Dang it! Andy Stanley’s at it again!
A few months back he did a sermon in which he said that Christians need to “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament. Of course, this smacks of the unbiblical idea of “New Testament” Christianity as if Jesus simply eliminated the need for the Old Testament.
Well, yesterday the Church Leaders blog reported that Stanley wrote a piece in Relevant Magazine in which he wrote the following:
“The Ten Commandments are from the old covenant. The Ten Commandments played a significant role in God’s creation of the Nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from the neighbors. This was part of the forma agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled and end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it.
“Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of command. He didn’t say, ‘Here’s the 614th law.’
“Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced the old commandments.
“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
There’s more but you get the gist.
I get what Stanley is saying but he’s wrong…again.
Jesus tells us that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). That in itself undermines everything Stanley just said, but let me explain it a little further.
To fulfill the requirements of the law – or as Stanley puts it, from the first part of your Bibles – God required a blood sacrifice for sin. To put it bluntly, sin required a life-for-a-life; you should lose your life due to your sin but the sacrificial system allowed one to have atonement by substituting the life of an animal instead. The law was not salvation just atonement for that particular sin.
Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law by giving His life for ours. In other words, the laws’ requirements stood – God did not change the rules! Instead, Jesus took our punishment as the law required. A life for a life. Jesus died one for all!
Thus, the requirements of the law were satisfied but the law itself was not abolished as Jesus clearly said. The law – what is right and what is wrong – stands! God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and He didn’t change his mind about His moral law.
So, yes! We as Christians are absolutely obligated to follow God’s moral law.
But there’s more!
Jesus actually confirms this! Here is a pretty concise thought by the United Church of God:
In Matthew 19:16, Jesus was asked what must be done to inherit eternal life. His answer: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Jesus then listed several, including enough of the Ten Commandments to make clear which commandments He meant: “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 19:18-19).
It seems more than apparent that Jesus Himself believed in the Ten Commandments; so why doesn’t Stanley?
Paul puts it so well in Romans 7:7 – What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Honestly, I get what Stanley’s trying to say. He believes that Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us actually is a higher standard than the actual OT law. When we love God and love each other we won’t sin and thus violate the law. Loving each other is done outside the legalism and religiosity of the law. When we love as we should, we have no need of the law! So, I know where he’s going but he’s not actually getting there.
By saying we no longer have to apply the Ten Commandments and the other moral laws of God to our lives He’s saying that Jesus death and resurrection abolished those laws. Jesus Himself said He did not. You still don’t murder, you still don’t steal, you still don’t commit adultery, you still don’t covet, you still keep the sabbath, you still honor your mother and father, you still don’t worship idols or have other Gods before God. Nothing changed about those things due to Jesus’ death. Paul is right – the law tells us what sin is so that we know what it is we are being saved from!
What changed was we now have grace and forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus when we transgress instead of death. Our relationship with God the Father has been reconciled through Jesus where as before we were enemies of God. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit as a down payment and guarantee of our future eternity with Jesus. That’s what changed!
What Stanley is doing lately is troubling for another reason. He’s been trying to decouple the Old Testament from the New Testament. You just can’t do that because the Old Testament is ALL ABOUT JESUS!!
Take the first chapters of Genesis. God the Father is there creating the world. The Holy Spirit is there hovering above the waters. And Jesus is there!! God spoke the world into existence and John tells us clearly that Jesus is the word of God who became flesh and that nothing was created without Him (John 1:3).
Go ahead and try this: Google “Number of Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament.” You get articles saying they range between 40 and 400!
No, the Old Testament cannot be “unhitched” from the New Testament for Christians. It’s actually heresy to say so. I hope that is not what Stanley actually means but he’s not been clear enough in his writings and sermons to really tell.
I will grant Stanley this: There is a different covenant Christians follow than Israel. Israel followed a covenant of obeying and being blessed and disobeying and being cursed (Deuteronomy 11:28). As Christians, it’s no longer about obeying or disobeying but about having faith in Jesus as the risen savior who saved us from our own sinful acts by taking the punishment for us!
Perhaps this is where Stanley gets confused – by focusing on obey/disobey and our role as Christians in this he’s thrown out the baby with the bath water. As Christians God no longer judges us on our sin or performance – Jesus was judged in our place! But that certainly doesn’t mean God’s moral law no longer applies.
Stanley needs to remember Paul’s words in Romans 5 and 6:
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
So, Andy, the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s moral law are absolute truths from God to His people – all His people – which we must continue to obey and seek forgiveness for and repent from when we break them. The Old Testament is God’s living word and is as applicable and vibrant today as it was when it was penned thousands of years ago. You cannot unhitch the Old Testament from the New Testament because the Old Testament is all about Jesus and when you unhitch it you undermine the truth of Jesus as He proves He is the messiah through His acts that are reported in the New Testament. And lastly, Andy, Jesus’ command to love as He loved us is the way we keep from a life of sin. As Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you’ll do as I command!”