Is the God of the Old Testament the same as the God of the New Testament?

How do you reconcile the apparent discrepancy of an angry wrath filed God in the Old Testament with the love and forgiving God of the NT?

Great God

How can the God of the Old Testament be the same God as the New Testament?

It seems intuitively obvious that in being a Christian and accepting both the Old and New Testament as the Word of God that the answer to the question “Is the God of the Old Testament the Same as the God as the New Testament?” is a simple yes. That intuitive answer is correct. Yes, there is but one God the scriptures reveal.

But the questioners would like to know how the God revealed in the Old Testament can be the same as the One revealed in the New.

For instance, how do we Christians reconcile these two scriptures:

1 Samuel 15:1-3 (NIV)
Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"


Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

God says “Kill em all.”
God says “Love em all.”

I am going to use the name Yahweh when referring to God in the Old Testament and Father when considering passages from the New Testament.

One thing to keep in mind is the Bible tells one story. That story is God’s redemption of His creation. Each book adds to the mosaic of that story. That story is also told from a Jewish point of view.

“In the Old Testament, you read accounts of Yahweh directing Israel to utterly destroy its enemies, while in the New Testament Jesus and the Apostles tell us to forgive our enemies and show grace to those who persecute us.”

As you causally read both Old and New Testaments you can come away with the idea “that Yahweh  is, quite angry and judgmental, while the Father is loving and merciful.” 
Carl Olson

Yahweh in the Old Testament commanded His people to commit genocide, kill little children, wipe out the entire populations. His laws say execute those committing adultery, rebellious children, blasphemy, perjury, witchcraft and working on the Sabbath. We read Yahweh sent the Flood, and plagues and devastation upon human beings. Punishment is severe for the disobedient. If you interpret the bible from a certain theological perspective Yahweh created a world full of people but decided to only reveal Himself to one chosen group, and condemn the rest to Hell because they were born in the wrong place, to the wrong parents, in the wrong time. This theological perspective I reject but many hold to this misunderstanding.

Zach Breitenbach


As we read the New Testament we learn that the Father is full of love and mercy. It is the Father’s will that people be like His Son, Jesus, and Jesus disciples are tasked with spreading the gospel not hate, proclaiming reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation.

Zach Breitenbach


So the critics rightly ask: How can Yahweh and the Father be the same God?

Zach Breitenbach


There is an extremely long answer to that question involving both how one interprets scripture and understanding ancient middle eastern culture. There is a much less lengthy answer that we will focus on, and I will tell you right now it has to deal with the character of God, specifically the attribute of Love.

You have been introduced to the problem of Cherry Picking. Cherry picking usually results in a misunderstanding and misapplication of scripture regardless if the picker is a believer or not.  When we see Yahweh as the tyrant we are most likely not seeing the bigger picture. “God’s overarching goal was to bring blessing and salvation to all the nations, including the Canaanites, through Abraham.”  Brian Orchard

Every time we read of what we label an atrocity in scripture you will see that it is actually judgment against sin. Sin is a huge deal. God hates sin because sin keeps people from God’s blessings. “The Bible presents God’s attitude toward sin with strong feelings of hostility, disgust, and utter dislike. For example, sin is described as putrefying sores (Isaiah 1:6, NKJV), a heavy burden (Psalm 38:4), defiling filth (Titus 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1), a binding debt (Matthew 6:12-15), darkness (1 John 1:6) and a scarlet stain (Isaiah 1:18).”

“God hates sin for the simple reason that sin separates us from Him” (Isaiah 59:2; see also Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 5:25).

“God hates sin because it enslaves us and will eventually destroy us. Just as Samson’s sin led to his physical blindness and captivity (Judges 16:21), our sin will lead to spiritual blindness and bondage.” (Romans 6:16).

 So God judges sin and condemns it with extreme prejudice.  God pours His wrath on it to destroy it. Sin is anything that deters, damages or destroys right relationships.  Sin is the antithesis of everything God is. Sin is anti-God. So God annihilates it to protect us from it. Yet before the sentence is carried out there is always a warning to repent. Let’s consider the story of Jonah

Jonah 1:1-2 (NIV)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me."

After being stuck in the dark, wet and cold for a while Jonah decides he better do what God has told him to do.

Jonah 3:3-5 (NIV)

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. 4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.


The King of Nineveh said:


Jonah 3:9 (NIV)

Let [the people] give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."


Then we have Yahweh’s response:


Jonah 3:10 (NIV)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.


This is the pattern over and over again. Sin happens; Yahweh warns; there is time for repentance;  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalms 103:8 (NIV). If there is no repentance, if sin persists, then Yahweh moves against those who are perpetuating it. We see this occurring over and over again in the history of Israel but also God sent His warnings through His prophets to all the inhabitants of the Promised Land.


Behind everything we judge to be a vengeful merciless act in scripture, there is a reason for it. It is each readers job to do discover that reason. Proper interpretation of the scripture is what is required to reveal that reason for the judgment and exactly how that judgment was carried out. I will give you a hint—God’s will is not being done, sin abounds, destroying righteousness, so God destroys the destroyer.


Another reason we might assume that Yahweh and the Father are not the same is our ignorance of ancient Middle Eastern life and history. Recall 1 Samuel 15 and the command to genocide the Amalekites. The Amalekites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, Son of Issac, son of Abraham. The Amalekites “were the nation who more than any other tried to destroy Israel. They had been trying to eradicate and plunder Israel from the very birth of Israel, 200-400 years before the command in 1 Samuel 15, and they would continue for another 600 years.”

Following the biblical story, God wants to save everyone. God chose the nation of Israel to be the vehicle through which that message of salvation has to come. The Amalekites by their actions opposed God will in bring His blessing to the nations by warring against Israel. So God orders the opposition removed.

We also tend to be ignorant of the customs and norms of the ancient Middle East. “It is easy for us to consider those actions from a modern viewpoint and declare the actions horribly wrong.” Brian Orchard
Kill the women and children?

Why kill women and children? First, there is the practice of the blood debt. Spill the blood of my people and I am honor bound to spill the blood of your people. Tension and fighting and killing continue until every last member of the opposing clan is dead.


Secondly, in Exodus 17, we read: “The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation" (Exodus 17:16 (NIV). “God knew that the Amalekites would always oppose Israel, through an intergenerational blood feud. Israel is God’s tool to bless and redeem creation. The children of the Amalekites would continue in their elder's footsteps when they grew up” in a never-ending cycle of hatred.

In the story of Queen Esther, the antagonist Haman, who wants to kill all the Jews, is a descendant of Amalek.


Here’s a hypothetical for you. Is it right and just to execute a notorious evil person, say a Hitler, a Mao Tse-Tung, a Pol Pot, an Osama bin Laden, or Stephen Paddock the Las Vegas Strip shooter before the hurt anyone? Would it be right to kill them before they had a chance to kill others? Would it be just to snuff them out in their cribs?  Would it be immoral not to stop them before they killed? Would it not be an act of love and justice to destroy such a child? God gave the descendants of Amalek a couple of centuries to change their ways, they choose not to. They let hate rule. God ordered them wiped out.


You now have two reasons why some people believe that Yahweh and the Father are different. One is because they have not done an adequate job in interpreting the scripture. Two is because they have understood what is written through modern eyes and not those of ancient middle eastern society and history There is a third reason, and that is not fully understanding the nature of love.


1 John 4:16 (MSG)

“…God is love…”


God always was, always is, always will be, love. But, “for every verse about God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness, there is one about God’s wrath, vengeance, and retribution.”

Matthew Distefano

This is because love and justice are not exclusive.


Justice requires anything in opposition to God will be removed.  When you contemplate the nature of sin you find it is totally destructive. It ruins relationships.  “Sin is disastrous for those who commit it, to those who fall victim to it, poisoning the entire world.” Lon Allison

"The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Sin is cancer in creation.


If your child had cancer, would you want the doctors to remove it or would you allow it to run its course?  Would not your love for your child compel you to do everything you could to restore health to your beloved? Sure you would. You would go to extraordinary lengths to save the one you loved.


Making this hypothetical question more difficult, what if you had one of your children destroying your family through their behaviors, they steal from the family, they lie to the family, the manipulate family members, they threaten family members –you’ve intervened time and time again, yet they continue with their damaging behaviors and encourage their siblings to join with them in their rebellious behavior. You love them but you can’t tolerate their behavior. What do you do?


That’s a tough call. That’s a call no parent wants to make. It is the call God had to make.


Yahweh aggressively dealt with the sin problem, while also keeping a path open for reconciliation.


The Father aggressively dealt with the sin problem, while providing a new path for reconciliation.  Consider the justice and the love in the following verse:


2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2: 2; Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

“God made [Jesus] who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” “]Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds, you have been healed.” “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace…”


There is not difference between Yahweh’s treatment of sin and The Father’s treatment of sin. Sin is to be annihilated. The Destroyer must be Destroyed. Yahweh’s love is to offer a way to avoid His justice, the Father does the same in Christ.


Yesterday, Today and Forever       



Love doesn’t mean indulgence. Love means making things right no matter the cost. Into the seemingly impossible situation, God loves the sinner and judges the sin.


Yahweh who makes ways to redeem His creation is the Father who sacrifices Himself to redeem His creation. Yahweh who blesses everyone who acknowledges Him is the Father who blesses everyone who acknowledges Him. Yahweh who hates sin, while giving the sinner time to repent, is the Father who hates sin, while giving the sinner time to repent. Yahweh, “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7 (NIV), is the Father that “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 (NIV).          


Popular posts from this blog