Pastor Andy Stanley is at it again. He seems to have a problem with God’s law, specifically, the Ten Commandments:
“You’ve heard the story before: A group of Christians puts up a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public space or on government property,” begins Stanley in his article titled, “Why do Christians want to post the Ten Commandments and not the Sermon on the Mount?” “Someone says it violates the separation of church and state. The Christians say taking it down would violate their freedom of speech. There’s some back and forth in court and both sides say some not-so-great things about the other. Rinse and repeat. But how many times have you seen Christians trying to post the text of the sermon on the mount in a public place? Or the all-encompassing commandment Jesus gave us? ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another — John 13:34. The one commandment! Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But if 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?”
How does a person know when he or she is loving someone? There must be a standard or all kinds of things can be done in the name of love. Jesus and other New Testament writers say to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8), a command found in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18). Loving people is not unique to the New Testament.
Even Jesus’ statement to His disciples to love one another as He loved them is only a new commandment because that love is personalized in the life of Jesus. That love still requires an objective standard.
Christ’s love to His people in giving His life a ransom for them was altogether new, and consequently as a Model and Standard for theirs to one another. It is not, however, something transcending the great moral law, which is ‘the old commandment’ (1 John 2:7; Mark 12:28-33), but that law in a new and peculiar form. Hence it is said to be both new and old (1 John 2:7, 8).
How does John describe the newness of the old commandment?
Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining (1 John 2:7-8; also 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6).
Matthew Henry offers a helpful summary of the point Jesus was driving home to His disciples:
It is a renewed commandment; it was a commandment from the beginning (1 Jn. 2:7), as old as the law of nature, it was the second great commandment of the law of Moses; yet, because it is also one of the great commandments of the New Testament, of Christ the new Lawgiver, it is called a new commandment; it is like an old book in a new edition corrected and enlarged. This commandment has been so corrupted by the traditions of the Jewish church that when Christ revived it, and set it in a true light, it might well be called a new commandment. Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant, that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people.
Stanley went on to say that the Ten Commandments “played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it. Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands. He didn’t say, ‘Here’s the 614th law.’ Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.”
This is a blatant mischaracterization of the Law. In fact, it’s a lie. Either he has not read the New Testament, or he does not believe what it endorses from the Old Testament is valid. Many laws from the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, are quoted in the New Testament as still applicable. Here’s a list:
Jesus even cites a very unpopular law in Mark 7:6-13:
He was also saying to [the Pharisees and Scribes], “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
The Apostle Paul uses the law to define love:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:8-10).
A summary does not nullify what it summarizes. As has been pointed out, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) is a law from the Old Testament.
Notice what Paul says about in the law in his first letter to Timothy:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
Did you catch what Paul wrote to Timothy?: “The law is good if one uses it lawfully.” He then quotes moral prohibitions found in the Old Testament, everything from murder and homosexuality to kidnapping and perjury. If you commit any of these moral wrongs, you are by definition not loving people. Love is not a feeling or an emotion. It’s an action based on a fixed moral standard.
If there is no moral law, then there is no need for the gospel.