Russell Earl Kelly rebuts International Sunday School Lesson on tithing, August 30, 2015
Pastor Rick Safrie: preaching since 1973; B.A. of Theology Degree; now at West Lenoir Baptist Church in Lenoir, North Carolina.
Kelly: This is 2015. How does one preach for 42 years (since 1973) and not upgrade his education from an entry-level B.A. degree?
International Sunday School Lesson
Study Notes for August 30, 2015, Malachi 3:1-10
Safrie: The prophet Malachi, whose name means “honoring God” …
Kelly: Wrong. It means “my messenger” in every Bible dictionary and commentary I have read.
Safrie: He was the last of the Old Testament prophets …
Kelly: Malachi is difficult to date. Nehemiah may coincide with Malachi.
Safrie: Little is known about the prophet Malachi but it is clear he was a man of …
Kelly: Nothing is “clear” about the person of Malachi. “My messenger” may have been a pen name for Nehemiah.
Safrie: He preached powerful sermons on some very sensitive subjects.
Kelly: Malachi is 4 short chapters long. This book is one short sermon.
Safrie: Malachi prophesied several decades after the temple was rebuilt.
Kelly: It was sloppy and ugly in 519 B.C. Nehemiah celebrated its refurbishing in 444 B.C. which was also Malachi’s time period.
Safrie: He spoke to a people that had a restored religious system and an outward appearance of being right with God.
Kelly: In 1:1 Malachi addressed “Israel.” In 1:6 and 2:1 the pronoun “you” refers specifically to the dishonest priests and NOT the people. This is a major error of Malachi commentaries and interpreters.
Safrie: They brought their sacrifices and offerings to the temple, but kept the best for themselves (Malachi 1:7-8).
Kelly: According to 1:6 “they” refers to the priests and NOT the people. Read the whole chapter.
Safrie: Malachi’s message contains timely truths for the twenty-first century.
Kelly: List them.
Safrie: For people who are not committed to Christ and His church, Malachi offers a solution.
Kelly: Why is this message NOT repeated to the church after Calvary in terms of grace and faith? O.T. tithe recipients were not allowed to inherit property or gain wealth (Numb 18:20-28).
Safrie: … we need to hear and heed Malachi’s call to “return to God.”
God’s Promise to His People (Malachi 3:1-4).
God’s Promise to His People (Malachi 3:1-4).
Kelly: God was still speaking to the priests in 2:13 who had “covered the altar of the LORD with tears.” The priests in 2:13-17 had mocked God’s judgment. Then God answered the priests with promised judgment in 3:1-5. Read the context. “He shall purify the sons of Levi” (3:3); then the priests shall offer a pleasant offering to the LORD” (3:4). As Safrie correctly points out, Jesus came and cleansed the Temple of the sins of the priests.
Safrie: Sorcery, occultism, unbiblical divorce, perjury, oppression of the poor.
Kelly: For tithe-teachers, these fade into unimportance compared to the sin of not tithing.
Safrie: “For I am the LORD, I change not …
Kelly: Be careful how you interpret this statement. God’s character does not change. The way God deals with mankind through covenants does change radically between the Old and New Covenants (Jer 31:31-36; Heb 8:8-13; Mt 28:19-20; Eph 2:13-17; Col 2:13-17).
Safrie: … therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
Kelly: Again, beginning in 1:6 and 2:1 and continuing in 2:13, “you” refers to the dishonest priests and not the people. Priests are also “sons of Israel.” There is no contextual logic to teach that Malachi is now addressing the people of Israel as a whole.
Safrie: Even when Israel had violated their covenant with God (Malachi 2:10), God had not violated His covenant with Israel (Psalm 89:34).
Kelly: It is ridiculous that Safrie makes 2:10 refer to the people of Israel when the context is about God’s specific covenant with Levi.
Read Malachi 2:1-10! Malachi is speaking to the Levitical priests only.
2:1 “And now o priests, this commandment is for you.”
2:2 [the priests are cursed 3 times]
2:3 dung in their faces
2:4 “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi.
2:5 “my covenant was with him” [Levi]
2:7 “for the priests lips should keep knowledge”
2:8 “ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi”
2:9 “Therefore have I also made you [priests] contemptable and base before all the people [of Israel].
Safrie: Malachi called Israel “sons of Jacob” to remind them of their covenant relationship with the Lord. Although God may punish and chasten the children of Israel, they will not be “consumed.”
Kelly: Malachi 3:1-7 is in the context of 1:6-14; 2:1-10 and 2:13-17. Except for the brief 3rd person in 2:11-12, the “you” remains the “priests.”
Safrie: Instead, they responded hypocritically, “Wherein shall we return?” (3:10) Their .. They … we …
Kelly: 1:6-14; 2:1-10, 13-17; 3:1-7 “we” refers to the priests. Here is where the tithe-teachers become obsessed.
(1) They ignore that the priests of 1:6-14 had robbed God by replacing their own healthy vowed animals with sick ones and were cursed in 1:14.
(2) They ignore that the priests of 2:1-10 had broken God’s peculiar covenant with Levi, were cursed 3 times in 2:2-3, and deserved dung in their faces.
(3) They ignore that the priests of 2:13-17 were weeping false tears on the altar and mocked God by daring Him to judge them.
(4) They ignore that in 3:1-7 God promised judgment on the priests who were marrying pagans, allowing sorcery and mistreating the poor.
NOW all four chapters are all about tithing!!
Safrie: How can humans “rob God?” They were robbing God “in tithes and offerings.”
Kelly: Nehemiah is the context of Malachi. In Nehemiah 13:5-10 the priests had stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithes and forced the Levites to return home for food. The Temple had been closed. If Nehemiah 13:5-10 is the context of Malachi 3:8-10, God is accusing the priests of their sin in Nehemiah 13:5 and God is telling the priests to return the stolen tithes.
Safrie: From Mount Sinai God had said all the tithe of the land belonged to Him and declared “…it is holy unto the LORD” (Leviticus 27:30).
Kelly: Correct. The HOLY tithe was only food from inside God’s HOLY land of Israel which He had miraculously increased (Lev 27:30-33). It could not come from outside that holy land. It could not come from what man increased through his own hands. It could only come from an Israelite under the Old Covenant (27:34).
Safrie: The word “tithe” means “a tenth part.”
Kelly: Yes, but the biblical HOLY tithe was always only FOOD from inside HOLY Israel. 16 texts affirm this from Leviticus 27 to Luke 18. No text defines it otherwise.
Safrie: A “tithe” for the Israelite was 10 percent of their grain, fruits, animals, or money (Nehemiah 13:5).
Kelly: It is a premeditated LIE to say that the HOLY biblical tithe ever included money! Read the text. Read Nehemiah 13:5. The “great chamber” [two large chambers of 10’ by 20’] held food offerings, frankincense and sacrificial vessels AND (PLUS) tithes of grain, wine and oil. It is curious that Safrie uses this text and failed to point out that the priests had emptied it (stolen the Levites’ portion of the tithe) and forced the Levites to close the temple.
Safrie: Walter Kaiser writes, “Christians are not governed by any law that commands us to give a tenth of our earnings to God; however, it must be noted that the practice of tithing precedes any provision of the Law of Moses (see Abram's response in Genesis 14:20 and Jacob's vow at Bethel in Genesis 28:22).
Kelly: Rather than stick his own feet into the mud, Safrie quotes another theologian to argue for him that tithes preceded the law. Yet the tithes of Abram and Jacob were pure pagan in source and not commanded by God. Neither Moses, Nehemiah, Malachi nor Jesus would have included pagan-source tithes as HOLY tithes of the Law.
Safrie: “If it was appropriate under the law to give a tenth, Christians will want to give no less than a tenth insofar as we have received and known so much more!”
Kelly: This apparently logical argument is, in fact, illogical. It falsely assumes that every O. T. Hebrew began his/her level of giving at 10%. That is a false assumption; you cannot sustain a logical argument on a false basis. The fact is that only food producers living inside HOLY Israel qualified as tithers. Therefore, Jesus (a carpenter), Paul (a tentmaker) and Peter (a fisherman) could not and did not tithe.
Safrie: (3:9) “cursed with a curse”
Kelly: Priests were cursed once in 1:14 and three times more in 2:2-3. To be consistent with the context, priests are still being cursed in 3:9, This is consistent with the events of Nehemiah 13:5-10.
Safrie: (3:9b) “even this whole nation.”
Kelly: “This whole nation of you” (NAS, RSV, NIV). In context, “of you priests” makes sense.
Safrie: The language of this verse states that the whole nation was guilty before God in this religious plot to rob Him (Malachi 1:14; 2:2).
Kelly: 1:14 and 2:2 are in the context of 1:6-13 and 2:1 and only refer to the priests. Read the context.
Safrie: Therefore, they were “cursed with a curse.” The details of this “curse” are not given in this verse, only the fact of it.
Kelly: The context of the curse in :14 is 1:6-13; and the context of the curses of 2:2-3 is 2:1-10. God promised to spread dung in their faces (2:3) because they continued to disobey His unique covenant with Levi (2:1-10).
Safrie: This “curse” is best described in Proverbs 11:24
Kelly: Wrong. Nehemiah 10:29 and Malachi 4:4 place this curse in the context of the whole law. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 3:10 “For as many as are under the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” Paul was quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 “Cursed is he that continueth not in all the words of the Law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”
Safrie: Malachi 1:8
Kelly: Ignores 1:6
Safrie: breaking their marital vows 2:10)
Kelly: Ignores context of 2:1-10; 13-17.
Safrie: and defrauding the helpless (Malachi 3:5).
Kelly: Ignores context of 3:1-7
God’s Program for His People (Malachi 3:10)
Kelly: In the Old Covenant God’s people were only literal Israelites (Hebrews, children of Jacob, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) (Ex 19:5-6).
The New Covenant changed all that and included all people from all nations who would accept Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19-20; Eph 2:11-22; Col 2:13-17).
Safrie: Mal 3:10 “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse …”
Kelly: There is not a word of a huge tithe storehouse in the many chapters which describe God’s sanctuary and Temple in God’s Word. Moses’ tent had none. Solomon’s Temple had none; Hezekiah erroneously added a large room to Solomon’s temple (2 Chron 31:1-19); Nehemiah 13:5 mentions a great room; Neh 10:37b tells the people to bring the tithes to the Levitical cities.
In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for God to tell the people to bring all the tithe to a central location in Jerusalem; Levites and priests could not possibly be expected to travel long distances to pick up food. The only logic for 3:10 is that God was still speaking only to the priests. He was telling the dishonest priests to return the tithe they had stolen in Nehemiah 13:5.
Safrie: … that there may be meat in mine house …
Kelly: “meat” means “food” – HOLY food from inside God’s HOLY land miraculously increased by God. The definition never changed in 1500 years from Moses (Lev 27) to Jesus (Mt 23:23).
Safrie: … and prove me now …
Kelly: It is absurd to teach that God obligates Himself to bless tithers who break the remainder of His law (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26). The whole law was a test: obey all to be blessed; break one to be cursed.
Safrie: “… blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Kelly: This alone should prove post-Calvary tithing to be wrong. The great majority of tithers do not receive so many blessings that they cannot hold them. And the great majority of tithers are not paraded to the front of the church to give their tithing testimony. If tithing worked, there would be no desperate Christians.
Safrie: “All the tithes” is a mathematical phrase meaning “the whole or the entire tithe.”
Kelly: Read 2 Chronicles 31:1-5. The tithes were rotting in the streets because King Hezekiah erroneously thought they belonged in Jerusalem. After consultation, he built storerooms at the temple and returned the great majority of tithes to the Levitical cities (31:15-19). [Nobody preaches on these verses.]
Safrie: God wanted “all the tithes” or the “whole.” That meant if their heart was not in it, it was not acceptable.
Kelly: The text does not say that. God wanted tithes from food producers inside His HOLY land whether their heart was in it or not. That’s like saying our government does not want our taxes unless we want to pay them.
Safrie: The “storehouse” was the chamber in the Temple where the “tithes and offerings” were kept.
Kelly: Safrie is alluding to Neh 13:5 while ignoring its context. Again, “chambers” inside the temple could not possibly hold the whole tithe of the whole nation. Common sense argues otherwise. Both Levites and priests had 24 courses which served a week at a time. It was only necessary to keep enough tithe-food in the temple chamber to feed Levites and priests for one week at a time.
Safrie: The principles for Christian giving are clearly defined in the Pauline epistles. (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:2, 7-9, 12, 19-20; 9:5-12). According to the Scriptures, giving must come from a willing heart and on the basis of grace, not Law. That is God’s program for this day of grace.
Kelly: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Stop there.
Safrie: How could anyone saved by grace give less to the Lord than someone under the Law?
Kelly: A person saved by grace does not look to the law for his/her guidance or suggestions. He looks to the teachings inspired by the Holy Spirit to the assembly of believers after Calvary. Sacrificial giving may be 40% for some and 2% for others “that there may be an equality” (2 Cor 8:12-14).
Safrie: Under the old covenant, tithes and offerings go to the Levites to provide for their needs as they ministered to in the Temple (Numbers 18; Nehemiah 10:36-39). Today, the offerings of God’s people maintain church facilities, provided for the pastor and church staff, and provide funds for fulfilling the Great Commission and taking care of local and world-wide needs (1 Corinthians 9:14; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 1 Timothy 5:17).
Kelly: Safrie will lnot let go. Regardless of how much tithe-teachers say that they do not teach tithing – they use it at every opportunity. They still go back to the tithe as their minimum starting point. In fact, most expect (and some demand) that every Christian give MORE than 10% of his/her gross income to the church regardless of whether or not essential bills get paid. They violate 1st Timothy 5:8.
Safrie: “Prove me now“ literally means” ….
Kelly: The literal text of 3:10-11 refers only to RAIN and FOOD. Safrie makes it refer to something else.
Safrie: While New Testament believers cannot personally claim God’s promise to His covenant people in Malachi 3:10 …
Kelly: Then why keep on repeating that promise?
Safrie: This Sunday's lesson should be very interesting.