Many have posed this question, and many more genuine Christians have wrestled with this question. The question goes back as far as Marcion – and he was one of the good guys. He was a well known bishop in the early church (160 AD). He contended that the God of the Old Testament (OT) was inferior to the much better God of the New Testament (NT).
So, if you are asking this question or wrestling with this conundrum, you aren’t alone. This becomes a dilemma for many good thinking people because they see the God of the OT as angry, vengeful and a butcher of anyone who didn’t obey Him. And then they see the God of the NT, who Jesus came to portray, as a God who is kinder, gentler and loving.
Is there really a dilemma, or is it in the way we view these Gods or have been taught to view these Gods?
First, despite what you have heard, you may want to search and study the bible for yourself on this matter rather than going by what you have heard or even what you read here.
Having said that, let’s consider this. Nowhere in the bible does it even mention that there are two different Gods, one of the OT and one of the NT. It does tell us very definitively that there is One God revealed in three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Second, Jesus often refers back to the God of the OT as the God He has come to reveal. His reference point for most of what He teaches, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), is found in the OT.
One such example is found in Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus says He has not come to do away with the Law or Prophets (the Law came from the God of the OT and the Prophets were the messengers for the hard lines taken by the God of the OT), but rather He came to fulfill them.
Another example is that throughout the Sermon on the Mount He says, “You have heard it said…” This is a reference back to either the OT or the oral tradition of Jewish law and customs.
Yet another example is in Matthew 17:1-13 where He refers to both Moses and Elijah. They appear to Jesus and a few of his followers. He affirms their lives and presence. Both of these figures worshipped and served the God of the OT. Would Jesus affirm them in this manner if He didn’t both represent this God and be in agreement with Him?
He further tells a Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that salvation comes from the Jewish people – the same people who worshipped the OT God.
Another thing to consider as you wrestle with this question is, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah to the Jewish people – a people rooted in the God of the OT. And further, several hundred prophecies concerning the Messiah found in the OT, Jesus fulfilled in his lifetime.
It appears as you read both the OT and NT, that the God of the NT is equally concerned with righteousness, judgment, and holiness as the God of the OT. Could it be that the NT uses different language to describe this? Could it be that the NT emphasizes yet another aspect of the God of the OT and NT that wasn’t emphasized as much in the OT?
Could it be that we need both the OT and NT to fully appreciate both the judgment and holiness of God and the grace and love of God? Perhaps He is so vast and so beyond our comprehension that we need to read both testaments as one complete story?
Mark Buchanan (author of Your Church is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside Down) states that the God of the OT and NT are the same God. He says in light of this:
Jesus ushers in a new day and a new way. In the past, we trembled before this God. But now we can approach him with joy, with confidence, with singing. But he’s the same God.
Granted, on a surface reading of the bible or going by various opinions you have heard, it might be an easy conclusion to think the God of the OT is different, or even inferior to the God of the NT. But a careful reading with an open mind may lead you down another path – to see the God of the OT is the same God of the NT fulfilling his purpose and plan for our redemption.
Again, Mark Buchanan puts it this way:
What the cross defies, what the cross defeats, what the cross pushes back, is as much the wrath of heaven as it is the power of hell. God disarms himself at Calvary. To put it another way: At the cross, God made a way for his mercy and love to triumph over his justice and judgment.