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Monday, September 29, 2008

We Are Not Levites

This is part two of a thread about tithing (see part one - Abraham Tithed?).

All talk about tithing is conditional upon proving the ministry are modern Levites since the law of tithing clearly states tithes are for the Levites (NUM. 18: 21). And that is exactly the claim Herbert Armstrong made - that his ministry were the modern Levites. In one place, he would show the Levites gone, and in another he would equate the Levitical priesthood to his ministers. (Many people in the COGs think Jeremiah 33: 21 is evidence of this.) Either way, he would claim the tithe law was not gone. So far as I have seen, everyone who claims tithing is still in force today either directly or indirectly relates the ministry to the Levites. At the end of the day, everything the COGs teach about tithing comes down to one word: "transferred". Some say the right to collect tithes has been “transferred”. Is this so?

But let's start at the heart of the matter. At Jesus' death, the Old Covenant was - in its entirety and sum - nullified. In Paul's day it was "passing away", as it had been since the day Moses mediated it (II COR. 3: 7, 11, 13). There were two parties to the covenant: the Word of God (who became Jesus Christ), and physical Israel (whom are now commonly referred to as "the Jews"). As a clear matter of law, upon the death of one of the parties, any covenant is nullified. Physical Israel is a perpetually renewing entity, and it seems reasonable that it could only die if it were completely wiped out. We know this has not happened. God is an eternal spirit being, and could never die... except He be made man and subject Himself to the authority of death. Any Bible-believing Christian believes this certainly has happened. The Word "married" and then "divorced" Israel for her unfaithfulness (JER. 3: 8, 20; HOS. 2: 2). Upon His death, Israel was freed from the Old Covenant (I COR. 7: 39). So all vestiges of the marriage, and the Old Covenant with all of its precepts, are nullified at the death of one of the two parties, that being the Word of God.
Not only that, but since a great number of things instituted in the Old Covenant pictured Christ, when He fulfilled them they also became obsolete. Most certainly we can see examples of this. Take Passover for instance. Christ is our Passover Lamb (I COR. 5: 7). He did away with the need for animal sacrifice, He therefore needed to change Passover. The "Lord's Supper", as it is commonly called, does not picture the leaving of Egypt, but the life and death of Jesus the Christ (LUKE 22: 19-20). Gentiles were once commanded to be circumcised before they could take part in the Passover (EXO. 12: 48), but not so for the Lord's Supper (ROM. 2: 28-29; I COR. 7: 19; PHP. 3: 2-3). Along those very same lines, we will see that one of these things that are done away with is the Levitical Priesthood.

Without reinventing the wheel, we will agree that the first tithe was for the Levite. Now, if the tithe was for the Levite, then it is highly questionable that a tithe still exists today, seeing as how the Levitical priesthood was not only replaced, but completely done away with. There are NO Levites [ie. practicing; by title or office] in the New Testament Church! If they were to remain, then all of their responsibilities would remain. Every person who stands to profit from tithe law by claiming to be a modern Levite also utterly ignores all of the other regulations of the Levitical priesthood. It is dishonest to claim to be the modern Levitical priesthood in order to take advantage of tithe laws, and then turn right around and reason away absolutely every other rule and regulation regarding the Levites. If anyone claims to be a modern Levite, let him rid himself of any and all inheritance first, put on mitre and ephod, THEN go ask others to give up their tithes!

The challenge is to prove the ministry are modern Levites. This is done by misquoting Hebrews 7: 12 like so: “For the priesthood being [transferred] of necessity there is also a [transfer] of the law [of tithes only].” So far as I can find, this was done on behalf of Herbert Armstrong by Herman Hoeh. The words translated as “transfer” here are Metatithemi (Strong's 3346) and Metathesis (Strong's 3331). They mean to change, transfer, exchange, disestablish, or remove. It has been said “Since the word can mean 'transfer', it means the tithes are transferred to the ministry.” That is completely read into this sentence relying on human reasoning (motivated in my opinion by greed).

Let's look at the context. Mr. Herbert Armstrong would often employ the phrase “top not come down” when he wanted to explain the importance of Biblical context. We have a case of that here. 
I am going to go into Hebrews. I will preface all of my comments on Hebrews with this bit of info - many think Paul did not author Hebrews. We don't know that for a fact, but even I believe there is a weighty case to be made that it wasn't Paul. Lacking a better name, I will credit Paul none-the-less.

The context of Hebrews 7 (and many of the surrounding chapters) is Paul explaining to the Hebrews how much greater Jesus Christ is than their human priests. He reasons that all Hebrews tithed to the Levites, but since even Abraham, the father of the all Israel, tithed to Melchizedek, then Jesus is greater even than Abraham. Paul adds that since Levi tithed to Melchizedek through Abraham, even Levites must admit that Melchizedek is greater than themselves. Paul then follows up by showing the flaws of the Levitical system and why the priesthood was changed from Levi/Aaron to Christ/Melchizedek (and the laws by necessity with it), and exemplifies the perfection of Christ and why it was given to Him.
What the Levitical minister must do is ignore all this, declare the law and priesthood transferred to themselves (borderline blasphemy), back up several steps and declare only the tithe law was transferred, and finally read into this an argument about the validity of tithing that Paul simply is not in any way shape or form trying to make. No offense meant, but Herman Hoeh was in error.

Top not come down! 

Let's again let the Bible interpret itself. Is the word “transfer” or is it “changed”?

Paul goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus Christ is not a Levite. Four and a half chapters of Hebrews is devoted to this end (HEB. 5, 7, 8, 9, 10). Christ was of Judah by human birth: (HEB. 7: 13-14) “For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood”. And Christ is of Melchizedek by divine rite: (HEB. 7: 11) “What further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?”; (HEB. 8: 6) “He has obtained a more excellent ministry”. Christ offers no daily nor yearly sacrifice to atone for Himself: (HEB. 9: 26) “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world”. Christ serves at the tabernacle in Heaven, not the alter in Jerusalem (HEB. 8: 2). Christ is an inheritor of all things (ROM. 8: 17; HEB. 1: 1-4), whereas the Levites were inheritors of nothing but the tithe (DEU. 14: 27; NUM. 18: 20-24). God divorced Israel (ISA. 50: 1) and the Old Covenant, the one in which the Levites were established, was nullified at Christ's death (HEB. 9: 16-17); Christ is now a minister of a “better covenant” (HEB. 7: 22).  And if Christ is not a Levite, neither are we who follow after Him. (HEB. 10: 9) “He takes away the first that He may establish the second.“ Doesn't this verse, Hebrews 10: 9 say it all? Christ took it away!! He did NOT transfer it! 

Let's look a little more and let the Bible interpret the Bible.
(HEB. 7: 18-19) 18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

It was annulled and replaced! So, the Bible says the former law of sacrifices and rituals was annulled, including tithing which was a heave offering, was not transferred in tact, but rather a better hope has been brought in. 

God wants nothing to do with burnt offering and sacrifice for sin, etc (PSA. 40: 6; HOS. 6: 6; MATT. 12: 7; HEB. 10: 5). Paul himself worked with his own hands to earn his own keep. This would have been scandalous for a Levite! This one act proves, in and of itself, proclaiming loudly that Paul was not a Levite. The Levites are gone. 
(HEB. 8: 13) “In that He says, 'A new covenant, ' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” 
And again, 
(MATT. 23: 38) “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” 
The entire system vanished in 70 AD. It was not transferred.

Here is a verse so profound, and yet so easily overlooked; this single verse explains without need for any clarification, why the Levites are gone: 
(HEB. 10: 18) “18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” 
The Levites are simply no longer needed. We can go straight to Christ and God! Who do we believe? God, or those who want to put themselves between us and God to make a profit of us (II COR. 2: 17; JUD. 1: 11)?

Never forget these verses:
(JOHN 1: 11-13) “11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

Jesus came to His own, which is the Old Covenant church, the Jews and the Levites, and they did not receive Him. They outright rejected Him! He is the “stone that the builders rejected” due to disbelief (PSA. 118: 22; ACTS 4: 11; I PET. 2: 7). And for such, those "branches" are for the remainder of this age "broken off" of the tree (ROM 11: 17-24).

Yet, for money's sake, men attempt to perpetuate the old system - that system which failed, rejected Christ, and was torn down. Do we not understand that we ARE NOT children born of natural descent, like the Levites, but we are born of God. This is a NEW order entirely, a NEW Covenant (LUKE 22: 20; II COR. 3: 6-11; HEB. 8: 8; HEB. 9: 15; HEB. 12: 24).

God does not give us the authority to change His set worship practices. Even so, there are many people who defend Herbert Armstrong's changing of the law. Take to heart the lesson of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat (I KING 12: 25-33). Pay special attention to verse 31 “...and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” Can it please God what was done? Setting up those who are not sons of Levi to be priests, nigh exactly as Jeroboam did?

The example of the Levites for the Church remains: that as they were set aside for the worship of God so we are set aside. As they refused to do their commission we must zealously perform ours. As they stole from God and the people, we must be generous and giving. The Aaronic Priesthood, the Levites, the sacrifices, and the offerings all pictured God's plan and His spiritual Church should learn these lessons. The sacrifices have been magnified and the old removed, and even the priesthood has been magnified and the old removed. It is established in Hebrews that the Levitical and Aaronic priests are gone, not transferred but replaced entirely by a Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (PSA. 110: 4). (I don't even say to you “by a priesthood”, as in many, but “by a Priest” singular. The "priesthood" will not exist until the resurrection.) 

The first tithe suggests we keep the Levitical customs. If we keep one custom, accepting tithes, shouldn't we keep them all? Why do these modern Levites not keep the duties and responsibilities of the Levites? Have they not read?
(GAL 5: 3-4) 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised [or sets out to keep the Old Covenant in any way - including tithes] that he is a debtor to keep the whole law [including the WHOLE law for the Levites]. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Understand now that I am NOT saying we shouldn't give. But twisting the law to receive tithes is not a just stewardship of the Bible truth God left us.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Excellent! I would only add what it was that the Jews turned to while rejecting Christ: Their law. They continued to embrace the ministration of death and condemnation rather than embrace their "husband."

Bill Hohmann