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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

One Bible, Two Testaments

May 12, 2018

The Bible the Christian reads contains two Testaments and 66 books. The Old Testament contains 39 books while the New Testament has 27 books. That is our Bible, and basically only false teachers and cultists will try to tell you we do not need the entire Bible.

But this has happened throughout church history. For example, the second century heretic Maricon insisted that we not only should jettison the OT, but he greatly reduced much of the NT as well, whittling it down mainly to some of Paul’s writings. Some hyper-grace teachers of today can come close to this as well, emphasising the importance of Paul almost to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible.

But the New Testament of course makes zero sense apart from the Old Testament. When Jesus and the early disciples were around, there was no NT of course – all they had to work with were the books of the Old Testament. And it is the OT that is the foundation of the NT.

Nothing Jesus and the disciples said and did makes any sense apart from the backdrop of all that God did and said in the OT. As Augustine put it, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” Or again, “The New is in the Old contained, the Old is in the New explained”.

To be cavalier about the OT, or to minimise its importance is asking for trouble. We would have very little Bible left if we chose to ignore it. Indeed, it makes up over three quarters of our Bible (77 per cent to be exact!). So no biblical Christian can talk about overlooking it or downplaying it.

Yet that is just what has happened lately. A well-known American pastor has stirred up some real controversy by suggesting that Christians can go easy on the OT and mainly run with the NT. Andy Stanley, a Georgian pastor, and son of Charles Stanley, recently said in a sermon series that we Christians need to “unhitch” ourselves from the OT.

Now to be honest I have not listened to his entire series, but a report on this from the Christian Post seems to be reliable and even-handed, so I will base my remarks on that report. In fact, let me first run with some of the better things he is reported to have said, including:

The Jewish scriptures are the backstory for the main story. They’re an important backstory. They’re divinely inspired. They are God on the move through ancient, ancient times. It’s the fabulous story of God the Founder playing by the rules of the kingdoms of this world, to establish a kingdom not of this world. To send a king who would be like no other king. A king who lay down His life for His subjects. A king who would introduce the entire world to God the Father.

Nothing wrong with that, as such, but it is what he also said that has so many Christians rightly concerned. The report also says this:

North Point Community Church Senior Pastor Andy Stanley has stated that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith. In the final part of a recent sermon series, Stanley explained that while he believes that the Old Testament is “divinely inspired,” it should not be “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church”…
“The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said he did.”
Stanley acknowledged that his comments may be considered “a little disturbing” to some, but then added that for many it is “liberating.” “It’s liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much He sent His Son to pave the way to a relationship with you,” Stanley said.
“It’s liberating for people who need and understand grace, who need and understand forgiveness. And it’s liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values system depicted in the story of Ancient Israel.” While noting that he believed the church needed to unhitch itself from the Old Testament, Stanley still regarded the Jewish scriptures as having importance, saying they were “a means to an extraordinary end.”

Hmm, notice the emphasis on behaviour here. What is all that about? Stanley has had some problems over the years, especially on the issue of homosexuality. He has urged Christians to basically opt out of the culture wars, and has claimed that Christians can believe different things about matters such as homosexual marriage.

So it seems that what he is saying here is more of the same. He seems eager to detach himself from the OT – perhaps because of its clear teachings on homosexuality. But of course the NT is just as clear on the topic. So if this push to ease up on the OT is part of a way to go easy on homosexuality, we can see why Stanley might be doing this, but we can also see why he is so very wrong.

That case I have made many times over, so I will not repeat it here. But let me say that he also seems to be trying to give us the impression that the God of the OT is somehow different from the God of the NT. You know, he is wrathful and judgmental in the OT, but gracious and merciful in the NT.

Nothing could be further from the truth. And that I have also written about in the past. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/02/27/modern-day-marcionism/

It is not my intention to single out Stanley here. Others have said similar sorts of things. And there is no question that Christians need to think carefully about how we understand the OT and how it relates to the NT. This is a massive discussion, and whole libraries already exist seeking to deal with it.

While the OT is fully the inspired Word of God, just as the NT is, we do know that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the Testaments. That is, some things obviously carry over (the nature and character of God for example) while some things do not (Christians today no longer offer sacrifices in a temple to Yahweh – there is no temple, so we can’t, even if we wanted to).

So Christians can and do differ on how exactly we understand the OT law for example, and how it applies today. Again, this is a massive discussion, but as I have written before, the common three-part division of the law – while a bit arbitrary – can still be rather useful.

Thus we believe the moral law (things like the Ten Commandments) continue today, while the ceremonial law (dealing with sacrifices and offerings), and the civil law (dealing with Israel as a nation) may not carry over, at least directly.

But much more needs to be said about this, and I have tried to do that elsewhere, eg., billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/30/leviticus-law-and-love/

So if Stanley is simply saying that we need to think carefully about how we understand the OT in the light of the NT, that would be one thing. But it seems he is trying to say more than that. As I mentioned, given his somewhat weak position on the issue of homosexuality, that seems to be a motivating factor for him here.

He seems to want to emphasise the grace, love, mercy and forgiveness of God (something we all should do and all should celebrate), but at the same time downplay or minimise the holiness, purity, justice and wrath of God. That is always a recipe for disaster.

The same God who is loving and merciful is also holy and implacably opposed to sin. And we see all these attributes of God fully manifest in BOTH Testaments. He is just as gracious in the OT for example as he is holy in the NT. So any attempt to pit God against himself, or the Testaments against each other, is really to stand on dangerous ground.

Today when biblical literacy is at an all-time low – at least in the West – and when, I suspect, most Christians have never even read the OT all the way through, now is NOT the time to talk about ‘unhitching’ the OT from our faith. Now is the time to talk about hitching and re-hitching the OT to our Christian faith and practice.

www.christianpost.com/news/christians-must-unhitch-old-testament-from-their-faith-says-andy-stanley-223818/

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14 Responses to One Bible, Two Testaments

  • Yep, one book, one God, one story of redemption … from Genesis to Revelation. Indeed as noted elsewhere the division between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ is completely arbitrary.
    One thing I wonder about “while the ceremonial law (dealing with sacrifices and offerings), and the civil law (dealing with Israel as a nation) may not carry over, at least directly.”
    Yes the effect of the ceremonial laws is fulfilled in Christ, and therefore create no enduring requirements today. But the civil law? Western legal systems are grounded in those principles. Isn’t it better to leave the OT civil law somewhat intact, and simply say their principles apply equally today but they are captured differently depending on the culture?
    Anyway just some thoughts 🙂
    Dave

  • Many thanks Dave. As I mentioned in my piece, these are quite complex matters and whole libraries have been penned on these matters. I also provided some links for further reading on this. So just one sentence here is not all I have to say about such things!

    Sure, the West is in large measure built on the Judeo-Christian worldview in general, and the moral law in particular. And much of the civil law can be found in modern cultures as well. But again, this is where things can get very complex and fuzzy. For example, dispensationalists tend to see a total separation between OT law and new covenant Christianity, while others, such as theonomists, basically see all the OT civil laws given to Israel – AND their penalties – also applying to pagan nations today. That of course can get to be a bit difficult. Should Australia or France or Canada have the death penalty for blasphemy, adultery, and children being disobedient to their parents? Most biblical Christians might even have a problem with that one!

    As you rightly say, perhaps trying to discern the underlying principles is the way to go. But as I say, this is all very nuanced and complex, and Christians have a fair amount of disagreement here as to how that might work out in practice. But I have written a number of articles looking at these issues in much more detail. Again, just the few links I offered in this article may be of some use for those who might be interested in seeing more on this. They are very big topics indeed! But thanks again for your thoughts. Blessings.

  • BTW, others have written on this matter of Stanley and his claims. I just now read a piece Michael Brown wrote on it. Needless to say, i fully agree with him in what he wrote. It is well worth having a look at:

    www.afa.net/the-stand/faith/2018/05/no-pastor-stanley-we-should-not-unhitch-ourselves-from-the-old-testament/

  • God is God; we people are not, for we are the created. God is The Creator, Elohim, of life and all us people. So who are we to tell God what part of what He wrote we accept and not accept?!

    What God is telling us about Himself and His ways and thoughts, flows from OT to NT ~ we have to read, study and meditate on all of God’s Word to get all He is teaching us about His thoughts and ways, commands, all about Him. God wants relationship with us people; therefore, we need to get to know all of Him as best we each can as He knows us.

    Deuteronomy 32:45-47 *verse 47 the words in the OT are not just idle words, but are our life. I’m sure Moses was also including the NT.

    Isaiah 55:8-11 *verse 11 God says, “so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We need the entire Word of God to know God’s desires, plans, purposes.

    Jesus told satan in Matthew 4:4, “…Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” “Every word…” Not just some.

    And in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill them. Without the OT we wouldn’t know what He’s talking about. Then continue to read Matthew 5:18-20.
    In Romans 15:4, Paul wrote, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
    Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the Word of God is living and active. …” Again, we need to read all His Word to know what He wants us to do.

    In Proverbs 30:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Revelation 22:18-20, God warns and tells us if anyone adds or takes away from His Word, He will add or take from what we get from Him.

    To know God and His great Love for us, we need to seek Him in all His Word, Old and New.
    Jesus wants no one to perish for He died for all people. So let us pray for the true salvation of those who are deceived, that they will repent and be saved. Hell is forever.

  • The Bible is not about what we think, can pick from to obey or our opinions, but what God says.

    There are countless other scriptures backing up God’s Word. But then, God does not need to back Himself up or justify His Word and what He says.

    God is God and He made the earth and everything in it, including us, and set the laws, rules, principles of life, commands …everything since before Creation.

    The best thing is that God is Love! He Loves Loves Loves us! And wants us to accept His Love and live forever with Him!

  • I was so green, knowing nothing about Scriptures, when I became born-again. Being born a new, was like starting all over again. All I knew was that God changed my sinful life through a dream, and I was liberated and set free from who I used to be. I had so much zeal, wanting to tell those who I knew, that God was real and had changed my life. Even though I was free from my sinful self, I had to be rewired in my thought life. So now I was a new creation in Christ, what did this mean. I somehow knew that what I used to be had to stay dead. So now I am some 28 years in the Lord Jesus, and have some foundation under my feet. I can’t say that I am a scholar like our Brother Bill, but I do have some knowledge about how we ought to live and please God. When one’s sinful nature, has not died, that one remains alive to the sinful nature.

    James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

    When people fail to put to death the sinful nature, they remain unchanged. God’s word should change one’s life. Saying that the old testament has no place, is dangerous. The foundation for the new testament, lies in the old testament. Hebrews, speaks much out of the old testament, the laws of nature, have not changed. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s word need not change, it is us who call ourselves Christian, who need to change. We do not bend God’s word to suit our lives, we must fulfill His will and good pleasure. God bless you Brothers and Sisters.

  • Quite correct. I thought you and Dr. Brown must have colluded on this you are so much in line but of course, you are both correct, so there is a reason for the agreement. I tried watching the video but got as far as the idea that the New Testament was “brand new” and that was enough for me. Clearly Ps. Stanley has not read the scriptures about Jesus being crucified from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8, Heb 9:26, 1 Pet 1:20, Rev 17:8) and the dozens of prophecies that described exactly what was to happen. No it was not “brand new”. It was establishing what God had always intended. The morality laws were always there and will always be there, they cannot change because they are all based on fundamental truths. Jesus is the “Ancient of Days.” That God allowed the Hebrews and Moses to run with what He had taught them only serves to prove that we are incapable of being righteous in our own strength. We are fully dependent on God no matter how our pride tries to tell us otherwise and when you realize that you do not write off what God has directly told us in the Old Testament. If you love the God of Israel you do not ignore His Words. If you dismiss the O.T. not only do you lose the basis for morality and God’s direct words you also miss all the lessons and maybe two thirds of the prophecies. Why would anyone who claims to love God want to do that? What about the Psalms and Proverbs? How many true Christians would want to do without them?

    I will correct you, Bill, on one pedantic but important matter which I know you agree with but may have missed its relevance. There is, in fact, still a Temple . It is us (1 Cor 3:16-17, 1 Cor 6:19, John 2:19) and there still are sacrifices. They are the righteous acts we choose to do ( Rom 12:1). Until we understand that we are now the Temple we do not understand the importance of not defiling that Temple (through sin) and I also believe we do not correctly understand the prophecies that relate to the Temple. Knowing that we are the Temple helps us to *not* fulfill what is written in Revelation 11:2.

    Rev 11:1 And a reed like a rod was given to me. And the angel stood, saying, Rise up and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it.
    Rev 11:2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it was given to the nations. And they will trample the holy city forty-two months.
    (MKJV)

    John’s Revelation tells us we are the Holy City, (Rev 21:2, 22:19) we are the Temple of God.

    God bless and thank you for keeping up the good work.

  • Thanks Michael. Of course I was referring to the actual, physical temple in Jerusalem.

  • It is amazing that Andy Stanley is finally being called out (ever so cautiously and respectfully) on his anti Christ teachings. Albeit only when he has finally outright exposed himself (outsider gone back: 1 John 2:18-19) fully manifested in his obvious scriptural absurdities that he has so boldly stated in the last couple of years.

    Consider:

    Stinking Selfish small churches, verse by verse preaching is cheating, Cautioning leaders to not put theology above ministry, Christians should dispense with the “because the Bible told me so” rationale for believing its truth claims, oh yes and we should unhitch ourselves from the Old-Testament.

    From his formable beginning years of ministry one should/could have discerned by his blatant misuse, misinterpretation, and eisegesis of scripture that he is/was a False Teacher plain and simple. Yes he was implying, alluding to, and ramping up to all of these above mentioned non-truths (to be eventually brought fully to the light) by his misnomer statements about God and His Word from his beginnings.

    He has taught and yet preaches to the choir of the unchurched populace (his disciples) as he soothes their itching ears continuing to prejudice God in his and their lusts and pride of life (1 John 2:15-17)

    For he does appear to be a consummate communicator, Business guru, a bar none charismatic personality (more influential in the world and the Church than Rick Warren?) that has duped many.

    It seems to have taken leaders in the Body of Christ today to hear him publicly state outright blatant and wrested falsities about God and His Word to finally see his spiritually discerned state of a natural man.

    How many local churches have been standing, are standing, under his teaching ( i.e. Andy Stanley well known American pastor/Best known pastor/philanthropist)? How many leaders, elders, and local pastors have failed to discern his dangerous, unscriptural, even blasphemous credos and comments; found in his sermons, video teachings, teaching series, books, seminars, etc.. etc. All the while as they heartily allow him into God’s house and their houses.

    Yeh but he does say, has said, these good things, because he is such a good leader and teacher, oh and see how may Christ/Andy followers and disciples he has influenced, does not cut it.

    Leave him alone, don’t give him due, no commendation rather condemnation. We must stop giving him way.

    I would hope that all of us as born again Christian’s would not be so inept as to not look to whole of this video of Part III in Andy’s teaching.

    Comparing what he says to scripture and to see the many times he does misrepresent God and His Word flippantly. From skipping pertinent passage. Seemingly purposefully so in his narration literally saying “what comes next” after Peter speaks Acts 15:10 skipping to 15:19. Outright lie!

    Quoting from the 2011 NIV 15:19 that does not even follow the Greek. ‘Gentiles’ is not there found it is ‘disciples’.

    Ever so eloquently taking verses and emphasizes truths to his agenda all the while leaving out the missing most pertinent ones that take away from his teaching point. Consider his hyperbolic rendering of:

    “8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.”

    Mr. Stanley emphasizes this: “Just as he did us,” all the while neglecting Vs.9: “He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”

    Not even speaking about: “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them…” that proved no discrimination by the Holy Spirit purifying their hearts the same by faith.

    I do hope that we as the Body of Christ would test and discern Mr. Stanley and his teachings to do as we are commanded to do with him an his as per our Lord and His Word would have us.

    Keith

  • It is now decades since I read a second-hand copy of an early edition of D. L Baker’s, scholarly monograph, Two Testaments, one Bible : the theological relationship between the Old and New Testaments (3rd ed., rev. & updated). Downers Grove, Illinois IVP Academic Nottingham, England Apollos, 2010.].

    The relationship between the two Testaments of the Bible is intimately bound up with who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing now and is about to do at the final denouement of world history. It is no accident that Revelation, the last book in our Bibles, is the one which demands that we read the entire Bible if we are to seriously undertake the interpretation of the visions, letters and teaching it contains… a significant fact which did not escape the notice of 19th-Century expositors E.W. Bullinger, William Kelly, H.B. Swete and R.H. Charles.

  • Thank you again Bill for your willingness to point out the false prophets roaming among us, just a question, what Bible College did he get these false ideas from or did he make them up himself as he went along?

  • A book on my shelf which I’ve yet to read is about the Old Testament: The title of Philip Yancey’s, The Bible Jesus Read (Zondervan, 1999) makes a very important point about the Old Testament Scriptures… If our Lord read Moses and the Prophets, surely it cannot be beneath the dignity of His disciples to read them too.

  • Thanks Bill. Once again you nailed it.

    The words of our Master;

    Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

    26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

    27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. ” Luke24: 25-27

  • Stanley’s premise is ridiculous and unbiblical. The first 2 decades of my life I was taught that Jesus died for my sins. I often asked how that act caused my sins to be forgiven. I was repeatedly told, “We really don’t know exactly. It’s a great mystery.” Snore…jeepers, wake me up when you figure it out, Rev. Finally I read the OT and there it (and He) all was in all His glory. Profound, complex, yet simple on my end and part of it. Now, I understood the NT. I expect such malarkey from the Emergent Church, but a so-called Baptist. Time for him to retire.

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