Andy Stanley and the Ten Commandments

Mega-church pastor Andy Stanley, the son of well-known SBC pastor Charles Stanley, in his book entitled Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, and elsewhere, states: "The Ten Commandments have no authority over you. None. To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments... 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... Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus' new commandment replaced all the old commandments..." Is this biblical?
Andy Stanley's teaching is a misinterpretation of Scripture. It misunderstands the relationship between law and grace and the eternal cohesiveness of the covenant(s). Though they will fail at times (cf. 1 John 1:8-10), genuine Christians desire to keep the entirety of the Ten Commandments flawlessly and continuously. (Please see "Why Obey God's Law?" below.)

Let me further explain this relationship between law and grace and the eternal cohesiveness of the covenant(s).

Jesus did not come to destroy the law (which was in existence before Moses; cf. Rom. 5:14; Jas. 2:10), but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). So, when Jesus was giving his commandment on love being the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:37-40), he wasn't destroying the law he had authored. He was actually clearly establishing what the law meant in literal practice. Therefore, the Ten Commandments are still authoritative today.

Second, while Paul did write, "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'" (Gal. 5:14; cf. Matt. 5:37-40) he didn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Paul was teaching that properly loving your neighbor is literally fulfilling the law. As Romans 13:8 says, "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Or think of it this way: just because we're no longer under a guardian when we become older, we're not supposed to disregard everything that was previously taught to us by them (cf. Gal. 3:24-25).

Moreover, the apostle Paul taught that the law is holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12). So, like Jesus he wasn't dismissing or eliminating the law. As matter a fact, this is what Paul wrote in one of his expositions against false teachers:

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (1 Tim. 1:8-11).

Note that Paul specifically refers to commandments five through nine in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and then includes the remainder of them when he writes "and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:10). He is making the point that violating any of the Ten Commandments is sin even today (cf. Jude 1:4). Paul even describes those who violate God's Law as "lawless," "disobedient," "ungodly," and "sinners." Then he goes a step further stating that the Ten Commandments are "in accordance with the gospel" that he was entrusted with (1 Tim. 1:10-11). So, the Ten Commandments are part of the gospel. They are still part of the new covenant. They are part of the Christian's New Testament life now. And to teach otherwise is to teach another gospel, which is no gospel at all (cf. Gal. 1:8-9).

Lastly, the new covenant didn't replace the old covenant, but rather renewed the everlasting covenant [1] under a new Administrator, who is Christ alone (Heb. 8:5). For instance, although the law of the old covenant was written on stone (cf. Exod. 4:12), the law in the new covenant is written upon believers' hearts (Heb. 8:10; cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-12). There is a continuity and a unity expressed in Scripture with regards to the covenants. The law is still alive and well. (Please see "The Re-Newed or New Covenant?" below.)

We don't nullify the law by our faith — the same faith Old Testament saints had (Heb. 11:1-12:2; cf. Gal. 3:8). Rather, true faith upholds the law (Rom. 3:31).

Anything that teaches otherwise ventures into heresy.


[1] Each of the covenants were initiated by God and were gracious gifts from him. They ultimately each have the same focal point of faith — Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 3:8; Heb. 11:1-12:2).

In Scripture, we observe one covenant expanding throughout redemptive history. Similar to viewing a tree in its life-cycle, in the pages of the Bible the stages of God's one covenant is unfolded for us in redemptive history. And as a maturing tree may be called by different names throughout its life-cycle (such as, "seed" [conception]; "sprout" [birth]; "seedling" [infancy]; "sapling" [juvenile]; and "mature" [adult], etc.), the one covenant is referred to by different names (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, Christic) to help further define its development to full maturity.

As a tree matures certain elements of its infancy and youth disappear (Heb. 8:13; 10:1) and the new elements of its maturity appear in all their glorious splendor (Heb. 8:6). However, it's still the same tree. So, though the people of God are now more so defined by Christ and not Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it's still of the same "seed" working (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:24-38; Gal. 3:16, 29; cf. Gen. 50:24; Exod. 3:15; Acts 7:32, etc.). And though the Promised Land is now defined by the entire creation (Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13; cf. Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), rather than some smaller track of property on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean (cf. Gen. 15:18-21; 26:3; 28:13; Exod. 23:31; Num. 34:1-12; Deut. 1:8; 19:8-9, etc.), it's the same growing tree ("seedling") at work. After all, as a tree gets larger its branches cover more territory. And though the temple of God is no longer defined in terms of a brick and mortar structure (cf. 1 Kings 6; Ezra 1:1-6:22) but rather of Jesus and his people (John 2:21; Acts 7:48; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21), it's still the same "sapling" standing in redemptive history. And though the ceremonial laws are now defined by the once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice of Christ (cf. Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 14, 25-26; 1 Pet. 3:18) rather than the blood of bulls and goats (cf. Heb. 9:11-10:11), it's still the same eternal covenant now in its inaugurating "adulthood." Same tree. Same root. Same covenant.

The "everlasting" old covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:7-8, 13, 19) was renewed under Moses (see below), David (2 Sam. 7:12-13; Psa. 89:35-36), and lastly in Christ (Heb. 13:20-21).

Throughout the old covenant we observe some of the strongest language available in the Hebrew tongue to reveal that in many ways the Mosaic covenant is "eternal." For instance, in regards to the Old Testament, we see references to the eternity of the Sabbath (Exod. 31:16-17) and the festivals (Passover [Lev. 23:5; cf. 1 Cor. 5:7]; Unleavened Bread [Exod. 13:17; Lev. 23:26-32; cf. John 6:35; 1 Cor. 11:23-26]; First Fruits [Lev. 23:10; cf. Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:20]; Pentecost [Lev. 23:16, 21; Acts 2]; Trumpets [Lev. 23:24; cf. 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16]; the Day of Atonement [Lev. 16:29, 34; 23:21, 27; cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4]; and the Booths [Lev. 23:34, 41; cf. John 2:19, 21]). And the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) who lives forevermore (cf. Rev. 1:18) is the fulfillment of each of these festivals.

We could add to this the "eternal" priesthood (Exod. 29:9; 40:15; Num. 25:12-13), their vestments (cf. Exod. 28:29, 43), and even temple vessels (basin [Exod. 30:21; cf. Heb. 1:3]; menorah [Lev. 24:3; cf. John 8:12]; trumpets [Num. 10:8; cf. 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16]; shewbread [Lev. 24:8; John 6:35; 1 Cor. 11:23-26], etc.) all of which find their eternal fulfillment in the everlasting High Priest, Christ Jesus (Heb. 7:3, 17, 20, 24, etc.), et. al.

And this is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Evidence is overwhelming for the continuity and unity of the covenants. So, while there are certainly distinctions within the various covenants, there is also a divine unity, continuity, and cohesiveness among them, so much so that we can easily view these as one covenant with different administrators.

Finally, it is noteworthy to point out that John Calvin taught a retroactive new covenant. He viewed the old covenant and the new covenant both equally as the eternal covenant of grace. He stated:

The covenant made with all the fathers is so far from differing from ours in reality and substance, that it is altogether one and the same: still the administration differs (Inst. 2.10.1-2).

Related Topics

The Re-Newed or New Covenant?
Law and Grace
Law and Grace
What commandment(s) did Adam violate in the Fall?
Laws in Effect Today
Why Obey God's Law?
What were the promises made to Jesus in his work of redemption?
What is the Covenant of Grace?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).