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Avoiding Assumptions in Application pt 1

by | Feb 9, 2022 | Giving, Sermon Supplements, Studying Scripture

NOTE: This is a continuation of the blog post: To Tithe or Not To Tithe. This post discusses one of the false assumptions many teachers make when applying Scripture inaccurately. By examining these assumptions in the context of tithing we will see examples of their use and guard against using these assumptions in regard to other subjects.

because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (ESV)

Genesis 26:5

This verse seems to indicate that God not only called Abram but also gave him a clear set of laws to live by. It also states that Abraham obeyed them. Of course, Abraham was not perfect, but in general, it is clear that Abraham was obedient to God’s commands, including ones we are unaware of.

The question we may ask at this point is, “what were those laws?” We don’t know. God doesn’t clarify for us anywhere in Scripture what those laws and commandments and statutes were. 

However, many will point to Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 as proof that God had given a law to tithe and since this command was before the Law of Moses, we should follow it as well. The idea is that God has a universal law that transcends the Law of Moses and is applicable to all men at all times.

While the idea of God’s universal moral law is valid, we should be careful about assigning commands to that law that are not clearly dictated as such in Scripture. That is what this false assumption attempts to do.

False Assumption 1:

Examples of human actions provide enough information to assume God’s unwritten or universal laws.

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Genesis 14:17–24 (ESV)

What are the problems with this assumption? 

First, nowhere in Scripture does it say that Abraham gave the gift in response to a command. It is clear that he did it as an act of worship to God after being blessed by him. In fact, verse 22 seems to indicate that this may have been part of a vow Abraham made to God concerning the spoils of war. 

Second, if there was a command for this specific act of tithing, it would only cover spoils of war as the example is only in reference to spoils of war. We have nothing in Scripture that indicates that Abraham gave tithes of any of his other wealth/increase. He may have, but again, we don’t apply scripture based on possibilities, we apply it based on what it says.

Third, we don’t treat other actions by pre-law individuals this way. We have examples of people giving sacrifices to God before the Law was written. Even Cain and Able are recorded in Scripture as participating in sacrifices. We assume that God commanded them to do that, but we don’t have it recorded and therefore do not follow it.

The New Testament often validates parts of God’s universal moral law, specifically when it calls out those acts that we recognize as sin. However, that is merely defining or clarifying what it means to walk in the flesh, which is against God because we are to walk in the Spirit.

We are called to crucify our fleshly desires and live according to the Spirit. Not according to an assumed list of outward actions.

Assuming good acts of fallen men to be proof of specific universal laws is an act of pride. We are saying that we know a part of the mind of God that He has chosen not to reveal. By applying those assumed laws to ourselves and others, we become slaves to man’s opinion rather than servants to Christ.

Scripture gives us many clear commands as New Testament believers in how we are to live and worship. Let us be careful not to burden ourselves or others with commands formed from these false assumptions.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. […] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. […] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 5:16–24 (ESV)