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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


Tithing: The Absence of
An Explicit Discontinuation


Tithing: Intro and Eternal Principle Argument (Part 1)
Tithing: Eternal Principle Argument (Part 2)
Tithing: Matthew 23 and Hebrews 7
Tithing: The Absence of An Explicit Discontinuation
Early Christian writers on the Tithe



Argument 4: Tithing is Not Specifically Discontinued

We came across the first hints of this argument during our examination of Argument 1: Tithing is an Eternal Principle where we stated that just because a requirement existed before the Law of Moses that does not mean that we can or should assume it would continue after the Law of Moses. At that time, we mentioned that circumcision was given as part of the covenant with Abraham over four hundred years before the Law of Moses, and yet the requirement to circumcise did not continue under the New Covenant.

We noted at that point in our study that tithe advocates attempt to rebut that counterargument by stating that circumcision is specifically discontinued in the New Testament while there are no statements discontinuing the tithe specifically in the New Testament. As such, we stated that tithe advocates take this opportunity to assert that unless an aspect of the Law of Moses is specifically stated to have ended somewhere in the New Testament, we should assume that it continues under the New Covenant.

The fundamental premise of this tithing argument is that anything that is not specifically said to cease somewhere in the New Testament automatically carries over from the Old Covenant into the New. Or more simply, unless the New Testament specifically says an aspect of the Law of Moses stopped, Christians should assume that aspect continues under the New Covenant. We now return our attention to this argument.

There are 3 problems with this assertion. The first is an issue of self-contradiction within the pro-tithe camp. In other words, modern advocates of tithing negate the very principle they use in this argument to support the idea that the tithe carries over into the New Covenant. The second problem involves the fact that there are other aspects of the Law of Moses for which there are no specific discontinuations in the New Testament that modern tithe advocates do not practice and which they would have to practice if they truly believed this rule concerning continuation and discontinuation of the Law of Moses. The third issue deals with New Testament scripture concerning the continuation of the protocols contained in the Law of Moses. We will cover these problems in that order.

First, we will look at how modern tithe advocates in their own practice of the tithe necessarily negate the idea that an aspect of the Law of Moses carries over unless specifically stated in the New Testament.

If tithing continues into the New Covenant because any aspect of the Law of Moses should be assumed to continue unless the New Testament specifically says otherwise, then we should assume that the tithe carries over exactly as it was prescribed under the Law of Moses. For the command to tithe under the Law of Moses is not as simple and generic as "People should give 10 percent." No, the Law of Moses gave specifications on how, why, when, where, and who was involved in the tithe. And since all such details and specifications are part of the protocols of the Law, proponents of tithing should (if they wish to remain consistent) assume that they continue under the New Covenant unless somewhere in the New Testament specifically states otherwise.

Having already examined all 3 of the passages in the New Testament (Matthew 23, Luke 11, Hebrews 7) where the tithe is mentioned, we know that none of those passages makes any statements addressing the specific Old Testament protocols surrounding the tithe under the Law of Moses. Therefore, we already know that apart from New Testament passages discontinuing parts of the Law that overlap with the tithe, there is going to be little or no modification or discontinuation specifically articulated in the New Testament of any of the particular protocols involved in the Mosaic tithe.

To keep things simple and avoid unnecessary tangents, we will focus on the particular protocols regarding the tithe that we know are not addressed or affected by statements in the New Testament. And there is no need to get into all the details of the tithe in the Law of Moses. Instead, to make things simple, we only need to talk about 1 very prominent aspect of the tithe, which was part of the Law of Moses, which is not specifically changed or discontinued anywhere in the New Testament, and which modern tithe advocates discard even though there is no statements telling us to do so in the New Testament. That key protocols is this:

Under the Law of Moses, Israelites were commanded TO EAT THEIR OWN TITHES and share it as a communal meal with the priests, their family, their employees, and the poor. It was NOT exclusively for the priests and it was NOT forbidden for the giver to partake of their tithe.

We see this protocol articulated very clearly in the earliest references to the tithe in the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 12:17 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: 18 But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. 19 Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.

Deuteronomy 12:22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. 23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. 24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: 25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: 26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, 27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. 28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: 29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

If the Old Testament requirements for the tithe should continue today under the New Covenant because no specific New Testament passage says to stop them, then why are some aspects of the tithe requirements stopped and changed by modern tithe advocates without any indication to do so in the New Testament?

Notice that both passages from Deuteronomy list the giver of the tithe, his family, the servants who work for him, the poor, and the priests as those who consume the tithe. And notice that the man, not the priests was to determine what to spend the tithe on. Deuteronomy 12:22 states that the man was to spend the tithe money (if he indeed had to convert it to money) on "whatsoever his soul lusted for" in terms of food and drink. So, not only did the priestly class not hold exclusive rights to the tithe but they didn't even have a controlling say in how the tithe was spent.

There are no statements altering or discontinuing these protocols in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. As such, since there are no specific statements in the New Testament discontinuing these 2 protocols, the rule that anything not specifically discontinued should be assumed to continue would require any modern tithe to follows at least these 2 protocols. Yet we do not see that being the case.

Instead, we find that contrary to the unaltered protocols in the Law of Moses, modern tithe advocates teach that the tithe belongs to the priestly-class alone and cannot be touched or used in any way by those paying the tithe. In discarding this protocol from the Law even though it is not specifically discontinued in the New Testament, modern tithe advocates are showing that an Old Testament protocol, including one concerning the tithe, does not automatically carry over into the New Covenant in the absence of any specific statements in the New Testament discontinuing that protocol.

So, the question remains. If there is no statement in the New Testament specifically ending the Mosaic command for a person to eat their own tithes along with their family, employees, the poor, and the priests, then why has this practice been not only discontinued but condemned by modern tithe advocates who themselves argue that unless the New Testament specifically ends a Mosaic requirement, that it should continue? Here the tithe advocates show their own pro-tithe argument to be wrong by violating it in their own tithing practice.

If the requirement to tithe has to be specifically dismissed somewhere in the New Testament in order to cease, then so must the specific commands from Moses on how to tithe and who was to partake of the tithe. If tithing continues unless it is specifically dismissed in the New Testament, then the protocols for how to tithe should also continue unless specifically dismissed in the New Testament. And conversely, if the protocols from Moses concerning how to carry out the tithe and who could partake of it can be discarded without being specifically discontinued somewhere in the New Testament, then the generic requirement to tithe that occurred as a result of those specific protocols must also be discarded even though there are no specific statements to that effect in the New Testament.

Modern tithe advocates cannot have their cake and eat it too. It's one or the other. If the requirement to tithe continues because the New Testament doesn't tell us to stop it, then the tithe requirement for the giver of the tithe and their households and the poor to share the tithe side by side with the priests also must continue. But since by their practice they have shown that the requirements for tithing can be discarded and discontinued under the New Covenant even without specific statements in the New Testament, we know that this pro-tithe argument is undermined even by the tithe advocates themselves.

This is the first proof against this fourth pro-tithe argument. The second proof is somewhat related.

If any Mosaic protocol, such as tithing, should be continued under the New Covenant unless some statement in the New Testament specifically says otherwise, then this would not just apply to tithing but to any Mosaic protocol, which the New Testament doesn't specifically put an end to.

For example, the very next chapter and in fact the very next verse after Deuteronomy 14:22-29's instructions concerning the tithe we find this other protocol from the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 15:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release. 3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; 4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:

In this passage, we see that God commanded in the Law of Moses that every 7 years those among his people who had loaned money were to release their debtors without requiring them to pay back the loan any further. The goal was to provide for the poor and in fact to decrease and limit poverty and class division. There is no statement anywhere in the New Testament ending this Mosaic protocol.

But do we see the modern tithe advocates practicing this? Do modern tithe advocates release those that owe them money every seven years? Do they preach that those who loan money should do so? Do they preach that those who do not do so are disobeying God's commands? Do they even make efforts every seventh year to help pay off the debts of those who are poor among them? No, they neither preach this, command it, or practice it in any way. You never even hear about it although they preach and require the tithe.

If modern tithe advocates truly believe that this was the standard for determining what did and did not continue from the Law of Moses into the New Covenant, they should be practicing any and every part of the Law of Moses that was not specifically discontinued by a statement in the New Testament. The fact that they only apply this argument selectively to support the idea of tithing in the New Covenant betrays their deceptive and self-contradicting use of this argument.

The third and most significant proof against this fourth pro-tithe argument is that it actually contradicts scripture. Rather than the rule that any part of the Law of Moses not specifically discontinued in the New Testament, the correct New Testament rule is the opposite: any part of the Law of Moses not specifically stated to carry over in the New Testament must be understood to have stopped.

This was the specific ruling of the apostles in Acts 15 and it is unequivocally clear. It was also agreed upon by all of the apostles, including Paul.

Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

There are several important facts that this passage recounts for us. First, in verses 1 and 5 we see that a certain sect of Jews who had accepted Jesus were requiring that Gentiles who accepted Christ must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. Second, in verses 2, 4, and 6, we see that not only did Paul and Barnabas disagree with this idea, but more significantly that Paul, Barnabas, and the apostles and elders got together in Jerusalem to all decide the matter.

Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

In verses 7-12, after much disputing, Peter himself states that the Gentile converts should not be required to keep the Law of Moses because it was "a yoke upon the necks" of the Israelites "which neither their fathers nor they themselves could bear."

Then after Peter's statements and after Paul and Barnabas give their testimony, James stands up to give his comments that lead to the decision on the matter.

Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

James agrees with Peter in even clearer terms. It is James' view that the Gentiles should not be troubled or charged with keeping the whole Law of Moses, but that only a few parts were necessary to carry over for the converts. James lists those parts as a) abstaining from pollutions of idols b) abstaining from fornication c) abstaining from eating strangled animals and d) abstaining from eating blood.

Now, these four are in addition to the 9 out of the 10 commandments (not including the Sabbath law), which carried over into the New Covenant because those 9 were contained inherently in the 2 primary commandments given by Christ Jesus. As our articles entitled, "Liberty, the Law, and the 10 Commandments" and "Origin of the Law of Liberty" (under our "Liberty in Christ" section) describe in detail, we know those particular 9 commandments continued in the New Covenant because there are specific statements telling us that fact in the New Testament.

This further supports the rule that aspects of the Law of Moses do not continue under the New Covenant unless some place in the New Testament specifically says that they do. This is completely the opposite of the rule suggested on behalf of continuing the tithe, which is that aspects of the Law of Moses do continue under the New Covenant unless some place in the New Testament says that they do not.

But we return to the point at hand. After James states in agreement with Peter, Paul, and Barnabas that the Gentile converts should not be required to keep the Law of Moses, the apostles, elders, and the whole church of Jerusalem agree as well and they send letters carrying and instructing James' statements to the Gentile converts.

Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Here in this letter, the apostles and elders give their decision. And they state in verse 28 that the Holy Spirit is in agreement with this decision. The decision is that the Gentiles are not required to keep any part of the Law of Moses except the four items listed by James and that is all that was required of the Law of Moses for them to do well in the sight of God.

Notice that the tithe is not included among the things that were required or carried over from the Law of Moses. Not only is that the case here in Acts 15, but unlike the 9 out of the 10 commandments specifically upheld in the epistles, nowhere else in the New Testament do we see the tithe carried over. Therefore, in accordance with the decision of the apostles here in Acts 15, we must consider the tithe as part of the Law of Moses that was not carried over into the New Covenant.

Moreover, this decision in Acts 15 reverses the rule suggested by modern tithe advocates and shifts the burden of proof to them. Since the apostles declared that it was their decision and the decision of the Holy Spirit that Gentile converts did not have to keep the Law of Moses, if anyone wants to suggest that some aspect of the Law of Moses does continue under the New Covenant, thereby being an exception to this decision, they must show some New Testament scripture upholding and admonishing the continuation of the particular aspect of the Law that they are suggesting continued. If no such particular statements in the New Testament can be found demonstrating that the early church and particularly the apostles continued to require and teach that aspect of the Mosaic Law then it must be assumed that the aspect in question was discontinued along with the rest of the Law of Moses in Acts 15.

As we have seen, there is no New Testament passage articulating, instructing, or recording the continuation of the tithe after the inauguration of the New Covenant by the death of Jesus Christ. As such, we must conclude that the tithe was not an exception to the decision of Acts 15 and therefore was discontinued along with the rest of the Law of Moses. Thus, we have now disproved this fourth and final argument in favor of tithing under the New Covenant and shown that Christians are in now way required or instructed to keep the tithe.

Lastly, in the New Testament, Paul (among others) chastises those who would build back up the Law of Moses and require Christians to keep its directives. (We see the first evidence of this in Acts 15:1-2.) To do so, Paul indicates undermines our salvation, which is not by obedience to the ordinance of the Mosaic Law, but by faith in Christ (in both his redemptive work and his teachings). This is legalism, pure and simple - requiring the keeping of laws that are not required. (Legalism cannot, by definition, include requiring people to keep laws that are required. For more on the requirements of the Law of Christ see our "Liberty in Christ" studies.)

Therefore, since tithing is not commanded in the New Testament, but is part of the Old Testament that is not carried over, those who require the tithe are exhibiting legalism and building back up the Law of Moses (see Galatians 2:1-Galatians 3:12 in conjunction with Acts 15:13-29). As this current study demonstrates requiring that Christians pay tithes in accordance with the Law of Moses (especially those that proclaim the curse of Malachi 3:9 upon those who don't tithe) does constitute building back up the Law of Moses. Given the seriousness with which the New Testament forbids such practices whereby we build back up the Law of Moses, Christians ought to be careful about joining with those who do so, especially with any Christian leadership, which would do so lest we fall under Paul's rebuke in Galatians 2:11-21, or even worse, nullify faith by building back up the Law.


Conclusions

For convenience, the points below summarize the conclusions of this study.

Tithing Argument 1: Tithing is an eternal principle.
Refutation: No it is not. This is just an unfounded assumption with no backing or support from the Bible or the historic record. There is no evidence of anyone tithing before Abraham in Genesis 14, including no other instances with Abraham. This leaves about 2000 years of history between Adam and Abraham without any evidence of tithing.

Tithing Argument 2: Jesus commands tithing.
Refutation: No he did not. The only time that Jesus mentioned the tithe is recorded in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. In those passages, Jesus states that tithing is a part of the Law of Moses and he commends people for obeying the tithe while the Law of Moses was still in effect and at a time when the New Covenant had been not inaugurated by his death.

Tithing Argument 3: Hebrews 7 instructs Christians to tithe.
Refutation: No it does not. In Hebrews 7, Paul refers to the tithe as a historic fact in order to demonstrate his argument that Jesus is superior to Moses and the Levitical priests and that the Law of Moses had passed away and was replaced by the New Covenant. There are no statements in Hebrews 7 where Christians are said to tithe or where Christ Jesus or any New Testament figure is said to receive the tithe.

Tithing Argument 4: The tithe should continue under the New Covenant because there is no statement in the New Testament specifically discontinuing it.
Refutation: This is false because in Acts 15 the apostles decided that Gentile converts were not required to keep the Law of Moses. For tithing to be considered an exception, a specific statement to that effect must be shown from the New Testament in which there are instructions to tithe or a record of Christians tithing. No such statements exist in the New Testament.