ASK PC: Why is the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament so vastly different?
As a companion piece to the Epic Blog, “Ask PC” will be a recurring feature where Pastor Chris answers common questions we ourselves may have or that we may encounter from others that are speculative or curious about the Christian faith.
Q: Hey PC, I’ve been reading through the Old Testament lately and noticing how angry God seems to be. This got me wondering why the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are so vastly different?
PC: This is a common question that arises in conversations about faith and scripture. The God of the Old Testament seems to be full of wrath and quick judgment, and in the New Testament Jesus is portrayed as full of compassion and grace. But ultimately there are not two different God’s at work within the two Testaments of scripture. The Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - were both completely at work from the beginning of time. They were always, and will always be completely in unity in their judgment and execution of justice upon creation.
I view this schism from two helpful vantage points:
1 - God Is Always Good
But at the heart of this question is a fundamental misconception. When most view the actions of the ‘Old Testament God,’ they perceive them as harsh and cruel. The truth is that God has always been good! It is God’s character to be good and He can be nothing but good. So his administering of Old Testament justice had to be good, possibly in a way that only God could comprehend.
“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity; Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.”
- Richard Rohr
Jesus is the perfect image of the Father in every way. His gracious words and actions ARE those of the Father. He perfectly exemplifies the heart of God the Father in every miracle, teaching, action, and inaction. This is the heart of the same ‘Old Testament God’ we have viewed as harsh and cruel.
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
- John 14.9
Where Jesus causes a possible tangent view point is that Jesus gives His life as a substitute for the sins and wickedness of humanity and absorbs the wrath of God stored up for us. Instead of executing judgment upon Humanity on behalf of the Father, Jesus takes it on behalf of Humanity. Jesus’ very life becomes one gigantic act of grace which immediately seems to derail from the centuries of interaction between God and Man. In the cross of Christ, we see the immensity of God’s Goodness for creation on full display. God is always good!
2 - Mankind, Not So Much…
By viewing God’s justice as cruel, we end up simultaneously elevating humanity’s morality as decent or not TOO bad. Somewhere we believed the lie that we aren’t as bad as we actually are. The truth is that we have been grading our actions on a curve in the hopes of benefiting ourselves.
I love how great Christian orator Charles Spurgeon put it.
“Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction.”
- Charles Spurgeon
God is not as bad as we think He is, but rather we aren’t as good as we think we are. Which in turn makes Him more gracious than we could imagine, and us unfathomably more indebted to His grace. Thank you God for your good, good grace upon this frail human frame!
Have a question of your own? Feel free to post yours in the comments and we may answer it in a future blog.