Andy Stanley says Ten Commandments don't apply to Christians

Andy Stanley preaches to an estimated 33,000 people every Sunday at North Point Ministries' five metro-Atlanta campuses. | Photo courtesy of North Point Ministries

Christians should quit erecting Ten Commandments displays and should instead consider making monuments dedicated to the Sermon on the Mount, popular pastor Andy Stanley said.

In a column published by Relevant Magazine, the North Point Community Church pastor argued that the Ten Commandments are “the old covenant” and no longer apply to believers.

"[I]f we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith, shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?" he posed.

“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles,” wrote Stanley. “Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This new commandment is "a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten," he maintained. "Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments."

Stanley went on to say that he believed so much of the evils committed by churches over history were connected to them trying to mix aspects of the old covenant with Christianity and that although “Jesus was foreshadowed in the old covenant, he did not come to extend it.”

“Dear Christian reader: Why? Why? Why would we even be tempted to reach back beyond the cross to borrow from a covenant that was temporary and inferior to the covenant established for us at Calvary?” Stanley continued.

“The author of Hebrews says it best. Jesus was the ‘guarantor of a better covenant’ (Hebrews 7:22). Later he writes, ‘the new covenant is established on better promises.’ Besides, you weren’t included in the old covenant to begin with! So why are we fighting to build monuments to it?”

Stanley's comments echo the arguments he made in his recent book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, which was released last September. 

In the book, Stanley spoke about "old covenant leftovers," stating that he believed Christians had "an uncomfortable history and habit of selectively rebranding aspects of God's covenant with Israel and smuggling them into the ekklesia of Jesus."

Stanley wrote that while the covenant God made with ancient Israel was "divinely ordained," it was also "temporary," adding, "Careless mixing and matching of old and new covenant values and imperatives make the current version of our faith unnecessarily resistible."  

Last year, Stanley garnered controversy when he argued in an April sermon that Christians should “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament.

To justify this, Stanley cited Acts 15, which described how early church leaders decided that Gentile converts did not need to strictly observe Jewish law to become Christians.

"[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures," preached Stanley. "Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.”

He argued that what launched Christianity was the resurrection of Jesus, not the Jewish scriptures.

Many, including Messianic Jewish author and radio personality Michael Brown, have denounced Stanley's “unhitch” comments.

"A pastor as influential as Andy Stanley needs to distance himself from such heresies, making a public, clear, and unequivocal correction that undoes the confusion he has caused. (He knows that I write this [as] a friend, out to help, not to hurt.)," wrote Brown in a column last year.

"He can preach against legalism and against Judaizing, exalting the grace of God and celebrating the newness of the New Covenant, without undermining the very foundations on which that New Covenant is established."

Ray Ortlund, senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and the president of Renewal Ministries, also denounced Stanley’s views in a speech at the Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference last October.

Preaching from 2 Timothy 1:3-8, Ortlund noted that when the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, he stressed his religious heritage through Judaism.

"Paul looks back into his own deepest roots. He goes back to David, to Moses, to Abraham. He reveres the faith that came down to him even filtered through Jewish tradition," said Ortlund.

"Unlike some preachers today, Paul did not 'unhitch' the Christian faith from the Old Testament … And for him personally, Christian conversion did not take his Jewishness away. It made Jesus the Lord over his Jewishness and over his conscience, both of which, he continues to honor."

For his part, Stanley explained that critics needed to understand the context, especially since his remarks were more for an audience that is turned off by biblical arguments.

"I told my kids growing up, if anyone ever asks you 'do you believe Adam and Eve are real people?' here is how you are to answer: do not say 'yes because the Bible says Adam and Eve were real people,'" commented Stanley in an interview with Michael Brown last July.

"You say this: 'I believe Adam and Eve were historical characters because Jesus did. And when somebody predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, I go with whatever they say.'"

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