Question and Answer of the Week: the Old Testament Model of Tithing and Christians Today
Alcorn: I have mixed feelings on tithing. I detest legalism. I certainly don’t want to pour new wine into old wineskins, imposing superseded first covenant restrictions on Christians.
Russ: You are legalistic when you pour the old wine of tithing into the new covenant wineskin after Calvary. You false impose even more than the tithe on believers regardless of their ability to buy the essentials of life.
Alcorn: However, the fact is that every New Testament example of giving goes beyond the tithe. This means that none falls short of it.
Kelly: This is not a fact. According to Acts 21:20 the Jewish Christians in Judea never did stop paying tithes to the Temple system. According to 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9 (especially 8:12-15) many should give more while others give less. Those who give less may be giving sacrificially even though they are giving less than 10%.
Alcorn: The strongest arguments made against tithing today are “law versus grace.” But does being under grace mean we should stop doing all that was done under the law?
Kelly: Your error is teaching that everybody in the OT began their level of giving at ten per cent. Yet that is only true of food producers who lived inside Israel. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers and neither did the poor nor anybody who lived outside Israel.
Alcorn: I’m a strong believer in the new covenant’s superiority over the old (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8). On the other hand, I believe there’s ongoing value to certain aspects of the old covenant. The model of paying back to God the firstfruits (tithing) and giving freewill offerings beyond that is among those.
Kelly: You are wrong to define tithes as firstfruits. See Deut 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-38 and all other "firstfruit" texts. Firstfruits were only very small token offerings which could be carried in a small basket. Tithes were tenth-fruits after the crop had been fully harvested from inside God's special holy land of Israel.
Alcorn: Because we are never told that tithing has been superseded …
Kelly: See http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id171.html for details. Everything about tithing has very clearly been superseded after Calvary:
1. WHO #1: The Levitical servants to the priests who received the first whole tithe have been abolished. See Numbers 18:21-24.
2. WHO #2: OT priests who received a tenth of the tithe (only 1 per cent) have been abolished. See Num 18:25-28 and Neh 10:38.
3. WHAT: The definition of tithes as only food miraculously increased by God from inside His holy land of Israel has been abolished and replaced with the false unbiblical definition of income.
4. WHERE: The destination of the OT tithes first to the Levitical cities some to the Temple has been abolished. See Neh 10:37b and Mal 3:10.
5. WHEN: The time to tithe has been abolished. The Levitical tithe was paid yearly in the Levitical cities.
6. WHY #1: The covenant which prescribed them was abolished per Heb 8:8-13; Gal 4:21-26' 2 Cor 3:6-10.
7. WHY #2: The "commandment" for Levites and priests to collect tithes was "annulled" per Hebrews 7:5, 12, 18.
8. WHY #3: The law which condemned believers has been rendered of no effect when the believer died in Christ per Romans 7:4. No law can tell a dead person what to do.
9. HOW #1: Jesus abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances per Eph 2:13. Tithing was an ordinance per Num 18.
10. HOW $2: Jesus blotted out the handwriting of ordinances, per Col 2:14. Tithing was an ordinance per Num 18.
11. HOW #3: The Temple which tithes supported was abolished in AD 70. God's temple is now within each believer per 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19-20.
12. HOW #4: The priesthood which was supported by tithes was abolished in AD 70. God's priesthood is now within every believer per 1st Peter 2:9-10.
13. HOW #5: The blessings and curses of tithing as part of the whole law have been abolished per Galatians 3:10-13.
Would you continue to send money to a church after
1. The building is destroyed?
2. The preacher has been defrocked?
3. The workers have found other jobs?
4. The members have all left?
5. The land has been inhabited by non religious people?
6. The purpose for the church no longer exists?
7. You have died?
Alcorn: … because Jesus directly affirmed it (Matthew 23:23)
Kelly: The hermeneutic of Mt 23:23 demands that it be interpreted as "matters of the law." Jesus could not have told his Gentile disciples to tithe. Jesus did not command Gentiles whom he healed to obey the law of Moses.
Alcorn: and prominent church fathers taught it as a requirement for Christian living,
Kelly: Prominent church fathers of the first two centuries opposed tithing. Only after the church became endorsed by the Roman emperor did tithing attempt to begin but it did not become legal until AD 777.
Alcorn: it seems to me the burden of proof falls on those who say tithing is no longer a minimum standard for God’s people.
Kelly: I can give you 16 texts which define tithes as only food from inside Israel for over 1500 years from Leviticus to Luke. The burden of proof is on you to show from the Bible where it changed. You cannot even prove that it was a minimum for everybody who lived inside Israel --much less anybody else.
Alcorn: Christ fulfilled the entire Old Testament, but he didn’t render it irrelevant. Old Testament legislation demonstrated how to love my neighbor. Although the specific regulations don’t all apply, the principles certainly do, and many of the guidelines are still as helpful as ever. Consider the command to build a roof with a parapet to protect people from falling off (Deuteronomy 22:8). When it comes to the Old Testament, we must be careful not to throw out the baby (ongoing principles intended for everyone) with the bathwater (detailed regulations intended only for ancient Israel).
Kelly: The English law (good and bad) was rendered irrelevant the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed. In the same way, after Calvary God took that which was good from the old covenant law and repeated in terms of grace and faith after Calvary in the New Covenant. Why is that so hard to grasp?
Alcorn: We don’t offer sacrifices anymore, so why should we tithe? Because sacrifices are specifically rescinded in the New Testament. As the book of Hebrews demonstrates, Christ has rendered inoperative the whole sacrificial system. But where in the New Testament does it indicate that tithing is no longer valid? There is no such passage. With a single statement, God could have easily singled out tithing like he did sacrifices and the Sabbath. But he didn’t.
Kelly: You are very wrong. In fact NOTHING about tithing is actually obeyed by any church today. Again see my article at http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id171.html.
Alcorn: The disciples gave all that they had because “much grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). It was obvious from the beginning that being under grace didn’t mean that New Testament Christians would give less than their Old Testament brethren.
Kelly: If you follow Acts 2:46-48; 15; and 21:20 you will discover that the Jewish Christians from Acts never stopped fully supporting the Temple system with its tithes. Almost every denomination's church historians tell us that the church in Jerusalem eventually apostatized and became extremely legalistic for many centuries.
Alcorn: On the contrary, it meant they would give more.
Kelly: Your assumption is false and cannot be documented. According to 1st Timothy 5:8 the Christian should spend the first of income on medicine and essential food and shelter. You would have them do without medicine and give the first to the church. That is cruel.
Alcorn: Being under grace does not mean living by lower standards than the law.
Kelly: You keep repeating your false assumption that the law required everybody to begin their giving level at ten per cent. Your basic premise is wrong.
Alcorn: Christ systematically addressed such issues as murder, adultery, and the taking of oaths and made it clear that his standards were much higher than those of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-48). He never lowered the bar. He always raised it. But he also empowers us by his grace to jump higher than the law
Kelly: Mt 5:19-48 includes the whole indivisible law. Either teach that Christians must keep all of the law of Moses or none of it. The book of Matthew makes it very clear that Jesus completely fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. Christians are under the New Covenant "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" per Romans 8:2.
Please reply. I would appreciate dialog with you.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD