All posts by Peter Ditzel

The Cup of the New Covenant, in His Blood
Part 1 of 2

by Peter Ditzel

A detailed close-up of the cup of wine from an Eastern Orthodox icon of the Last Supper.
Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus didn’t say these words without intending them to have significant meaning. Why did He not simply refer to the wine? Why did he refer to the cup?

In Luke 22, we read of Jesus’ appointment of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His death. When He came to the cup of wine, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Have you ever wondered why Jesus used this wording? Why did He say that the cup of wine is the New Covenant in His blood? There is something very important for us to learn here.


Is the Old Testament Wrong?

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a woman tearing at her Bible with the overlaid words, Should we rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?
If the Old Testament tells us “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus says, “But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil,” does that mean the Old Testament is wrong? If Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Old, does that mean that we should rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?

I want to warn you against neo-Marcionism. Some preachers and writers either now promote or are just on the verge of blindly rushing into this dangerous belief. Around the middle of the second century AD, Marcion of Sinope began spreading his belief system that came to be known as Marcionism. One of his central teachings was the claim that the God of the Old Testament couldn’t be the God of the New Testament. The God of the New Testament sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. The Old Testament God was a legalistic God of retribution. Marcion’s solution to this seeming contradiction was to reject the Old Testament from the Christian canon.

Today, we have teachers who are saying that the God that Jesus reveals is so different from the God of the Old Testament that the Old Testament must be wrong. Other preachers are standing at their pulpits and suggesting that the Old Testament, with its Law of Moses, is a hindrance to the Gospel and, thus, we should unhitch the Old Testament. I grant that the Old Testament can present problems to the uninformed. I also grant that for centuries, teachers have often had the problem of wrongly bringing the Old Covenant into the New. The neo-Marcionites are likely reacting to this and have good intentions. Yet, I have no doubt most bad theology is the result of good intentions. But is the answer to the misuse of the Old Testament to just jettison it? After all, isn’t all of the Bible the Word of God? Does God give us another solution to this problem?

Misunderstanding the Relationship of the Covenants

The core reason Marcion detached the Old Testament was that he misunderstood it and its relationship to the New Testament. Neo-Marcionites have the same problem. Through the centuries, vast numbers of Christians have had a poor understanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps the most common manifestation of the problem is what I would call flat covenant theology—not seeing the true distinction between the testaments and failing to grasp that the New is the superior revelation and the interpreting testament. Even many who have some notion of the New Testament as a superior revelation often see the relationship between the testaments as being expressed by the terms Old/immature and New/mature. They see the same covenant in the Old and New Testaments with the New Testament merely introducing a better, more mature administration of it.

New Covenant Theology addresses these deficient and misleading views by teaching that the relationship between the testaments is one of type and antitype. In the Old Testament, we find the history of the temporary and shadowy Old Covenant of law and works; in the New Testament, is the eternal and real New Covenant of grace and faith. But some people, rushing headlong away from flat covenant theology are apparently not satisfied with sound, New Covenant Theology. They see a distinction between the covenants, but instead of seeing the type/antitype relationship, they see the two covenants as divided into a wrong/right pattern, or at least they consider the Old Testament as so flawed and inferior that it is a liability and not worth hanging on to.

These people point out differences between the Old and New Testaments and declare that they prove that the Old Testament contains errors. After all, they say, the Old and New Testaments contain so many differences that they both cannot be correct. One must be wrong, and that’s more likely to be the Old Testament.

By errors, it’s not always clear whether they mean textual errors (i.e. the Bible does not faithfully record what was said or what happened), or whether plain statements that are not textual errors (e.g. “The LORD sent fiery serpents amongst the people, and they bit the people. Many people of Israel died”—Numbers 21:6) are factual errors, or whether they believe God actually made mistakes (e.g. God made a mistake to say, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” and Jesus corrected this error). Is the Old Testament wrong? Does is contain errors? Should we just ditch it because it causes more trouble than it’s worth?

The Old and New Testaments Don’t Really Contradict

The law of non-contradiction states that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true. Yet, two seemingly contradictory things can actually both be true under different circumstances.

God is perfectly righteous. His standards are perfect. God’s laws to Israel were merely types of His righteousness. After Moses delivered these laws to the people of Israel, they agreed to them and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). But, of course, God knew they would not do them. His real purpose was to teach through Israel’s bad example that humanity is so sinful that no one can consistently obey even the shadows of His righteousness. No one is able to attain his or her own righteousness. All need a Savior. Most of the Jews never understood that lesson. They became puffed up in thinking they were living up to God’s standards.

When He gave His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exposed man’s dilemma when He said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” It was as if He were saying, “So, you think you are righteous by keeping the Mosaic shadows? Well, to really be righteous, you would have to be doing this; you would have to even have perfect thoughts.”

Those who denigrate the Old Testament should note that Jesus never said the Old Testament was wrong. The Old Covenant only had authority over Israel. Jesus pointed out that even that limited authority was drawing to a close because He was going to fulfill the law and end it. When Jesus spoke, He knew that soon no one would have to try to keep the law or attain God’s perfect standards to be righteous. Jew and Gentile could just trust Him as Savior. He would rescue all believers from their hopeless situation.

By His paying the penalty of the law for us and putting us into the New Covenant under which there is no condemnation, we would then be free to grow in love as He empowers us through the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t have to worry about failing because there is no condemnation under the New Covenant. That way, we could keep trying and growing in love. Love perfectly expressed is God’s holy and righteous standard, Jesus has met it, and His righteousness covers us.

No Contradiction Between the Testaments

In John 10:35, Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken.” Jesus does not contradict the Old Testament. It had its purpose. Jesus came to end it and begin the New Testament. We can still learn much from the Old Testament because it is shadows pointing to Christ and the New Covenant. Look at it this way: Jesus is the body or substance or reality that casts a shadow into the Old Testament (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).

The Old and New Testaments are both the Word of God. They are both God-breathed, but for different purposes. The button to work a window in a car is as much a part of the car as the crankshaft. But they don’t serve the same purpose and are not of equal importance. Just as Paul says of the Law, “The law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good,” (Romans 7:12), the entire Old Testament is holy, righteous, and good. But the New Testament is of greater importance to us now under the New Covenant. Both dropping the Old Testament altogether and giving it equal weight to the New Testament are serious errors.

If we say there are contradictions and mistakes in the Old Testament, we are setting a dangerous precedent. We will end up picking and choosing what we like and rejecting what we don’t, and we will soon find ourselves far from the truth. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit, but we must also remember that we are still flawed humans who can deceive ourselves. Perhaps a good analogy is that the Holy Spirit is our locomotive who keeps us going forward, but the Bible is the track that keeps us within the truth.

Good Intentions? But Reckless Theology

One of the people I feel is in danger of falling into neo-Marcionism is Andy Stanley. I’m not one of his followers, so I’m not an authority on everything he’s said. But because he’s been in the news lately, I’ve looked into some of what he’s said. Some of what he asserts rightly exposes the serious error of giving equal weight to the Old and New Testaments. But I also see that, like many today, he seems to prefer hip and contemporary sound bites over theological precision. So, some of the criticism aimed at him is deserved.

Stanley has been faulted for saying, “when it comes to stumbling blocks to faith, the Old Testament is right up there at the top of the list” (Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, 280). In this same book, he later says, “Would you consider unhitching your teaching of what it means to follow Jesus from all things old covenant?” (315). He has also apparently said, “[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures,” and, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well” (“Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley”).

He certainly likes the word “unhitch.” It is the first and last quotes that I have the most problem with. The Old Testament needn’t be a problem if preachers were to teach its true purpose and its proper relationship to believers under the New Covenant. I have no problem with unhitching Christian teaching from the “worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures” as long as that simply means that we are not to take them as our own, and I’ll assume that the quote from page 315 basically means the same thing. But none of this adds up to or excuses the last statement. Peter, James, and Paul did not unhitch the Christian faith from the Jewish Scriptures, and we must not either. All Peter, James, and Paul did was put the Hebrew (better descriptive) Scriptures in their proper place.

Now, I’ll admit that if I were a prisoner being sent to a concentration camp with a choice of taking only one book with me, and the Old and New Testaments counted as two books, I would take the New Testament. It is most certainly the better revelation and the one that applies directly to me as a Christian. Nevertheless, though not as clearly and directly as the New Testament, the Old Testament Scriptures are able to make us “wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus” and are “God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

There Are Ditches on Both Sides of the Road

Flat covenant theology has led to legalism, works salvation, Christian Dominionism, multiple varieties of cultism, and, when accompanied with failure to apply the basic tool of interpreting Scripture in context, has even led to the shameful practicing of racial bigotry and slavery because they are “found in the Bible.”

We can go very wrong if we look at the Old Testament and say such things as, “The Bible says to keep a Sabbath day,” or, “The Bible tells us to slaughter our enemies.” But the fault is not in the Old Testament. The fault is our own for not first understanding the basic tenets of the New Testament before delving into the Old.

When I was a teenager, for my first attempt at reading the Bible, I started in Genesis. I got to the myriad sacrifices in Leviticus and gave up because I found it boring and irrelevant. A few years later, I again became interested in the Bible and started with the Gospels. The difference was astounding! Unfortunately, I also started reading the literature of the Worldwide Church of God and became influenced by it. The Worldwide Church of God’s theology was as flat as west Texas. There was no understanding of what God was doing with the Old and New Covenants. It was merely, If the Bible says to do it, we need to do it. Thank God that He eventually brought me out of that church!

When the Bible says that God told the Israelites through Moses to not eat pork, and so forth, it is not a textual error. Nor did the Israelites misunderstand God about these things. Nor was God wrong to say such things. It was right for the context, and that context was a step in God’s plan. But that context is not our context. We must see it for the historical event and shadow that it was. When we do that, it can be profitable.

Do you know a new Christian or someone interested in learning? Encourage that person to first read the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament while delving into the Old Testament verses only as they are referenced in the New. Later, with that foundation, reading through the Old Testament can be profitable.

We must not accuse the Old Testament of being wrong. We must not throw it out. We must not “unhitch” from it. But let’s make sure we see it from the perspective of a sound understanding of the New Testament.

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Announcement: I Have Changed My Understanding of “New Law”

Peter Ditzel

January 2019: I recently revisited some articles I wrote several years ago and made some necessary changes. These center on what Jesus was doing when He gave His “But I say unto you” statements in Matthew 5. Or, to put it another way, these changes concern whether Jesus was giving Christians a new law to obey.


Why Did Jesus Say, “But I Tell You”?

A photo of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Why did Jesus refer to the Old Testament and then say, “But I tell you”? Was He giving us new laws to obey, or was He making an entirely different point? The Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

by Peter Ditzel

The Bible records that Jesus many times used the words, “But I tell you,” or, as the King James Version puts it, “But I say unto you.” He did this after first either quoting the Old Testament or stating a principle from the Old Testament. Then He used what He said from the Old Testament as a springboard to teach a moral principle that sounded even stricter than the Old Testament.

Why did Jesus do this? Was it, as some claim, that Jesus was refuting or correcting Old Testament laws? (See, for example, “Jesus Refuted Old Testament Laws” and “6 Times Jesus Contradicted the Old Testament.”) Or was He merely correcting misinterpretations of the scribes and Pharisees? (For example, see “How to Avoid the Folly of the Pharisees.”) On the other hand, perhaps He was raising the standard of the law and in so doing, He was teaching that we Christians must obey the law more than the scribes and Pharisees. (See “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed…?’”), and, (“More Righteous Than The Pharisees?“) There are many opinions, but I want to show you from the Bible the plain and simple answer to why Jesus said, “But I tell you.”

The Two Powers

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of Moses with the Ten Commandments on the left and the Cross on the right.
The Bible speaks of two powers that have different purposes and are mutually exclusive. Yet, many insist on teaching that we are under both.

The two powers I have in mind are at opposite ends of the compass (Psalm 103:12). One is the power of sin and of death and of Satan, and the other the power of God for salvation. These two powers are mutually exclusive, each working against the other. As believers, we have experienced the power of God for salvation, and we remain safe under that power. And yet, Christian teachers abound (some of them even claiming New Covenant Theology) who insist that believers are under both powers and that the power of sin and of death and of Satan is the power we are to use to guide our lives and accomplish our sanctification. I want to show you where the Bible speaks of these powers and how we cannot be under both.


Q. Since you have been diagnosed with cancer, do you have anything new to add to your views on healing?

A picture of Benny Hinn on stage with wheelchairs and people raising their hands to him.
Benny Hinn, known for his “Miracle Crusades” during which he allegedly performs healings. Does God continue to heal today? If so, how?

A. In 2014, I wrote an article called, “Does God Promise Healing Today?” As many of you know, in February 2018, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and have been receiving treatment for it. Such diagnoses are where the rubber meets the road. Do I still stand by what I said four years ago? Has delving back into this topic while suffering from cancer given me any additional thoughts?


Are Seminaries Biblical?

by Peter Ditzel

A photo of four priests laying their hands on four kneeling men receiving the rite of ordination.
Those who complete seminary training are ordained as clergy. But is seminary training supported by Scripture? Photo: Priestly ordination in Schwyz, Switzerland by Matthias Ulrich.

Most churches, and probably most Christians, assume that those who serve in the ministry, at least at the pastor level, should have seminary training.

There are some who dare to question this system. Their question is often, Are seminaries biblical? The answer they’re often given by seminary advocates is, Does something have to be biblical to be good? After all, cars, indoor plumbing, electricity, and other conveniences that we take for granted are not in the Bible. Even words such as “Trinity” are not in the Bible. But this response of citing general cases is an evasion of the question.


The Parables of Jesus>Who Is the Good Samaritan?

by Peter Ditzel

A painting titled The Good Samaritan painted by Balthasar van Cortbemde (1612–1663) in 1647. It shows a man in Middle Eastern attire bending down to help a near-naked man who appears to be on the point of death.
Is Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan merely a moral tale that He intended would encourage us to good works? Or, did He have something else in mind altogether? The Good Samaritan (1647) painted by Balthasar van Cortbemde (1612–1663).

We’ve all heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And, we’ve all heard that through this parable, Jesus was teaching that we should show love to our neighbor through self-sacrifice. “Good Samaritan” has even become a term used to describe a helpful or charitable person. According to this common interpretation, the parable teaches that when we see our neighbor in need, we are to help. Yet, if this is what Jesus is saying, it would mean that the half-dead man on the side of the road is the neighbor of the parable, the person in need, the neighbor we are supposed to help.

A fact that is often missed, however, is that Jesus contradicted this accepted understanding by agreeing with the lawyer when he identified the neighbor in the parable as being, not the man in need of help, but the Samaritan who helped him. In fact, there are several difficulties with the standard definition of the parable that, when corrected by the Bible, completely change the meaning from the one assumed. What, then, is the answer to the lawyer’s question in Luke 10:29, “Who is my neighbor?” And who does the good Samaritan in the parable represent?


Fallen from Grace?

by Peter Ditzel

A black and white image of the angel with the flaming sword expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
Theologians often say that Adam and Eve fell from grace. People commonly use the term to mean other things, too. But what does the Bible mean when it says that someone has fallen from grace?

We sometimes hear both Christians and non-Christians use the expression, “fallen from grace.” Occasionally, they use it to refer to Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. At times, the media use the term to refer to someone—often a prominent Christian—who has had some secret sin, such as adultery, publicly exposed. Certain denominations frequently use the idiom to describe Christians who have so sinned that they have, according to their theology, lost their salvation (at least until they respond to another altar call). “Fallen from grace” is a biblical term with a specific meaning that matches none of the ways it is commonly used. Unfortunately, this confusion obscures the Gospel. In this article, I’d like to explain what the Bible really means by “fallen from grace.”


Must We First Forgive to Be Forgiven?

Peter Ditzel

Picture of lighthouse on cliff overlaid with the Scripture, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
We commonly see pictures with Bible verses like this one posted on social media as a form of encouragement. But is it really encouraging to be told that God won’t forgive us unless we first do a work? Jesus did say these words, but did He intend them for believers?

As part of what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, and in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Again, in Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” These passages have caused theologians some consternation. They seem to pin our receiving God’s forgiveness upon a human work—the work of our first forgiving others. Will God not forgive us unless we forgive others first?