A friend asked a simple question as part of a research paper. He asked if God of the New Testament was the same as God of the Old Testament. Below was my attempt to answer his question.
Many have made the claim that the God of the Old Testament is angry and judicial whereas the God of the New Testament is kind, loving, and tolerant. This can be heard in everything from biblical debates to comedy bits. There’s zero doubt that the claim is made. So far as this is concerned, it’s a non-issue. What we have to determine is whether there is any validity to the claim. It’s my position that there is not.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The Bible is clear that God is not one who changes. Even if one wanted to argue that the God of the Old Testament was a different God, the argument would fail since Revelation tells us that the God of the New Testament is the very one who existed at the beginning. Yet, when we compare the Old Testament to the New Testament, there appears to be a clear distinction. Of course, due to the law of noncontradiction, they can’t be different gods and the same God at the same time. It must be one or the other. When faced with a crossroads such as this, it’s always a safe bet to assume our finite human understanding is flawed whereas the Word of God is not. The plain teaching of Scripture should always force us to change our views on something we can’t seem to reconcile.
To begin, I believe many hold to an erroneous view of God when it comes to the Old Testament. Is He really an angry and mean God or are we simply failing to see His love, mercy, and grace? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). After each day, He saw that it was good. He was satisfied. On the sixth day, after creating man, we see something special. Not only was it good, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Man was the pinnacle of God’s creation. He made man perfectly upright to rule over creation. Sadly, this was not to last. By Genesis 3, we see mankind being tempted and falling into the first instance of sin. We see a curse being placed upon humanity. We see the fulfillment of what God promised would occur in Genesis 2:17. God promised that Adam would die if he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam knew this and he failed to shield his wife, the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), from the enemy. What Adam didn’t know is that he would represent all of humanity thenceforth (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, this wasn’t referring to just a physical death but to a spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). All of humanity is dead in sin and only Christ can make us alive again. We all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve nothing but death, both physical and spiritual, as a result (Romans 6:23). Therefore, God would have been perfectly just to destroy the earth and all it contained upon the moment of sin entering into His perfect world. Man tarnished God’s creation and, as of that very moment, deserved nothing more than eternal torment as punishment for his actions.
Yet, over and over again, we see of God’s mercy. Many view the Old Testament Law as being harsh but, truth be told, even that was an act of mercy. God could have left humanity alone to perish but He chose to reveal to them His righteous standard. He chose to raise godly men to lead them. He chose to bless those who rejected Him and to bless them abundantly. He gave His people land and a promise of a Savior to come. Yes, He generally held them accountable for their actions but this was because the Law had not yet been fulfilled (Matthew 5:17) though it had been broken in full.
What we see in the New Testament isn’t a new God but a God who had decreed that the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:4). Those who were born under the Law would now be redeemed from that very same Law. Whereas before they fell under the law of sin and death, now they fell under the law of the Spirit of life. The former Law was weak and could never save. It could only instruct man of a standard they were incapable of keeping in their current fallen form. That Law was in need of God, the same loving God of the Old Testament, to fulfill His Law by sending His own Son to die (Romans 8:2-3) as an atoning and substitutionary sacrifice (Isaiah 53:5).
Only when we have a proper understanding of fallen man’s condition can we truly understand the love and restraint God displayed throughout all of the Old Testament. In many ways, aside from knowing Christ is the epitome of God’s compassion, the compassion of God in the Old Testament may appear to exceed that which we see in the New Testament. Of course, we know this is only our human understanding because, as stated in the beginning, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” when it comes to God.
~ Travis W. Rogers