John Piper Discusses Eight Key Differences in Applying Old Testament to Modern Christianity

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Photo: Twitter Screenshot - John Piper

Prominent theologian and preacher John Piper recently discussed the relevance of the Old Testament in modern Christianity in an episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast. 

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During the conversation, a listener named Maureen asked Piper how to discern which Old Testament verses apply to contemporary Christians.

Piper began by asserting that the Old Testament holds significance for all those who follow Christ but highlighted eight key differences between the Old Testament people of God, Israel, and the modern Church. His first point emphasized that ancient Israel was an earthly, political nation-state, while the contemporary Church’s citizenship lies in Heaven, and its members are considered sojourners and exiles living among various nation-states.

The second difference noted by Piper revolved around theocratic governance in ancient Israel, which allowed for the execution of punishments for those who violated God’s law, including capital punishment for idolatry and other transgressions. In contrast, the Church lacks the authority to administer divine punishments and relies on church discipline, including excommunication, instead.

Piper’s third point highlighted the ethnic diversity within the Church, whereas Israel was primarily a single ethnicity. He emphasized that practices designed to separate Israel from neighboring ethnicities no longer apply to God’s people.

Another significant distinction Piper mentioned was the presence of defined geographic borders and a religious center in ancient Israel, whereas the New Testament Church has no such borders or central religious location.

Piper’s fifth difference drew attention to the fact that individuals were born into ancient Israel, while people are “born again” into the Church through the miracle of God’s forgiveness and the writing of His law on their hearts.

The sixth contrast was the absence of a “great commission” in the Old Testament, which emphasized evangelism. In the New Testament, believers are specifically called to evangelize and share the message of Christ.

Piper’s seventh point noted the Old Testament’s sacrificial system, which was replaced by Jesus as the final sacrifice and High Priest in the New Testament.

Finally, Piper highlighted the role of the Holy Spirit, explaining that the people of God in the Old Testament experienced the Spirit’s working but did not have the indwelling Spirit of the risen Christ. Today, the Holy Spirit works within the Church as the body of the risen Christ.

Despite these differences, Piper emphasized that any Old Testament text can be applied to modern Christians by considering it fulfilled in Christ, making necessary adjustments in line with these key distinctions.

Piper’s discussion evoked memories of megachurch Pastor Andy Stanley, who stirred controversy in May 2018 when he suggested that Christians should “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith. Stanley referenced Acts 15, where early Church leaders decided that Gentile converts didn’t need to adhere strictly to Jewish law.

Critics, including Messianic Jewish author and radio host Michael Brown, argued that Gentile believers were called to live holy lives based on Old Testament teachings throughout the New Testament. They cautioned that removing the Old Testament would diminish understanding of Israel’s destiny and the destiny of the nations.

Stanley clarified that he still considered the Old Testament inerrant and explained that his comments were intended for an audience skeptical of the Bible. He emphasized that his belief in the Old Testament’s validity rested on Jesus’s endorsement of it as evidenced by His prediction and fulfillment of His own death and resurrection.

John Piper highlighted eight key differences between the Old Testament and modern Christianity. While he underscored the continuing importance of the Old Testament for believers, he advised applying its teachings through the lens of Jesus’s fulfillment of the law and the unique characteristics of the contemporary Church.  

 

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