“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”
~ 1 Kings 18:39,40
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
~ 1 John 3:1
These two verses seem so opposed to one another as a description of God, this causes rise for questions from non-believers. I wish I could count the number of times I have been asked,
“Which God do you follow, the God of the Old Testament or the God of the New Testament?”
Personally, I would then follow up this question with the question: “What do you mean by that?”
Normally, when people ask this, they are trying to bring to light how different God appears on face value in the Old and New Testament. People will say that God in the Old Testament acts cruel, harsh, and unjust, while the God of the New Testament is loving and gracious.
Someone: “So… God is okay with killing women and children, having his anger burn against his own people, and wiping an entire nation off the face of the earth? I wouldn’t want to follow a God like that!”
Someone: “The Bible must truly be false because God in the Old Testament is entirely different from the ‘God of love’ that is shown in the New Testament.”
Is God unjust for his actions in the Old Testament? If no, how could you possibly say that?! Even if he is justified in his actions, based on our understanding, how does that even line up with what’s in the New Testament, which shows a very loving and forgiving God?
The questions above are the roots of the first question presented in this post. Today, I want to show you some simple ways of answering these questions through a model conversation!
Is God really unjust for his actions in the Old Testament? If no, how could you possibly say that?!
Me: “I would say that his actions are justified, and that doesn’t violate his character. Why would you call it unjust?”
Person: “It should be obvious! It’s unjust to kill men, women, and children just because!”
Me: “I would agree with that statement: it is wrong to kill men, women, and children. But when people were killed, when nations were killed, why did God command his people to do it or allow it to happen?”
Person: “I don’t know. It’s not like they deserved it!”
Me: “What do you mean by ‘it’s not like they deserved it’?”
Person: “I mean God would just kill whole cities even though they were minding their own business.”
Me: “Sorta, but the truth is, every single person on this earth deserves the exact same thing that some of those people received. The Bible says that we are all, by nature, objects of God’s wrath. Meaning, we are deserving of punishment and nothing but death, yet the Lord gives grace to us. What God did was just based on the actions that we have all committed which is sin against God. Is it just to judge a criminal for their crimes?”
Person: “I mean, yes, but I’m a good person.”
Me: “The truth is, there is not a single ‘good person’ because we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard. Because of this, God’s actions are just; he is the judge and he judges justly. He is giving the justice that these people deserved, that we deserve!”
Well… If we know he judges justly, how do reconcile this with how God acts in the New Testament?
In the New Testament, Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross to be the final sacrifice to cover our sins. We were 0% worthy of that grace: it was unconditionally given to us.
This is where the beauty of the New Testament and the Old Testament come together; when the two are side-by-side, we understand the full picture. Throughout the course of the Old Testament, we realize how “messed up” we really are as humans. We realize our sinful nature is severe; our condition is tragic. However, many times throughout the Old Testament God’s grace is shown. For example, God providing for the Israelites, God showing mercy on the Israelites even in their rebellion, and God keeping his promises.
Don’t let the claim made by people that the New and Old Testament conflict in this way throw you off! It is simple and essential to understanding our need for a savior. Those who make this claim, more often than not, have not read a majority of the Old Testament; they make that claim without full understanding. While this is true, the same goes for Christians: we cannot defend it if we haven’t read it.
Spend time in His Word!