Dear Brethren and co-workers in Christ:
We have been juggling projects and priorities to insure that we reach the world with the witness as well as all of you with messages more for those with a greater interest in the CCOG.
But, I would like to comment that, as you all have probably noticed, in the sermons I make statements which suggest that I am often speaking to an audience that is NOT part of the Continuing Church of God. A main reason why I do so is that the majority of those who watch our sermons are not part of CCOG.
And this is true even of our offertory messages. The great majority of those who watch the Holy Day offering videos do not provide any offering. So, when I make statements in sermons that you figure that everyone in CCOG should know, please understand that most who will watch the sermons are not part of CCOG and many have never been part of any Church of God group.
Pastor Evans Ochieng was able to go to Tanzania and meet with some of the brethren there. He reported that CCOG has more support in Tanzania than we thought we may have. He and I remain optimistic about future growth there. The fact that George Lemi has been able to translate a couple editions of our Bible New Prophecy magazine into the language of Kiswahili has also been helpful.
Finally received a report from Google related to April 2014 results. Between our small Google ad program as well as our multiple websites, we reached over 2,000,000 computers in April 2014. While we always wish to reach more, we are reaching millions. The time will come when the number will reach closer to one or more billions as we get closer to the end time.
As there have been a lot of tithing questions, I prepared a sermon on tithing. There are two points that I would like to mention in this Letter to the Brethren that are not covered in as much depth in the sermon: some additional history and a comment about US Social Security.
Jude, who was based in Jerusalem (his brother James was the bishop there), wrote to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And this delivered faith would have include tithing. The Greco-Roman historian Eusebius reported that the first fifteen bishops/pastors of Jerusalem (until c. 135 A.D.) were circumsized Jews who kept the law, etc. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4,Â pp. 45, 71). This means that they also would have tithed and gave offerings similar to how the Jews did (for a short time, c. 67-71, some of the faithful Christians in Jerusalem fled to Pella and then returned).
In the second century, the Jewish authorities in the Tosefta condemned the Judeo-Christians and their tithes (Tofseta Hullin 2:20, as cited in Kessler E. An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations. Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 79), thus signalling that tithing was being done.
It has also been reported:
We trace the existance of tithes…they accompany her from Jerusalem to Greece, to Rome, to Gaul, and to Britain. (Williams D. ‘Tithes’, ‘justified and explained.’ 1831 Original from Oxford University, Digitized April 4, 2006 p. 11)
Some of the tithe money was apparently used to finance gospel-proclaiming missionaries. Related to the first one or two centuries A.D., notice the following:
The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain. The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts, disclose a Christianity which is not Roman but apostolic. These lands were first penetrated by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. The Greek New Testament, the Received Text, they brought with them, or its translation, was of the type from which the Protestant Bibles, as the King James in the English, and the Lutheran in German, were translated. (Moore, D.V. The Culdee Church, chapters 3 and 4, and Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 25, 26 (As cited in Dugger, A History of True Religion, pp. 90-91)
In Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor the churches organized in the apostolic age continued for a long time to be great centres for the propagation of the New Way.(Sell HT. Studies in early church history.Â F. H. Revell company, 1906. Original from Harvard University, Digitized Mar 24, 2008, p. 52)
The missionaries, most likely, were paid for via tithes from where they originated. It is not likely that many would listen to them if they arrived in locations broke and had to plead to eat, etc. Some system of tithes and offerings was in place. Notice that the above account shows that the missionaries were sent forth, funded, by those in Palestine and Asia Minor. Up until 135 A.D., the Church of God in Jerusalem of Judea/Palestine was led by those who would have continued with tithes and offerings.
Furthermore, the Apostle John moved to Asia Minor–the Bible specifically tells that he spent time in Patmos (Revelation 1:9). The records of history indicate that John was sent to Patmos by Emperor Domitian, and Eusebius recorded that: “after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus was also in Ephesus of Asia Minor” (Eusebius.Â Â The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter XXIII, Verse 6, p. 56). According to various sources, the Apostle John kept the same practices that the bishops in Jerusalem did, hence he tithed. The Apostle John also warned that those who were truly Christians would keep the same practices he kept (1 John 2:19).
History records that Polycarp of Smyrna passed on to his successors “the canons which he had learned from his youth from John the apostle” (Weidman, Frederick W.Â Polycarp and John: The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to Literary Traditions.Â University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (IL), 1999, p. 444). History also records that Polycarp and his successors kept “Judeao-Christian” practices (Eusebius.Â The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7, p. 114) as well. This true form of Christianity dominated Asia Minor until the middle of the third century (cf. Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book VII, Chapter V, Verse I, p. 147).
Getting back to the Church of God, Jerome recorded that there were people who claimed descent from the Church of God who had fled to Pella from Jerusalem, kept the ‘old law’ and had the “Judeao-Christian” practices of the Sabbath, Holy Days, millenarianism, etc. (Pritz t. Nazarene Jewish Christianity.Â Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 58,62,63. Bagatti, Bellarmino.Â Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.Â Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p. 202). Thus, they too would have tithed. This indicates tithing was still in place towards the end of the Smyra era of the Church of God.
History also records that those of the Christians of Pergamos era of the Church of God (Revelation 2:12-17), also practiced “primitive Jewish Christianity” (Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, pp. clii, cxciii).
Records support that those in the Thyatira era (Revelation 2:18-29) tithed and had multiple tithes (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, “History of the Waldenses” as cited by Ambassador College).
The Sardis era (Revelation 3:1-6) believed that they needed to tithe. Tithing was held to be a Church of God doctrine throughout history, though there were sometimes concerns. Notice also:
At the 32nd Annual Missouri Conference of the Church of God, held on September 8-9, 1905 at Gentry)…during the 1905 Conference sessions: the church reaffirmed its belief in tithes and offerings as the Bible means of supporting the work. (Nickels R. History of the Seventh Day Church of God. Â©1977, 1987, 1994, 1996, 1999 by Giving & Sharing. http://www.giveshare.org/churchhistory/historysdcog/history8.html viewed 05/11/14)
Even CG7 still officially teaches tithing. The Philadelphia era (Revelation 3:7-13) of the Church of God also taught tithing as well (Tithing. Worldwide Church of God, 1975). Many Laodicean Churches (Revelation 3:14-22) of God do as well, though as there are very many of them, I will not name them here.
While some wish to interpret scriptures differently, the evidence points to tithing being practiced in all eras of the Church of God since the church began on Pentecost in Acts 2. Offerings were also given (2 Corinthians 9:7) and used.
As far as USA social security goes, most people should tithe on about 1/2 the amount that they receive. Why? Because they paid about 1/2 themselves and their employers paid the other 1/2 as a payroll tax. The portion of social security that one’s employer pays is for the productive work effort of the employee who eventually receives it. I do not know enough about other countries to address them here at this time.
Hope this helps as it adds some details not covered in the recommended sermon.
Feast of Tabernacles
Please, we need your help. We know many of you are new to CCOG and are still deciding. But if you are thinking about coming to the Feast of Tabernacles’ site in the USA, please contact Dr. Bob Thiel, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The expected location is in Pensacola, Florida.
We need to know how many to expect so that we can narrow the location down. One facility, that looks promising, has limits to how many can attend and we need to decide between it and another location. This will partially be determined based upon how many people write and say that they plan to attend.
Let us know as soon as you can. Thank you.
World News Events
Iran has been in news. It recently displayed some stealth drones, that it claims were mainly copied from an American one, that it seems to wish to threaten the USA with (see Iran announces drone and claims ‘America’s nightmare has become reality’). Iran also pushed for the right to attain enough nuclear materials that theoretically could produce at least two nuclear weapons, though it says that is not its goal (see Iran seems to be talking tougher on its nuclear ‘rights’). Iran is interested in getting more weapons, and if they use various ones against the USA, Israel, and/or others, it risks being eliminated as a major military power in that part of the world (cf. Jeremiah 49:35-38).
Speaking of the USA, it took steps against Chinese officials that have engaged in cyper espionage against it (see USA charging Chinese military officials for economic espionage cyber crimes). However, since the USA is believed to conduct more espionage than others, this will get many to consider that the USA is acting hypocritically (cf. Isaiah 10:6, KJV). China later warned the USA about this and declared that it wants closer ties with Russia. Bible prophecy reveals that the Chinese and Russians will have closer ties in the future (cf. Jeremiah 50:41-43; Revelation 16:12-16).
On the ecumenical front, American Catholics and Pentecostals are holding meetings (see American Catholic and Pentecostal leaders promoting ecumenical alignment to their peril). Quite a few years ago, the seeds for their cooperation were planted and they are now starting to bear the type of fruit that the Bible warns against in Revelation 13 and 17).
On the health and morality side, a new study from the World Health Organization reports that 3.3 million people per year die from ‘binge drinking’ alcohol (see WHO, Binge Drinking, and the Bible). We warned about the dangers of binge drinking in the Bible News Prophecy magazine, and the Bible warns against drunkenness.
Suggested Sabbath Service
Here is our suggested format for Sabbath services this week:
- 2-3 hymns (our songbook, The Bible Hymnal, contains the materials from the 1974 Bible Hymnal from the old WCG with new covers, plus ten additional hymns; there is also some Choral Accompaniment online).
- Opening prayer.
- Sermonette, which for most will be a recorded one: USA Ushering in the Collapse of its Currency This Year? A related written article would be: FACTA dollar collapse in six weeks? Will foreign creditors rise up? Other sermonettes are also available at the Bible News Prophecy channel.
- Announcements (if any; though for many it will be this letter) and one hymn.
- Sermon, which for most will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is Tithing Answers from the Bible. A related written article would be: Tithing Questions and Some Answers. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
- Final hymn.
- Closing prayer.
Note: If you have a slow internet connection, you can watch these by starting the video, then below it (and towards the right) look for an outline of a gear–if you click on that, it will allow the YouTube video to be played with lower video quality, but at least it will not stop often–you can select a quality as low as 144p.
If your internet connection is still too slow (as my home one is) and/or you prefer audio messages to audio-visuals ones, go to the YouTube link for the message, click on SHOW MORE related to the description. You will then see something that says, “Download MP3.” Below that is a link to an MP3 file. Most computers (and even some cellular telephones) will allow MP3 files to be downloaded and played. So, this is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well)–and, of course, we have written article options that we list each week.
Brethren we are scattered and small in finances, yet we have a major task to do (Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20; Mark 13:10). But this we can do if we submit to God’s will and how He does things:
1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2:1)
Brethren, all is to God’s glory as God is love and if all truly accepted how much God truly loves us, none called of God would be lukewarm in this age.
Like the Apostle Paul, we are not particularly entertaining speakers, but do try to declare the testimony of God to our people and those in the world.
Note: There is a small chance that next week, this letter will not be emailed to those who have requested it. If you do not receive it by Friday, May 30, 2014, there should be a version available at the Letters to the Brethren link at the CCOG.org website.
Bob Thiel, Pastor and Overseer
Continuing Church of God