Hebrews 8; 2nd Corinthians 3; A Better New Covenant; MARTIN LUTHER

An Exhaustive Examination of "Tithe," "Tithes" and "Tithing"

Should the Church Teach Tithing?

A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Section 17

A Completely New Covenant

What would you think of a lawyer who tried to argue a case in a court in the United States by using the constitution and laws of, say, England or China? You would probably say, “You have got to be joking! Right?” Yet when we try to teach New Covenant doctrine using the laws and traditions designed for Old Covenant national Israel, we are doing exactly the same thing! The Old Covenant, especially Exodus through Deuteronomy, is the code of laws for national Israel during that period of history.

Theologians Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart wrote in their seminary textbook, “The Old Testament is not our testament. The Old Testament represents an Old Covenant, which is one we are no longer obligated to keep. Therefore we can hardly begin by assuming that the Old Covenant should automatically be binding upon us. We have to assume, in fact, that none of its stipulations (laws) are binding upon us unless they are renewed in the New Covenant. That is, unless an Old Testament law is somehow restated or reinforced in the New Testament, it is no longer directly binding on God’s people (cf. Rom. 6:14-15)”.[1]

Occasionally, because of essential radical changes, a nation finds itself needing to abolish its constitution and establish a new one. When this is done, EVERY law, precept, judgment, ordinance, regulation, rule, procedure, and mandate is completely wiped off the books of the original ­ constitution. It is as if the original constitution had never existed—both good and bad disappear. That nation then takes the BEST of the old ­ constitution. It clarifies, simplifies, re-states, gives a new foundation, and starts all over again.

God did that! The necessary radical change occurred at Calvary. In Christ, God ended, abolished, or annulled the Old Covenant and every single law, commandment, ordinance, judgment, and precept given through Moses at Mount Sinai! Since every type, symbol, and shadow was perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the “righteousness” formerly revealed in the law is NOW revealed in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:19-20 cf. 3:21-22). Again, the “righteousness” which was demanded by the law was fulfilled in Christ. God next took the BEST of that Old Covenant, and RESTATED it in the context of Jesus Christ and Calvary. However, the “restatement” was not in the form of “Thou shall not do.” Instead, it was in the form of privileges of what “new creations in Christ will do.” The best especially included God’s eternal moral principles of love, justice, mercy, and faith (Luke 11:42; Matt. 23:23).

When we open our Bibles, we must first ask God to guide our understanding of his Word. Next, we must mentally adjust ourselves to the position of the text we are about to read. Is this Old Covenant, or New Covenant? Is this the Mosaic Law, or other Old Covenant revelation? It this before Calvary, or after Calvary? If the text is before Calvary, does it state a temporary “shadow” kindergarten teaching which has ended at Calvary, or does it contain an eternal principle which preceded creation and was re-stated after Calvary to the New Covenant church?

Millions of honest sincere Christians misunderstand God’s Word because they fail to ground themselves in the difference between the Old and New Covenant! There is a division in the Bible for a reason! What is that reason? Even though man, and not God, decided to begin the “New Testament” with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—in God’s viewpoint, the “New Covenant” was announced at the Last Supper by Christ and did not begin until his death at Calvary. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John cover the gray connecting “interface” period; they contain flashes of the New, but are mostly Old Covenant.

At the very moment of Christ’s death, when he cried out, “It is finished,” the veil of the Temple was ripped from top to bottom, exposing the Most Holy Place to all mankind. At that very moment the Levitical priest lost his job (and his tenth of the tithe) in the mind of God. Finally, every believer became a priest with direct access to God and the Most Holy Place of heaven. Also gone were the sacrifices, temple offerings, rituals, holy days, food laws, and all of the cultic ordinances, such as tithing.

None of the three main approaches to the principles of interpretation today support tithing. First, the advocates of REFORMED THEOLOGY divide the law into moral commandments, ceremonial statutes, and civil judgments. They, next, recognize, and dismiss, tithing as a ceremonial statute.

Second, advocates of DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY also divide the law into commandments, statutes, and judgments. However, they see it as an indivisible whole, dismiss the entire law, and start over again with God repeating his eternal moral principles in the New Covenant after Calvary. For example, Unger says, “To understand the Gospels one must not confuse the kingdom offered to Israel and the church of Christ. Christ fulfilled the law, died under the law, and set us free from the law. Therefore, to understand the Gospels one must expect to be on legal ground up to the cross (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:22-28; Mark 1:44)…. In understanding the New Covenant it also must be borne in mind that the full-scale revelation concerning grace is to be found in the Epistles, not in the Gospels…. The Gospels do not present the doctrine of the church.”[2]

Many advocates of a third approach to the principles of interpretation between reformed theology and dispensational theology also dismiss tithing because of its cultic non-moral usage. The Apostle Paul disputed with those who wanted to add elements of the Mosaic Law back into the formula of “by grace through faith.” Protestants point out that this means “by grace through faith alone”—plus nothing! Adding elements such as Sabbath-keeping, circumcision, unclean foods, and tithing actually weaken the gospel by adding cultic law to it. Paul boasted that he had not withheld anything important in preaching the whole gospel, yet never once mentioned tithing.

A Better Covenant with Better Promises

Heb. 8:6 But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Whether one is discussing tithing, or much more important matters, the New Covenant is not simply an “amended” Old Covenant—it really is a “NEW” covenant, a “more excellent ministry,” “a better covenant,” and is “established on better promises.” I cannot understand why this simple truth is so difficult to grasp. This means that grace-giving is a more excellent ministry, that grace-giving is part of a better covenant, and that grace-giving is established on better promises. God did not see fit to re-state tithing in the New Covenant documents.

Heb. 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place should have been sought for the second.

Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

The “first covenant” was ALL of the Law as given through Moses from Mount Sinai. However, there was something wrong with the people of the Old Covenant. All Israel had vowed, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8). All Israel had said “Amen” twelve times as the twelve curses were read to them (Deut. 27:15-26). Paul wrote, “And the law is not of faith: but, ‘The man that does them shall live in them.’ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:12-13). As Israel failed to keep the law by self-effort they fell under the curse of God. While being under the curse of God, their only salvation would come as they placed their faith in the mercy of God, who would open the door of truth to see Jesus Christ.

“The law is not of faith” includes tithing! Tithing was a commanded ordinance. In fact, it acted as THE foundational ordinance of the entire Old Covenant Law! Tithing was the provision of the Law which ­ supported, and thus made possible the very existence of the Levitical priesthood through which God administered the rest of the law, its sacrifices, and all of its other ordinances and judgments (Numbers 3 and 18).

Heb. 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not regard them, says the Lord.

The New Covenant is clearly different because it is “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers.” This is not double-talk—it means exactly what it says! The law stated “Cursed is every one that does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). Failure of a qualified Israelite to tithe placed that Israelite under the curse of the Old Covenant Law (Mal. 3:9). However the Christian cannot possibly be cursed by the Old Covenant Law. When Paul said, “Christ has redeemed US from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13), he was referring to his fellow Jewish Christians who had once been under such curse.

Heb. 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.

Heb. 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

Heb. 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more.

God said “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” The New Covenant laws of God are eternal moral laws which reflect his character. Eternal laws are clearly obvious in the mind and heart of every true believer. While the “giving” aspect of tithing may be eternal, the “ten percent” is clearly cultic and not revealed by the Holy Spirit as a post-Calvary eternal principle. God’s moral laws are not of the nature of tithing, which requires one person to persuade another person concerning that which is not obviously already “in the mind and heart.” To restate the point, while “giving” may be moral, or natural, “ten percent” is clearly cultic and is not already evident in the mind.

These texts also imply that the New Covenant will be a priesthood of believers rather than an echelon of tithe-supported ministers teaching others.

Heb. 8:13 In that he says, a New Covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which is decaying [becoming obsolete: NKJV] and growing old is ready to vanish away [disappear: NAS].

Two thousand years ago it was written that the Old Covenant laws were already “becoming obsolete and growing old” (NAS); they were “obsolete and aging” (NIV); they were “out of date now” (TLB). Galatians 4:31 says that the Old Covenant had been “cast out.” God’s Word is clear on this subject.

From “No Glory” to “Exceeding Glory”

2 Cor. 3:6 Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.

Paul and all other Christians are “ministers” of the “new testament.” We are not called to teach or minister doctrines of the Old Covenant. Preaching the “letter” of the Old Covenant “kills” but preaching the “spirit” of the New Covenant “gives life.” Yet there are both Christian and non-Christian religions today which are as locked into the same “letter-exactness” of ancient law creeds as were the Pharisees of the first century. They have experienced no great revivals and lack the confidence of real spiritual freedom. Yet, Romans 8:2 says, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Verse 4 adds, “The righteousness of the law [is] fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There is so much more to be gained when the letter of the Old Covenant law is abandoned and the power of the New Covenant Holy Spirit is allowed to work in our lives and in our churches. We are foolishly losing the fullness of the New Covenant blessing by teaching tithing (or any other purely Old Covenant cultic doctrine).

2 Cor. 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away,

2 Cor. 3:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

2 Cor. 3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation is glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

2 Cor. 3:10 For even that which was made glorious had NO GLORY in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels [surpasses].

2 Cor. 3:11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious.

The impact that these verses can have on the Christian community when its replaces Old Covenant tithing with New Covenant giving principles can be astounding. Notice the progression of the word “glory” in these verses. Although the Old Covenant was “glorious” and Moses reflected “glory”—that “glory” was to be done away (v. 7). Should not the ministry of the Holy Spirit be “even more glorious” (NIV) (v. 8)? The “glory” of a ministry which provides righteousness will naturally exceed the “glory” of a ministry that condemned (v. 9). While the old ministry was “glorious,” the new ministry is “much more glorious” (v. 11).

Actually, when the “glories” are compared, the old covenant has so much less glory that it has “no glory” in comparison to the “glory that excels” (v. 10). Wow! What a statement! Do we grasp its fullness? While using Old Covenant principles might produce “glorious” results, using clearly stated New Covenant principles is sure to produce much more exceedingly glorious results! That is what the Bible teaches! Why cannot we believe and claim the “much more exceedingly glorious” promises of God’s Word when these truths are applied to tithing?

2 Cor. 3:14 But their minds were blinded; for until this day the same veil remains un-taken away in the reading of the old testament—which veil is done away in Christ.

Christian tithing falls into the trap described in verse 14. In order to teach tithing, one can only go back to pre-Calvary texts like Genesis 14, Leviticus 27, Malachi 3 and Matthew 23. Thus the tithe-advocate is still standing on Old Covenant, pre-Calvary, ground and does not see the changes brought about through viewing Christ. “The same veil remains un-taken away in the reading of the old testament.”

Since Hebrews 7 teaches that “the commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law” was “disannulled” when the priesthood was changed, then, the veil should have been taken away by the truth of the high priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of every believer (Heb. 7:5,12,18).

2 Cor. 3:16 Nevertheless, when it [a person] shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

2 Cor. 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Christian church must learn to trust the New Covenant principles of grace and faith in order to prosper and be well-pleasing to God. Tithing reveals a distrust of the better principles and a reversal to dependence on outdated principles. While satellite Christian broadcasters spend an enormous amount of air-time asking for tithes, the vast majority of people channel-surf away from them. Too many lost souls stay away from church because of its money-hungry reputation and because their spiritual needs are not met.

By beholding Christ we are guaranteed to be changed from an Old Covenant no-glory status into a New Covenant glory standing. As church members feel compassion towards the lost world around them, their giving will increase spontaneously without regard to commands or percentages. The problem is that too many pastors feel secure with a set percentage to request and are afraid to remove the Old Covenant veil and take the step of faith towards other New Covenant glorious principles.


In a sermon preached on August 27, 1525 Dr. Martin Luther used the same Old Covenant/New Covenant hermeneutics presented in this book to oppose tithing. His were not out of context or random remarks about the Law and tithing. Rather Dr. Luther was speaking precisely to the point because his sermon title was How Christians Should Regard Moses. The entire document can be found using Internet search engines. A few excerpts: “The Law of Moses Binds Only the Jews and Not the Gentiles. Here the Law of Moses has its place. It is no longer binding on us because it was given only to the people of Israel. And Israel accepted this law for itself and its descendants, while the Gentiles were excluded.” “Moses has nothing to do with us. If I were to accept Moses in one commandment, I would have to accept the entire Moses.” “We will not regard him as our lawgiver – unless he agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law.” “For not one little period in Moses pertains to us.” “But the other commandments of Moses, which are not by nature, the Gentiles do not hold. Nor do these pertain to the Gentiles, such as the TITHE and others equally fine which I wish we had too.”

[1] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 137.

[2] Unger’s, s.v. “New Testament.”