage, “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4-6).

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.

'Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

Thus, a Melchizedek priest is immortal. Inherent immortality is required to be a member of this priestly order, which eliminates all mortal men and women. Being “born again” is only the earnest of future membership. (II Corinthians 1:22; 5:5)

This is the subject of Hebrews chapter 7. The author validates the use of Melchizedek in Genesis 14 as a type of an immortal priesthood because there is no biblical record of that person’s mother or father or children. Some scholars propose an identity for him such as Shem, but any identity correlation with a particular mortal person is replaced by the Bible’s symbolic treatment and emphasis on his office.

Melchizedek had no recorded birth or death. He had no genealogical qualifications to be a priest; yet he received tithe offerings (10% of spoils) in the name of the Eternal God and Messiah. Altogether there is a timelessness of symbolic eternity in the biblical story about this priest just as Jesus is now immortal.

According to the Levitical system, both parents had to be descen­dants of Aaron for a man to be qualified to be a priest. Consequently, the Bible is full of elaborate genealogies. (Read also Ezra 2:40-63; 8:15-20; 9:1-10:44.)

Melchizedek is the only priest of God mentioned in the Bible who was not a Levitical priest. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, was a priest of Midian. He was not a priest of God or of Israel. Jethro honored the LORD as the God of Israel and of Moses, his son-­in-law, but not as his own - the ONE and Only God.

Jethro served his people, Midian, in sacrificing to their traditional gods. He also respected the gods of their friendly neighbors. This inclusive approach was the standard attitude of all religions in the ancient Near East, except for the religion of Israel. Israel's LORD said that He was the ONE, exclusive God and the Only.

For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (I Corinthians 8:5-6)

Contrast that necessary attitude of a true believer in the LORD with Jethro's poly­theistic statement in Exodus 18:11:

Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.

Because Melchizedek was the only non-Levitical priest of the LORD in the Bible, the writer of Hebrews was able to use him in this discussion about a change in the priesthood. Whether he was an actual mortal man or some divine repre­sentative of God is irrelevant to the interpretation of Hebrews 7. He is a type of the eternal high priest just as David is a type of the Messiah king.

The point of this section of Scripture is the superior­ity of an eternal priesthood based on spiritual qualifications instead of a moral-material priesthood primarily qualified by genealogy and ritual (physical behavior with spiritual significance) purity.

The Change in the Law

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.

But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them, collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (For on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. (Hebrews 7:4-12)

Earlier, we discussed how there is no evidence that Abraham paid tithes on a regular basis, or even once on his flocks and produce. The priest called Melchizedek was one who in type represented the true Melchizedek to come, Jesus.

Abraham gave a thank offering to this priest in honor of God and in faith, as proved by the fact that this tithe, like the tithe of tithe offering, was ten per cent of the choicest spoils. The figure of 10% was the common customs tax charged in the Ancient Near East. Offerings were always the choicest, or ritually unacceptable. The Sinai Covenant (Torah Teaching Law) tithe was made up of one-in-ten, which would be a chance mixture of qualities from choice to poor.

The whole discussion in Hebrews 7 revolves around the fact that Jesus was a Jew descended from King David physically and not a son of Aaron. He had no genealogical claim to being a priest, much less a high priest. Hebrews 7 presents the rational argument that His credentials are higher, better and eternal, which means that His priesthood of the New Covenant takes precedence over the Levitical Aaronic priesthood administrative system of the Sinai Covenant.

The subject of the chapter is Jesus’ qualifications as the Melchizedek Order High Priest - not tithing.The Melchizedek priesthood does not abolish or replace the Levitical priesthood. That idea is ludicrous! The Melchizedek priesthood serves at a different altar in a different temple: it serves the altar in the heavenly temple being built out of "spiritual stones."

The New Testament Melchizedek priesthood is the spiritual fulfillment of the LORD's Promise to Abraham. If the Levitical priesthood had been done away, the book of Hebrews would not have been necessary. Hebrews presents the spiritual superi­ority of the New Testament placed in the hearts of men through the media­tion of a superior high priest of an immortal priesthood.

Though superior in delivering better (eternal) promises, the Melchizedek exists in parallel to the mortal priest­hood of Levites and Aaronites created by Sinai Covenant of behavioral law mediated by angels, who served at an altar of bloody animal sacrifices in a temple built of limestone and marble. It has different responsibilities reflecting a spiritual inheritance instead of the Israelite’s Promised Land.

Jesus' qualifications as a high priest had to be established apart from those given in the Torah for the sons of Aaron.

Scripture speaks of the Levitical priesthood's qualifications in detail. The Bible does not speak of the Melchizedek priesthood and its qualifications except in symbolic mystery revealed by the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' mortal flesh as Israel's Messiah Husband. But in the flesh, Jesus did not qualify to be a priest: He was a Jew. (Remember, the only Scripture available for early Christians was what is now called the Old Testament.)

Jesus did not qualify as a priest according to the Law. He superseded Levitical qualifications by His resurrection to immor­tal life thereby revealing the qualifications for a priest of Melchizedek – perfectly righteous immortality.

Subsequent verses and chapters show that there is no need for animal sacrifices in order to be saved because of Jesus' eternal sacrifice. Similarly, there is no need for temple services administered by mortal priests and Levites to attain eternal salvation. Grain and meat offerings have no use as food for an immortal priest. He has no need to eat.

"What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. (Isaiah 1:11)I shall take no young bull out of your house
Nor male goats out of your folds.
For every beast of the forest is Mine.
The cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
Shall I eat the flesh of bulls
Or drink the blood of male goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High;
Call upon Me in the day of trouble:
I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.
(Psalms 50:9-15)

A spiritual priesthood needs spiritual sacrifices and offerings. Since Christians are not under the sacrificial obligations of the Sinai Covenant, neither are they subject to tithe in support of a redundant temple service.

If there is any law change in regards to tithing. The recipients of the tithe do not change. The Levites possess the eter­nal right to any tithes paid by Israelites on the agricultural production of the land of promise. As long as and whenever there is an earthly temple in Jerusalem, there is and will be a Levitical priesthood (composed of Aaronic priests and Levitical ministers) to service that temple.

Israel is eternally obligated to tithe to the substitute first born sons of service - the Levites, as well as to celebrate the feasts, support the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Israel is eternally obligated to offer sacrifices to materially support the priesthood - even after a future national acceptance that animal sacrifices do not spiritually cover sin since they are superseded by Jesus' bodily sacrifice.

Ministers Have No Rights to Tithes

Nowhere does it say that ministers are now to receive the tithe instead of the Levites. Nowhere does God say that He is the preacher's inheritance. The pastor is not the first fruit from the world: the entire church is. What is true for the pastor is true for the church when it comes to tithing. Both are to offer in service what God gifts them through His Holy Spirit.

An elder is due wages for time spent in God's service. The com­pensation he receives should be relative to the quality of his service. But Paul justifies this payment of wages by referring to a beast treading out grain rather than to the Levitical right to the tithe of Israel.

Jesus is high priest after the order of Melchizedek on the basis of the power of the resurrection to eternal life and not on that of His tribal affiliation.

Can the same be said of any mortal minister or priest? No! Only Jesus

…has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. (16)

For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of the former com­mandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (18-19)

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy innocent, undefiled, separated from the sinners and exalted above the heavens, who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (26-27)

What change is there in the Law?

For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacri­fices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God. (7:28 - 8:5)

I don't think there is anything more plain than the Bible itself. The central subject of Hebrews 7 is not tithing. It's the superiority of the Melchizedek priesthood over the Levitical priesthood. It is about the qualifications of Jesus Christ to be the high priest of that priesthood.

The example of tithing is only used to symbolically support the superiority of an immortal priesthood over a physical one. The change discussed was in the qualifications for this superior priesthood and its eternal high priest. To be a priest of Melchizedek, one must be resurrected to external life. There are no physical qualifications to be a Melchizedek priest such as the genealogical ones that exist for Levitical priests. There are only spiritual ones.

To conclude that Christian ministers have a right to Levitical tithes because they are representatives of the superior priesthood of Christ is a wresting of scripture.

Priests never received tithes, only offerings. Furthermore, the Melchizedek priesthood is an eternal priesthood composed solely of resurrected Sons of God, of which there is only one now, Jesus. Certainly, no sane person would claim today that he is immortal, possessing a body of spirit maternal and not one of flesh!

God says that His ministers have a right to compensation and sup­port because of their labor on behalf of the Kingdom of God - not because they are innately superior or of a different class than the rest of the Body of Christ. (Selections below only, read all of I Corinthians 9.)

Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things?

For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING " God is not concerned about oxen, is He?

Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. (7-14)

The book of Hebrews announces the existence of a new priesthood: the Melchizedek priesthood. It is an immortal priesthood made up of the resurrected saints. Because it is a priesthood of immortal Sons of God, it is superior to and in addition to the Levitical priesthood.

The Levitical priesthood alone serves at an earthly Temple of the God of Israel in Jerusalem. That earthly service of animal sacri­fices is lawfully supported by tithes and offerings of circumcised Israelites according to the Law of the Sinai Covenant. The Levitical service on earth is a type of the coming spiritual service in the New Jerusalem which has already begun in heaven with Jesus as its high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

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