A couple of times this year, Pastor Andy Stanley has made some outlandish claims, specifically regarding the Old Testament.
If you want to read about it, you can access a CBN article published on May 11, 2018, where he is quoted as saying: “Christians need to unhitch the Old Testament from their faith.”
He got a lot of push back from the Christian community after those initial comments so he felt the need to clarify and soften his stance.
Last month, Dr. Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY) wrote an article and expressed his concerns after hearing an interview that Andy Stanley did with Jonathan Merritt on his podcast, Seekers and Speakers. It is an article worthy of reading.
On the surface, Stanley uses theological reasons to brush off the Old Testament. He points to the fact that once Jesus’ resurrection occurred, the Old Testament essentially became unimportant to the believer since we follow a new set of rules. He says that the law of love for God and others now trumps all of the Old Testament laws so we are no longer obligated to obey them.
But, for someone who has been casually observing Stanley for quite some time, I believe there is an underlying motive that is much more near to his heart. I suspect that the reason Stanley wants to get rid of the Old Testament is not theological – it is pragmatic.
I believe that he finds the Old Testament much too difficult to explain to his target audience. Without a doubt, there are parts of the Old Testament that make many Christians cringe. Talk of slavery in the book of Leviticus, the virtual annihilation of the Canaanites in the book of Joshua, and so much more are just some of the subject matters that are difficult to understand and explain.
I’ll admit, some of those things are certainly difficult. But, I have also come to at least a couple of conclusions:
1). Some of the “thorny” texts in Scripture are easier to understand and explain after I have put much study into it, and
2) I certainly haven’t figured it all out. Some of the Old Testament passages continue to be problematic for me. But, much of the problem is that I don’t have the information and intellect to look at the texts from God’s perspective. If I did, I’m certain that they would make perfect sense.
So while realizing that some of the passages in the Old Testament are tough, does that give me the right to simply “unhitch” the Old Testament? Since some of those passages make me cringe, do I have the authority to simply get rid of them so that I don’t have to bother trying to explain them?
Stated one more time: Do Andy Stanley or I or anyone else have the right or luxury of simply “unhitching” the Old Testament?
While some of it no longer pertains to us since it was written specifically to the nation of Israel, there is great value in keeping the Two Testaments.
Here are 5 reasons why I cannot unhitch the Old Testament:
1. The Old Testament is referred to as “Scripture.”
In my English Standard Version Bible, the word “Scripture” is used 51 times. Every single time, it refers to the Old Testament.
Every … Single … Time!
In other words, the Old Testament was considered sacred writings that were God’s very words to His people.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
So, we just read that the Old Testament is God’s very words. It has the humidity of God’s breath all over it.
It is clear from the following verses that the Apostle Peter received some of Paul’s writings as Scripture. But, the standard was the Old Testament. Peter uses the word “Scripture” to refer to the embraced texts of the Old Testament.
2 Peter 3:15-16 “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
It is clear that the Old Testament was held in high esteem by the New Testament writers. They were embraced as the sacred texts that were elevated above any other writings.
So, why would we get rid of what the New Testament writers held so dearly?
2. The Old Testament provides us with powerful examples.
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Corinth, he expressed the value of the Old Testament.
In the following verses, he recalled a story found in Numbers 21:4-9 of when the Israelites disobeyed God, were bitten by poisonous snakes, and then looked to the bronze pole for healing.
When referring to that Old Testament story, he said that the Old Testament stories provide us with powerful examples of behaviors that we are to either imitate or avoid because we get to see how God responded to each instance.
1 Corinthians 10:9-11 “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
Using Paul’s logic, if you get rid of the Old Testament, you also get rid of powerful examples for us to learn from.
Do you really think it is wise to get rid of such a wonderful encyclopedia of examples?
3. Diminishing the value of the Old Testament brings consequences.
We typically call Matthew 5-7 the Sermon on the Mount. If you read through those three chapters you will hear Jesus telling His followers how saved people, men and women who are in the Kingdom of Heaven, are to live.
So, if Jesus was ever going to ‘unhitch’ the Old Testament, this would have been a good time to do it.
Well, as you read the following words of Jesus, realize that the term “the Law or the Prophets” is referring to the Old Testament. The Law is the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah). The Prophets are everything else in the Old Testament.
Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore 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, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Clearly, Jesus said that our standing in the Kingdom of Heaven has a lot to do with how we treat the Old Testament.
After reading Jesus’ words, do you think it is wise to get rid of the Old Testament?
4. Jesus valued the Old Testament enough to memorize it.
In Matthew 4, we have the account of Jesus’ temptation. Satan threw everything at Jesus that he had. But, Jesus emerged victorious.
How did Jesus ward off Satan’s attacks? He used “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Ephesians 6:17). He fought off temptation with verses from the Bible that He had previously committed to memory.
Now, since Jesus was God the Son, it would seem that He didn’t need to quote Scripture. It would seem that He could have said anything He wanted. He is God after all … and His Words would have become Scripture.
But, He didn’t make up his own words. He refuted the temptations with passages that were found in one of the books of the Law in the Old Testament. Just listen to Jesus’ words and notice after each of Jesus’ three comebacks where He was quoting from…
Matthew 4:4 “But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ‘ ”
(quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3)
Matthew 4:7 “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” ‘ “
(quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16)
Matthew 4:10 “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” ‘ “
(quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13)
So, if we unhitch from the Old Testament, we lose the book of Deuteronomy. That is the book that Jesus had memorized and used to be victorious over Satan’s temptations.
Do we really want to get rid of such a powerful resource?
5. Jesus is all over the pages of the Old Testament.
Some think Jesus didn’t show up in Scripture until Bethlehem as recorded in the New Testament Gospels. That belief is only held by those who have not seriously studied the Old Testament.
I recently read through the Old Testament book of Genesis and marked each instance where Jesus showed up. Of course the very first reference we have of Jesus is found in Genesis 3:15 but there are plenty of places in Genesis where He actually showed up in a bodily form.
Simply put, when you come across the phrase, “the angel of the Lord,” you need to look deeply into the text. It’s not “AN” angel but “THE” angel. Further, the word “angel” simply means “messenger” so it means someone or something sent from God. Finally, if “the angel of the Lord” 1) ascribes to Himself deity, or 2) claims to have authority that only God has, or 3) allows others to ascribe deity to Him, you’re looking at Jesus. In Genesis 18, Jesus is simply presented as a man who appeared to Abraham.
Here are some references in Genesis that I marked that are clearly talking about Jesus:
- Genesis 16:7-12
- Genesis 18
- Genesis 21:17-21
- Genesis 22:11-19
- Genesis 31:11-13
- Genesis 32:22-23
If you still aren’t convinced, then let me end with a story that we find in the New Testament as Dr. Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name. In Luke 24:13-35, he recounts the details of an incident that happened the day Jesus rose from the dead. He tells us that Jesus caught up to two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus.
Oh, I wish I could have been a part of that journey! Why? Because the disciples were fascinated by what Jesus shared with them. He connected dots and filled in details that created nothing but sheer delight within their minds and hearts as they listened.
Here’s how they described what they felt:
Luke 24:32 “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?'”
Their “hearts burn(ed) within (them) while he talked to (them).” They loved it! It was fascinating! They wanted him to keep talking!
What was he telling them that was so incredible? You saw the answer in the above verse, didn’t you? You saw the word “Scripture” which is used in the New Testament solely to speak of the Old Testament writings.
So, what was He sharing with them out of the Old Testament?
Luke 24:25-27 “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Did you get that?! Jesus used nothing but the Old Testament to explain all that had transpired. He opened up the Old Testament and showed them in “all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
That means that Jesus is EVERYWHERE in the Old Testament! I showed you some references that I observed in Genesis. I could easily take you to the other books of the Old Testament and point out stories and references that are clearly talking about Jesus.
But I’m certain that if I had been on the road to Emmaus with Jesus, I would have heard of even more places that He was revealed. He’s everywhere in the Old Testament!
I can’t wait to get to Heaven to say, “Jesus, you shared some pretty cool things about yourself out of the Old Testament with those disciples on the road to Emmaus. I want that experience, too! I want my heart to burn within me. So, Jesus, please share with me all of the things concerning yourself in the Old Testament … and please forgive those knuckleheads who wanted to unhitch that part of the Bible.”
Tell me, friend, why in the world would we ever, EVER ‘unhitch’ the Old Testament Scriptures that were so precious and valued to the New Testament writers and Jesus?
Why would we EVER get rid of the books that provide us with examples to learn how it is we are to live?
Why would we EVER get rid of books that tell us so much about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?
Andy Stanley and others may claim the authority to rid themselves of the Old Testament. But, I choose to align myself with the New Testament writers and Jesus by valuing it, memorizing it, and looking for my Savior in it.
What about you?