CW’s default response when caught in a difficult argument is to change the subject by asking the deflective question, “What is the gospel?” So, what does CW say about the gospel?
In a recent exchange, where a new commenter made a defence of Andy Stanley’s recent teaching series, CW made some astonishing claims regarding the commandment by Jesus to love.
Commenter Sara wrote:
“In this series he is saying that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors. He is saying that every commandment we are given revolves around this.” This is accurate to one of the main teachings of the New Testament.
Is this true? What did Jesus say about the commands to love? He was asked what the greatest commands were.
Mark 12:28-34 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 neighbour 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 neighbour 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.
In Matthew, Jesus makes the commandments to love God and love our neighbour the very basis of the Law and Prophets. There is no other commandment greater than these. In agreeing with Jesus on this, the scribe is said to be ‘not far from the kingdom of God’ Surely then the gospel includes the commandments to love, not as a matter of law but of grace.
Commandment to love
To reiterate and confirm this, Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them a new commandment.
John 13:34-34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So, far from nullifying the commandments to love, Jesus ratifies them as the evidence that we are his disciples. If we do not have love for one another we are not his disciples. A thorough reading of 1 John will confirm this. For instance:
1 John 2:3-5 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
The Word is the gospel of Christ. If we keep God’s Word the love of God is perfected in us. This love is the commandments written on our hearts. As God said, he will give us a new heart and a new spirit and he will write his commandments on our renewed heart.
If we do not keep his commandments we are liars, and the truth is not in us. By keeping his Word the love of God is perfected in us, and we can know, by the love we have for others, that we are in him. What are Jesus’ commandments? To love God and to love our neighbour as ourself.
How, then, can we be the children of the gospel of Christ if we do not love? And how can we love people if we do not first love God. God is love. We love God because he first loved us. It is the love of God that is in us to cause us to love our neighbour and our brethren. The whole of the gospel is based on God’s love. He loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to save us.
CW theology of the gospel
But what does CW say in this regard?
“…a major problem that we have with Andy Stanley, (as pointed out with our latest article refuting his false doctrine), is his idolatry. Too many people like Andy Stanley push the “love God love people” mantra without realising that is nothing but the Law. The Law is not the gospel. The Law will only bring people to despair and misery. They need to hear the gospel.”
Well, this is quite extraordinary. Jesus’ command to love is, according to CW theology, the Law, and idolatry, which will only bring people to despair and misery.
The instruction, admonition and commands to love are written throughout the New Testament. It is not idolatry to love God. What is CW saying? How can it be idolatry to love God? We are told to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and being. Of course this is true. It cannot be idolatry to love our Heavenly Father. And how can we say we love God if we do not love our neighbour? The two go hand in hand. That is the thrust of 1st John.
CW clearly doesn’t have a clue what the gospel is, or what Jesus is saying to us, either personally or through his Apostles. If we do not love we are not his disciples.
How is it idolatry to teach people to love God and love their neighbour? Jesus himself said that there is no higher command than to love God and love our neighbour. The principle is reiterated throughout the New Testament.
CW is loosely preaching from the Reformed catechism, albeit with some rather wayward theories. The article CW is referring to in his post quotes from an online Reformed teacher, Philip Lee, who basically conforms to the doctrine that people are regenerated without faith, and do not have it in them to choose life, so they are saved in what is effectively a graceless way against their will.
On this basis he fears that people may slip into idolatry if they try to love without first being saved. But Andy Stanley isn’t coming at this from that perspective at all, but from the angle of being saved already and how we conduct ourselves as believers.
According to this Reformed doctrine, faith has no part in regeneration. This is where the problem starts, and it leads to false assumptions being made in the post and in CW’s comments, where he clearly denies the teaching of Christ and of the Apostles.
Then CW introduces a strawman.
“If that is not enough, when the mantra “love God love neighbour” is espoused, God is often de-emphasised and man is magnified. We’ve noticed this is done so false teachers like Andy Stanley can manipulate people to embrace modern day philosophies and practices. For example, same sex equality.”
Well, no, that is simply not true. There is not a shred of evidence to support this claim against Andy Stanley, or anyone who teaches, after Christ, that we are to love God and love our neighbour.
Is CW including Jesus in this? Or John, who referred to the importance of the love commandments? Or the writer to the Hebrews? Or Peter? Or James? They all stated that we should love God and love our neighbour. Are they preaching idolatry? Are they magnifying man? Of course not.
CW has set up a false argument having been exposed by commenter Sara, who was actually present in the Andy Stanley meetings and rebuts CW’s arguments in one well written comment.
CW has based its post on the writings of blogger Philip Lee who produces another strawman:
“So telling people it doesn’t matter what they believe as long as they love others is actually putting people back under the yoke of the Law.”
Well, where does anyone say this? No one, least of all Andy Stanley, or commenter Sara, is saying it doesn’t matter what they believe as long as they love. Philip Lee made this up to add strength to his argument, which is wrong.
Jesus gave us New Testament commandments. Does this place us under the Mosaic Law? No. He commanded us to make disciples and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is that Law? No. It is Jesus’ instructions to his disciples.
He commanded us to love one another. He said the commandments to love God and love our neighbour as ourself were the basis for all our dealings. He fulfilled the Law, therefore he fulfilled the Laws of Love. He demonstrated the love of God and fulfilled the Law. Does love now end? Of course not. It is eternal. These three things remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest is love.
Loving God is not idolatry. Loving our neighbour is a command which is associated with loving God. Loving our neighbour comes as a result of loving God.
Intriguingly, Philip Lee ends his piece by saying, “I don’t yet know what Stanley is going to say in the final two sermons of this series.” No, you don’t. So that, then, by Lee’s own admission, is presumption, which is poor analysis based on innuendo. That is certainly not demonstrating any kind of love or respect for the person he is criticising.
Well, a couple of weeks later, Stanley had completed his series and none of the fears Lee uttered were confirmed. Stanley did not move anyone closer towards apostasy, liberalism, or what Lee calls ‘gay affirming’ theology or ‘female leadership’ teaching.
Lee has since written a post which confirms that his fears about Stanley were not founded. Despite excusing himself with several other assumptions, he admits that Andy Stanley preached a scripturally orthodox message, albeit not in the Reformed format Lee would have preferred, so he adds a few quibbles about this.
Does CW say anything about Lee’s backflip? No. Of course not. CW leaves the post and CW’s own comments on the thread.
Meanwhile, the Apostle John confirms the commandments to love handed down by Jesus.
1 John 3:22-24 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Is keeping Christ’s commandments reverting to Mosaic Law? Of course not. The commandments to love are an integral part of the message of the gospel. Walking in love with our brethren demonstrates that we are born again, have received the Spirit, and have the love of God in us through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we received Christ we did not know love. When we received him as Lord and Saviour we received the Spirit and God’s love came to dwell in us. Love is the evidence of God’s presence in our lives. For this reason, if we do not love we do not have God and we are not saved.
1 John 4:10-13 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
CW’s false charge that loving God and loving our neighbour is idolatry is shameful and demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the gospel. God is never ‘de-emphasised’ when we serve him by loving our neighbour. That is another false assumption, and completely against scripture and Jesus’ commands.
God is love
But let’s add more weight to this truth that we are to live by Jesus’ commands to love God and love our neighbour.
1 John 4:15-21 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
We love Him because He first loved us.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
That is so clear that it would take a complete hypocrite to deliberately miss it. Loving God involves loving our brother and sister in Christ. if you cannot show that you love God by loving your neighbour you are demonstrating that you do not have God in your life, and that you are not truly born again. You are showing that you have not understood the very basis of the gospel.
Having set up his strawman, CW further states:
“To elevate the love of man above the love of God is idolatry. And for Andy Stanley to encourage Christians to embrace this form of idolatry is incredibly unloving.”
No one at any time in this discussion, least of all Sara in her defence of Andy Stanley’s teaching, has elevated the love of man above the love of God. That is a disgraceful claim by CW, and completely without foundation or fact.
CW’s is a scurrilous and wilful statement because, as I have already shown, it is not idolatry to love God. It is not wrong to love your neighbour. In fact, loving our neighbour, and especially our brethren, is evidence that we love God and that the love of God is in us. It is evidence that we are saved. It is evidence of the new birth. It is evidence that we know and have received the gospel.
The attack on Andy Stanley comes because he is set to be a speaker at a Hillsong Conference. CW does this every year with guests at the conferences of Hillsong and C3.
CW’s attack is, of course, based on wrong assumtions, but what comes out of this episode is CW’s clear lack of understanding of the gospel and of the scriptures. There is far more on the commands to love God and love people from other epistles and gospels, but even with this small contribution CW has once again been found seriously lacking.