Is the God of the Old Testament the God of the New Testament?
The comment is often made that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and judgment while the God of the New Testament is a God of love and mercy and grace.
It is pointed out that in the New Testament Jesus tells us to "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) while in the Old Testament we read that "the Lord is a warrior" (Exodus 15:3). In the New Testament we read that Jesus, while hanging on the cross, entreated his Father to be merciful to his executors: "Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34); in the Old Testament God foretells, "I will make Jerusalem into a heap of ruins" (Jeremiah 9:11).
But this claim that the Old Testament God is harsher than the New Testament God is a result of using the Bible like Mark Twain said a drunk uses a lamppost: more for support than for illumination. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God and God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).
While the Old Testament speaks of God's wrath and judgment, it simultaneously speaks of his grace and mercy. In the Old Testament, God refers to himself as a "compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin" (Exodus 34:6; see also Hosea 11:8-9).
And while the New Testament testifies to God's love and mercy, it also speaks of his wrath and judgment. So-called "gentle Jesus meek and mild" uttered some of the most blistering words of condemnation on record. Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the law: "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" (Matthew 23:33). It is in the New Testament that we read, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men" (Romans 1:18).
Some reject the Scriptural portrait of God, saying that ascribing attributes like wrath and jealousy to God is primitive. They say, “My God is a God of love.” I recommend that before dismissing the Scriptural portrait of God, you immerse yourself in the Bible and let God speak for himself. I believe you will discover that God is infinitely more magnificent than our pea-sized conceptions of him.
John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, wrote that in Jesus Christ there comes “together in one person...the perfect balance and proportion of extremely diverse qualities. And that’s what makes Jesus Christ uniquely glorious, excellent and admirable.”
Peter Kemeny, Pastor
Good News Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1051, Frederick, MD 21702