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 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.
Big Idea: Jesus’ life and teachings foretold the end of the old covenant God had made with Israel through Moses and the beginning of something entirely new. Jesus foretold the end of the temple era - the end of an age of salvation history - and the beginning of a new covenant, a new age, a new era.
The temple was central to Jewish identity in Jesus’ day. Jews from around the world paid tithes to the temple and travel long miles in order to visit it, so much so that Roman governors in other provinces passed laws to ban their citizens paying the temple tax to keep wealth in their province. The idea of Judaism without the temple was inconceivable. And yet Jesus both claimed that He was greater than the temple and that every stone of the temple would be destroyed. Jesus’ prophecy, one of the most well attested in history, came true, and the Romans literally threw done every stone of the temple.
One age of the world was passing - the age of the law and the temple - and another coming, the age of grace and truth through Christ. The old covenant had ended and a new had come. God’s covenant with Israel had served its purpose - it had prepared the way for Messiah. But now God was doing a new thing - a new age was upon the world.
I think Stanley did a great job of pointing out how the temple had become the center of Jewish worship in Jesus’ day and the abuses that surrounded the temple in that time. Also, I like that he highlighted the fact that Jesus specifically predicted the destruction of the temple by the Romans as a sign of the end of an age - the end of the old covenant - and the beginning of a new. I think this is a theme that is not always understood when expounded upon in our day.
I also like how he pointed out that the old covenant, the law, is no longer in force. The author of Hebrews made it clear that the old covenant was about to disappear. If you read all of chapter 8 it is very clear he is referring to God’s covenant with Moses.
Hebrews 8:13 - By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.
I think by saying ‘Israel was a means to an end’ Stanley is missing the compassion God had for His chosen nation before the old covenant ended. Jesus wept bitterly over how the people God had chosen forsook Him. While I think Stanley’s point is correct - I think his tone is wrong. God was not using Israel - He loved Israel. Of course God knew they would not be faithful, but He still longed for Israel, even as the apostle Paul did, to find new life in Christ.
Matthew 23:37 - Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
I also think it may have helped if there had been some discussion of the fact that Jesus did not abolish, but rather fulfilled the law. Christians are now called to obey the heart of the law - a higher and holier calling than simply obeying the 613 laws of the OT. I liked the article from Ligonier on this topic. Stanley may address this idea later in his book.
Matthew 5:17-20 - “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. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
This does not mean Christians should have no concern to follow God’s law. Christ frees us to obey it. Jesus’ disciples are called to a genuine love of God and neighbor (22:37–40; see 7:21). This is a lofty calling, but Jesus Himself embodied it throughout His life. Through His obedience, Jesus releases us from the burden of trying to earn our salvation. We are to be merciful because of the mercy Jesus has shown to us (5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; see Hos. 6:6; Matt. 18:33). In sum, the law of God is an abiding witness to the person and work of Christ, and through Him we are able to call this law our delight.
Temple leaders did not view Jesus as Judaism 2.0. They rightly understood Jesus to be a threat to everything they valued. Everything. If what he claimed was true, it signaled the end of, not a new version of, the world as they knew it.
During one of his many squabbles with religious leaders over what entailed a violation of the Sabbath, Jesus, referring to himself, stated: I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
The temple was the epicenter of Jewish religious life. It was the official home of the official law. The temple was the presence of God on earth. To compare oneself to the temple or to suggest anything was greater than the temple reflected extraordinary arrogance, ignorance, or insanity.
They were especially adept at reinterpreting and dumbing down those portions of Moses’ law that would cost them financially. Consequently, those in the upper echelon of temple authority lived like kings.
The amount of wealth exported out of Roman provinces and shipped to Jerusalem was so large it caused Roman governors to propose laws banning Jews in their cities from paying the tax.
In Jesus’ day, the temple would only accept Tyrian coinage. That created a problem for taxpayers and an opportunity for tax collectors. Jews traveled from all over the world to visit the temple. Few of them would be carrying Tyrian coins. To remedy this “problem,” tables were set up in the temple courtyard where moneychangers exchanged whatever currency a worshipper happened to be carrying for a Tyrian shekel. And who do you suppose determined the exchange rate? Temple authorities, of course. Worshippers had little choice but to submit to the posted rate.
The end of the temple signaled the end of the world as they knew it. And nobody felt fine.
if the Gospels were written before AD 70, before the events described by Jesus occurred, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Jesus predicted, in extraordinary detail, the end of ancient Judaism. If he did, one would be a fool not to give careful consideration to everything else he had to say as well.
Titus, who was now in command in his father’s absence, ordered that every stone used in the construction of the temple be torn down, dragged to the edge of the plaza, and pushed off into the valley below. Some of those massive stones remain to this day where they landed almost two thousand years ago. Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.
The temple era was coming to an end. God’s covenant with the nation had served its purpose. It was no longer needed. Why? Because something greater than the temple had come.
Ancient Israel was a means to an end. The end had come. The new was just beginning.