Acts 15 Commentary, by Michael Eaton

Being Kind to the Weaker Brother  (Acts 15:19-35)
Although James concluded that Christian gentiles need not come under the Mosaic legislation, he did ask three things of them (5:19-20)1.  Therefore I for my part come to this conviction: we should not harass people from the gentiles who turn to God (15:19), but we should write to them asking them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from wrongful sexual relationships, and from what is strangled and from blood (5:20). He wants to ask gentile Christians (i) not to buy and eat food which was associated with idolatrous worship (having been offered in sacrifice before being sold); verse 29 uses the phrase ‘food sacrificed to idols’.  He wants them (ii) to be specially careful about immorality.  And he wants them (iii) not to eat meat from which the blood had not been drained.
How should these be interpreted.  There are three possible interpretations.
(i) Do James’s three points deal with permanent principals of behaviour?  Are Christians forever forbidden to buy meat with dubious associations, forever forbidden immorality, forever forbidden certain types of food?  This interpretation makes sense with regard to immorality and idolatry but not with regard to the other two matters.  Christians are not permanently compelled to refused meat with blood in it.
(ii) Do James’s three points deal only with minor Jewish sensitivities to which gentiles make concessions?  Are Christians temporarily forbidden to buy meat with dubious associations – as a concession to Jews? Are they temporarily forbidden immorality – as a concession to Jews?  Are the temporarily forbidden certain types of food with blood in it – as a concession to Jews?  This interpretation makes sense with regard to one or maybe two matters, but not with regard to immorality, which is permanently forbidden.
There are expositors who think that ‘wrongful sexual relationships’ refers here only to Jewish sensitivity about the forbidden relationships of Leviticus 18.  But this would imply that such relationships are now allowed, and gentile Christians had then to stay away from them only as a concession to Jewish sensitivites.  Yet the wicked relationships of Leviticus 18 are permanently forbidden – not because of the permanence of the law but because of the permanence of the conscience, and the forbidding of the Holy Spirit.  Although the Christian is free from the law in general, there are certain parts of it which are are are fulfilled without change (especially Levticus 19:18) for reasons of conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit.   Leviticus 18:6-20 is not dealing with marriage; it is dealing with criminal sexual relationships that were punishable by the death-sentence (see Lev.18:29).  The Christian knows the sins of Leviticus 18 are still wicked.  He does not need the law to know it.  ‘The works of the flesh are obvious’ (Gal.5:19) – even without the law.  But is would be wrong to take this phrase in Acts 15:20 as only a ‘temporary concession’.  Leviticus 18:6-20 will be obeyed by those who keep a good conscience and walk in the Holy Spirit – without their having to come under the entire law..
(iii) Actually, two of these matters are dealing with Jewish sensitivities, and one of them deals with a permanent matters of behaviour. This third approach is less tidy but it is  necessary. Two items are dealing with minor sensitivities to which gentiles make concessions. But immorality is more serious.  Gentile Christians are forever forbidden immorality; but the Christian gentiles are temporarily asked not to buy meat with dubious origins – as a concession to Jews with tender consciences. And they are asked to temporarily abstain from food with blood in it- as a concession to Jews.  The three matters are not all of similar importance.
It may seen puzzling that the three thing are not all of the same kind.  Two of these matters are about food-laws or the purchasing of food; and one of them is about more serious sexual morality.  The explanation, I believe, is that these three (unequal) matters really were, as a fact of history, three concerns of Jewish Christians.  Jewish people were concerned about (i) indirect contact with  idolatry, (ii) looseness of gentile morality (which they feared might still characterize even Christian gentiles), and (iii) horrow at the thought of eating blood.  James says: please make a concession about two matters, and please forever be very careful about a third.
What then are the practical implications of all of this for the modern Christian?  One is: Christians should wise and kindly even where they have freedom.  Two of these three points are not strict ever-lasting legislation for the Christian.  Yet they were necessary in the first century if Jews and gentiles were to have fellowship together.  Care about what you eat would make it possible for Christian Jews and Christian gentiles to have fellowship together without Jews being horrified.  A modern Christian trying to talk to a Hindu friend had best not invite him to a meal with beef in it!  Although Christian gentiles were not under the law, Christian Jews were likely to want to keep their culture for a long time.  If the two groups were to have fellowship and were to eat together, some concessions would have to be made.  Moses gets read in the main cities of the empire (15:21).  Jewish people everywhere are specially sensitive about these three matters, so gentile Christians would do well to restrain themselves, even though they are not bound to the Mosaic law-code.
It must be realised that these three requests are not things that are binding on Christian gentiles for all time.  The three requests are not a new law-code!  They were guidelines to help gentile Christians to avoid offending Christian Jews needlessly.
Chapter 7  Coming To Agreement  (Acts 15:22-16:5)
Part of the precise requests of Acts 15:20 have fallen aside for the modern Christian, and today the concessions about the kind of food we eat are no longer directly relevant.  Yet there is a principle here which still stands.  When relating to people who have some cultural restraints or some excessive sensitivities, one might have to go along with them for a while until the ‘weak brother’ comes to a clearer mind. Christians should be sympathetic to those who have cultural inhibitions; they should be kindly to those with such inhibitions, even where they themselves have freedom.
1.  One way of resolving disagreement is discussion by church conference.  It is a matter of joy when dispute comes to a happy conclusion.  The meeting at Jerusalem agrees with James’s conviction, and they write a letter to the Antioch church.  The letter comes from the entire leadership of the Jerusalem church, with the involvement of the people (15:22).  It is addressed only to the area around Syrian Antioch (15:23).  They explain that the trouble-makers who had come to Antioch had no authority from Jerusalem (15:24).  The letter commends Barnabas and Paul (15:25-26), and it is to be taken to Antioch by people who will explain it more fully (15:27).  The Christians at Jerusalem are resolved not to ask for the Jewish law to be kept by gentiles (15:28), but they do have three requests to make (15:29).
The letter is taken to Antioch and the gentiles Christians rejoice at what has happened (15:30-31).  The ministry of the Jerusalem prophets is received (15:32) and friendly greetings are sent back to Jerusalem (15:33).  The ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch continued (15:34).
So the dispute came to a happy conclusion.  This Jerusalem consultation between two churches is a model of what churches need to do from time to time.  When there is doctrinal dispute, when there are cultural perplexities, there needs to be inter-congregational consultation.  Churches need to cooperate well with other churches, in so far as it can be done.
2.  Another way of resolving disagreement is for both sides to follow different procedures while maintaining friendship.   Immediately after the agreement at Jerusalem, another kind of disagreement springs up between Paul and Barnabas!  Paul wants to visit the church in Cyprus and south Galatia again, but refuses to take John Mark.  Barnabas refuses to go without Mark (who is Barnabas’s cousin – Col.4:10).  The disagreement between the two men is sharp (15:35-39).  In the end they divide the mission into two. Barnabas takes the Cyprus section of the trip.  Paul takes the Galatian section.  The dispute did not cause permanent bitterness.   Although the disagreement was sharp for a short time, eventually a good solution was reached.  They made two missions instead of one. Insoluble disagreements do arise in the church.  God may bring good out of them if they are handled with wisdom and love.  Sometimes an amicable parting is the best way to handle the matter, in which case great care needs to be taken that good relationships are preserved after the separation.  Love can find a way of separating in a friendly manner, and good may come out of it despite bad appearances. Paul speaks well of Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6, and later Paul and Mark were colleagues again (Col.4:10; 2 Tim.4:11; Philem.24).
Because of the dispute the evangelistic team became two teams.  God gave Paul some new colleagues.  Silas took the place of Barnabas (15:40-41).   He was als0 (like Barnabas originally) from the Jerusalem church (15:22) and was a prophet (15:32).  It appears from what we read later that (like Paul) he was a Roman citizen.  Although Paul would probably not have replaced Barnabas if it had not been for the dispute, yet it is likely that Silas was a more suitable co-worker for Paul at this point.  Sometimes God pushes us into decisions that we would not have taken for ourselves.
When the two men got to Lystra (16:1), Paul found a replacement for John Mark also.  Timothy had been in Lystra as a young believer when Paul and Barnabas.  He was one of the Christians who had received Galatians.  Presumably he was in heart agreement with what Paul said in Galatians.  As someone who was half-Jew, half-gentile, he was a useful man.  Such people can relate to Jews as a Jew, and to gentiles as a gentile.  He was just the kind of colleage Paul needed.  Paul was very firm about salvation through grace, but so long as grace was clearly established he was a very yielding and gracious man.  He had Timothy circumcised.  It was a step taken to make thing easier for Paul when relating to Jews.  As long as no one thought Timothy received grace from God by circumcision, than Paul did not mind Timothy’s being circumcised as a concession to culturally touchy Jewish Christians.
3.  The important matter is the preaching of the gospel.  One can see that behind both of these disputes (the conference at Jerusalem, the forming of two evangelistic teams) is a concern for the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ways are being found to overcome difficulties in the way of preaching.  The kingdom of God is not circumcision; it is not disputes over opinions.  It is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It is Jesus.   The apostles settle these matters as speedily as they can, and then the outreach teams get on with the work of building up the churches.  The decisions made at Jerusalem are told to the churches (15:4-5).  Paul is now ready for a further step in taking the gospel of Jesus to areas where the message is unknown.

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Beyond the Tithe, (Chapter by Michael Eaton)

(The first part is my comments and title and then Michael’s document follows)

Dear friends, there have been many studies and teachings about tithing whether For or Against…

I believe as the Scriptures say the fact we know that we are free and not under the Mosaic Law. The Law and the Prophets was a shadow, but the Reality is found in Christ.

Col 2:17 these are only 1 the shadow of the things to come, but the reality 2 is Christ! 3

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t read the Law of Moses i.e. the book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy, but we should read the Old Testament keeping in mind that we cannot fully understand the OT without the New Testament Scriptures and the introduction of Jesus the Messiah.

Most Christians will point out the reasons why we should tithe:

1) According to Mosaic Law

2) According to Abraham and Jacob

The first reason is invalid because we are not under the Mosaic Law, the second reason was completely voluntarily and lead by the Spirit not out of a command- so that means we simple do it whenever God leads us, not legalistically. The law of 10% only stirs up sin.

Some people might be going ‘whippee’ at this point and say, “Cool! I don’t have to give 10%!! I’ll just give 3%!”.  You give what you have decided in your heart, if its 5% this time, or 50% next time, its whatever you’ve decided in your heart to give.

2Cor 9:6-8

My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sowsgenerously  will also reap generously. Each one of you should give  just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly  or undercompulsion,  because God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace overflow  to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.

What most Christians don’t realise is that we as believers and partakers of the New Covenant, are so much more privileged than those who have gone before us under the Old Covenant.

We have a better sacrifice that is Jesus’ blood, not the blood of bulls and animals…

We have better promises and a better mediator

I believe that people living under Grace will give as they are being lead by the Holy Spirit than those living under the Old Covenant or Abraham’s days.

2 Cor 8:3 For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily,

Grace people on occasions will tithe, give 10% but more likely all the other times will  actually go beyond the tithe

Grace people are empowered to do more than law people because of a change of heart, they are more priviliged under a better covenant!

Grace people are not bound by rules and laws and that bounds them, but are now free to stretch their wings and take faith risks which makes them actually enables to do more as their heart has been freed by love…

Nevertheless, the Christian is free to give or not to give and whatever amount God puts on their hearts they are not not pressured by man but give out of their hearts.

Please enjoy this document by Michael Eaton on Tithing!

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Chapter 23 Tithing (Malachi 3:7c-8)

As always happened when Malachi was preaching, the people responded with hostility. Most of them were quarrelsome and argumentative. Here it happens again. Malachi says: But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ (3:7c). But as always Malachi refuses to be intimidated. He answers their question! Should a person rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions (3:8).

Why does Malachi mention tithing? It is because it is a highly practical matter. The people have become careless about keeping the Mosaic law. One sin is being committed, it seems, by almost everyone in the nation. They are all withholding the ‘tithe’ – the tenth of their agricultural profit and of their flocks of animals that was to be given to God at the temple. The people were generally careless about the things of God, but this is something which is very sensitive (most people are touchy about wealth!).

What was ‘tithing’? It was the setting aside of a tenth of harvested crops and animals to be given to God (see Leviticus 27:30-33). In Leviticus we are told that it was required animals and crops that were grown in the land should be tithed (27:30). It effectively meant that one’s in come was subject to a ten per cent tax. The crops (but not the animals) could be given a money-value and the tithe paid in cash. If this was done 20% was added to the estimated value (27:31).

The tithe was very sacred. ‘All tithes … are the Lord’s; they are holy…’. Later on in the law fuller information was given. Numbers 18 refers to the same tithe. (The idea that there is a tithe of crops and animals and another tithe for Levites and maybe a third tithe for the poor – is surely mistaken). The tithe had to be given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21) – the sections of the tribe of Levi that were not priests. The tithe was to be given them as a salary instead of land (18:24).

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 is a further development of the legislation, forty years after its first mention in the law. It adds to and modifies the original law with a view to what will happen in the future. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 is explicitly looking forward to a future period in Israel’s history, and so looks forward to what will happen when there is a central national place of worship. The tithe was an annual matter. Deuteronomy 14:22 makes it explicit. Moses (i) takes it for granted that the annual tithe will be brought to a central sanctuary. (ii) He also takes it that in two out of three years the visit to the central sanctuary will be a special occasion. Deuteronomy 14:23 says ‘And you shall eat before Yahweh your God’. It does not say ‘You shall eat it’ (which might seem to refer to the whole tithe). In this context ‘eat’ has the idea of ‘celebrate’, ‘join in a religious meal together’. Most of the tithe would have been given to the Levites to use or give out according to the well-known legislation. But the people who have come a long way also ‘eat before Yahweh’ (the identical phrase is found in Deuteronomy 12:7). That is, they enjoy a meal in which they are celebrating together. However if they live a long way from the sanctuary they will not be able to do this easily. So they may turn the tithe into cash at the place where they live (14:24-25a). They they are to carry the cash to the central sanctuary (14:25b) and use it to buy what they are giving as tithe (14:26a). They have a family celebration with a little of the tithe (14:26b), and then give the vast majority of it to the sanctuary (14:27). The Levites will no longer be quite so needy as they were when they first settled in the land, so the bulk of the tithe will be given to the central sanctuary. Yet the Levites must not be forgotten altogether. If they are in need some of the tithe may still (as in the original legislation) be given to them (14:27). (iii) Moses also laid it down for the distant future that every third year the tithe would be used in a different way. Every third year the tithe is to be stored in the towns until it is completely brought together from the rural areas (14:28), and then it will be given to the Levites, foreigners, orphans and widows (14:29a). This – says Moses – will lead to blessing for the entire nation (14:29b). Any Levite who misused the tithe was liable to be executed (Deuteronomy 18:32b).

2. What was the origin of tithing? It began with Abraham and Jacob. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:6); and Jacob vowed to the Lord and said, ‘Of all that you give me I will surely give a tenth to you’. But it is important to note that this pre-Mosaic tithing was purely a matter of being led by the Holy Spirit. Abraham and Jocab tithed because at a time when they were close to God, and God was working powerfully in their hearts, they felt led to give a tenth of their possessions in this way. They were tithing in the Holy Spirit. Later on the tithe became a matter of law. Israel was under a tithe-legislation.

3. Is the Christian obliged to tithe his income? I answer ‘No’ and ‘Yes’! Strictly speaking the answer is ‘No, the Christian is not under the Mosaic law’. The Christian does not tithe as a matter of legislation. We have ‘died to the law’, and there is nowhere in the New Testament where we are told to tithe. Matthew 23:23 is telling those under the law to keep the law! It cannot be made into a command for post-Pentecost Christians. The New Testament speaks of proportional giving but it is not compelled like the tithe (2 Corinthians 8:8; 9:7). It was ‘according to means’ (8:11). This is not exactly tithing.

Israel was an earthly nation. The tithe was part of its state-law. There was a time when state-churches could demand a tithe of every citizen of a country. In Britain state-enforced tithing was not entirely abolished until 1936! Even today there is at least one country where the tithe can be collected from every citizen as part of its collecting the national taxes. Only those who exempt themselves are released from it. Certainly the Christian is not under the Mosaic law, and state-Christian-religion tends to have a corrupting influence on the purity and sincerity of the churches (to say nothing of its tendency to produce ‘Christians’ who persecute others). Is the Christian under a tithe law? No!

Yet this is not the whole story! The Christian has to give to the work of God. His or her giving is more like the tithing of Abraham and Jacob. They gave a tenth of what they had because that was the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They were tithing by the Holy Spirit, not tithing by any legislation. Christians are not under the law; they are under the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit inspires giving! Another point is: if someone gave a tenth under the law, the movement from law to grace is a movement forward. A person who gave a tenth under the law would give even more – by the Holy Spirit. Whether this ‘proportional giving’ is called ‘tithing’ or not is unimportant. But there is no escaping the fact that when under the law, the believer was to give a tenth and the Holy Spirit is likely to inspire in the heart of the Christian the giving of even more than a tenth, in the heart of the Christian. It is a good way to test whether we are walking in the Spirit! Are we under the law? No! But we fulfill the law – and go beyond it – by walking in the Holy Spirit. Christians do not tithe ‘Mosaically’. They surpass the tithe when they are walking in the Holy Spirit.

The Whole Counsel of God, Michael Eaton

http://www.cornerstonechurch.co.za/Resources/Downloads/MichaelEatonTheWholeCounselofGod/tabid/376/Default.aspx

Wow this is great!
It is 25 sessions, 25 hrs+ of solid bible overview summary of the Christian Faith on the ‘Whole Counsel of God”!!

I’ve never heard anything like it!

Covering many topics about eveything such as God’s great plan, evangelism, preaching, how to interpret Scripture with a clear conscience, how to study the bible, expository preaching, Predestination, Church history, the Trinity, Grace, Repentance, Word, Spirit, revival etc…, it’s like a free bible college lesson!

Michael eaton from Westminister Chapel, was trained under Martin Lloyd Jones, RT Kendal, a forefront gifted bible teacher and author in the world today and I heard that he reads the bible in Greek and Hebrew everyday.
I’ve listen just to the first 2 sessions and I’m totally blown away by seeing the bigger picture of it all like I’ve never heard it before!!!