Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New Testament
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Confusion about the relationship between the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) has been around since the second century A.D. During that period of time, a Gnostic heretic named Marcion claimed that there were two different gods, one god for the Old Testament (a harsh, strict, judgmental creator of the physical world) and another god of the New Testament (a kind, gentle, good god whose emissary Jesus was crucified by the harsh Old Testament god). Marcion’s false teachings sparked the leaders of the Early Church to meet in order to distinguish genuine New Testament writings from the erroneous views of such writers as Marcion.
There are different emphases between the teachings of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures and the doctrines of the New Testament. However, we see how God reconciles these differences by showing that his plan and purpose is revealed through various covenants or divine contracts. God “contracts” with various individuals (e.g., Adam, Noah, Abraham, David) or groups (e.g., Israel, the Church) by making certain promises to them. The Old Testament is the record of God’s covenants with the founding fathers of the nation of Israel and the Hebrew people. The New Testament is the record of God’s new covenant with all those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In the Old Testament, God showed patience and grace in dealing with his rebellious people, Israel. God’s grace reached its zenith with the coming of Jesus of Nazareth (John 1: 12), however, the promise of the coming of Jesus was given in the Old Testament soon after the entrance of sin into the world (Genesis 3:15). It is in this sense that the Old and New Testaments compliment one another.
The promise to provide a solution for human sin and rebellion was behind the calling of Abraham and the giving of the sevenfold blessing (Genesis 12:1-3). God’s promise to redeem a people for himself is the foundation of the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-24) and the kingly line of David (2 Samuel 7). The God of the Old Testament prepared the way for the full expression of his grace through Jesus. The magnitude of God’s grace can only be understood in contrast with the harsh reality of human sin and rebellion against him that is evidenced in all human history, including Israel’s.
In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to follow laws and perform tasks that He does not command today. The record of God’s sanctions against particular people groups living in the Promised Land (Canaanites, Amalekites, etc) must be understood in light of His judgment against their specific sins (Genesis 15:16). God used his people Israel as the army of the Lord to execute his judgment against idolatrous nations and to provide an idol-free beginning for his people.
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we see hints of the temporary nature of the Old Testament system of sacrifices, ceremonial laws, etc. God promised to do something new about the sin problem, something that would eventually make the laws of Moses obsolete (Jeremiah 31:31-36; Hebrews).
The birth, life and death of the Lord Jesus changed everything. The apparent gentleness and even weakness of his ministry belied the fact that the Holy One of Israel, God himself, was on the scene. This same spirit of love and grace motivates Christians as they take the Gospel of Jesus and make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:19-20). As we emulate the Lord Jesus, we realize that the missionary task never uses military force. Conversions were never to be coerced. Rather, Christians must be willing to suffer for Christ without retaliating for any evil done against them in their service for the gospel.
However, it is important to remember that the New Testament foretells the day when Jesus will return, only this time it will not be as the suffering Messiah, but as the Judge and King. In judgment. He will condemn all the nations of the world for their sins. He will execute his judgment against their unbelief and disobedience on a worldwide scale (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). God’s holy nature does not change. He is the same God in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament.