Andy Stanley is a successful mega-church pastor, leading one of the largest churches in North America. He is a gifted speaker and leader and the son of Charles Stanley, who is one of the greatest expositors of the Word of God America has known.
The son, however, appears to have fallen far from the tree. Several years ago, he created a firestorm by appearing to normalize homosexuality in his church. His problem with a man serving in ministry was not that he was in a homosexual liaison but that he was still married to his wife, making his then-current relationship adultery. The message communicated was that adultery was the problem, not homosexuality.
He has now gotten himself in further trouble by telling his congregation last summer that they should “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament. He went beyond that just recently by saying that the Old Testament has no relevance of any kind to New Testament believers and can and should be ignored.
Here are Stanley’s own words (emphasis mine): “Jesus issued his new commandment (note: that we should “love one another”) 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 all 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.”
If we take Stanley at his own words, we are not obligated to obey the commandment about worshipping just one God and having no other gods before us. Double yikes.
We are not obligated to obey the commands about honoring our parents, refraining from murder, adultery, theft, lying, and lust. Triple and Fourple yikes.
There are a host of problems with Stanley’s view. The primary objection is that it is both unbiblical and exceedingly dangerous. For openers, the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus, the apostles, and the early church. Jesus quoted frequently from the Old Testament whether the topic was marriage (Matthew 19:6, quoting Genesis 2:24), gender (Matthew 19:4, quoting Genesis 1:27), divorce (Matthew 19:3, quoting Deuteronomy 24:1-4), the resurrection from the dead (Matthew 25:32, quoting Exodus 3:6), the triumphal entry (Matthew 21:5, quoting Zechariah 9:9), or John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10, quoting Malachi 3:1). Three times in his showdown with the Prince of Darkness in the wilderness he said “It is written,” then quoted Old Testament passages verbatim (Matthew 4:1-11).
Such examples could be cited again and again. By one count Jesus quoted from the Old Testament 84 times from 27 different books. Meanwhile, in the rest of the New Testament, the apostles quote from the Old Testament no less than 209 times.
The apostle Paul, in the clearest declaration of the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, said “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). By “Scripture,” Paul is referring to the entire Old Testament, you know, the 75% of the Bible Andy Stanley has kicked to the curb as irrelevant.
The little word “all” literally means “any and all.” Paul’s point is that no matter where we dip our toes in the waters of the Old Testament we are in touch with something that has been issued, authored, and inspired by God himself. And contrary to Stanley’s assertion, it is as relevant for today (“profitable”) as when it was first given.
Now here is the real kicker, from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:17Jesus says (quite in contrast to Andy Stanley) that we NOT to think that he came to do away with the Law. “I have not come to abolish them (the Law and the Prophets) but to fulfill them.” He then adds, in verse 18, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
What Jesus means by “fulfill” in v. 17 is to “make complete,” that is, to draw out the full meaning of the Old Testament commands. This is what he does in the rest of chapter five. And we discover that he does not lower God’s standards, he raises them.
The full meaning of the command against murder is not only to banish the act of homicide but to banish the things that lead to it - anger, insults and name-calling. The command against adultery, it turns out, also bans the lustful looks that in the end can lead to the act of marital unfaithfulness.
In something that ought to be sobering to someone who takes Stanley’s view, he adds: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). So such a teacher is in, but toward the bottom of the merit-based honor roll.
Rev. Stanley seems to be opposed to the Law because it is too demanding and too difficult. But Jesus raises the bar by explaining the full implications of each commandment.
In other words, the New Covenant is not easier than the Old Covenant, it’s harder. That’s why only the indwelling life of Christ can give us the moral strength to keep it.
Bottom line: the Old Testament was good enough to be the Bible of Jesus. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.