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