Throwing Andy Stanley a Bone: ‘What Does Jesus Teach?’

“What does the Bible say about that…this is a really bad question we have to quit asking…Let me tell you a better question: What does the New Covenant teach? Or let’s be more specific, What does the New Testament teach? Or even better, What does Jesus teach?” -Andy Stanley

I’ll bite. Even though I totally disagree with a Red-letter Christianity approach to interpreting the Scriptures, let’s indulge the question. Below are only “red-letter” statements taught by Jesus himself.

What does Jesus teach…

…about asking the question, “What does the Bible teach?”

  • “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”  (Luke 10:26)
  • “What then is this that is written…?” (Luke 20:17)

…about his followers quoting and applying verses from the Old Testament:

  • “It is written…” (Matt. 4:4)
  • “Again it is written…” (Matt. 4:7)
  • “Be gone, Satan! For it is written…” (Matt. 4:10)
  • “This is he of whom it was written…” (Matt. 11:10)
  • “It is written…'” (Matt. 21:13)
  • “For it is written…” (Matt. 26:31)
  • “As it is written…” (Mark 7:6)
  • “And how is it written…?” (Mark 9:12)
  • “As it is written…” (Mark 9:13)
  • “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him…” (Mark 14:21)
  • “…for it is written…” (Mark 14:27)
  • “It is written…” (Luke 4:4)
  • “It is written…” (Luke 4:8)
  • “For it is written…” (Luke 4:10)
  • “It is written…” (Luke 19:46)
  • “Thus it is written…” (Luke 24:46)
  • “It is written…” (John 6:31)
  • “It is written in the Prophets…” (John 6:45)
  • “In your Law it is written…” (John 8:17)
  • “Is it not written in your Law…?” (John 10:34)
  • “…just as it is written…” (John 12:14)

…about his disciples reading the Old Testament:

  • “Have you not read what David did…?” (Matt. 12:3)
  • “Or have you not read in the Law…?” (Matt. 12:5)
  • “Have you not read…?” (Matt. 19:4)
  • “…have you not read what was said to you by God…?” (Matt. 22:31)
  • “Have you not read this Scripture?” (Mark 12:10)
  • “Have you not read in the book of Moses…?” (Mark 12:26)
  • “Have you not read what David did…?” (Luke 6:3)

About fulfilling–not contradicting–the Old Testament:

  • “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.  [18]  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.  [19]  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  [20]  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-20)
  • “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled…” (Matt. 13:14)
  • “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matt. 26:54)
  • “But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:49)
  • “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
  • “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37)
  • “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)
  • “But the Scripture will be fulfilled…” (John 13:18)
  • “But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled…” (John 15:25)
  • “…that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
  • “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… [46]  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39, 46-47)

The problem.

As quippy as Stanley might be, just because statements have a good ring to them and look good on a screen does not make them true. I joked in a Twitter comment that this is the “worst TED talk ever.” He is crafting his messages, stage, lighting, everything to give off a certain vibe. The visual is a sad metaphor for his theology. Perhaps if he pointed more to the Scriptures than to screens, then he would see the obvious incongruity in the message he is communicating.

As Stanley approaches the Old and New Testaments, he sets them at odds by choosing to caricature both of them. He highlights the judgment of God in the Old and the salvation of God in the New, when the truth is that judgment and salvation permeate them both. Because God has been operating from the same playbook since before the dawn of time. He was accomplishing the same purpose in Genesis and Leviticus that he was in Matthew and Luke. It’s all part of the same story of salvation history, and every word from Alpha to Omega perfectly fits together.

For goodness’ sake, look at the cross! The defining work of all time is the place where salvation and judgment meet in the person of Jesus Christ!

To say that the Old and New Covenants are at odds with one another is to grossly misread the entire Bible. Furthermore, it is to completely ignore the plain statements and example of Jesus himself.

I want to remind red-letter Christians that Jesus didn’t physically write any of the Bible. Even the Sermon on the Mount is the work of Matthew, who wove together the teachings of Jesus into the masterpiece we find in chapters 5-7 of his Gospel. My point is that all of Scripture comes to us through divinely-inspired human authors–even the statements of Jesus.

One of my greatest fears is that Andy Stanley’s popular approach is only confirming many American Christians in their own parochialism: they already don’t read the Old Testament, and Stanley is giving them a free pass. He’s telling us all what we want to hear! In fact, from his statement above, he implies that the best Christians don’t even get distracted by the rest of the New Testament. Truly dedicated Christians ask, “What does Jesus teach?”

And what does Jesus teach? Jesus teaches that it is impossible to understand his message, his cross, his resurrection, his authority as king, or who he is as the Son of God without reading, studying, believing, and applying the Old Testament Scriptures.

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

3 thoughts on “Throwing Andy Stanley a Bone: ‘What Does Jesus Teach?’

  1. I’m writing this as a way to add another voice to the conversation to hopefully show that the waters are a little cloudier than what you are proposing.

    Are you saying: The Bible > Jesus?

    Some things to consider:
    Your first quote from Jesus about the bible seems to give us freedom to interpret the scriptures ourselves.

    Your second quote from Jesus precedes the religious leaders quoting scripture and Jesus telling them that the scripture was literally written because of human beings hardheartedness, but that actually…the scripture is wrong…because it’s not what God has in mind for humanity. When I say the scripture is wrong, what I mean is that the scripture was right a long time ago, but now it’s no longer right. Which I believe is what Stanley is saying. The old covenant used to be the way we understand and apply Gods teachings, but Jesus changed that because HE is greater than the Old Covenant(which the scriptures testify to).

    Multiple times Jesus refers to the scriptures as “Your Scriptures/Law,” which is really interesting to me.

    Jesus selectively quotes parts of scriptures at times which is what us modern day teachers call, taking a passage out of context haha.

    Right after Jesus says “I didn’t come to abolish the law” in Matthew 5, he goes on to contradict a great deal of OT commands…but if you aren’t comfortable with the word contradict you can call it complete, although in reality it is practically the same thing.

    In acts 10 Peter tells God that the OT scriptures command him NOT to do something and God tells Peter to DO it. Peter protests and really holds on to those OT teachings until God finally convinces him otherwise.

    I think you have a valid fear of people throwing out the OT and not reading it or considering it. But the fear on the other side of that is that people worship the scriptures instead of Jesus, which Jesus literally said that people do!(John 5) I think what Stanley is doing is trying to move people past worshiping a book and into worshiping God. Kinda like when Paul says the law served as a tutor…I think he was doing the same thing. The danger is that people never get tutored if they throw it out before they get tutored by it. Part of the problem with modern technology is that messages meant for certain people end up in the hands of everyone. Stanley’s message might have just been for his congregation, who might need to move past the tutor…but it went out to the world who hasn’t been tutored yet. Your message might be intended to introduce people to the tutor, but it goes out into the world where there are people who won’t move past the tutor and instead worship it. What we want is BOTH! People need the tutor, but then they need to move past it and graduate into really following the Holy Spirit.

  2. So very conflicted over my church’s allowances and disregard of scripture…hate to say it but it began with an Andy Stanley study called “Losing my Religion”.

    Thank you for making this bold declaration of truth.

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