GRACE AMBASSADORS

The Loving God of the Old Testament

By Justin Johnson

It is said that the God of the Old Testament is a vengeful judgmental God while the Christ of the New Testament is the loving peaceful God. This is just one more reason to believe what’s in the Bible instead of what people say about it.

The truth is that there is only one God who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever (Heb 13:8, Mal 3:6). He is both loving and judgmental because he is righteous and holy. It is right both to love your neighbor and to hate sin.

The Love of Christ

Jesus is said to be loving because he taught that the greatest commandment was to love:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Mat 22:36-39

Actually, this was not the first time these doctrines were taught. Jesus was quoting from the law of the Old Testament which say the same thing in Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18.

“Well,” some would say, “Jesus abrogated the other laws and kept only these as new testament laws.” The evidence of scripture says otherwise:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil… Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Mat 5:17-19

Jesus instructed the disciples to do the whole law (Mat 23:3).

The Compassion of Christ

Meanwhile, the compassion of Christ is evident as he walked among the suffering and the frail.

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her…” – Luke 7:13

“And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” – Mark 6:34

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” – Mat 14:14

However, this compassion is not exclusive to the Lord Jesus testified in the New Testament. The Bible says Jehovah of the Old Testament is likewise compassionate (2 Chron 36:15).

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” – Psa 78:38

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” – Psa 145:8

“That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.” – Deut 30:3

The Wrath of Christ

While it is typical to stereotype the God of the Old Testament as judgmental because of the accounts of his judgments upon Israel and others for their sins, not so the Lord Jesus Christ, who is often only described by his loving attributes.

Yet when Jesus came, instead of proclaiming that the God of wrath was gone and now the God of love was here, John the Baptist said, “who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mat 3:7)

The Lord described how the Father judges no man, but the Son, because he is given power to judge (John 5:22):

“And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”- John 5:27

Jesus overturned tables, got angry, called the Pharisees “vipers”, and preached “woe”. Even so, Jesus never dealt Old Testament restitution during his earthly ministry. Christ ascended to heaven to wait for the time when he could deliver restitution to the earth as the prophets wrote about:

“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” – Acts 3:21

John writes about this future time of restitution by the hands of Christ in Rev 19:11:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” – Rev 19:11

Paul writes about the time of judgment from Jesus in 2 Thess 1:

“…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:” – 2 Thess 1:7-8

We see, then, that the same God who hates sin in the Old Testament, hates sin in the New Testament and will one day judge the world through Christ’s fierce anger and vengeance (Rev 16:19, Mal 3:2).

God of War and Peace

While the wrath and punishment in both the Old and New Testaments is clear to read, it was also not unexpected or random.

God and Israel agreed to the terms of the covenant to be blessed for obedience, and cursed for unrighteousness. For every time of punishment there was preceding warning, mercy, and terms of peace.

Indeed, Jesus appeared in his ministry to Israel the first time not to war with the world, but to save the world (John 3:17). The salvation was from the judgment of his future return. It was a warning.

Peter cries for Israel to repent and to save themsleves from the “untoward generation” (Acts 2:38-40), because the wrath of God would come against them.

Paul also declares the wrath of God is revealed against all men (Rom 1:18), and is given a dispensation of the gospel to preach salvation to all men (1 Cor 97, 1 Tim 2:4).

Conclusion

God does not change his character, but he does change what he is doing. There is a time for judgment which will come, and there is a dispensation of God’s grace which is now.

Living in this mystery dispensation of grace when God is not pouring out his wrath has confused some people into thinking that God in Christ has changed his character and will never again judge the world.

“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” – Eph 5:6

God is not only a God of love, but of justice, righteousness, holiness, and integrity. He will not acquit the wicked. Christ is not only the God of love, but also of justice, righteousness, holiness, and integrity. The same God, both loving and just, full of grace and truth.

The two-God theory does not hold water when confronted with the evidence of scripture.

The cross was the ultimate act of love, but it was also a testimony to the necessity of God’s justice against sins (Rom 3:25-26).

To those who reject the truth of the gospel, judgment and wrath; and to those who trust the gospel, grace and peace.

The same Christ that lovingly died on the cross for our sins, will be the judge of every man. We must know the difference between what God is doing and who God is.

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Published: September 8, 2012
Last Modified: December 27, 2017
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