Andy Stanley (pictured above) made waves recently in an interview with Relevant magazine in which he claims that Christian’s are bound only to the commandment Jesus gave His disciples in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Specifically, Stanley asserts that Christian’s should stop focusing on the Ten Commandments, or any other aspect of the old covenant, because they simply don’t apply. In Stanley’s words, “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 new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Writing for The Daily Wire, Paul Bois addresses Stanley’s comments quite succinctly. “The concept that the Old Testament no longer applies to Christians is actually a heresy known as Marcionism going all the way back to the 2nd Century.”
Paul further points out that Christ came to fulfill, not abolish the law. Additionally, that the Old and New Testaments are complimentary and that, for Christians, Jesus does away with ceremonial law while moral law remains eternal.
Also with The Daily Wire, Matt Walsh added his two cents to the discussion surrounding Stanley. Walsh points out that Stanley cherry-picks Scripture to serve his purpose of ignoring the Old Testament and the law, citing a couple passages where Jesus contradicts Stanley (Matthew 5:17, 22:37-40). Walsh moves on to highlight the distinction between moral and ceremonial law within the Old Testament, saying “Stanley doesn’t seem to understand a basic Christian theological point that most children learn in Sunday school: not all Old Testament law is the same kind of law.” Concluding, Walsh also points to Marcionism, tongue-in-cheek urging Stanley’s followers to distance themselves from Stanley’s teachings.
Bois and Walsh address Stanley’s problem of interpretation, but allow Stanley’s problem of application to escape unscathed.
Jesus explains His thesis statement of the Upper Room Discourse (John 13:34) in the subsequent chapters.
- “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15, KJV
- “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21, KJV
- “Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.’“ John 14:23, 24, KJV
- “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10, KJV
To love Jesus is to keep His commands, which aren’t Jesus’, but God’s. Here we reach the fundamental problem: we cannot keep God’s commands. Jesus highlights the issue during His Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, KJV
The problem of application with Stanley’s message lies in a stealthy verbal bait-and-switch, exchanging freedom in Christ for slavery under a single law. Rather than having to uphold all of the Old Testament commandments (613 according to 3rd Century Jewish tradition), Stanley thinks the requirement to uphold just one solves the problem of mankind’s sin. Unfortunately for man, we can no more uphold a single command from God (see Genesis 2:17) than we can uphold 613, even a command infinitely simpler (i.e. ‘don’t eat that’) than ‘Be perfect’.
Stanley’s teaching is not just a dangerous misinterpretation of scripture, but a belief that mankind might find salvation apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Stanley’s case, his route to salvation is through John 13:34. Believing he has stumbled upon the recipe to attain perfection in God’s eyes, Stanley looks straight past the One who perfects. The difference here is subtle, but the effect is immeasurable.
Paul addresses the effect of such belief (emphasis mine):
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4, KJV
We must never place our faith in the works of mankind, even our own. Jesus alone is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our salvation, and our only hope. Let us pray earnestly for those under Stanley’s influence, and share with them the message of salvation in keeping with Jesus, rather than the message of slavery in keeping with man.