In the third section of his book, Andy makes the argument that the summary of the law given by Jesus is a “new law.” This another key point that supposedly reinforces his claimed abrogation of all of the OT. Here is what Jesus said:
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:34-40
Here is Stanley’s commentary:
“This is the first time in recorded history that these two Old Testament statements were combined in this way. The first statement makes its debut in Deuteronomy. The other appears first in Leviticus. But this unique formula is original to Jesus. This was new.” (182)
Stanley claims that no one… no person before Jesus has ever put these two things together. No Jewish person who knew their OT would ever have seen this or thought this. This was new wine skins right? Yet, in the gospel of Mark:
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.
Notice the response of scribe! Just the answer he expected to hear from Jesus! He wasn’t star struck by this new teaching. He wasn’t left with his mouth gaping as Stanley might have wanted. Here was a man who knew his OT and when he heard Jesus give the answer for the greatest command, he completely agreed with Jesus.
I Don’t Think That Means What You Think
The reason why the scribe was not shocked by Jesus’ statement is because those two passages, the Shema from Deuteronomy and “loving your neighbor” Leviticus 19 would have been deeply present in the Jewish mind. The Shema was something that Jews said every morning and every evening, a vital part of their meditation. The “love your neighbor” was a critical piece of understanding the whole law way before Jesus’ summary. R. K. Harrison brings this point out in his commentary on Leviticus:
The course for the Christian to follow in such cases was exemplified by Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:23). The law of love for one’s fellows is enunciated only here and in verse 34, and appears to embrace members of the covenant community (‘sons of your own people’) along with aliens and strangers who lived among them. Indeed, the terms ‘love’ and ‘neighbour’ seem to have been as comprehensive in scope then as now. This so-called ‘golden rule’ was quoted by Christ (Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27, etc.) as an ideal of altruistic behaviour in society. The sentiment underlying this aphorism was unique in the ancient world, and represents one of the Old Testament’s most outstanding moral precepts. (Vol. 3, p. 202)
In the Jewish mind, yes, loving your neighbor started with your Jewish neighbor, but it didn’t stop there. It also meant loving the sojourner, as in the non-Jewish residents within the boundaries of Israel. This was commanded by God in the very law that Stanley wants to get rid of! What about the examples of Rahab and Ruth? How was Ruth treated by Boaz as an enemy of God’s people, a Moabite?
This is massively critical, because Stanley goes on to use the parable of The Good Samaritan to press home his claim that the Jews only loved other Jews before Jesus came on the scene.
“Jesus saw through all this. He also saw this as the perfect opportunity to deconstruct and then reconstruct his audience’s concept of neighbor. He was months away from establishing his new covenant between God and the nations. If this good news, this gospel, was going to make it beyond the borders of Judea and Galilee, his followers would have to abandon their ancient racist ways. So he launched into his most disorienting, paradigm-shifting, mind-bending parable of all. We’ve reduced this parable to a figure of speech. In its original context it was so much more.” (187)
The Jews are a racist bunch because of the law? This, simply is not true. It is not true that the Jews didn’t understand these commands. It is not true that they didn’t understand that loving your neighbor even could mean your enemy. Jesus told this parable to show how far away God’s people had departed from him once again. The Pharisees knew the law by the letter but they didn’t know the heart of God. The heart of God, that was in the law from the very beginning. This is just straight the gospel by Andy Stanley. He can only see the Bible through the lens of his apologetic. He is constantly looking and discovering for himself an interpretation that fits his narrative.
If I have not established my case well enough, thanks to the beauty of the Scriptures, there is another massive proof that the Jews knew the greatest commands, specifically the second one before Jesus’ summary.
Why did God call Jonah to preach to the Assyrians? Because God wanted to save gentiles. Why did Jonah refuse to go? Because he hated the Assyrians… and he knew that God would forgive them once he began preaching. Jonah was so determined in his racism and bigotry that he ran and was willing to die than to see the Assyrians saved. He knew that God was compassionate and merciful. He knew that he should go because the Assyrians were to be considered his neighbor too. But he was a wicked prophet who didn’t want to see his enemy saved.
Sound familiar? What do you think the message of such a story would have been to its Jewish audience? God loves his enemies and if you really say you love God then you should love your enemy too.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” – Jonah 4:1-3
Revealing God’s Heart
Could it be that if we embraced what the OT had to say, it would constantly pointing us back to the very heart of God? Could it be that through all the plagues, all the idolatry, all the wars, all the sin, mistakes, and evil, we get the perfect picture of God’s wrath against human sin and his compassionate love to save sinners?
Christian, do not cut away your OT as Stanley would have you do. Understand that it all points to Christ. Understand that is a beautiful story of God working with deeply sinful and flawed people (like you and me). Understand that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was working then on the same principles so gloriously revealed for us now to see.
For if we cut away the OT, then we lose the very commands that Jesus uses to sum up the law. Loving God and loving your neighbor has always been a moral universal that all humanity will be held accountable to obey. This is what the law was always about. It was not the law that was broken, as Stanley would suggest, but it is you and me. We are broken. We make everything worse. We need to be cut down to our hearts by the living words of Scripture to see our very desperate need of a Savior. These are God’s words.
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10, 11
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart. Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:7-14