***Calvin argued, “I would have preferred to pass over this matter in utter silence if I were not aware that here many dangerously go astray. For there are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Moses, and is ruled by the common laws of nations. [It is wrong to say that our civil laws must agree with those of Moses.]

Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish [it dangerous to think that way.]

. . . It is a fact that the law of God which we call the moral law is nothing else than a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men.

Consequently, the entire scheme of this equity of which we are now speaking has been prescribed in it – [the moral law of nature and conscience].

Hence, this equity [the fairness of the moral law of nature and conscience] alone must be the goal and rule and limit of all laws.

Whatever laws shall be framed to that rule, directed to that goal, bound by that limit, there is no reason why we should disapprove of them, howsoever they may differ from the Jewish law, or among themselves [The moral law of nature and conscience supersede Jewish laws]

. . . For the statement of some, that the law of God given through Moses is dishonored when it is abrogated and new laws preferred to it, is utterly vain. For others are not preferred to it when they are more approved, not by a simple comparison, but with regard to the condition of times, place, and nation All laws must take into consideration the time, place and nation addressed].

… or when that law is abrogated which was never enacted for us. For the Lord through the hand of Moses did not give that law to be proclaimed among all nations and to be in force everywhere; but when he had taken the Jewish nation into his safekeeping, defense, and protection, he also willed to be a lawgiver especially to it; and — as became a wise lawgiver — he had special concern for it in making its laws (Inst. 4.20.14, 16; also see Calvin’s comments on Rom. 1:21-27 and 2:14-15).


Admittedly, most conclude that John Calvin (1509–1564) advocated tithing. However, Calvin’s writings contain some statements that are cause for doubt on this conclusion. John Calvin (1509–1564) claimed, based upon Malachi 3, that God had instituted tithing so that His people would be continually reminded that everything belonged to God. [1]  Comm. 5:585-86

Regarding the phrase, “you ought to have done these” in Matthew 23:23, Calvin said: He [Jesus] therefore acknowledges that whatever God has enjoined ought to be performed, and that no part of it ought to be omitted, but maintains that zeal for the whole Law is no reason why we ought not to insist chiefly on the principal points.

Hence he infers that they overturn the natural order who employ themselves in the smallest matters, when they ought rather to have begun with the principal points; for tithes were only a kind of appendage. Christ therefore affirms that he has no intention to lessen the authority even of the smallest commandments . . . . It is therefore our duty to preserve entire the whole Law . . . Hence we conclude that all the commandments are so interwoven with each other, that we have no right to detach one of them from the rest.[2] Comm. 3:92

While on the one hand tithes are called an “appendage,” he also referred to preserving the entire law, even the smallest commandment. Thus, Calvin appears to say that tithing continues into the New Covenant. Powers concludes: “[The fact that Calvin placed major emphasis upon ‘the principal points of the law’ did not lessen his belief in the tithe as the stipulated method of giving.”[3] Powers, Historical Study 136

Comments by Russell Earl Kelly, PHD: Croteau points out Inst. 4.20.14, 16 and Rom 1:21-278; 2:14-15 which suggest that the moral law of nature and conscience supersede the Law of Moses in a new context of “time, place and nation.” (1) Does the “His people” comment on Malachi 3 refer only to Israel or also to modern nations? Did Calvin mandate tithing in Geneva? (2) Does “zeal for the whole law” extend to me that every single part of the Law of Moses should still be enforced today? Did Calvin employ that principle in Geneva? At first glance it appears that Calvin is not inerrant [and never claimed to be] and has written in favor of two opposing conclusions. It is noteworthy that tithing is not a favorite in his writings.