“In the Old Testament, God reveals himself as a God of Judgment. In the New Testament, God reveals himself as a God of Grace.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard a well-intentioned Christian say something to that effect…
I’m pretty sure I’ve said something to that effect.
The problem is, it’s wrong.
Or, at least, it’s incomplete.
God does indeed reveal himself as a God of Grace in the New Testament. But that doesn’t mean He fails to reveal himself as a God of Judgment.
God does indeed reveal himself as a God of Judgment in the Old Testament. But that doesn’t mean He fails to reveal himself as a God of Grace.
I’ve been thrilled to be teaching the Old Testament to three-year-olds in Sunday School this year. It’s great. I love the Old Testament. I love teaching the Old Testament.
And what’s struck me about the Old Testament this time around is that I haven’t yet seen an example of God’s judgment without His Mercy.
When Adam and Eve ate the poisonous fruit, God’s judgment on them meant death and banishment from the garden. Yet in God’s mercy, He promised a Savior and the ultimate destruction of their enemy the snake.
When Cain killed Abel, God’s judgment on Cain meant an end to his livelihood and a lifetime of wandering. Yet in God’s mercy, He set a mark on Cain to protect him from his greatest fear – that whoever found him would kill him.
When the people were so wicked that God could stand it no longer, God’s judgment on the world meant a flood that destroyed all people but eight. Yet in God’s mercy, He preserved eight – and promised to never again destroy the earth in that way (despite man’s evil continuing to provoke His anger.)
When humanity set themselves against God and sought to build a tower to display their own glory, God’s judgment meant confusing their language and their plans. Yet their punishment was God’s mercy, giving them a second opportunity to be obedient – to fill the earth and subdue it.
When Sodom and Gomorrah committed great atrocities before God, God’s judgment meant raining down fire and brimstone on them. Yet in God’s mercy, He let Abraham haggle with him over the fate of the city, promising to save the cities if even ten righteous men could be found. But even when ten righteous could not be found, God’s mercy saved the family of the one righteous man.
The New Testament really only requires one proof text – but it’s the proof text around which every other text hangs. God’s mercy meant pardoning sinful rebels. But his judgment meant pronouncing a death sentence on His Son.
God’s grace meant imputing His Son’s righteousness to wretches. His judgment meant nailing His Son to the cross for the wretches’ sin.
If you think that the Old Testament tells only of God’s judgment, read again.
If you think that the New Testament tells only of God’s grace, read again.
For wherever God reveals Himself, He reveals Himself as the Judge and the Justifier – the awful and the merciful.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
~Romans 3:22-26 (ESV)