Is the God of the OT the God of the NT?

That is the topic I will be addressing at Ohio University this coming Thursday, February 21. I will be speaking at the weekly meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ, which has been putting on a series of messages oriented towards addressing difficult subjects. On Friday afternoon I will be doing a follow-up Q&A time. I am excited to return to my alma mater and be a part of what God is doing there. If you are in the Athens area, please feel free to come out. If you think of it, I would appreciate your prayers. Pray that God would give me clarity of thought and expression, and that he would be at work in the hearts of those who listen.

If you were in my shoes, what are some of the things you would want to point out to these college students?

8 thoughts on “Is the God of the OT the God of the NT?”

  1. Hey Matt—

    This is an interesting topic, in the sense that it is apparently such a common apprehension. In my own experience, I would say that the reason for this is that people have an impression of Jesus as loving and compassionate, preaching a message of hope and mercy; while they have a contrasting impression of YHVH as jealous and wrathful, preaching a message of obedience and submission.

    If I were to present a message on this topic to a mixed audience, I would probably start with the Sermon on the Mount. A lot of people are at least passingly familiar with the beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount is a well recognized event, even if people don’t know what its actual content was. I would probably read through from verse 1 to verse 13, and pause for effect at the end of verse 13 before reading 14 to 20, and doing the same thing. Then I’d read very deliberately through 21 to 27, emphasizing each instance of the word “hell”. I probably wouldn’t go further, as it would get lengthy, and the latter part of the sermon requires some explication to understand properly.

    Then I’d turn to somewhere in Genesis, or perhaps just somewhere in the Pentateuch, and read a passage which shows God’s mercy. Perhaps Genesis 4 would be good, since it shows both judgment and mercy on Cain. But I suspect there are better passages one could reference. Having done this, I’d go into a discussion of the misconceptions people have about Jesus; and talk about the actual topics of his preaching and how much he speaks on each of them (he talks about hell much more than he talks about heaven, and in fact of all the dissertations on hell recorded in the Bible, his sermons make up the majority). Then I’d talk about the various places in which God is shown to be merciful and patient in the Old Testament, before discussing some examples of his judgment. It would be wise to establish the context of the covenants as well, so people understand that temporal judgments were more emphasized under the Old Covenant, while eternal judgment is emphasized under the new. Finally, the strands can be drawn together by discussing, with examples, how both the Old and New Testaments reflect a God who is holy above all else, and therefore calls people to repentance, is long-suffering with them, but ultimately will judge them if they do not seek him in faith. I think ending on that would be a good idea, as it would draw the strands of the talk together in conclusion, and would also make the conclusion itself a presentation of the gospel.

    This is, of course, just what I would do 🙂


  2. wow, what a great message to get to bring.

    my experience with teens and adults alike (so i assume college students would be the same) is they think that “the God of the Old Testament” was appeased by the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament and the “God of the NT” is appeased by Christ. unless you help them see this error…they will have a hard time seeing the same God in each testament.

    with one shot….hebrews 10:1-18…special emphasis on 10:4, 8, 11 & 12.

    i’d show how the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was useless if not for the shadow of Christ to come…laying out that goats and bulls never paid for sin, but that adam through our sin has all been paid for by Christ.

    with more time, i’d also tackle that it has always been administered through faith. obviously, you could continue into hebrews 11 to show the patriarchs faith, or romans 4 is always fun.

    of course, galatians 3 can provide a great message to others showing the Law came 400 years after the promise, which was the Seed, which is Christ! (and i think i know someone who did a little work in galatians.)

    for Q&A, i’d always be prepared to answer the standby’s. do we see the wrath of God in the New Testament? do we see the grace of God in the Old Testament?

    hope you find this helpful….it’s given me ideas for a camp i’m speaking at this summer!

    (as always, if they record it, please inform us of the audio)

  3. Since that link didn’t post right, I’ll just copy & paste the post:


    Recently an Atheist said to me concerning the Old Testament Portrait of God verses the New Testament Picture of God revealed in Jesus:
    “I like the old testament because it was there that god’s voice is most vindictive. But in the new testament it would seem that he changes from being prick-ish to somewhat hopeful for us.“

    The fact is that the Bible is fairly consistent in it’s portrait of God, when taken in context.

    If you read the book fairly you’ll find that the God of the OT is very clearly the God of the New as well – virtually the same amount of love, same amount of things that dismay him as well, and that the grace that is offered in the New Testament and beyond, is available in the Old as well – the main change between the testaments is that the ‘mystery’ has been revealed, and that the New Testament is a universal text, with the offer of salvation, as was intended from the beginning, going out to all peoples, and not a text, like the old, directed specifically at the nation of Israel and the Jewish peoples

    One thing to consider contextually is that a majority of the OT was written to apply to Israel at a national – not individual – level, and applied to the infant nation as it was developing and not as much to the interaction of individual people as it regards their personal relationships. Granted, you may pull verses out of context that seem VERY personal from your perspective, but in context they – at that time – were meant to act as Israel’s national law. The New Testament reveals God-made-Flesh, the intimate side: How individuals relate, and behave, as a correction to the very misinterpretations and misunderstandings you seem to abhor (or enjoy, it seems like) from the Old Testament law.

    Do know this: The Old Testament speaks plenty about God’s love – Deuteronomy 7:7-13 speaks of His love for the nation of Israel; Isaiah 63:9 speaks of God saving people due to His love for them. On many occasions through the Old Testament the mercy of God is praised (Psalm 57:3; 59:10; 62:12; 86:13; 100:5; 106:1, etc.). Sure, judgment is emphasized, but that is as it often is in any legal document – which the Old Testament primarily is – a legal and historical document for the Nation of Israel which gives us a backdrop to the coming of Jesus.

    Also, a cursory non-academic scanning of the Old Testament reveals 446 mentions of God’s ‘love’ and 100 occurrences of ‘mercy’ as opposed to 135 mentions of ‘hate’ and 173 of ‘wrath’. Again, considering this is a legal document, including consequences, where one would expect to find a significant amount of ‘wrath’, this is a significant statistic: 551 love/mercy vs. 308 hate/wrath. Compare this to the New Testament where the statistic is 291 love/mercy vs. 71 hate/wrath. The percentage of love/wrath in the OT is 64% love to 36$ wrath, again noting that it IS an ancient legal document for a nation, with consequences of the actions written into it. In the New Testament that statistics are: 80% love vs. 20 % wrath…again, noting that the New Testament is a personal account written towards how individual followers of Jesus should behave, rather than a law-book given to a nation. I think we both can agree that what is right for a nation as a whole, especially in a time of war, is very different that what is allowed or accepted between individuals within a culture. Anyway…there you have it…the NT picture of God is – very roughly – 20% more loving than the OT one…factoring in the difference between the context and intentions of those written words, I personally don’t find that to be very significant.

    It really helps to remember that most of the old testament is a legal document, and those parts that don’t read like a modern legal document are actually modeled after ancient legal agreements between a king and his vassals, as a great amount of research has shown over the past few years. But essentially, I just try to be a responsible reader of an ancient text that God seems to promise that if I properly understand it – according to the Spirit of Christ – will change my life, and it has.

    But, let it be known, due to the complexity of the Old Testament, which many skeptics employ almost soley in their arguments against faith, it is not really the logical foundation of my faith – only the historical background to it. My faith resides in the person of Jesus, whom I’m convinced revealed the creator God of the universe…I take the OT only because of my faith in Jesus, who often referred to the text, albeit in ways that surprised and dismayed many of His hearers.

  4. Shannon,

    Thanks for stopping by. Your post came up in one of my Google searches, but I did not make the connection it was you. I find it very helpful and overlaps with many of the things I plan to address.

    Good to hear from you…

  5. Matt:

    If you would entertain the musings of an OT student, then here is my suggestion.

    I would ask the group to list a series of attributes that come to mind when they reflect on the “God of the OT.”

    Then I would turn to Yahweh’s description of himself in Exod 34:6-7:

    “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,* forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

    This may give rise to a discussion concerning trans-generational sin (cf Ezek 18), but it may be worth it in light of such a clear depiction of God’s “NT character” presented here.

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