Is He the Same God in Both Places?

God seems a whole lot more…for lack of a better word….cruel in the Old Testament. These days people will scoff at the idea of the Bible, and young believers express surprise, at what seems like such a huge a difference. Why was God so bent on punishment in the Old Testament and so bent on forgiving in the New?

Since the Bible also says “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,” –I Peter 3:15 (NKJV) It’s important that we who are believers –especially those of us who have been Christians long enough to learn a few things, be able to give an answer to questions to such as this. Paul did. In the book of Romans, Paul spends the first eight chapters explaining how Jesus fits in with the rest of God’s plan from the Old Testament until now. In Galatians, Paul again explains how the Law with its rules and regulations to Moses and Israel, led us to Jesus. Hebrews spends a great deal of time detailing how the Old Testament was pointing to Christ all along. The same God, according to Hebrews, using different methods at different times, all for the same reason: To eventually lead us to forgiveness of sins and a new life through the death and resurrection of his one and only Son, Jesus.

You see, a large chunk of the New Testament is about this very question, and a New Testament Christian should be able to explain quite easily how the God in the New Testament, is still the God in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, the subject sounds so boring the Church has concentrated more on more exciting teaching! Our failure to teach something as basic as this in the Church has led to many misconceptions and false doctrines over the years. We preach God is love, but forget that God is also a God of judgment and justice. We preach that Christians should follow God’s commands much better than we do, forgetting to preach that no one on earth can become righteous simply by making a better effort, or by really trying. God already proved the impossibility of human beings trying to be perfect didn’t he? As Paul would write: “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”” –Galatians 3:11(NIV)

So why the Law? Why was God different in the Old Testament at least on the surface? Why did God make the law in the Old Testament that someone caught in adultery should be stoned to death, while in the New Testament, God’s Son Jesus Christ forgave a woman caught in adultery? As the Pharisees said to Jesus at the time… “”Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” –John 8:4-5 (NIV)

What do we say? God has mercy. He did with King David in the Old Testament when he committed adultery, and he did with this woman who was brought to Jesus. God also forgives when someone turns back to God in repentance. He did with King Manasseh and he told Ezekiel “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”- Ezekiel 18:23 (NIV)

God’s forgiveness and mercy is present in the Old Testament as well as the New, and through them he demonstrates his patience in dealing with us; however make no mistake, God will still judge sin. He did yesterday. He does today. He will do so tomorrow. The Old Testament Law, with its punishments and death, demonstrated the judgment of God right here upon this earth, but the truth is, the New Testament also says God continues to judge people at the present time. Speaking of people who were making light of communion, the Bible says “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” –I Corinthians 11:29-30

What changed was the way God speaks to us. The way he deals with us. Much like a parent will deal with a five year old in one manner, and a 17 year old in another manner, God has dealt with mankind in one way, and now that we have the lessons of the past to remember, he builds upon them and deals with us in a different way. God, nor his purposes have changed, only his method. In the past, God demonstrated his judgment and mercy through the Law in the Old Testament. Those repercussions for sin in the Old Testament were definitely harsh, but in these last days the Bible says, God demonstrates his judgment and mercy through his Son. Listen to the words of Jesus himself: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”-John 3:36 (NIV)

Soberly consider the fact that Jesus didn’t represent a change in God. Jesus simply took our place and the wrath of God was taken out on him. The punishment the adulteress deserved, that King David deserved, that all of us have earned because of our disobedience to God, was put on Jesus. Isaiah said it best: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –Isaiah 53:6

Any deeper study invariably concludes it is definitely the same God in both the Old and the New Testament. In the New Testament however, we see God punishing his Son instead of us, so that we could be forgiven. It’s our way out. In fact, it was the plan all along.

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3 thoughts on “Is He the Same God in Both Places?

  1. In the New Testament Jesus teaches us not to judge one another, he teaches that only someone sinless can judge. That was the point he was making in John 8. So then why did he tell the people in the Old Testament to kill someone under the EXACT same circumstances? Weren’t the OT people judging the exact same way as the people in the NT? It seems to me like God laid down the law, then Jesus came and rebuked them for following it. So then which do we follow…do we shun/stone the whore or take her in as our best friend?

  2. In John chapter 8, a “woman caught in adultery” was brought before Jesus, and the Pharisees and scribes informed Jesus that she had been “caught in the very act.” Then they demanded that Jesus tell them what should be done with her. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

    The Bible then says, “This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.”

    And there are a few unanswered questions as well. How did they catch her “in the very act?” Was it a set up? Where was the man who was involved? Why didn’t they want him to be killed, too?

    If Jesus said yes, she should be stoned to death, then what about the man? Why wasn’t he brought before Jesus as well? Did Jesus realize, being the Son of God and all, that she had been set up? Or did he at least realize that she was facing judgment while the man got away free??

    If he said yes, the Pharisees would have undoubtedly accused him of usurping the Roman authorities by judging her to death.

    If Jesus said no, he would have been accused of approving of her sin, and ignoring the Law of Moses.

    Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

    That shut them up, and they left without a word, and Jesus said this to the woman:

    “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

    The word condemn, in context, and literally, refers to a legal condemnation for a crime. Jesus was not condemning her in that sense and neither was anyone else after he asked them such a thought-provoking question, but it’s nevertheless obvious Jesus was not approving of her sin. “go and sin no more” he said.

    It wasn’t the first time God had forgiven a sin for which the Law of Moses prescribed death. God forgave King David and did not kill him for the sin of adultery either. It is God’s prerogative to forgive or punish, and the same thing happened here.

    This story does not teach or say that “only someone sinless can judge.” It wasn’t a principle or a teaching of Jesus. The plain sense of the text is that Jesus simply called these hypocrites out. They wouldn’t judge themselves this harshly, they hadn’t even brought out the man, but here they were ready to kill this woman. And in just a short time, Jesus was going to be punished for her sin, so perhaps that is one reason why he extended her forgiveness?

    And don’t be too quick to say the New Testament “teaches us not to judge one another.” The New Testament specifically DOES say we should judge one another in regards to sin.

    But now I am writing to you to stop associating with any so-called brother if he is sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunk, or a robber. With such a person you must even stop eating. After all, is it my business to judge outsiders? You are to judge those who are inside, aren’t you? God will judge outsiders. “Put that wicked man away from you.” -I Corinthians 5:11-13

    In the New Testament, the followers of Jesus often rebuked people for their sin. In fact, the New Testament is full of rebukes for sinful behavior. We are not supposed to judge our brother in regards to opinions or debatable issues, however.

    At any rate, Jesus actually rebuked them fairly often for not following the Law. Especially for claiming to be a follower, while all the while ignoring it.

    The difference between the Old and New is that the Law is no longer carried out as a legal system of punishment because God punished Jesus instead. The Law was given to teach what sin is (Romans 7:7), to teach us how hopelessly sinful we are (Romans 7:13-14), to teach us the righteousness of God through the punishments for sin (Heb 9:22 and Romans 2:9-13), and to teach us the idea of a sacrifice to take our punishment and remove that condemnation of sin (Heb. 9:12-14).

    Once Christ came, the Law with all of it’s punishments was obsolete. Still, it had a purpose at one time.

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