Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 7 - A New 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 VII

Big Idea: At the Passover meal Jesus announced that He was the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s promise of a New Covenant with God and the way for the Church to move towards being irresistible is to teach the new covenant of conscience rather than the old letter of the law.


Jesus said shocking things about Himself that sounded like blasphemy to the ears of first century Jews - He claimed that the New Covenant God had promised through Jeremiah would be fulfilled through His body and blood. That mean that the old covenant of the temple was passing away and nothing could have been more offensive to the religious leaders who were hoping that a leader would save and extend the old covenant. When the Church has gone wrong - killing pagans and Jews rather than laying down their lives for the lost - it is because they have tried to import these old covenant texts into the New Covenant life - and you just can’t do that… Jesus did a new thing and we will only be irresistible when we let go of the law and the pagan conceptions of religion and cling completely to the new thing that Christ has done.

Good Things

I liked that Stanley was very honest about Church history. Once the Church was institutionalized, post Constantine, there were a lot of people committing violent acts in Christ names and using force to spread their religion. Jesus taught us to die so that others might live and not to harm others that we might rule. Our rule is not here on this earth - Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.

John 18:36 - Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

I also liked the rundown of Jeremiahs promise of a New Covenant of the conscience.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 - “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”


Some of the examples Stanley gave of how the Church has mixed old and new are debatable - specifically the claim that God no longer judges nations. Now, granted we cannot know whether or not He is judging a nation. But the idea that God has taken His hands off the nations until the final day of judgment is not one that I think could be directly supported from Scripture.

Also, I personally think that mixing culture with religion, known as syncretism, is a huge problem. But I am not sure that Stanley is correct in labeling so much of syncretism as an old / new covenant problem. I think it comes more down to human nature - we like to fit in and we tend to fall for the lies in our culture. We are also self-righteous by nature, so whether we use OT laws to shame others or social pressure, people have a tendency try to assert their opinions by force and coercion.

In addition, I still struggle with the idea that the Church, if it were honoring God, would be irresistible to the world. I am not convinced that the Church might not shrink if it suddenly became more faithful and I do not think that we can control mighty moves of God’s Spirit by our obedience. I think that widespread conversions, like what occurred in the 1st century, often lead to widespread heresy and legalism - because the way of the Gospel is narrow and comprehensible only to the humble in heart who sincerely desire truth. In fact, we see that the early Church did struggle with this issue of false teaching on a grand scale.

I think that the Church would be beautiful - terrifically beautiful - if it walked in full obedience. But like Stephen in Acts, I am not sure whether that would result in growth or gnashing of teeth. Most likely some of both.


His closest followers were convinced that in the end he would make nice with the movers and shakers in the Jewish community and that together they would usher out the Romans and usher in a new era of temple-centered Judaism.

For many it (Passover) was an annual reminder of what God could do if only he would . . . namely, send another Joshua to expel the invaders.

Jesus reframed and reinterpreted a meal pointing back to perhaps the most pivotal moment in Israel’s history. Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals and imagine how ridiculous, how blasphemous, this must have sounded. We don’t mess with Christmas or Easter, and Jesus didn’t have any business messing with Passover.

Did he really say the new covenant? As in the one predicted by Jeremiah six hundred years earlier? If that was the case, then this really was big.

According to Jeremiah, the new covenant would be a covenant of conscience.

The inauguration of a new covenant signaled the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Finally, something for everybody. With the inauguration of the new covenant, every nation would be blessed.

But while the new covenant signaled the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, it signaled the finale of the covenant God established with ancient Israel at Mount Sinai.

The church leveraged old covenant texts to sanction violence in God’s name while promising the new covenant version of heaven for those who participated. In the end, Muslim infidels were not the only group to suffer. Thousands of Jews were murdered and their property confiscated as well.

In the end, church leaders found in the Jewish Scriptures justification to mistreat Jews. Granted, their interpretation and contextualization of the Jewish Scriptures was horrendous. But that’s my point.

In the end, church leaders found in the Jewish Scriptures justification to mistreat Jews. Granted, their interpretation and contextualization of the Jewish Scriptures was horrendous. But that’s my point.

The modern church suffers from its own version of mix-and-match theology and orthopraxy.

To paraphrase James, the brother of Jesus, this is about not making it unnecessarily difficult for those who are turning to God.7 To paraphrase the apostle Paul, this is about winning some and saving some.

We are dragging along a litany of old covenant concepts and assumptions that slow us down, divide us up, and confuse those standing on the outside peering in.

if you’re interested in a version of our faith free of what makes us unnecessarily resistible . . . here we go!

(Tabitha Gallman) #2

@SeanO - I have read of a church in our next town that incorporates Jewish rituals within their services. They blow the shofar and the pastor reads from the Torah. Is this syncretism? If it is, then I also think this is wrong because it’s as if the church is no longer focused on Christ.

I like what you said here Sean:

When Stanley says: “Now to be clear, none of this (covenant leftovers) is a big deal as long as we are content creating closed church cultures designed by and for church people.”

Isn’t this why Matthew 7:13-14 talks about salvation being a narrow path - the opposite of the broad road that leads to destruction. Isn’t the broad road representing the acts of the flesh spoken of in Galatians 5:19? And why doesn’t Andy talk about or make any references to Gal 5:19-21 at all in any part of the book? (Especially in chapter 16 when he does list 5 references from Galatians chapter 5, but never once makes reference to the remaining verses (19-21) that continue talking about life by the Spirit. I feel that sometimes our culture (myself included) need a little reminding of the obvious acts of the flesh. Loving Jesus may mean something totally different to seekers of our day than to someone who is living life by the Spirit. Maybe for a seeker during Paul’s ministry the acts of the flesh were obvious as it states in Gal. 5:19, but maybe it’s because the law was part of the culture.

I’m also a little confused why Andy Stanley would ask: “Why are Christians behind the movement to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms and courthouses?”

I personally, don’t ever recall hearing of a person or group behind a movement to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms or courthouses, but I do hear of people behind a movement to keep the Ten Commandments from being removed.

Also, do you consider Jesus’ reply to the devil in Matt 4:4 and Luke 4:4 any way related to the Old Testament? Specifically because of Exodus 20:1?

(SeanO) #3

@tabby68 I think Stanley’s point about the Ten Commandments is that Christianity is not about giving people laws that they need to keep, but rather about a transformed heart through faith in Christ. By emphasizing the laws, we are in some ways taking the focus off of Christ. I think there is merit to his argument, though I do think there are valid counterarguments.

I think the Church you are describing is what would be called ‘Messianic Judaism’. It is a group of Christians who hold more tightly to the ceremonies and rituals of the Old Testament - they tend to believe that God still has a plan for the national, physical Israel - blood descendants of Abraham. So they believe there are two covenants still in place - the one God made with Israel and the one God made in Christ.

I would agree with Stanley that the Old Covenant with Israel has ended - it is over. So we now live in the age of the New Covenant. That is one place I would disagree with Messianic Jews. But I’ve known Messianic Jews who really do love Jesus even though I think there theology is incorrect.

(Tabitha Gallman) #4

@SeanO - here is a link to the church that has adopted some Messianic practices:
(very strange to me that a Baptist church would do this)

I do understand Andy Stanley’s overall message because I can see where much of the issues with the OT can become a stumbling block to seekers and the Israelite covenant can also take the focus off of Christ. It really does come down to the discipleship after someone accepts Christ as their savior. I just worry about how these new believers will continue to disciple with little to no knowledge of the OT. How will the next and the next generation decide to continue making it easier to attract those seeking?

I would also like to mention a very good Jewish outreach ministry that my husband and I support called: Light of Messiah Ministries. They are based out of Atlanta and Murray Tilles has visited our church on more than one occasion and shared the communion and it’s symbolism of the cross with us. Their website is here:

Thanks Sean

(SeanO) #5

@tabby68 I do not think Stanley is advocating that people not study the OT - but rather that we not emphasize it when evangelizing (I think?). We will find out.

This is an organization I am familiar with from Moody. I do not agree with them theologically in every way, but they seem to do good ministry.

(Andrew Bulin) #6

Sorry I’m a little late to the game. :blush:

@O_wretched_man, some of that looks like it’s in chapter 10, and I definitely want to revisit the link discussion on “pragmatism” as I disagree with reviewer on this one. I’ll try to be patient to explore this one… :slight_smile:

@SeanO, I would rather not get caught up in a war of words, though I guess we have to consider their impact when people were murdered by the Church because of them. For me, taking the impact away from “church” and placing it more on “assembly” struck a chord with me. Being raised in an old fashioned Baptist church, I realized it was many years before I truly understand and then appreciated what some of our churchy words really meant. To that end, I can see eye to eye with Stanley if he is making a point to use more relatable terms when speaking to people outside the church. I also thought about the implications when we try to translate these things into another language, and the failings that the translation may suffer not really understanding all the meanings and context. But without fretting over this too much, I have to admit that nothing is very solid in this broken world, is it.

I liked his quotation of Tertullian’s eyewitness account of the spread of Christianity. As a polemic to someone trying to explaining away the Christian movement as just another religious cult experience of the time, he we have a person of the time to share an account of the movement as something noticeable and unique.

(SeanO) #7

@andrew.bulin That is helpful that you relate to the emphasis on ‘assembly’. I agree that in translation it is important not to import words from outside the Bible into another culture. While I do believe Stanley would advocate for using less churchy words and I would tend to agree, I am uncertain how much switching from ‘church’ to ‘assembly’ by itself would impact things. I tend to think that the vision of the elders, the teaching and the embrace of the Gospel by the people would have a more profound impact on the shape the local Body ultimately took.