Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 8 - The Bible Contains Two Covenants

(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 VIII

Big Idea: The Old Covenant was between Israel and God. The New Covenant is between you and God. That is why the NT is more applicable to your life, though not more inspired, than the OT.


God’s covenant in the OT with Israel was with Israel as a nation - not you. The covenant Jesus made was for you individually. The Old Covenant was beautiful within the context in which it was given - it made lives better for women, slaves and the poor within its own cultural context and helped people relate to God within their ancient near eastern culture. But now we have a better covenant - the old one is obsolete. The bad things that happen in Churches today are a result of trying to apply Old Covenant concepts to New Covenant people - the prosperity Gospel, being too involved in politics - it’s all rooted in these OT ways of thinking (though admittedly these OT concepts are often misunderstood when they are misapplied).

Good Things

Stanley uses Jeremiah 29:11 and 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 as examples of how we try to apply Old Covenant promises in our lives when really they only apply to ancient Israel. He is right - these are classic seminary examples given to students to help them understand how not to misapply the OT.

Stanley makes it clear that he is not questioning the inspiration of the OT, only its applicability to those living under Jesus’ New Covenant.

I agree the prosperity Gospel is often a result of misappropriating God’s promises to Israel for those under the New Covenant. Verses about abundant food, children and wine are taken out of context to promise prosperity to believers when Jesus warned us that we all suffer in this world.


  • I think Stanley is incorrect about the New Covenant being between you and God - it is corporate - it is between Christ and His Church. I agree the Old Covenant is obsolete - but the Church is the Israel of God - the ekklesia of Christ - one Body. I think it is incorrect to say that the New Covenant is individualistic in nature.
  • the claim that ‘all’ bad Church experiences are related to Old Covenant ideas / concepts is a sweeping claim that is not defended sufficiently
  • the claim that ‘most’ of protestant Christianity mixes Old and New is again a very strong claim without sufficient evidence. It might be true, but such sweeping claims should be substantiated by more than personal anecdote or experience.

My general frustration with this chapter is that Stanley says things that make it sound like the Old Covenant is the problem, when really it is people misinterpreting the Old Covenant that is the problem. Stanley does clarify himself a few times in the chapter, but I can see how a reader who was not being very careful could easily get the wrong impression… And some quotes from this chapter lend themselves to accusations of devaluing the Old Covenant. So while I get what Stanley is saying, I think he should have been more careful with his words.


You believed what they told you about the Bible even though you hadn’t read the Bible. If you’re like most Christians, you still haven’t read the whole thing.

Perhaps someone gave you a reading plan or devotional book that included portions of both testaments. A little bit of Old, a little bit of New, a little bit of Old, a little bit of New. That’s how most of Protestant Christianity operates today.

Old covenant leftovers explain why religious leaders feel it’s their responsibility to rail against the evils in society like an Old Testament prophet.

Bad church experiences are almost always related to old covenant remnants.

The prosperity gospel is rooted in God’s covenant with Israel rather than the teaching of Jesus.

The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values.

I’m not saying there is plenty to work with because God’s covenant with Israel was flawed. Just the opposite. When understood in its ancient context, it was brilliant!

The Sinai covenant was a perfect arrangement within a specific cultural setting in light of God’s purpose for the nation and for the world.

First, God’s covenant with ancient Israel was . . . with ancient Israel. Second, God’s covenant with Israel was temporary. Important, strategic, divinely ordained, but temporary.

This was part of God’s message to King Solomon after he completed the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. Here God reiterates his commitment to the existing cause-and-effect covenant he established with the nation of Israel. To apply these verses to, or claim this promise for, any other group is dishonest and dangerous.

To put it in broad terms, under the old covenant when you obeyed, you were blessed. When you disobeyed, you were punished. Under the new covenant, when you obey, you may suffer. If you disobey, the world may applaud you and you may even prosper.

Unlike the bilateral suzerain treaty discussed earlier, a promissory covenant was unilateral and unconditional.

No one explained that your Bible was organized around two covenants. One between God and ancient Israel, and one between God and everybody who wants to participate.

The Bible is a book organized around two covenants: one between God and ancient Israel and one between God and you!

I’m not suggesting the two testaments are not equally inspired. My point is they aren’t equally applicable.

(Tabitha Gallman) #2

I feel that the paragraphs on pages 94-95 under the title: “The Blender Approach” is very much over exaggerating the problem or at least missing the mark on the underlying problem. I think the real problem is not as much blending the two as it is the lack of discipleship and instruction within churches.

I do actually agree with the one quote on p. 94 - “Most bad church experiences are the result of somebody prioritizing a view over a you, something Jesus never did and instructed us not to do either.”

I came from a church background where the leaders would pick and choose from the OT certain verses to prohibit church members from dressing a certain way, and even how we were to receive the Holy Spirit. Although the church I eventually ended up going to had leaders that did go to seminary, the discipleship was lacking.

If we truly believe that the Bible (both OT and NT) is the inspired word of God, aren’t we in a position to see more of the picture than those of the OT. Shouldn’t we be taking advantage of reading and meditating the inspired word from front to back? From my perspective, I know I am lazy and unappreciative of what we have been given through all these historical writings, whether they are literal, symbolic, poetry, etc. How we interpret and share with others can only come by studying and sharing the whole Bible and encouraging our younger generation to appreciate it all to allow the Holy Spirit to continue working to give us a mind of Christ. How are we to know God if we don’t keep digging?

I know Mr. Stanley isn’t saying not to read and appreciate the OT, but I agree with those who say he should clarify some of his statements, especially for those who have not read the whole Bible.

(SeanO) #3

@tabby68 Good point - I think the point that a ‘view over a you’ is not the Biblical approach is both well made and Biblical. I agree slightly more careful wording would have been helpful.

(Tabitha Gallman) #4

@SeanO - I happened across this article here:
when I was looking online for information regarding worship and the article contained some scripture from Matthew 13:52. Since the verse in my NIV version didn’t seem to be talking about songs specifically, I searched online for commentary about Matthew 13:52 and here is one article I read:

Is this verse relative to our “Irresistible” study? Even if it isn’t, what is Jesus referring to here about ‘new treasures as well as old’ ?

(SeanO) #5

@tabby68 Yes, I think it is definitely relevant, but I would need to study more to decide exactly how. Jesus has just finished teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven and asked if the disciples understood. Then Jesus points out that kingdom teaching is not just summarizing the law - something new is happening. So that someone familiar with teaching the law learns new things that they should share with others when they encounter God’s Kingdom. Jesus is emphasizing the newness of the kingdom of Heaven. I’m not sure I would go beyond that particular statement without further study.

Matthew 13:52 - He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

(Tabitha Gallman) #6

Thanks @SeanO for all of your time lately. I am finding a few online resources for the topic of unconditional love, but not as many as I would have thought. I do understand how Christ has demonstrated unconditional love and definitely know that we as Christians should demonstrate unconditional love (although it is not as easy as it may seem). This term unconditional love is used in the Bible as ‘Agape Love’…is that right? Would it be right to start looking online for resources relating to Agape love in place of unconditional love?

(SeanO) #7

@tabby68 What exactly are you trying to understand about unconditional love? The term ‘unconditional’ is not technically in the Bible - I think unmerited is probably closer to the mark. The love of God does require that we repent, so in that sense there is still a condition. God is love and is gracious even to the evil, but to actually dwell in the love of God requires turning toward God.

You might use terms like: sacrificial love, Christ’s love

(Tabitha Gallman) #8

@SeanO - Unconditional love is often used to describe a parent’s love for their children and I think that’s how many unbelieving people view God’s love to all of humanity.

I finally did a Google search in the form of a question and got better results.

In this article from Got the last paragraph was summed up like this:

It is important to note that God’s love is a love that initiates; it is never a response. That is precisely what makes it unconditional. If God’s love were conditional, then we would have to do something to earn or merit it. We would have to somehow appease His wrath and cleanse ourselves of our sin before God would be able to love us. But that is not the biblical message. The biblical message—the gospel—is that God, motivated by love, moved unconditionally to save His people from their sin.

Here is the link to the article:

(SeanO) #9

@tabby68 Thanks for the link! My personal opinion is that God’s love is unmerited - it is a free gift to all who receive it. But that there is one condition - we must repent and turn to Him. Someone who holds to predestination would say that the decision to repent is controlled by God. Someone who leans more towards free will would say that each individual must choose to repent. So I think that simply saying God’s love is unconditional misses some of that nuance and oversimplifies the realities of a covenant relationship.

That said, you may come to a different conclusion as you study :slight_smile: