Ask the Authors-Question #3

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Question and Answer

The following is a concise answer to a question asked of the authors of this blog, intended to give a simplified answer to the question asked.  If you also have a question you would like to ask surrounding the Christian faith, you may pose your question by visiting the “Ask the Authors” page.  The warranted belief email address will be provided where you can ask your question.

Maria from Sweden asked:

How can the God of the Old Testament be reconciled with the God of the New Testament?

Matt’s answer:

Adequate perspective on the love of God

To understand this, it is crucial to read the Bible itself and not simply listen to what has been said about it.  To start with the Old Testament, though I do not deny that it does present the wrath of God in some different situations, it might surprise some to see how much it emphasizes the love of God.  One example can be found in Exodus 34:6-7, where the LORD reveals Himself to Moses.  Though it certainly says that God does not clear the guilty, that is absolutely not where the emphasis lies, for it says that He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love (to the thousandth generation), and forgiving.  Another example is Ezekiel 33:11, where God says He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked repent from evil and live.  From this and various other references in the Old Testament, it is clear that God was a God of love even before Jesus appeared on the scene.

Adequate perspective on the wrath of God

Even more illuminating is taking a closer look at the God of love in the New Testament.  John 3:16 is a famous verse, but reading on we find that even though God did not want the world to be condemned, condemnation is conditional in terms of belief, so those who turn away in unbelief are condemned (John 3:17-18, 36).  So the wrath of God is not unique to the Old Testament, but is the righteous response of God to people turning away from Him.  As Christopher Wright correctly asks, “What sort of God would He be if He were not angry with everything that tries to wreck His good creation?” (The God I Don’t Understand, p.131).  If we truly believe that God is good and that His creation is good, how could we say that God loves us if He is not a God who judges evil?  Though we may not always totally understand the picture of God in the Old Testament, I would hope that we could see that God is both a just Judge and a loving Father, no matter what testament we read.

More specifically…

A problem most people think of when considering the depiction of God in the Old Testament is the question of wars in the Old Testament.  How could God command such a thing as war, and even wars that meant the destruction or displacement of other people groups?  This is a question worth examining at more length and I do so in an article in a series on the relevance of the Old Testament, looking specifically at the issue of war in the Old Testament.

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