Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 13 - Accept It, the OT is NOT Your Covenant


(SeanO) #1

This is a book discussion of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Irresistible’ prompted by @tabby68, @O_wretched_man, @Lakshmismehta and @andrew.bulin . There have been some accusations against the book and we would like to take the time to hear what Andy Stanley is really trying to say and to offer thoughtful, gracious critique. Below is a podcast interview with Andy Stanley you may find helpful as well as the original post that started the discussion.

To participate - read along with us and share your thoughts and opinions :slight_smile: My thoughts are here hopefully to prompt discussion - so please do join in with your observations / thoughts so that we can all benefit from your perspective. May the Lord Jesus guide our discussion.

Chapter XIII

Big Idea: Jesus made no attempt to harmonize the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, so why do we?


Jesus made no attempt to harmonize the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, so why do we? We do not need to figure out how God’s behavior in the OT meshes with the tone and content of Jesus’ teaching. God was at work in the world in many places other than Israel - the Old Testament only tells us the story of this one nation that was in a bilateral suzerain treaty with God. That’s it - that is all it is… The Old Testament is great for inspiration, but not application. The Old Testament served its purpose - now lets move on.

Good Things

I agree that the NT authors did not consider the Old Covenant binding and that we should not diss the OT.


This was a difficult chapter for me. I think Stanley’s understanding of the Old Testament - with David as a barbarian, no afterlife, Israel just one among many nations, God supposedly playing ‘by the rules of the day’ - is incorrect in significant ways. I am not certain anymore that having coffee with Stanley would resolve the disagreements, though I expect it would clear up some of them. He has repeated a few phrases again and again in this book that just are not correct. I now understand why the book received so much criticism, though of course we should always let our words be seasoned with salt.

In the spirit of doing so, I want to say a brief prayer for Stanley. “Father, we thank you for the fruit that has come from Andy Stanley’s ministry. I am concerned that my brother is wrong on a number of key issues. Please give us insight as we seek to understand what he was thinking and please grant him a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of You.”

  • God is the same yesterday, today and forever - it is perfectly rational to expect God’s behavior in the OT to match Jesus’ teaching in the NT, even if we are in a different era of salvation history
  • Why did Jesus come specifically to the Israelites rather than any other nation? The entire OT makes the claim that God chose Israel, not because they were special - they were not, but He chose them nonetheless. Israel is not just another nation that happens to have a particular treaty with God - they are the chosen people.
  • God did not - and I will repeat this again - did not - just ‘play by the rules of the day’. This particular statement nearly broke my heart because it does such violence to character of God. God constantly states how he is different than the gods of the nations - not only is He the living God in contrast to the lifeless idols of the other nations, but He is the God who is merciful and shows steadfast love.
  • it is not at all clear that ‘most ancient Jews did not believe in an afterlife’. While this is a common assertion among liberal scholars, it is clear that Daniel at a minimum believed in the resurrection of the dead. And it is quite possible that Abraham and his family believed that ‘going to be with your fathers’ meant more than just dying.

Leviticus 20:26 - You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

Romans 9:1-5 - I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Exodus 34:10-16 - Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.


just accept the fact that everything in Exodus through Malachi, while fascinating, is not binding. It’s not your covenant.

The authors of the New Testament considered the old covenant Scripture, but they didn’t consider it binding.

The Old Testament is not a comprehensive book about God. The Old Testament does not tell us everything God was doing everywhere in the world. It’s not a biography of God’s early years.

But what we learn about God comes to us through the filter of Jewish history and a specific covenant.

Jesus warned his Jewish audience against tampering with the old covenant in one breath and then claimed to be the fulfillment of all things old covenant in the next. He made no attempt to harmonize the two.

Yet he did not attempt to harmonize God’s behavior in the Hebrew Scriptures with the tone and teaching of Jesus. Why? That was then. This is now. What God did in the past was the necessary path to accomplish what he intended to do all along.

All the gods of the ancient world were human rights violators. Within the context of first-century violence, nobody batted an eye at the violence depicted in the Jewish Scriptures. This was standard fare. Standard warfare. That’s just the way the world was. If the God of the Jews was going to establish a nation for himself, he would have to wade into the fray and play by the rules of the day.

Everything promised between Exodus and Malachi is promised within the context of a bilateral suzerainty treaty between God and a nation. It should all be interpreted within that context.

Most ancient Jews didn’t believe in an afterlife.

The Old Testament is great for inspiration, but not application. Don’t do anything the Old Testament tells you to do because someone in the Old Testament tells you to do it or because they did it themselves.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh or critical of the Old Testament, I’m not. Jesus said if you diss the Jewish Scriptures, you’ll be sent to the back of the line in the kingdom of heaven. And I hate lines.

(Lindsay Brandt) #2

All I can say is, “agreed.” I feel his agenda to make the faith more acceptable or palatable to unbelievers has really led him off the beaten path. I have to admit, I got quite irritable reading this chapter. I am agreeing in prayer with you for Andy.

(SeanO) #3

@psalm151ls I would not necessarily say he has an agenda to make the Bible palatable - I think that is ascribing motive where we cannot see his heart. Rather, I suspect that he genuinely believes what he is saying but has simply fallen into some common misunderstandings. Of course, that is assuming that the words on the page accurately reflect his true opinion - sometimes thoughts get lost in translation, so that is still a possibility.

(Lindsay Brandt) #4

Hi, Sean. I understand what you’re saying, but I think that there are times we can know motives. I do not think we should ever guess or speculate, but people sometimes say plainly enough what the reasoning and motive behind what they are doing is. Andy makes it quite clear in the beginning of the book where he is coming from, no? His heart in his desire for Christians to be less necessarily resistible to unbelievers is very obvious. I am not judging his heart in that, and I admire his desire for more unbelievers to come to Christ. However, his motive for his endeavor to pitch the Old Testament in the light he has pitched it has been made quite clear by Andy himself. I think he has had a lot of good fruit from his ministry. However, it does seem from what Andy himself has said, that making Christianity less “resistible” (which translates to me as more palatable) is indeed a revealed motive for the book. Perhaps that is where I am misunderstanding?

(SeanO) #5

@psalm151ls I think you could say that was part of his motive in writing the book, but I think that is very different from saying that is his motive in holding the beliefs themselves. To say that he only teaches these things in order to make the Bible palatable is to accuse him of being insincere (which I know is not what you are doing) and I think that is something I always try to avoid. We barely know our own hearts - how much less someone else’s?

(Tabitha Gallman) #6

Andy gives 5 suggestions for what to do with the OT. I agree that the covenant with Israel is not our covenant as he states on p. 159, but I disagree with the other 4 suggestions or at least how he attempts to explain his claims.

In the second suggestion Andy says “First and foremost, the Old Testament is history.” It may be history, but that is not what I am learning. I am learning so much more, especially about the relationship between God and His creation.

I have to say that Andy is confusing as he makes statements from time to time that don’t support his points, but tend to support the opposite. i.e. on p. 161 he states that the OT makes no mention of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of the Cimmerians and Scythians – only His conquest of Jerusalem.” hmm, could that be because the OT is not first and foremost history as Stanley stated?

His 3rd suggestion is to avoid trying to resolve the conflicts between OT and teaching of Jesus and the apostles. On page 162 the last paragraph really confuses me on the point he is making because again he seems to be on both sides of his claim. Below he writes:

“In our attempts to harmonize the values and ethics of the old and new covenants, we risk missing the real story. The energy we expend sanding off the rough edges of God’s Old Testament behavior is energy we should apply to appreciating the mess God waded into in order to see the story of redemption played out to the bitter, bloody, “Crucify him, crucify him!” end. God did not spare his own Son. We shouldn’t be surprised or offended by the fact that he didn’t spare the sons and daughters of previous generations either. On the contrary, the saga of the OT should cause us to drop to our knees in gratitude for what he has done on our behalf and on behalf of the world.”

Andy writes on p. 165 that “Most ancient Jews didn’t believe in an afterlife.” If this is true, I honestly did not know that, but from what I have read on the Internet, there are a lot of different views on this. One reference was in Job 19:25-27 that reads: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Andy’s 5th suggestion is: “The OT is great for inspiration, but not application.” According to Romans chapter 8 verse 3, I (we as believers) are empowered by the Holy Spirit to submit to God’s law because God sacrificed His son as a final sacrifice. I believe I should apply God’s law to my life even though no one in history has been able to keep all the laws (accept Christ himself). The laws are written on my heart regardless if I apply them, so the Holy Spirit does convict me when I am unable to do what I should, but don’t. It’s a struggle, but I am compelled to apply God’s laws.

(SeanO) #7

@tabby68 Good thoughts. I also felt that Stanley was standing on two sides of the same issues sometimes. The entire chapter felt like that actually. Stanley said quite a few things that were dismissive of the Old Testament and then said that we should not diss the Old Testament. But wasn’t that what he just did?

On some level, I think that Stanley was trying to communicate something a little more nuanced, but perhaps failed to do so?

(Stephen Wuest) #8

The language in the letter of Hebrews describes the covenant with Moses as the “first covenant,” and the New Testament as the “new covenant.” (These are not new ideas.)

I prefer to study the language in the New Testament, about the covenants, rather than go to a book such as Stanley’s. In the same way, I prefer to look at the New Testament’s description of “faith,” (such as James uses), rather than start with medieval definitions of faith.

(SeanO) #9

@Stephen_Wuest I agree that we should go to the Scriptures rather than rely on external sources for truth, though we may at times need external sources to help us understand the culture and times of the Bible. In this case, we are reviewing Stanley’s book because when I initially saw the critique of his book I thought it was just a great brouhaha, but it turns out there was some substance to the critiques.

(Jimmy Sellers) #10

I am curious why only Exodus through Malachi as troublesome books? Genesis is chock full of problem verses and strange goings on.
I think Stanley is digging a deep hole here for anyone who wants to go deeper with their faith.
I really think that most of what he has written the last few chapters would preach really good in most churches that I have attended in my life. But good preachin’ and sound teachin’ are not necessarily the same thing.
There are a number of quotes that bother me but I don’t want to pile on Andy because he is one of the good guys but this one quote I can’t let slide without some comment.

The apostle Paul pivoted from one covenant to the other within the course of an afternoon.
Excerpt from Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. Zondervan.

I differ with him strongly on the idea that Paul converted. The thoughts that Saul the consummate Zealot just dumped Torah and replaced it with a complete new theology with a brain dump from God is certainly contrary to what his writing would support. He spent 14-17 years sorting this out. Granted it was the encounter with the risen Messiah that was the impetus form this change. But the change did not come without serious pray, reflection and study on what Paul knew to be true in Torah and what God had revealed through Messiah.
Many good church folk that I know would likely agreed that Paul was starting a new religion. He was not anymore than Moses had in mind the Jewish religion when God called him.
My thoughts.

(SeanO) #11

@Jimmy_Sellers Good point about Paul taking time to go away (3 years) and study thoroughly before appearing in Jerusalem. I do wonder if these are sermon notes from Stanley that ended up being transcribed directly into book format. I’m hoping that the rest of the book turns more towards the New Covenant so that we can find more areas of agreement rather than disagreement :slight_smile:

(Stephen Wuest) #12

I understand the motivation, and it is good.

I say that we should turn more effort to studying the original Scriptures, because most (American) Christians will never learn enough of the biblical languages, to verify/disprove what commentaries claim, the Scriptures mean.

I think that we need a greater sense of urgency and honesty, to recognize that many younger Christians are biblically illiterate, and are merely perpetuating divisions among commentaries that have existed for many centuries, without gaining primary Bible study skills. (This is probably not a popular observation.)

(Stephen Wuest) #13

One point that modern Christians often miss, is that Paul sees the Christian community (the Church, worldwide), as grafted into the ancient people of God, the Jews. And Paul sees God’s people as being continuous, from Old Testament times, to the New Testament congregations of Christians. (This is part of Paul’s larger argument of the faithfulness of God, in dealing with “his people.”)

Some of the more radical modern denominations paint the law of Moses as some sort of crude covenant that wasn’t worth much. In contrast, Paul paints “Gentiles” as “far from the COVENANTS,” and in desperate shape. The Bible clearly presents ALL the Old Testament covenants as good, but Hebrews presents the “new covenant” as superior in some very specific ways.

The impression that there were no beneficial covenants before the new covenant, is not biblical. And I find this non biblical opinion often goes along with all sorts of misunderstandings of the new covenant, the “New Testament.”

(Jimmy Sellers) #14

I agreed, I was one of those folks for along time. It didn’t make me any less saved but it did make for awkward conversation with non-believers.

(Jimmy Sellers) #15

So why did Stanley leave out Genesis on his list of OT books that we should treat as the backstory?

(ThomasHeld) #16

Hello to Everyone,

There seems to be some disagreement on this thread about Andy Stanley’s motive in writing his book. This is what he said:

I wrote Irresistible , to show that the fulfillment and end of the OT leads us to Jesus, and Jesus gives us a new ethic, one that calls us to sacrificial love and good works that make our faith irresistible to the world. - Andy Stanley, Christianity Today, October 19, 2018

That quote comes from an article Stanley wrote to clarify what he presented in his book. Clarifications indicate problems.

The premise of this book is pure Milk of the Word. Sacrificial love and good works has never made our faith irresistible to the world. Christianity never was, is not now, nor will it ever be “irresistible to the world.” The blood of the martyrs and the book of Revelation bears that point out.

How many disciples walked away from Jesus during His earthy ministry? Surely, if Stanley’s recycled premise is correct that could not have happened.

Excellent point, @Jimmy_Sellers

God wants us to know that He knew the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10.) The Old Testament is a type and shadow of the New. If you want to do a deeper dive with Jesus, study the Old, as well as the New.

@tabby68 brings-up many excellent points. This is a link to, Biblical Types, you may find helpful.

(I’d like to say more on this subject but I’ll save that for a new thread.) God bless.

(SeanO) #17

@Stephen_Wuest I certainly agree we should all become proficient in understand the Scriptures to the best of our abilities. I think that God has given different members of the body different gifts - so not everyone is going to be a scholar in the original languages. But we need to know enough to tell the difference between someone who is misusing God’s Word and someone who is rightly dividing it and to be firmly rooted in the Gospel of Christ - to know with absolutely certainty what the Gospel is and what it means for our lives. I think that is a minimum for the general Body to shoot for.

(SeanO) #18

@Jimmy_Sellers I honestly have no idea why Stanley chose to leave Genesis out…

(SeanO) #19

@TomH In some ways, I feel that Stanley should talk more about the Church being a reflection of Christ rather than irresistible. Stanley is correct that the Church has put up barriers that keep people from seeing who Jesus truly is, but that does not mean that if you remove the barriers people will necessarily choose to honor and obey Jesus. God has left that choice up to the individual and it requires choosing self-sacrificial love over self-fulfillment, other over self, God over all. It is a high but glorious call.

(ThomasHeld) #20

@SeanO Amen to that, Brother. I really like the way you said that:

How true. But just on an everyday level, I agree with @psalm151ls

That’s why I said this book is pure, Milk of the Word. Milk is easier to digest than meat. There’s truth in the “Irresistible” concept - but not the whole truth - but that’s what he titled his book .

As a stand alone concept, it is not true and it is not Biblical. If it were true - why do we need apologists? God bless.