Hebrews 7:1-12, “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth of all first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? [now verse 12] For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Ok, let’s focus on verse 12 here, for the whole chapter of Hebrews 7 hinges on this one verse, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Which law? Most commentaries will be quick to say that the whole Mosaic Law of God is being either abrogated, thrown out, or changed, based on this one verse. But as we’ll see in the next chapter, Paul says the new covenant is defined by God writing his laws in our hearts and upon our minds, a far cry from abrogating them, throwing them out, or changing them. So now we must search through Hebrews chapter 7 for its main subject, and then any secondary subject (just as one would do in a grammar class in searching for the subject of a sentence or paragraph). Paul clearly showed us in Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:10 and 6:20 that Jesus has been made our High Priest “after the order of Melchisedec,” replacing the Levitical high priest after the order of Aaron, for ever. So now in Hebrews 7:1-9 Paul goes on to describe this “priest of the Most High God, Melchisedec,” who is a type Jesus Christ our High Priest and vice versa. Now remember, we’re searching for the subject of these first eleven verses, and the entire chapter, which will define for us which “law” within the Old Testament Law of God, the Torah, is being changed. Remember, we’re trying to take the whole chapter in context, in order to discern the subject defined in the verse 1 12, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Let’s read verses 13-28 to continue to discern the main subject for verse 12. Hebrews 13-28, “For he of whom these things are spoken [i.e. Jesus Christ] pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is not made after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. [that underlined verse, verse 16, clearly defines which part of God’s law “necessitates a change,” as verse 12 says.] For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath, he was made priest: (for those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: [i.e. all the physical high priests under the Levitical-Aaronic high priesthood grew old and died, the whole line of them stretching from Aaron himself to Annas and Caiaphas of Jesus Christ’s time at 30/31AD] But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (verses 13-28). It is clearly evident that “the law” which is being discussed “as necessitating a change,” or needing to be changed, and which has been changed as Paul explains, is the law which defined who could be high priest. Paul also shows us here, as he was showing the Jewish-Christians, that Jesus Christ has been made our High Priest, replacing the Levitical High Priesthood, by a higher law, “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life” (verse 16). i.e. Jesus’ resurrection to immortality as well as the oath king David proclaimed in the Psalms, “Thou art a high priest after the order of Melchisedec” give the authority by which this change of the law of the high priesthood is justified. So that is the main, central subject being discussed throughout Hebrews 7, the law defining who could be high priest, and that is “the law” which has been “changed.”
There Is Another sub-Subject Within Hebrews 7
Now let’s go back to verses 1-9 of Hebrews chapter 7 and discover that there is a sub-subject, a set of laws underneath this law defining who could be high priest, which also has to be changed as a direct result of this change in who now is our permanent High Priest. (You may have thought this was the main subject of Hebrews 7, but as you read through the whole chapter, as we just did, you have to realize it’s not.) So let’s re-examine verses 1-10. Hebrews 7:1-10, “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. [This is spoken about Melchisedec, he’s the subject of these first three verses. This means Melchisedec must be the pre-Incarnate Christ, Yahweh himself, whom apparently was dwelling on earth as this Melchisedec during this part of Abraham’s life.] Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes of the people out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose descent[Hebrew: pedigree] is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.” If the law changes about who is High Priest, ‘the guy who receives the tithes of the people,’ the laws of tithing must change as well, and Paul is making that point very clearly in verses 1-10. He is not saying the requirement for tithing is abrogated, again, as so many would love to believe. But Paul is showing his Judeo-Christian readers (and us) just who you are now supposed to tithe to, to which priesthood (that of Levi under Aaron or Melchisedec under Christ). As you can see, the words “tenth part of all,” “the tenth of the spoils,” “tithe” and “tithes” are mentioned by Paul seven times in the first nine verses of Hebrews chapter 7. This is the sub-subject of verse 12, because the law defining who you were supposed to tithe to has to change when the law defining who the high priest is changes. It’s perfectly logical. If the high priesthood has then changed from the Levitical order of Aaron to the order of Melchisedec and thus Jesus Christ, the laws defining who you are to tithe to changes along with that change. Our pastors and elders within the various genuine Christian denominations, those who genuinely serve our real High Priest Jesus Christ, are now to be the recipients of the tithes of the people of God.
Why Is Paul Writing This?
Why is Paul writing this to the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ in Judea (which was technically under the apostleship of Peter)? For one, Hebrews was written around 67, 68 AD, Peter may already be dead. So for whatever reason, Paul feels responsible for addressing a real problem he sees within the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ which resides in Judea and Jerusalem. (Comment: The Book of Galatians brings out the fact that the apostle Paul was over the ‘Gentile’ churches in Asia Minor and the rest of the Roman Empire, and the apostle Peter was over the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. So there were essentially two branches of the Christian Church, considered the Jewish and Gentile branches, even though they were all Judeo-Christian in nature and practice, as far as being Sabbath and Holy Day observing at that time [seehttp://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm] But the churches in Judea had special problems Paul was addressing, they were slightly different than that churches in Asia Minor [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1a.htm]). He told them in Hebrews 5:11-14 that they were dull of hearing, only able to tolerate spiritual milk, not the meat of God’s Word. Also throughout the Book of Hebrews, running through it as its central theme is the doctrine, teaching that Jesus Christ has replaced the Levitical-Aaronic high priesthood with the High Priesthood of or “after the order of Melchisedec” with Jesus Christ as the new High Priest---forever. Also Paul devotes Hebrews chapter 10 to explaining that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has taken the place of all the animal sacrifices for sin. Paul brings this out as well in Hebrews 7:27, “who needed not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” So what is that telling us? What should that have been telling the Jewish-Christians living in Judea and Jerusalem? Simply put, it is telling them (and us) that Temple worship under the Levitical-Aaronic priesthood, along with all its animal sacrifices is no longer necessary. Now Paul in Hebrews chapter 7 is telling these Jewish-Christians (and us) that since the Aaronic high priesthood has now been replaced by that “of the order of Melchisedec,” who you are supposed to tithe to has now also changed. The Jewish-Christians in Judea and Jerusalem were still going to the Temple to offer sacrifices, and they must have been tithing to the Levites as well. Hebrews 10 addresses the sacrificial issue, and Paul is addressing the tithing issue here in Hebrews chapter 7. Both of those issues revolve around and are centered on the fact that Jesus Christ, our High Priest “after the order of Melchisedec,” through his sacrificial death on the cross, has paid for the sins of mankind and through the resurrection to immortality has become our High Priest. The tithing laws haven’t been eliminated or abrogated out of the Old Testament or Torah Law of God. The only part of these laws that’s changed is who one is supposed to give tithes to now. i.e. We’re supposed to give our tithes to the priesthood of Melchisedec. This chapter in the Epistle to the Hebrews must have been a real shocker to those Jewish-Christians reading it, and to any scribes, Pharisees and Levitical priest who got wind of what Paul said in this chapter. They wanted to and had tried to kill Paul before, can you imagine what they would want to do to him now? It is estimated that the number of believers in Judea, within the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ numbered anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people. Can you imagine that number of people ceasing to pay their tithes into the Temple treasury in Jerusalem? The believer who delivered this Epistle to the Church in Jerusalem must have been wearing asbestos gloves and body armour, and ‘gotten the heck our of Dodge’ after delivering it. I wouldn’t have stuck around. ‘Here you go guys, enjoy reading it, bye, gotta run! Can’t stick around! Got an important meeting in Rome.’
Principles of Tithing & Giving Within the Church, Body of Christ
So we’re supposed to give our tithes to the priesthood of Melchisedec. Who would that be? In today’s day and age that would be any legitimate genuine Holy Spirit indwelt Christian organization and/or denomination one happens to attend and be a member of. And it is that denomination and/or independent Christian or Messianic Jewish congregation you attend (including genuine Christian house-churches) that has the right to spell out their own individual rules for tithing and giving. The apostle Paul shows us that he didn’t require the tithes and offerings of a certain congregation he was visiting and writing to (even though he said he could have). This was the church of God at Corinth. 1st Corinthians 9:1-15, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. [i.e. ‘The proof of my apostleship is you, the converted members of the church of God at Corinth,’ is what he’s saying.] Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? [Paul was working as a tent-maker to support himself, instead of demanding tithes and offerings from the church at Corinth.] Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charge? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Sayeth I these things as a man? or sayeth not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should partake of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ” (verses 1-12b being underlined) Now verses 13-15 which follows, directly links Paul’s conversation here to the tithes that the priesthood receives for their Temple service, and to the general subject of tithing in the Church, Body of Christ. “Do ye not know that they which minister about the holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things [i.e. tithing laws]: neither have I written these things, that it should be done unto me…” Why isn’t Paul requiring tithing of the Corinthians here, right now? He gives the answer in verse 12b, “lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” If you’re going to stumble a new-believer whom you’ve preached the gospel to and he has responded to the call of Christ, if you’re going to stumble a poor believer by overloading him with tithing and giving requirements, aren’t you hindering the gospel of Christ? Paul was cutting Corinth some slack, mercy if you will (for the sake of the gospel of Christ). What was his ultimate motive for this? Again, he really reveals his reason in verse 12b, “lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” The Corinthian church was weak and carnal at this point in time, and Paul didn’t want to spiritually burden them with tithing laws and requirements. But you can see from these verses as well as in Hebrews 7, those tithing laws were not null and void. But as Paul shows, the ministry of Jesus Christ has the right to suspend them in special instances, and as Paul shows, for an entire congregation, or multiple congregations (i.e. for a denomination, say). So notice that Paul is talking about Christian giving, tithing if you will, and that it is the pastors, church administration (and in this case, the apostle Paul) that has the legitimate authority to define its tithing rules and requirements---and as verse 12b shows, one’s church and/or denomination also has the authority to modify or nullify the tithing and giving requirements out of mercy, “nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” And if you don’t think the charlatan televangelists in their money-hungry greed for money haven’t hindered the real gospel of Christ, think again. Paul was taking the soft, unselfish approach to the subject of church tithing and offerings, for the sake of new-believers in Corinth, and for the sake of the gospel of Christ, so that the message of the Gospel wouldn’t be tarnished by the appearance of greed. It is in these very Epistles of Paul, Peter and John that we find the practical rules for the Apostolic Church of God being given. And we find that the Old Testament Law of God has not been abrogated, as Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-19, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” The Law of God defined in Exodus through Deuteronomy was originally given to a nation, the 12 tribes of Israel, as its governing set of Constitutional laws, with literal penalties for disobedience. Now with the theocratic government of Israel no longer in existence (since 70AD), the Laws of God are being applied to genuine Christian, Holy Spirit indwelt churches and the Christians within them (and no longer to the outside world, the nation of Israel, in general). Certain changes, adjustments if you will, have had to be made so these laws can be properly applied to Christians within a church setting, instead of a national setting. We’ll get into more of these “adjustments” in chapters 8 and 10 of Hebrews. Jesus told a Gentile woman in Samaria that soon all who worship God would do so not at Jerusalem in the Temple, but anywhere, in spirit and in truth. Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 magnified the Old Testament Law of God to its spiritual intent as Christians should apply it, as do all the Epistles, written to the Apostolic Churches of God, and the Body of Christ for all time. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews is pivotal, central in this regards, because Paul details this shift in the application of the Law of God, and especially now who administers it to God’s people, which priesthood is responsible for that---the priesthood of Melchisedec with Jesus Christ as our High Priest.
The Spirit of Giving and Tithing
Now back to tithing. I have a whole section defining tithing and Christian giving which I will provide shortly. But remember that it is the pastors, leaders in any given church and/or denomination that can spell out their own tithing/giving rules and principles, based on the foundation of God’s tithing law, as “adjusted” to fit the Body of Christ by the apostle Paul in his Epistles (cf. Hebrews 7 and 1st Corinthians 9:1-15). I know for a fact that even though Calvary Chapels believe in tithing, they don’t enforce it. They want giving to be cheerful and from the heart. They even say they don’t want the poor to give, unless they want to. (And Calvary Chapel’s most definitely don’t lack for funds.) Giving to God, going right back to Abraham giving a tenth of the spoils to Melchisedec, is an act of worship, and it is supposed to be from the heart. And in today’s day and age when there are so many legitimate parts of the Body of Christ, Holy Spirit indwelt churches and denominations, as well as non-denominational evangelistic and care-giving organizations, a Christian has the individual right to choose which one of those he will give to, and how much, since it’s an act of worship, and supposed to be from the heart. Paul discusses this whole principle in 2nd Corinthians 9, summed up in 2nd Corinthians 9:6-7, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” So I don’t know if you noticed it, but there is sort of a tension between the literal requirements for an individual to tithe, and his church and/or denomination to spell out the rules thereof, and the freedom of the believer (who due to the indwelling Holy Spirit, is also in the priesthood of Melchisedec) to choose to whom and how much he will give, because giving is also an act of worship toward God. And worship of God can never be forced or demanded, but has to be voluntary. A word to the wise for Church leaders: Those Christian groups that emphasize the right Christian spirit of giving over and above the letter of the tithing laws tend to have the most bountiful givers and least financial worries.
Principles of giving and tithing. See:
The early Church in Judea. See:
The early Church throughout Judea and Asia Minor. See: