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Should We Toss the Law of God?

May 14, 2018
Should We Toss the Law of God?

If you read the Old Testament today, particularly the laws found in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, Pastor Andy Stanley believes you’re wasting your time.

To be more precise, Stanley, the son of famous evangelical preacher Charles F. Stanley and a megachurch pastor in his own right, delivered a sermon in which he declared the Old Testament to be “divinely inspired,” yet it need not be “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church,” according to a report in the online Christian Post newspaper.

Drawing on the account in Acts 15, in which the leaders of the early Christian church ruled that Gentile converts did not need to be circumcised in order to follow Christ, Stanley went far beyond the Jerusalem council’s edict.

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

This is far from a new position. Marcion of Sinope, who lived sometime between AD 85 and 160, argued that Christian doctrine was opposed to the teachings of the “Jewish Scriptures,” particularly in regard to the laws found therein.

While Marcion was excommunicated from the church, his thinking persisted. Eventually, the Protestant Reformation’s great gift of being saved “by faith alone” turned into the argument that God’s laws were no longer necessary.

Martin Luther took two Greek words, “anti,” meaning against, and “nomos,” meaning law, to call this line of argument antinomianism. One of his allies, Johann Agricola, became a forceful advocate of this doctrine, declaring in 1525, “The [Ten Commandments belong] in the courthouse, not in the pulpit. … To the gallows with Moses!”

Thus, Stanley is just a hair under 500 years behind Agricola in saying Christians must unhitch themselves from the law of God found in the Old Testament. Luther, it turned out, disagreed with Agricola so strongly that the Reformer wrote a treatise against antinomianism. Some two hundred years later, Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, also campaigned against this view.

To be clear, keeping the law doesn’t save anyone, which is why sinful humans needed a sinless Savior. At the same time, the apostle Paul, whose epistles have been cited by those supporting and opposing the law, seems to come down on the side of obedience: “Not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13).

Of course, Paul was following the injunction of Jesus, who said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Earlier, in Matthew 5:18, Jesus declared, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

It seems that it’s no more possible to “unhitch” the moral laws God spelled out for us in the Old Testament from the gospel message than it is to “unhitch” the sun from the solar system.

What the antinomians—of 1525 or of 2018—argue is that the grace of God has negated the law. Is that true? Click here to read the free booklet Does God’s Grace Blot Out the Law, which will give you the Bible's answer.

Written by Mark A. Kellner

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