Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 9 - The Old Covenant is Obsolete. Period


(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 IX

Big Idea: Jesus was born under God’s covenant with Israel with the purpose of bringing that covenant to its sovereignly ordained end. And after Christ’s death / resurrection and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD, the Old Covenant was officially over.


The Old Testament is a stumbling block for a lot of people. But guess what? Christianity was not started by the Bible - it was started by Jesus. And Jesus came to do a new thing - to bring the covenant with the nation of Israel to its divinely ordained end. As Jesus predicted, the temple was destroyed within one generation, and Israel’s only means of keeping the Old Covenant vanished overnight.

Good Things

I think that Stanley does a great job of making it clear that the Old Covenant is obsolete. Period. It is over. We do not live under it any longer. And that is part of why Jesus came. It’s important to understand the radical nature of what Jesus truly did and Stanley makes it abundantly clear.


I felt that Stanley conflated Old Covenant with the behavior of OT Israel in some cases. For example, Stanley made it sound as if the Old Covenant taught you nothing about love of your enemies, but what about Jonah? Jonah was rebuked for not showing compassion to his enemies. The general antipathy towards Canaanites, Amorites, Perezzites and the others was due to the fact that they were nations underneath the judgment of God, who knows the heart of all people. God is always merciful if people repent, but He also knows when a people has collectively chosen to do what is wrong (as He later did when He judged Israel for their wrongdoing as well).

One of the mistakes I think Stanley has made in the book is categorizing many different exegetical errors in a single umbrella - Old Covenant. When really some of these errors are not directly related to the covenant itself, but misinterpretations of the Old Testament.


Jesus was born under God’s covenant with Israel with the purpose of bringing that covenant to its sovereignly ordained end.

So what exactly had Jesus come to do to the Law and the Prophets? What did he mean when he said he came to fulfill them? The answer to that question has significant implications for how we read and understand the Old Testament.

To put what he said in uncomfortable contemporary terms, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy may start disappearing once everything is accomplished.

Jesus fulfilled—as in ended—the necessity of the Jewish law. Just as you don’t abolish a home by completing its construction, just as you don’t abolish a flight plan by landing a plane, just as you don’t abolish a homework assignment by completing the assignment, Jesus did not abolish the law when he fulfilled it. But in fulfilling it, he made it . . . obsolete. Again, that’s not my term. Heck, John Piper used it as well.

It doesn’t help that both covenants are bound together for our convenience. The majority of people I’ve talked to who’ve abandoned their faith have lost faith in Jesus because they lost confidence in the Bible. Which part of the Bible? You guessed it—the part that doesn’t apply to or include us—the Old Testament.

Christianity predated the Bible by hundreds of years. There were thousands of Christians long before there was a Bible. The Bible did not create Christianity. It’s the other way around.

The destruction of the temple signaled the end of ancient Judaism. While the words of the covenant were preserved, Israel’s ability to live in accordance with those words vanished in a day.

(Sara Isaac) #2

We have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable with some parts in the Bible. We can always seek to understand it better, we can definitely pick up something from almost anywhere “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. I personally struggled with many issues that the OT is accused of, wars, sexism, racism, slavery…etc but the more I was uncomfortable i searched, i read and came not only to a more comfortable or convient position but to a place where I admire God more and understand Him in new ways. The OT is filled with blessings for the Christians, especially for them!

(SeanO) #3

@saraisaac Amen! Indeed, there is much that we learn from studying the OT even though we have to wrestle with parts of it. I appreciate what Stanley says about the Old Covenant being over and done - we are members of the New Covenant. And I think he would agree with your sentiments. But, as we’ve been discussing in this study, his wording sometimes can sometimes be ambiguous if taken out of context.

(Sara Isaac) #4

Well, Sean I hope I misunderstood what you tried to convey. So, he is saying that we could just pretend that the OT didn’t happen and continue being happy with the New Testament?
I haven’t actually read that book so I don’t want to jump to conclusions about it. But here are few points regarding what you have mentioned:
1-It’s impossible to understand the NT without the OT. The OT is an integral part of our belief as its climax is presented in the person of Jesus. After the resurrection, Jesus met the 2 disciple on the road to Emmaus and Luke (24:27) says: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus referenced the OT, Jesus approved on what happened in the OT in terms of laws as in Luke 5:14 after he healed the leper “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, as a proof for them” and Jesus quoted the OT in many occasions. Jesus didn’t come to steal the lights from the OT, He came to make it better seen and understood.

2-We have this conviction that God somehow became cuter and more lenient in the NT. In fact this presents a misreading of the OT and the NT as well. Firstly, as you have mentioned Sean, in Jonah we see a God that is so merciful to the extent that Jonah became mad that God is not mad enough! “For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.” In Hosea, God compares himself to a man whose wife is cheating on! What a compromise for Him to relate Himself to people who bring to His name only disgrace. Philip Yancey depicts this point more clearly in one of his books, he says that God was making Himself vulnerable by allowing Israel refuse Him, and all of us by giving us free will. The way God talks about His people is so compelling, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4), “I, even I, am he who comforts you" (Isaiah 51:12), “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots;" (Hosea 14:4‭-‬5) and many many verses that show God’ slove towrds His people. Secondly, many of us underestimate the rage presented in the NT, Revelation, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Romans 1:18)

(Jimmy Sellers) #5

I know Stanley is a good hearted properly motivates man of God but I am not sure that I would agree with this quote. Here is a quote from NT Wright on the second Jewish revolt in the second century:

The disaster of the Bar-Kochba revolt convinced most remaining Jews to give up the revolution and concentrate on privatized Torah-piety; in other words, to give up the long story, and rest content with one’s own story as a Torah-observant Jew

Wright, N. T. (2013). Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Vol. 4, p. 115). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

(Shawn Hawkes) #6

Somethings get misinterpreted especially by reviews, I would probably read the book before making an assumption. Without the old testament there could be no New Testament. The New Testament would simply make no sense. I believe Stanley knows this. My gut feeling is the book is simply about the sacrifice Christ made for us so we don’t have to live by old testament rule

(SeanO) #7

@saraisaac I think Stanley would agree with you - I suggest listening to his podcast linked at the top of the post - he clarifies some of his intentions. I think where Stanley may be wrong is that he suggests the OT is a stumbling block for people considering becoming Christians. At first he may be right, but ultimately I’m not sure - like you said, without that background knowledge it may be difficult to really understand Jesus. He spends the first few chapters of his book giving a good overview of the OT, so he is definitely not against it.

I would be careful with the word ‘rage’ when describing God - that word suggests blind anger. In contrast, God is slow to anger, but He does bring wrath on the ungodly in due time and season. In the case of the Amorites and Canaanites, God waited 4 generations while His own people travailed in Egypt - that’s a long time!

Appreciate your contributions - you should grab the book and read along with us :slight_smile: We only do 1 chapter a week, so it’s a pretty easy going pace.

(SeanO) #8

@Jimmy_Sellers I think Stanley meant the end of the Old Covenant rather than the end of Judaims as a religion practiced by men. Basically, whether or not the Jewish people kept privately observing their faith, from God’s side the covenant was over and the fact that He allowed the temple to be destroyed was a sign of that fact. Am I understanding your point correctly?

(SeanO) #9

@Hawksey Yes, I would agree that the general flow of the book is along these lines. I think Stanley makes a few illogical statements (conflating Old Covenant with Old Testament, for example), even when taken in context, but that the overall flow of his book is mostly about the New Covenant in Christ.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #10

I agree with you @SeanO that Stanley does do a good job emphasizing the fact that Jesus came to complete God’s conditional covinent with Israel, but there was one quote in this chapter that I thought was an exaggeration:

The majority of people I’ve talked to who’ve abandoned their faith have lost faith in Jesus because they lost confidence in the Bible (p. 110)

Stanley could just be relying on personal experience where this is the case, but he seems to think that this is the case for most people who walk away from Christianity. I would not agree with that entirely (even though I am aware that atheists like to point to certain passages in the OT that can shake a person’s beliefs). There is much more involved in a person’s decision to walk away that can include a number of reasons (e.g. arguments against God’s existence like the problem of evil, skepticism against the biblical manuscripts, bad experiences in the church, etc). I agree that the result of such skepticism will result in losing confidence in scripture, but this statement made by Stanley is far too generic. There is a lot more involved than just lost confidence in scripture.

(SeanO) #11

@O_wretched_man Glad to hear from you Isaiah :slight_smile: Yes, I think that is certainly true and was the main place where I disagreed with this chapter - some of the claims were too broad / sweeping. A few too many generalizations.

(Sara Isaac) #12

I love this intiative so much. So thank you Sean. And one chapter a week is quite resonable. I understand his standpoint better and I agree with what you said:

Here’s an article by Michael Kruger reviewing the book:

He says:

While a person doesn’t have to believe the Bible is true to be saved, the Bible has to be true for them to be saved. Why? Because Jesus said the Bible is true. And if it’s not true, then he was wrong. And that raises issues for our salvation. But it’s even bigger than this point. If Jesus is the divine Lord of the universe, then he is also the author of the Old Testament.

(SeanO) #13

@saraisaac Yes, I think the main criticism Kruger makes that resonates with me is the following:

This is a common problem throughout Stanley’s volume: He often confuses distortions of the old covenant with the old covenant itself. Kruger

I have not read enough of the book yet to come to a decisive conclusion on some of his other more sweeping criticisms. I think Stanley appreciates and values the Old Testament and I would want to sit down with him personally to clarify some things before assenting to some of the more extreme criticisms. I suspect we would find Kruger and Stanley agree on more than they disagree.

(Sara Isaac) #14

I really believe that Stanley’s intent is to focus on the centricity of the cross and grace in order to reach more people, and while that is, on one hand a good standpoint, I doubt if it is faithful. I think both presenting the gospel alongside godd apologetics is essential especially that nowadays, every well renowned atheist brings the OT in almost every debate.
Richard Dawkins:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

As well as many others.

(Sara Isaac) #15


(Tabitha Gallman) #16

@SeanO, @O_wretched_man
I have been putting together my thoughts and my main critique comes from p. 110 as well.
On page 110 Andy Stanley writes:

“Most evangelicals feel the need to defend the entire Bible, including God’s temporary covenant with Israel, in order to defend Christianity.


Because of our time-honored tradition of mixing, matching, and equating what God clearly separated.

It doesn’t help that both covenants are bound together for our convenience. The majority of people I’ve talked to who’ve abandoned their faith have lost faith in Jesus because they lost confidence in the Bible. Which part of the Bible? You guessed it—the part that doesn’t apply to or includes us—the Old Testament. Once they could no longer defend the historicity or inerrancy of the entire Bible, they found their entire faith to be indefensible as well. That’s tragic.”

Isn’t the significance of Andy Stanley’s point more about evangelizing unbelievers? Why bring up this point about the believers who have lost their faith? Would that not be a reason to focus on discipleship within the church?

This may be stretching my argument too far, but if this continued rhetoric that Andy Stanley uses about evangelicals complicating how faith is shared and defended, it could leave future generations of non-believers vulnerable to any number of false beliefs. By chance, what if the devil could perform some type of magic to make it appear as though a man of our time is raised from the dead? What is the key difference to one’s resurrection over another one’s resurrection for an unbeliever? Some Christians believe that there will be a time when the anti-Christ will be resurrected.

Jesus even said to the Jewish leaders that the Scriptures testify about him. John 5:39-40 - “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

Today we (both Gentile and Jew) are so far removed from the Old Covenant laws that personally I don’t think there is a real problem with people being confused about old covenants and new covenants. Honestly, I don’t think evangelizing has as much to do with our witnessing as it does the Holy Spirit within us witnessing anyway.

Not sure how relevant this is, but after looking up something pertaining to another person’s post I came across an online article in favor of the OT.

Although, I’m not sure of all of John Piper’s specific beliefs, I do agree with much of what John Piper teaches. Here is an old (very old) article by John Piper called: “How Believers Experienced the Spirit Before Pentecost” dated February 19, 1984. John Piper talks about how we should examine the OT Saints and their privileges and power in the Holy Spirit and how we have fallen away today from the appropriation of the Holy Spirit.

(SeanO) #17

@saraisaac Yes, I agree that we should teach believers how to defend the truth of God’s Word, both OT and NT. I will be interested to hear more of how Stanley fleshes out his argument as we read on. In the podcast interview linked at the top he makes it clear that he does believe the OT is inerrant and has value for the believer.

(SeanO) #18

@tabby68 I think Stanley is not so much attacking the OT as saying it is a barrier to those who are new to the faith or young in their faith because they get caught up on confusing parts of the OT rather than being able to gaze upon the glory and grace and truth of Jesus. I think Stanley would agree that all believers, as they mature, should learn the OT- at least I think so, though I would need to ask to be sure.

(Tabitha Gallman) #19

@SeanO - Yeah, I do tend to look at more of the negative side of Andy Stanley than I should. Here in Calhoun, I would guess that about 1 in 4 people you ask what they think of Andy Stanley and their answer is most always going to be negative. I have asked a few people if they have read this book and their answer is usually, “No, but I’ve been meaning to.”. And it certainly doesn’t help that our new pastor (whom was raised here in Calhoun) went to work as a youth minister for one of Andy’s Woodstock campuses. A lot of people that have left the church are making assumptions without digging deeper. I sincerely wish that @CarsonWeitnauer could persuade Mr. Stanley to be a guest speaker here at RZIM Connect. That would be awesome, and I would have no doubt that our pastor would love to be part of that, and how it could unite our community. Our community is going through a lot of darkness, and I think, we cannot see the “forest for the trees” if that makes sense.

(SeanO) #20

@tabby68 I am sorry to hear that you guys are experiencing a season of darkness. I agree that having Andy Stanley as a an #ask-rzim guest would be excellent given that we are doing this review of our book. Maybe @CarsonWeitnauer can make something happen? Stanley is also in Atlanta, but I’m not sure how easy / hard that would be…

May Jesus Shepherd your local Church / community through this season of darkness and into a season of blessing, peace, unity and hope :slight_smile: