Guest Editorial by Jeremie Lederman
A rebuttal to Kip McKean’s article,
“The Biblical Significance Of The Old Testament In New Testament Times”

Saturday, May 21 of 2011 / Upsidedown21

Recently, Kip McKean wrote an article to expand on his beliefs regarding the role of the OT in the NT era. The primary target of his article is the CoC and ICOC. What he uses to target these churches is an argument that they are “false teachers of today, who do not preach from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, as they are leading God’s people astray.” He then uses the article to defend this assertion. However, a brief analysis of his assertion falls short of the magnitude he attempts to understand. In short, Mr. McKean proposes that there is a unique understanding of OT authority that is being neglected by his primary target. This neglect insinuates that those leaders and by extension, the congregations, are in jeopardy of their very salvation. I am confident that anyone familiar with Kip’s hermeneutics will interpret this as further “one true church” commentary.

First, let me summarize the article.

  1. The OT is just as important as the NT and should be used by the NT church as a source of instruction.
  2. NT writers sighting the OT as scripture validates its importance.
  3. Kip is aware of the OT value, and criticizes the CoC and ICOC for not having the same beliefs.
  4. Kip uses basic biblical knowledge to describe ways that Jesus and the early church used the OT, continuing in his effort to validate his specific claim.
  5. The article highlights that the OT holds authority that is currently active within the NT church.
  6. There are first semester examples of numerology and symbolism.
  7. Kip wraps up the article, sighting examples of how he uses both covenants to teach and instruct his church.

However, in reading the details and proof-texts he uses in his article, Kip begins to blend issues under the rubric of ‘authority.’ The issue of the Old Testament’s authority is a centuries old discussion. The key to understanding the undercurrent of his article is to understand that he is trying to define a very specific type of authority. He is trying to show how his church has zeroed in on the key aspect of OT authority and others have not. I suggest that the reader never forgets how often Kip tries to denigrate the validity of other congregations under the guise of a VERY unique interpretation of multi-faceted passages. The article certainly avoids terms like “One True Church,” but he does remind us of ‘the remnant.’

Kip’s article does a very poor job of offering a solid overview of what the OT authority is. It is by no means as simplistic and overreaching as he describes. Moreover, Kip makes sure to sight Wikipedia (of all things) for quotes on how the CoC and ICOC interpret the authority in the OT. Ironically, anyone with a solid knowledge of the bible will read his quotes and actually agree.

Because of the way Kip sets up his assertion, I have to bring out a scalpel. There is old covenant law and there is God’s authority as God. The two are unique and separate doctrines. Kip immediately blurs these, and then quickly moves on. For example, any NT church still practicing the OT law would be in grave error, even heretical. Basically, everything Paul fought against. I am certain that even Kip knows this and would not practice such error. This is what Kip posted from Wikipedia in regards to the ICOC’s beliefs:

“The Churches emphasize the use of the New Testament to find doctrine, ecclesiastical structure, and moral beliefs, while maintaining that the Old Testament… is also the Word of God, is historically accurate, and that its principles remain true and beneficial, but that its laws are not binding under the new covenant in Christ unless otherwise taught in the New Testament.”

Keep in mind, Kip writes the following in a paragraph before this quote:

“Yet many in Christendom have been led astray by those who preach that today only the New Testament has the authority of God.”

Can you see the deliberate blurring of the two types of authority?

While I hold no degree in a biblical education, and I profess no special or unique knowledge, I will dare to make some learned contrasts between the OT and NT covenants. Besides, Kip’s church has often prided itself that its leaders were ordinary and unschooled.

Contrast one:

The Bible is the Word of God. It has a divine authority and ongoing role in all believers’ lives

Contrast two:

God is the creator and has chosen to be known as a father and even brother to mankind. He holds authority in that regard. There is an intrinsic authority to God; He is not subordinate to any.

Contrast three:

The OT is made of the Law and the covenants God made to His chosen people. This Law is by extension, the Law of God. However, this Law now has its own basis for authority.

Contrast four:

An individual could sin against the Law, but be made right with God in atonement. This highlights the difference authority. Only God’s ultimate authority can forgive the trespass of his written authority to mankind, meaning that He trumps all other tiers.

Contrast five:

God himself tells us that a day will come when the written law will end and His new relationship with his children will begin. Deuteronomy 18:18, 19 where God speaks to Moses saying, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” This is one of many passages where God says a change in leadership will arise. Obviously, this is a reference to Jesus. Jesus will receive all authority, and at such time, will be the sole authority for the NT church.

In his article, Kip writes:

“The Bible is divided into two testaments, two covenants – the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yet many in Christendom have been led astray by those who preach that today only the New Testament has the authority of God.”

This is either deliberately blurry, or simply poor hermeneutics. I suspect it is deliberate. To state that people are led astray by ‘authority issues’ is extremely misleading. The problem is in Kip’s use of ‘authority.’ What Kip does here, is confuse a complex topic. And as Kip states further down in the paragraph:

“it is essential that we allow the Word of God to end the confusion – and confusion is of Satan (John 8:43-45).”

In terms of covenants, salvation, ecclesiastical organization, and traditions, the NT is the sole authority for the church. In regards to advice, proverbs, exhortations, and any other input on behavior, the OT has God’s inherent authority. That is DIFFERENT from the covenant authority.

Authority, Law, and covenants are VERY specific topics. They cannot be blended together to make a big bowl of proof-texting and gotcha points. Here is how I break it down:

  1. God’s Law preceded Moses, His authority as God was known even to civilizations prior to the Ten Commandments.
  2. God gave LAW to His people, the Israelites. He said that this Law was insufficient and would be later replaced by something better. Hebrews 8:7-13 “ For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
  3. Jesus was alive and taught us for 33 years. During His LIFE, there was NO NEW COVENANT! The NT covenant only began after His death: Hebrews 9:15-17 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

In Kip’s article, he mixes these timelines in the following way:

“I too believe that this is applicable, because the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings” and later Peter equates Paul’s writings with “the other Scriptures.” (Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:15-16) Yet, the word “Scripture” appears 54 times in the New Testament and in each and every instance it refers to only the Old Testament!”

Kip mixes up the Apostle’s teachings (POST JESUS), with Peter’s description of how people misinterpret Paul’s writings. The Apostle’s teachings were echoes of everything Jesus taught them about the NEW covenant authority. However, even if you want to make the case that Paul was only using OT scriptures, you STILL miss the issue of Authority, Law, and Covenants. Paul’s writings were instructions given to him by Jesus about how to manage the church under the NEW authority. Peter admits that using distortions of Paul’s writing are also synonymous to misusing the OT scripture. This is not a good case to make that issues of dating, marriage, and other ideas are matters of salvation. Kip’s mentioning of these passages does NOT provide him a defense in his essential point (that the ICOC is full of false teachers influenced by Satan’s confusion because they do not have a similar view as Kip on AUTHORITY).

Here are simple yet revealing questions? Can you become saved without knowing the Gospel? Can you become saved without knowing the Law?

Here are more questions: Does God have authority in both covenants? Which kind of authority? Which authority does he tell us that we will be held accountable to? Who earned the right to judge us and what authority does He have?

Kip uses 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as a proof-text that a leader can apply any OT principle they choose to a current day believer. The question is this? Which principle? The only principles of the OT are either God’s intrinsic authority as God, or the LAW. Which of these two ‘principles’ are punishable? Only those who broke the LAW were lead to death and exile. God FREQUENTLY endured a broken heart for infractions against Him (as God and father, NOT as the Law). It was the overwhelming authority of the Law that required bloodshed for remission. God often states in His discipline that He hurts deeply from the personal rejection, but punished for rejecting the law.

When religious teachers try to apply the OT, they blend the three distinct facets all to broadly. Would Kip suggest we circumcise or commit to the sacrificial system? No. He would argue that such Law has been ended by the death of Jesus (thus defeating his own point about ‘authority).

Kip writes:

“Though the concepts of “calling-out the remnant,” “dating and marrying only disciples,” and “a central leader and leadership for each of God’s movements” are in the New Testament, the Old Testament is much richer in its depth on these vital truths. It is my conviction that the New Testament lacks detail on these truths, not because as some infer that they are of little or no importance, but because the Spirit speaking through the Old Testament has already been quite thorough in His teachings”

Well, fine. He can have that conviction. It does not, however, supersede the NT covenant or ecclesiastical structure. It most certainly does not give him the grounds for wide sweeping remarks. You can’t blend OT principles like finger paints, then claim a special role as a unique body of believers (thereby discarding all others as inherently false at the root, stubbornly rejecting Kip’s far superior hermeneutics.)

“After all, the Old Testament was the “Bible” of the followers of Christ in the first century.”

Yes, most of us know that. But that is true for an era 2000 years ago. Paul said that the imperfect will pass and the perfect will come. We now have what is held to be the spirit induced collection of letters. Furthermore, to state that the OT was the first century bible is not truly accurate. By 70 AD, the church was copying and distributing letters from the Apostles and even from disciples like Barnabas. Kip tried to make a quick comment that skips two thousand years of history.

“The Old Testament is essential to the modern church because it produces faith – faith in God, faith in Jesus as the Christ, and faith to live the Christian life. After all, God’s qualities and His divine nature are the same “yesterday and today and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8) Our God today is the same all-powerful God who created “the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) He gave Abraham a son at a hundred years old. (Genesis 21:5) He allowed David to slay Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:51) The message is clear from the Old Testament: through our faith God will do the impossible! More than this, when we come to really believe such accounts, then we have the same faith to do the impossible!”

Yep, God is awesome. However, appealing to the vanity of the Court does not somehow justify his case as the plaintiff. It does not provide a nice mechanism to cast other congregations into the darkness. Besides, all this does in reinforce my proposition that God is His own authority. Also, Kip’s first sentence walks dangerously around where we get faith (as NT covenant believers). The OT will do many things to the reader, faith will be built, but it is vital to proper doctrine that we designate NT faith in the right place.

To wrap up, Kip sites numerous examples of how he has been faithful to his idea of using the OT as a guide. However, do not be confused by all of the words and first semester numerology. Nothing of the last four paragraphs supports his original claim in any way. For example: what if I do NOT lead thousands in the ‘Jethro principle?’ Am I a false teacher? Did I sin against the Law OR God? What if I meet an Ethiopian Eunuch at Whole Foods? Could I help bring him to salvation WITHOUT sighting anything from the OT?

Again, Kip wanders through very dangerous places.

  1. He says that the CoC and the ICOC are not in line with God like he is, and warns us of their satanic influence.
  2. He gives application of OT principles a seemingly endless place of commands and rules in NT Christianity.
  3. He implies that the CoC and ICOC do NOT teach from the OT the way he thinks they should. He then describes how he does it, and they turn out to be the SAME as his former churches.
  4. He implies that the proper use of the OT is on par with salvation. Does he not claim that Satan confuses his former employer?

More than anything, he equates good advice with the Christ centered authority of the new covenant. Some might find this as headed in the direction of false teaching. Unless the Jethro principle holds the SAME significance as circumcision, Kip is wrong. There IS a difference from Law and advice. Kip uses the OT exactly like the ICOC or CoC does.

In closing, let me add the most important element to this discussion. Blood on the cross was shed for mankind. Consider what that means. Consider what that cost. The OT is not a playground for finding contrast between petulant leaders who are trying to win the most marbles. It contains the very life of Jesus, the promise of redemption, and the horrifying cost it will extract from our Savior. If one misuses the place that authority from the OT has with issues of salvation and Law, they ‘crucify Christ all over again’ just as the writer of Hebrews warns us of.

I will make the assumption that believers akin to Kip’s thinking will dismiss this rebuttal. It would not be surprising for accusations of “the writer just wants to do it their own way, they really don’t want to follow all of God’s teachings.” Or the classic “He just wants to do the bare minimum. He just wants to know the rules rather than have a heart for God.” Regardless, Kip’s assertion here, and use of the OT’s authority is in error. He has not made a case for his unique position nor has he given evidence that his actual practice is the different from the ICOC or CoC.