REBUTTAL OF JOSEPH PRINCE BY RUSSELL KELLY, PHD
Joseph Prince is the senior pastor of one of the largest churches in Singapore.
Prince: The Bible says that anything set apart for God’s use is holy.
Kelly: This is a reference to the first holy tithing text found in Leviticus 27:30-34. The error is in ignoring the context. A close reading of Leviticus reveals scores of Old Covenant people, ceremonies, offerings, sacrifices, clothing items and furniture which were either “holy” or “most holy.” The vast majority of these are no longer considered holy or even applicable to Christians of the New Covenant era. The holy tithe of Leviticus was only holy while that covenant was in effect. Like everything else in Leviticus, when the Old was replaced by the New Covenant, the tithe was replaced by New Covenant giving principles.
Prince: Reads Malachi 3:8-12.
Kelly: Prince never discusses the purely Old Covenant context of Malachi. It was primarily addressed to Old Covenant Israel (1:1-5). It was next narrowly addressed to “you priests” who were guilty of stealing from God and for substituting ceremonially impure animals for the pure ones they had received as tithes and vowed (1:6-14; 2:1-10; 2:13-17; 3:1-7). Malachi is in the context of keeping the whole law (Mal 4:4; Neh 10:29).
Prince: That ordinance refers to tithing and offerings.
Kelly: He is referring to Malachi 3:6. It is far from evident that the “ordinance” of 3:6 refers only to the tithing ordinance of Numbers 18 or any other tithing ordinance. If the pronoun “you” still refers to the priests from 1:6 and 2:1, it must refer to the covenant God made with Levi from 2:5 and the ceremonial worship ordinances which controlled the Levites and priests.
Prince: Who is God talking to? He is talking to His people.
Kelly: Yes – to His peculiar treasured nation of Israel under the Old Covenant (Ex 19:5-6; Lev 27:34; Neh 10:29; Mal 4:4). Only Israel was “His people” when Malachi was written.
Prince: Because it is an O.T. book, does that mean he is only talking to O.T. people?
Kelly: Not if the context makes it absolutely clear that more is included. Prince: No. Look at chapter 3, verse 1. It is actually referring to our times. It is referring to the second coming of Christ and not to his coming as a baby.
Mal 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
3:2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment …
Kelly: This is horrendous manipulation of the context. First, the Old Covenant priests of 400 BC who “cover the altar with their tears” (2:13) are mocking God in 2:17. Second, God tells the priests that the Messiah (a grown man, not a baby) will enter the Temple (that temple); this is clearly a reference to Jesus’ first coming. Prince is manipulating the text in order to extend tithing beyond Calvary! Third, Jesus the man (not a baby) twice cleansed the Temple – “he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them.” Fourth, His second coming is not “to purge the Temple and Levites; it is to cast out Antichrist who is sitting there claiming to be God (2 Thes 2:1-12). Fifth, Ezekiel’s millennial temple will not require purging.
Prince: His ordinance is the institution of tithing.
Kelly: There is no such thing as an “ordinance/statute” of only tithing. The “ordinance” which supported the Levites and Aaronic priesthood is found in Numbers 18. Stop and read it. The Church today follows NONE of the “ordinance” of Levitical support. (1) Holy tithes, as used in Malachi and Jesus in Matthew 23:23, were always only food from inside God’s holy land of Israel which God has miraculously increased. (2) Only Aaronic priests could enter the sanctuary. (3) Anybody else attempting to enter the sanctuary was to be killed. (4) The “ordinance” of Numbers 18 (like 1 Cor 9:`13) includes far far more than tithing; there were many offerings and vows included. (5) The Levite servants to the priests received the first whole tithe (Num 18:21-24; Neh 10:37a). (6) The priests only received one per cent plus many many other sources of income (Num 18: all, especially 25-28; Neh 10:38-39). And (7) those Levites and priests who received the tithe were not allowed to own or inherit property in Israel. If Prince is going to teach the ordinance of tithing then he must teach all of it and not own any property. Again, NONE of the O.T. tithing law is followed by any church today.
Prince: I have a mandate from heaven to share this message on tithing.
Kelly: You are teaching error. Do not blame it on God. This is arrogance. It means “Do not be a Berean and do not verify what I am saying from God’s Word. I am the infallible inspired holy One who cannot be questioned.”
Prince: I have never shared a message on tithing before (to this generation).
Kelly: How often do your associates mention it? How many times is it found in your approved printed literature? if it carries a blessing, you are robbing your own people by depriving them from the truth.
Prince: It is a myth to say “If you do not tithe, God will curse you.”… [The curse of Malachi 3:9 is not the curse of the law; it is the curse of the ground from Genesis 3.]
Kelly: Listen to Prince discuss this around the 20 minute mark of his sermon. It is hard to believe that an intelligent pastor would say anything this stupid. How can the “ordinance” being violated be a reference to the Law but not the “curse” in the same context?
Mal 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
Neh 10:29 They [Malachi’s audience] clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.
According to Malachi 4:4 and Nehemiah 10:29, Malachi’s audience of 450-400 B.C. was very much under the Law with its curses and blessings. The only possible explanation of Prince’s refusal to connect the curse of the law to the ordinances of the law in Malachi is to dishonestly teach New Covenant tithing.
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Gal 3:12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Gal 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
One of Prince’s greatest errors is ignoring the fact that the Old Covenant law was an indivisible whole (Mt 5:19). If one wanted the blessings of tithing, one must obey the whole law (Gal 3:10). It is impossible and illogical to teach that an idolater, or parent abuser, or murderer could tithe and be blessed.
Prince: Quotes Romans 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
Kelly: The context is God’s unconditional promises to the true believers within Israel who constitute spiritual Israel. Those promises began with Abraham in Genesis 12 and were apart from the conditional Old Covenant Law.
Gal 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator
Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
The Law was temporary until Christ would come and replace it with the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-36; Heb 8:8-13). There were many holy and most holy things in the Law which are no longer holy. They were only holy temporarily while the Law was in effect. Read all of Leviticus and list the items called holy and most holy.
Prince: [Using Romans 11:16] The first ten per cent is holy, the rest is holy.
Kelly: More dishonesty. “Tithe” means”tenth”; “first” means “first.” They are not the same thing in God’s Word. Firstfruits were very small token offerings which could be carried in a basket (Deut 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37a). Carefully compare firstfruits in Nehemiah 10:35-37a with tithes in 37b.
Prince: The tithe is already God’s
Kelly: Yes, but the tithe is not what Prince says it is. Sixteen texts prove that the HOLY biblical tithe (as used by Jesus in Mt 23:23) is always only food from inside God’s holy land of Israel which He had miraculously increased. Tithes could not come from non-food items, Gentiles, or from outside Israel. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers. Nobody does and nobody can literally bring a biblical tithe today.
Prince: The tithe is already God’s.
Kelly: The holy tithe off God’s holy land belonged to the Levites and priests in exchange for their service in the sanctuary and Temple to replace their land inheritance rights. This is clear from Numbers 18 – the ignored ordinance.
Prince: Solomon says the way to honor Him is to tithe to Him and honor Him with your firstfruits [Prov 3:10].
Prov 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
Prov 3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Kelly: Lie. Solomon does NOT use the word “tithe” in any of his published writings: Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. Solomon was wise enough to know the difference between firstfruits and tithes. Prince quotes or refers to Proverbs 3:9-10 three times in his dishonest attempt to equate firstfruits with tithes. However, even in the O.T. firstfruits were also only from food from within holy Israel. Note that the text itself refers to food and not money.
1 Tim 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
From First Timothy 5:8 it is clear that a believer’s first income must be used to buy essentials such as medicine, food, and shelter for one’s family.
The preacher who teaches that tithes are from the first of one’s income is greedy and dishonest; he is stealing that which rightfully belongs to one’s family for essentials. Yet there are fearful Christians all over the globe who give the first ten per cent of the welfare money to the church and go without medicine or food for their children. This is a modern scandal and must stop. Calling tithes firstfruits is a modern form of “Corban.” See http://tithing-russkelly.com/id140.html.
Prince: PCSTUDY BIBLE
Kelly: I use this one also.
Prince: The only time we check tithing records is when we are going to appoint a leader. We do not want God-robbers to lead us. Also we check tithing records of voting members; if they are not tithing, they are not voting members.
Kelly: In other words, Prince checks every member’s tithing records to determine whether or not they can be a voting member. Prince’s remarks are arrogant. He has ignored the Biblical qualifications of elders and deacons found in Timothy and Titus which do not mention tithing. He also determines against God’s Word that the very poorest who cannot afford to tithe cannot be qualified to hold church office regardless of how great their spiritual gifts might be. And he ignores First Timothy 5:8 and robs the poor and sick of their medicine by placing them under a curse for not tithing.
Prince: Even if you get $10, you tithe on it. All Hebrews are taught to tithe.
Kelly: The cancer patient who needs $10.00 for medicine has to do without for a while longer. This is wrong because it is based on the false assumption that all Hebrews were required to tithe. In reality only those Hebrews who were food-producers inside Israel were required to begin their level of giving at ten per cent. However, if a Hebrews earned a livelihood working a trade or craft in a city, they could not tithe but gave sacrificial freewill offerings. Again, tithes could not come from non-food items, from Gentiles, or from outside Israel. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers.
Prince: We are not under the law.
Kelly: No, and “we” Gentiles and Christians “never were” under that Old Covenant law. In fact God commanded Israel NOT to share its covenant with other nations (Ex 19:5-6; Lev 27:34; Mal 4:4).
Prince: Tithing began in the Garden of Eden. God said “Don’t eat from that one tree; that is your tithe to me.”
Kelly: This is silly goofy logic unless there was only ten (10) trees in the Garden of Eden. It ignores the definition of the word “ten” which even a first-grader understands. If he Garden had 100 trees, was the “tenth” “one per cent”??? If the Garden had 1000 trees, was the “tenth” only “one tenth of one per cent”???
Prince: Abraham tithed before the Law; therefore the tithe was for all time.
Kelly: No, Abram (not Abraham) an uncircumcised Gentile tithed before the law. What did he tithe? – unholy pagan spoils of war from wicked Sodom. Why did he tithe? The Bible does not say. It is presumptuous SIN to insert your opinion and make God’s Word say that Abraham tithed BECAUSE either God commanded it or because he freely chose to do so!!! It is much more likely that he was simply obeying the Canaanite law of the land which required tithes from spoils of war be given to one’s local king-priest. If Abram’s tithe is an example of faith for all time, then why is not his example of keeping nothing and giving the 90% to the king of Sodom also an example of faith for all time? Prince simply has no authority to invent theology. Only that which Abraham did by faith is an example for Christians today and the New Covenant does not call his tithing spoils of war an example of faith.
Prince: El Elyon is proof. El Shaddai and El Elyon were both first mentioned in the context of tithing.
Kelly: What does that prove? El Elyon is not mentioned anywhere else in Genesis. To the typical Canaanite, El Elyon was a god in the Canaanite pantheon. Although Abram recognized that the real El Elyon was Yahweh, it would be 1000 years later after David conquered Jebusi (Jerusalem) that David begins calling God by the title of Yahweh El Elyon.
Prince: We [Prince’s family] tithe 10% OUT to a missions’ fund.
Kelly: While this is praiseworthy, there is no biblical precedent for using tithes to finance missions. In fact, not a single O.T. tithe was ever used for missions.
Prince: In Genesis 14, the king of Sodom represents the evil one and Melchizedek is a type of Jesus Christ.
Kelly: Weird. If that is true, then why did Melchizedek allow the king of Sodom to act as his representative and go out first to meet Abram inside his territory? The historical Melchizedek, his person, is NOT a type of Christ. Only his “order” as a king-priest, his lack of genealogy and the “interpretation of his name” are types of Christ. See http://tithing-russkelly.com/id8.html.
Prince: The bread and wine represented the body and blood of Christ.
Kelly: Not necessarily in the historical context of 2000 B. C. They were also the most plentiful food and drink items. Any Gentile king-priest would have welcomed any returning hero in the same manner.
Prince: Abraham became rich God’s way.
Kelly: it is significant that Abraham did not become rich as the result of his tithing in Genesis 14. “God’s way” was to make him rich after he lied to Pharaoh about his sister (Gen 12:16 to 13:2).
Prince: In Hebrews 7 the first reason we tithe is to show how great Melchizedek is.
Kelly: Again, the Bible does not tell us WHY Abram gave Melchizedek tithes from spoils of war; he may have had no choice in the matter. He was passing through the king-priest’s territory.
Prince: Another reason we tithe is because Hebrews 7:8 refers to the church receiving tithes for Jesus.
Kelly: No, it does not. Hebrews is written to Hebrew Christians who were still confused about the law and were still fully participating in the Temple worship ritual. This must include tithing and this must mean that they were still paying tithes, not to gospel workers, but to the Temple system. Verse 8 is not about the church; it is about the presently continuing temple ritual (A. D. 64) in which the Levites and priests were still receiving tithes as God’s workers.
Prince: [Stops discussing Hebrews 7 at verse 10.]
Kelly: Like every tithe-teacher I have read Prince ignores the sequence of Hebrews 7:5, 12, and 18. Verse 5 is the first use in Hebrews of “commandment,” “tithes,” and “law.” Since Christ was from Judah and Melchizedek was a Gentile, verse 12 says that there is a “necessary change of the law” (including tithing from 7:5). Verse 18 concludes that the “necessary change” (from 7:12) of the “law” (from 7:5) is –not a transfer to gospel workers—but a “disannulling of the commandment going before” (of tithing from 7:5). This is both clear and logical that tithing has ended.
Prince: Jews are blessed because their forefathers tithed.
Kelly: Uninformed logic. Hebrews who lived outside Israel did not tithe. Hebrews who were not food-producers inside Israel did not tithe. Jesus, Peter and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers.
Not all Jews are rich; there are Jewish ghettos around the world. History shows that Jews left the farms and entered banking in order to avoid paying tithes to the Catholic Church many centuries ago.
Prince: [The storehouse of Malachi 3:10 is now the Church.] All of the tithe should go to the “local church where you get your food from.”
Kelly: The Temple was not the same as the storehouse. Actually the Temple contained one large room (about 10’ by 20’) for storage of tithes for one course (of 24) in rotation (Neh 13:5; 1 Kings 6:6). In other words the temple could not physically hold all the tithe of the nation; most of it was stored in the Levitical cities where most of the Levites and priests lived (Neh 10:37b). Also, the early church did not legally have its own building for over 200 years after Calvary. The church is never called a storehouse.
Prince: (Referring to Malachi 3:10-12). It is very seldom that God says “test me.” God says that He will rebuke the devourer of your finances.
Kelly: This assumes that the tithe can be removed from its context of the whole law and used to obtain a blessing (even while the tither is breaking other laws). The whole law was a test; obey all to be blessed; break one to be cursed. Galatians 3:10 and its context of Deuteronomy 28-30 do not seem to exist in Prince’s world.
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Prince: I have released what God has to give you today.
Kelly: In other words, “Don’t blame me if I said something you do not agree with. I merely became God’s mouthpiece and “released” what God really said today. This is sheer arrogance.
Prince: Abraham tithed willingly.
Kelly: This is not found in the Bible.
Prince: Even God tithed; Christ the firstfruits. 1 Cor 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits ; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Kelly: Did God really “tithe”? Was Jesus his “tenth only begotten” Son? Was Jesus “food” from inside Israel (the definition of a holy tithe)? In reality, firstfruits where given first and harvested first – before the tithes. Firstfruits and tithes are different.
Prince: The law has no more curse upon our heads.
Kelly: The Old Covenant law which was only given to Old Covenant Israel never applied to Gentiles or Christians (Rom 1:18-20; 2:14-16). I sincerely urge Joseph Prince to enter into an open extended dialog with me on the subject of tithing.
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD is the author of Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine.