Should We ‘Unhitch’ the Old Testament from Our Faith in Jesus?

Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has used the same strategy to separate man from God: he creates doubt in the mind of mankind regarding whether God really said what He did, whether His Word is trustworthy, and whether God is truly good. Satan longs for us to question—and ultimately to disavow and disobey--God’s life-giving Word. He appeals to our pride that leads us to think that we, the creation, know more or better than God, our Creator. Satan would have us believe that if we don’t understand or don’t agree with what is in God’s Word, then the fault must lie with God rather than in our inability to comprehend His thoughts and His ways, which are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The truth is that if we have a problem believing in God’s Word or juxtaposing it with His Loving Character, the problem lies with us, not with God.

We expect skepticism regarding God’s Word, His Sovereignty, and His goodness from those outside of the Church; however, increasingly doubt is being stirred up from within the Church regarding whether we can really trust the reliability of all of Scripture. Recently, and regrettably, well-known and influential pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the United States, preached a three sermon series called ‘Aftermath’ that casts doubt regarding the validity and power of God’s Word. It also elevates his opinion above the Word of God. Most notably, Andy states in the series that we must “unhitch the Old Testament from our faith in Jesus”. He stated further: “[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures…Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well."

After listening intently to all three of the sermons in the series I was deeply grieved because of my love for the Lord and His Word, which God says is to be exalted along with His name and above all things (Psalm 138:2). I recognize that Andy has a large following not only in the Atlanta area, but across our nation, and even worldwide.  I have spent much time in prayer for Him as well as for those who are influenced by his teaching. I pray that the eyes of their hearts may be opened to comprehend the treasure that is found in ALL of God's Word!  In this post I am going to give a brief synopsis of the sermon series, and then focus on why the Old Testament is God’s reliable Word and  therefore important to our faith as Christians. In future posts, I will address other statements that Andy made during the series and why they also do not align with the teaching of Scripture.

The basic premise of Andy’s series is that the Church needs to move away from the belief in ‘sola Scriptura’—the belief since the Protestant Reformation that Scriptures are authoritative and the basis for our faith-- because there are those who find the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, to be a stumbling block to belief in Jesus. He builds the case for making the foundation of our faith an event, the resurrection of Jesus, because there were eyewitnesses to it. Because of those eyewitnesses, he maintains that the resurrection is indisputable, whereas he seems to believe the Scriptures are not defendable as the inspired Word of God. He further rationalizes his contention that we move away from the authority of Scripture as the foundation of our faith because people now have the ability to go onto the Internet where they can be exposed to persuasive arguments against the validity of Scriptures, and those arguments will deter people from believing in Jesus. In fact, Andy stated that “the ‘Achilles heel of our modern faith is the bible.” He further stated:

Because many have lost faith…many have lost faith… because of something about the Bible, or in the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, once they can no longer accept all the historicity of the Old Testament, once they couldn’t go along with all of the miracles, once somebody poked a hole in the Genesis creation, you know myth… once all that went away, suddenly their house of cards faith came tumbling down. Because they were taught it’s all true, it’s all God’s Word, and if you find one part that’s not true, ‘Ough-oh’, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Not Christianity.  The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is: Did Jesus rise from the dead? And eyewitnesses said he did.” Andy Stanley, from the ‘Aftermath’ series, April 2018

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I treasure ALL of God’s Word which has been life changing for me! I have been in church virtually my entire life, but my faith and intimacy with the Lord did not grow and mature until I became a student of His Word, because ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God’ (Romans 10:17). I have read the Bible daily and cover- to- cover for the past 22 years, as well as taken and written many in-depth Bible studies; His Word has 'cleansed' and 'renewed' my mind as it states it will do. (Ephesians 5:27; Romans 12:2) I have found what David describes in Psalm 119:104-105 to be true:

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ESV

I believe that the entirety of the Bible, including the Old Testament, is the inspired, infallible Word of God and is therefore essential for teaching righteousness, truth, purposeful living as well as instruction regarding the character and ways of God. As critical as the resurrection is to our faith-- which we learn about through reading the very Scriptures whose reliability Andy questions-- neither it, nor even the written word alone is the foundation of our faith. The foundation of our faith is the ‘Word that became flesh’ (John 1:14), the person of Jesus Christ.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV

Even more specifically, Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Foundation, a foundation that we learn is also comprised of the apostles and prophets.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

We come to know Jesus, the Cornerstone and Foundation of our Faith, through the inspired words of the prophets written down in the Old Testament, as well as the writings of the apostles recorded in the New Testament. Since we know from Scripture that God and Jesus are one and were together since the beginning (John 1:1-2; John 10:30), we can trust that the Old Testament as well as the New Testament gives us knowledge of Jesus Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). We come to know the Truth, the Way, and to receive abundant and eternal Life through a relationship with Jesus, the Living Word, Who is revealed to us through the written word in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10; John 6:44-45)

On the road to Emmaus, while walking alongside two men who were grieved because of his death and the empty tomb, Jesus explained that the scriptures—the part we know as the Old Testament--referred to Himself, the Christ. It seems clear that he expected them to know the scriptures, which Jewish men-- and even women—in that day learned from the time they were young because they were taught in the synagogue to read, to write, and to memorize the Old Testament writings, especially the Pentateuch. Scriptures were interwoven into discussions that were held in every Jewish home and within the greater community. That is also in contrast to a statement that Andy made in his series that the disciples were ignorant of the Old Testament writings because they were fishermen and did not have a copy of the Bible in their homes; the disciples--like the two walking to Emmaus--would have known the scriptures well. Jesus made it clear to the two men with whom He walked on the road to Emmaus that the Old Testament testified to Who He was.

Then Jesus said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to trust and believe in everything that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and [only then to] enter His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and [throughout] all the [writings of the] prophets, He explained and interpreted for them the things referring to Himself [found] in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27 AMP

Maybe he started by explaining to them that He was the promised seed of woman that would destroy the Serpent, as taught in Genesis, or that just as Adam was the first of the human race, so He was the first of those who would be raised from the dead to eternal life.   I imagine He would have talked about how in the book of Exodus the Passover lamb foreshadowed Him, the Unblemished Lamb of God Whose blood would atone once and for all time for the sin of man and destroy the power of sin and its penalty, death. Maybe He explained how the Levitical priests are a picture of Him, our High Priest Who sacrifices on our behalf and makes intercession for us. Or that Boaz in the book of Ruth is a picture of Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer. Or that Jonah's 3 days in the belly of the fish foreshadowed Jesus' being in the grave for 3 days. Maybe He explained that due to His crucifixion He is the 'Man of Sorrows and Acquainted with Grief', as foretold in Isaiah 53, yet, their hope in Him was not in vain because He was also the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace of Isaiah 6:9. Or maybe He showed them that He is the Judge of all Nations as mentioned in the book of Amos. Or perhaps Jesus referenced one or more of the Messianic Psalms that foretold and referred to Him. (Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 40, 41, 45, 68,69, 87,89, 102, 110, 118) I am sure that their minds and hearts were spellbound as Jesus illuminated the scriptures to them, for EVERY book in the Old Testament--as well as those in the New Testament which would be written after His ascension-- testifies to and points to Jesus! After listening to Jesus share, I think the two men would have readily agreed with Bible scholar and teacher Chuck Missler's often repeated phrase, ‘The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.

We may not know exactly what Jesus shared along the Emmaus Road, but His life and ministry made it clear that He treasured and knew the power of the Old Testament Scriptures. When led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness following His baptism and tempted by Satan, Jesus did not offer His opinion nor did He flee in fear when Satan twisted and misconstrued the Word of God. He deftly used the Word of God from the Old Testament as the powerful sword that it is, and defeated Satan’s best attempt to tempt Him! (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12: Ephesians 6:17)

On numerous occasions (see also Matthew 8:1712:40-42Luke. 4:18-2110:25-2815:29-3117:3224:25-45John. 5:39-47 ), Jesus substantiated the divine authority of the Old Testament, for instance when He stated the following recorded in Matthew 5:17-18: “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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV

Jesus also affirmed the Genesis account of Creation—which Andy references as a ‘myth’-- when He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6; Genesis 1:27; 5:2) Jesus directly quoted 78 times from the Old Testament—including 26 times from the Pentateuch, the first five books. He also quoted from Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, and Malachi. Countless other times he made allusions to scriptures with which He knew His audience would be familiar. He referred to Old Testament writings as “The Scriptures,” “the Word of God,” and “the wisdom of God.”

Jesus chastised the false religious teachers of his day, the Pharisees, with these words:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of meBut if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? John 5: 39,46-47 ESV (Boldness added)

My question to Andy and to anyone who thinks we can separate our Christian faith from the Old Testament is this: How can you believe the words of Jesus-- or the words of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection that we know about because they are recorded in the Bible-- if you do not believe Moses’ writings?

Based upon Jesus’ Words, do you think that Jesus would agree with Andy that we should ‘unhitch' the Old Testament from our faith in Jesus?

Andy said in his series that, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well." But is that statement true? Can it be substantiated?

The apostles quoted 209 times from the Old Testament and considered Old Testament writings to be “the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11) In fact, at least 25% of the New Testament writings are quotations from the Old Testament.

The apostle Paul, who was inspired by God to write the majority of the epistles found in the New Testament, wrote the following words to encourage his disciple Timothy. These words underscore the value he placed on studying the Scriptures, which at the time only included and referred to the Old Testament:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Or what about Peter? Do you think he would agree that we should ‘unhitch’ the Old Testament from our faith since he clearly stated that the prophets spoke the Word of God?

…that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20b-21 ESV

Besides the reasons Paul details to Timothy for studying Scripture, in his letter to the Romans he gives us another reason for us to study and to know the Old Testament: so that we might be encouraged and have hope.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 ESV

I am full of hope knowing that since God accurately foretold in the Old Testament the  birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, that I can trust His promises written in the Old Testament--as well as those in the New Testament-- that tell of the second coming of Christ when He will judge and rule the nations, and assume His rightful position as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’! 

So, how important is all of God’s Word, including the Old Testament? God tells us His Word is equal to His Name, and along with His Name, to be exalted above all things!

 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. Psalm 138:2 ESV (highlight added for emphasis)

I agree with Chuck Missler who said: “Believing in Jesus Christ as the Messianic Saviour, as Christians do, is absurd without the foundation of the Old Testament.” I hope that the Word of God you have read in this post has convinced you of that as well.

I believe that all those who are willing to read through the entire Bible, including the Old Testament, and to study it, and most importantly of all to ask for the Holy Spirit to illuminate it, will come to know Jesus--the Cornerstone of our faith--more intimately, and it is in knowing Him that we have eternal life! (John 17:3)

Written by Julie Van Gorp