Last week, we began our discussion of parallels between spiritism and some so-called “Christian” ideas. The whole point of this blog is that the gospel offers access to heaven now. If we’re experiencing and living in so much less then heaven’s reality, we should examine what we believe to see if it really lines up with the gospel taught by scripture.
It saddens me when I see people with a background of Macumba going to Christian churches and getting many of the same messages they learned through decades of practicing witchcraft. They continue with the same mindset. Today, I’d like to lay the groundwork for understanding some other ways Christians fall into living by the principles of spiritism and witchcraft rather than according to gospel truth.
Saved By Grace, Not By Works
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NRSV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
Many of us know this as a foundational verse about salvation. However, many Christians think of salvation as being allowed into heaven. We get into heaven because of what Jesus did and not by our own works. Well, that is true. But salvation is so much more than that.
The word “salvation” in Ephesians 2:8 is “sozo” in Greek. The meaning of “sozo” is practical, and the gospels often translate it “healed” or “made whole.” Scripture does apply it to being born-again, which is receiving a new nature from God. But the Bible also often uses it in the context of physical healing or in other ways. Everyone who touched Jesus was made whole (sozo). God saved (sozo) Paul from a shipwreck. The word “sozo” applies to every area of our lives.
Scripture speaks of salvation as past, present, and future. Being born again and forgiven is salvation in the past. Jesus dealt with sin once and for all by the sacrifice of himself. God’s present deliverance and the practical application of his grace in our lives is salvation present. If you need to be delivered or healed now, the scriptural promises of salvation apply. Receiving our resurrected, glorified body is salvation future.
Many teachers rightly say that getting into heaven is “by grace, through faith, and not of works.” Yet they go on to teach that we get God’s present blessing, healing, and deliverance by works. For example, one famous preacher said,
“You can’t get healing or deliverance, or any other promise in the Word of God except through the tithe.”
When you understand that a biblical view of salvation includes healing and deliverance, and every other promise of God in Christ, it follows that this preacher is teaching salvation by tithing. He may say that you will get into heaven some day by God’s grace, but he is teaching people to relate to God practically and presently through their own self-righteous works.
One the contrary, we must continue in our salvation in the same way we started, by freely receiving God’s grace. We don’t start out by grace and then continue in salvation by religious works. Salvation is by grace through faith, and not of works, from the beginning to the end.
God’s grace transforms us, manifests God’s nature through us, and empowers us. It brings us healing, deliverance, and blessing. We continue to receive God’s grace in the way we first received it. If you didn’t first receive God’s grace by tithing, you don’t continue to receive it by tithing. In other words, if you didn’t get saved by tithing, you don’t continue in your salvation by tithing either.
Many preachers have suggested that giving money in the offering can release a person’s healing or get them closer to it. Yet the Bible teaches healing as part of salvation, just as the forgiveness of sins is. Jesus paid for it with his blood.
The Catholic church used to sell “indulgences.” People gave money to the church for their sins to be forgiven. When we understand that healing is just as much a part of salvation as forgiveness is, we should understand that suggesting anyone can obtain healing by giving money is equal to selling indulgences.
Righteousness And Blessing
Righteousness is being made right with God. Jesus is our righteousness, and scripture says this is a righteousness we receive by faith, apart from the law. Any righteousness apart from Christ is as good as filthy rags. These teachings are foundational throughout the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NRSV He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Titus 3:5 NRSV he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the important thing: Righteousness and blessing are inseparable. You can’t be righteous and cursed. If you are righteous, you have God’s blessing. And since Jesus is our righteousness, we obtain God’s blessing through what Jesus has done, and not through any works of our own.
Psalm 5:12 NRSV For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Proverbs 10:6 NRSV Blessings are on the head of the righteous
Psalm 112:6 NRSV For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.
Scripture teaches that all the promises of God are yes in Christ. If you’re in Christ, the promises of God are yes for you. You can’t be in Christ and cursed. If you are in Christ, you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.
Is The Blessing Or Curse Hinged On Your Tithe?
I grew up hearing that I would be abundantly blessed if I tithed and gave offerings, but I would be cursed if I didn’t. You probably all know the passage:
Malachi 3:8-10 (NRSV) Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Did you ever hear that a verse taken out of context is a con? Go back to the books of the law and read what the “tithes” and “offerings” were that Malachi refers to. You can read instructions for the tithe in Leviticus 27, Numbers 18, and Deuteronomy 12, 14, and 26. Nobody today tithes as the Israelites were instructed to. Nobody today gives the tithes and offerings commanded by the law, which Malachi referred to. Not even modern Jews.
In fact, the poor and widows didn’t give the tithe, but received the tithe. The “offerings” referred to weren’t monetary gifts to a church. They included animal sacrifices and burnt offerings. Those tithes and compulsory offerings were the tax and social security system for the ancient nation of Israel. Malachi wasn’t written to us. It was written to ancient Jews in the Jewish nation, subject to Jewish law.
But what’s the implication of believing the blessing or curse on our lives comes through the tithe? First, because righteousness and the blessing cannot be separated, if we try to attain the blessing or avoid the curse by tithing, we are trying to be justified by tithing. We may say we believe we’re justified through Jesus’ work alone, but we’re acting as if we’re not.
We are delivered from the curse and receive the blessing because of what Jesus did. Don’t be deceived into trying to attain through works that which Jesus has already attained for you. Galatians is clear that this issue of the blessing or the curse comes down to justification. The blessing or curse could only be hinged on your tithe if you were justified by tithing. But you aren’t! Don’t let anybody subject you to a curse that Jesus has redeemed you from.
Galatians 3:10-14 NRSV For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
It’s also worth noting that according to scripture, heaven being opened corresponds to salvation and access to God. Hebrews teaches that heaven opened when Jesus’ body was torn. Jesus attained an open heaven for us by dying on the cross. You can read the scriptures for that in my first blog post, Present Access To Heaven. To teach we can attain to an open heaven through tithing is to teach salvation through tithing. That is, according to a scriptural understanding of an open heaven. Jesus is the door to heaven, and not the tithe. Don’t try to attain by tithing that which Jesus attained for you by dying. He is the door to heaven now; full access to God and everything found in his presence, not just heaven when you die.
It’s so absurd to teach that God would curse a righteous person for not tithing when he blesses even the unrighteous out of his magnanimous heart! Friends, keep continuing in your salvation in the way you first received it! Good works are the fruit of God’s grace, and not a means of attaining it.
Next week, we’ll continue with The Law And Witchcraft.