The Big Question 54: Why is Jesus Nicer Than the God of the Old Testament?
Jun 11, 2020 1826
Why is Jesus nicer than the God of the Old Testament?
It’s not unusual for people to like the God of the New Testament much more than the God of the Old Testament. I mean, they seem so different!
The God of the Old Testament goes around handing out laws and punishments, and the God of the new Testament hands out love and mercy.
Do you get the picture?
While Christians believe that the whole Bible is inspired by God, they don’t believe that every part of the Bible equally reveals what God is like.
If the Old Testament had fully and perfectly revealed what God is like, there would have been a need for God to send his Son, Jesus, into the world. There would also have been no need for Jesus to have called people to follow him, and for the whole Christian movement to have started.
So, it’s clear that what is written in the Old Testament is not the fullest and clearest revelation of what God is like.
In fact, what we find in the Bible is that God has revealed himself progressively throughout history.
So, in the first books of the Bible, God is dealing with a pretty primitive bunch of people, and he deals with them within the paradigms of their culture and their times, in terms that they can understand. They’re like children.
It’s like a child who builds a tower with building blocks in preschool. Fifteen years later she might be at university studying civil engineering. But you would never have tried to give the pre-schooler the mathematical formulas required to build sky-scrapers. The same principle applies.
Once Jesus arrived into the world, the New Testament teaches us that he is fulness of God’s revelation to him humanity. He was God in human flesh.
The book of Hebrews says that God has revealed himself to the world through many ways, but that the best revelation of all is through his Son, Jesus.
So now, what this means is that if you want to know what God is like, you don’t start with the Old Testament, you start with the New. Study the life and teachings of Jesus. Watch him suffer and die in love for the world.
You don’t interpret the New Testament by reading the Old Testament. Instead, followers of Jesus interpret the Old Testament through the lenses of the New. And when you do that, it changes everything.
That doesn’t mean that suddenly you have a God who doesn’t care about sin and judgment. Not at all. Jesus himself has some hard things to say to those who harm others and refuse to love.
But when you understand what God is like, through Jesus, then all the different bits of the Bible will fall into their proper place. Then you will understand, that it really is true, that God really is love.