Andy Stanley famously (well, Christian-famously) mentioned that we need to “unhitch” Christianity from the Old Testament. He tried to walk back the statement afterward but, well, that’s hard to do even if had he had a good explanation. Garrett wrote about it here, and I commend that to you. Regardless of what Stanley really meant, the message that was communicated was clear: we do not need the Old Testament to know Jesus. The best I can tell, even given Stanley all the benefit of the doubt, his words are a misapplication of the decision we read about in Acts 15.
Enough virtual ink has been spilled refuting Stanley’s comments (you can do Google or Duck Duck Go, can’t you?). My goal in this post is to get you to look at Jesus’ words in John 5 and see that we’ve been warned about unhitching from either testament.
John 5:46-47 ESV — For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?
You can see the danger of unhitching the Old Testament from the New. If you do not believe Moses, you will not be able to believe Jesus either. It’s one complete book. One story. One Author. And it’s all to be believed. But the opposite is also true, you can’t say you believe Jesus but deny Moses.
So almost 2000 years before Stanley’s remarks, Jesus warned the people (and us) against thinking that we can split the Bible up as if any part of it is unnecessary or unbelievable. It is the height of hypocrisy to proclaim to believe the writings of Moses but not the New Testament and vice versa. Ergo, there is a ditch on either side of Unhitch Boulevard.
First, let’s consider the context of Jesus’ warning. In verse 45, Jesus aptly points out that the people to whom he was speaking were relying on their law-keeping to save them. He said, “There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” You see, Jesus is setting them up for the next point. That is, Jesus recognizes that they profess to follow Moses. These people claim to be followers of the Old Testament law—the old covenant if you will—but Jesus knows something they don’t realize. Jesus teaches us in John 5 that He is the one to whom the OT scriptures were pointing all along.
John 5:39 ESV — You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
And then Jesus shows them their hypocrisy by the words, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me.” There is no Old Testament faith apart from Jesus Christ. You cannot believe in Moses, and thus, the God of Moses, but not recognize Him when He is standing right in front of you. Old Testament law-keeping never saved anyone from God’s wrath. So to say your hope is in Moses but not Christ is to effectively tell people that you have an errant understanding of what the Old Testament taught about salvation.
This is why there was a decent uproar in Reformed™ circles when John MacArthur effectively stated that Jews believe in the same God as Christians. See the clip here if you like.
But for a Jew to believe in the same God as a Christian, according to Jesus’ words in John 5 (and John 8:19), that would mean the Jew IS a Christian. Because you can’t truly believe Moses and not recognize that Jesus is the Christ. There is no believing Jew who would not see Jesus as the messiah. It’s that simple.
The point is this, you can no more unhitch the Old Testament from the New than you can unhitch the New Testament from the Old. There is no such thing as a Christian who denies the Old Testament nor is there such a thing as a faithful Jew who believes the Old Testament but denies Christ.
I would suppose that every passage about the Pharisees in the gospels would be conclusive evidence of this. Verses like Matthew 5:20 help us see this distinction as well where Jesus effectively damns every one of the scribes and Pharisees by saying their righteousness will not get them to Heaven.
So what are you supposed to do with this information?
For starters, recognize that God wrote a single book we call the Bible. And despite the various authors, genres, and contexts, this book has a single consistent message and a single consistent subject: Jesus Christ. It is HE to whom the scriptures bear witness.
Hold people in your life accountable for this. Don’t allow people to profess to believe God yet deny His revelation, even in part. You can’t be saved by the red-letter-only Jesus any more than Jews can be saved by their temple sacrifices. Your friend who finds certain Old Testament scriptures unpalatable needs to repent, or you should fear that he has not been transferred from death to life.
And finally, sit back and worship and enjoy your Savior from all of Scripture. When you read the New Testament, read it with the beauty of Christ in mind as you watch Him be revealed to you exactly as God saw fit to reveal Him. And when you read the Old Testament, relish in the types and shadows of the salvation that was to come which are pictured throughout the scripture.