Saturday, July 7, 2012

God is the same in the Old and New Testaments.


 

First things First

Jesus is the only way of salvation because He is the only One who can pay our sin penalty (Romans 6:23). No other religion teaches the depth or seriousness of sin and its consequences. No other religion offers the infinite payment of sin that only Jesus Christ could provide. No other “religious founder” was God become man (John 1:1; 14) – the only way an infinite debt could be paid. Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There has never been a man like the Lord Jesus. I was deeply stirred by these words, written by John Phillips about Jesus:

“He never uttered a hasty, unkind, untrue, or frivolous word. He never entertained an impure thought. His talents never debased for selfish ends. His influence, never bad. His judgment, never wrong. He never had to apologize for anything that He did or retract a single word He said. He was never too late or too soon, never upset, never insipid, never shallow or afraid. . . He had absolute victory from the moment He drew his first breath in that Bethlehem barn until the moment He closed His eyes in death on the cross of Calvary.”

At the very heart of this question lies a fundamental misunderstanding of what both the Old and New Testaments reveal about the nature of God. Another way of expressing this same basic thought is when people say, “The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath while the God of the New Testament is a God of love.” The fact that the Bible is God’s progressive revelation of Himself to us through historical events and through His relationship with people throughout history might contribute to misconceptions about what God is like in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament. However, when one reads both the Old and the New Testaments, it becomes evident that God is not different from one testament to another and that God’s wrath and His love are revealed in both testaments.

For example, throughout the Old Testament, God is declared to be a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:5, 15; 108:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13). Yet in the New Testament, God’s loving-kindness and mercy are manifested even more fully through the fact that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Throughout the Old Testament, we also see God dealing with Israel the same way a loving father deals with a child. When they willfully sinned against Him and began to worship idols, God would punish them. Yet, each time He would deliver them once they had repented of their idolatry. This is much the same way God deals with Christians in the New Testament. For example, Hebrews 12:6 tells us that “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

In a similar way, throughout the Old Testament we see God’s judgment and wrath poured out on sin. Likewise, in the New Testament we see that the wrath of God is still “being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). So, clearly, God is no different in the Old Testament than He is in the New Testament. God by His very nature is immutable (unchanging). While we might see one aspect of His nature revealed in certain passages of Scripture more than other aspects, God Himself does not change.


The OT storyline appears best to be summarized as: the historical story of God who progressively reestablishes his new creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to extend that new creation rule and resulting in judgment for the unfaithful (defeat and exile), all of which issues into his glory; the NT storyline can be summarized as: Jesus’ life of covenantal obedience, trials, judgmental death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit has launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-and-not-yet promised new creation reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to extend this new creation rule and resulting in judgment for the unfaithful, unto God’s glory.

Another important author D. A. Carson describes the message of the Bible in 221 words.

    God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

    But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

    In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 

 
     
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). (1)

 As we read and study the Bible, it becomes clear that God is the same in the Old and New Testaments. Even though the Bible is 66 individual books written on two (or possibly three) continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years by more than 40 authors, it remains one unified book from beginning to end without contradiction. In it we see how a loving, merciful, and just God deals with sinful men in all kinds of situations. Truly, the Bible is God’s love letter to mankind. God’s love for His creation, especially for mankind, is evident all through Scripture. Throughout the Bible we see God lovingly and mercifully calling people into a special relationship with Himself, not because they deserve it, but because He is a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth. Yet we also see a holy and righteous God who is the Judge of all those who disobey His Word and refuse to worship Him, turning instead to worship gods of their own creation (Romans chapter 1).

 

Because of God’s righteous and holy character, all sin—past, present, and future—must be judged. Yet God in His infinite love has provided a payment for sin and a way of reconciliation so that sinful man can escape His wrath. We see this wonderful truth in verses like 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” In the Old Testament, God provided a sacrificial system whereby atonement could be made for sin. However, this sacrificial system was only temporary and merely looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ who would die on the cross to make a complete substitutionary atonement for sin. The Savior who was promised in the Old Testament is fully revealed in the New Testament. Only envisioned in the Old Testament, the ultimate expression of God’s love, the sending of His Son Jesus Christ, is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament. Both the Old and the New Testaments were given “to make us wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). When we study the Testaments closely, it is evident that God “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). (2)

I believe this is how Jesus wants us to be. He has proven His love in so many ways, we should never be insecure. He should be able to leave us for 2000 years and come back to find children who are secure in His love. He has revealed the Father’s love through His words. He has revealed His love through His action – giving His life for us on the Cross and going through Hell as our substitute. He exceeded all religious expectation by giving the Holy Spirit to live inside of us. Who could have imagined a better or more personal gift? Now we are to live securely in that constant, abiding love.
  

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


 References:

(1)  For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London, UK: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), 80.

 (2) Gotquestions.org

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