New vs. Old Testament: Is God the Same?

By Hollie Roberts – BSF Executive Director

From an early age, I asked a lot of questions. “Why do beans sprout? Where does rubber go when it comes off your tires? What makes the sky so many colors? Where does the devil live? How will I know when he shows up?” 

I am sure my parents were exhausted from answering so many questions, but their careful responses taught me a valuable lesson. By gently challenging my perceptions, they helped me discover new truths. I learned that God does the same. He discerns the struggles in our hearts and helps us discover a new facet of who He is. By challenging our perceptions, He changes our view. 

When we ask a question like, “Why does God seem so different in the Old and New Testaments?” we can seek Him for an honest answer. As a place to begin, let us consider some common perceptions. 

How do we perceive the Bible? 

When we ask, “Why does God seem different?” we typically jump from one chapter to another.  

For example:  

In Numbers 16, God’s judgment was on full display. He caused the ground to open and swallow an entire group of rebellious people. In John 8, Jesus’ mercy was highlighted as He saved an adulterous woman and tenderly extended forgiveness.  

When read together, those two chapters seem to clash. Earlier in this series, Dr. David Talley explored why God judges the people He loves. In this post, we wonder if God’s firm judgment and tender mercy can be reconciled. 

To really unpack the question, we begin by expanding our perception of the Bible. As a collection of 66 books, the Bible is woven into a single narrative. Individual chapters and verses are carefully designed to work together as a whole. Single incidents like Numbers 16 and John 8 are carefully positioned to support a larger view of God.    

Just imagine if someone based their entire perception of you on a single moment. Would they have a complete picture? What would they miss?  

In a single day I am a wife, a mother, an executive director, a grandmother, a BSF member, a friend, and a neighbor. I am all of these at once, all of the time. But if you only saw my commute to work or listened to a single phone call, your perception would be too narrow to see the full Hollie Roberts.   

We would never attempt to define a person by a single incident so why would we do this with God? 

He is more than a few selected chapters or verses. We have to expand our perception. 

How do we perceive God and Jesus?

Even when we expand our view to include all 66 books of the Bible, we may still be tempted to contrast God’s judgment with Jesus’ mercy. Critics of Christianity often say, “I like your Jesus, but I cannot accept your God.”  

But beneath this thinking is a common misconception. We simply cannot contrast God and Jesus, because they are one and the same. Separating the two in our minds undermines the reality of one, magnificent, eternal God.  

Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) 

The New Testament clarifies:  

The Son is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:16a) 

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being. (Hebrews 1:3a) 

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1:19) 

To remove God from Jesus or Jesus from God is to completely misunderstand both. And without considering the Holy Spirit, we miss the fullness of God. Each embodies the other’s nature. To understand one, we must look at all three. 

How does this change our perception of God? 

When we look beyond a single verse or chapter and consider the triune God, we begin to see something wonderful. The Bible is no longer about God or Jesus or The Holy Spirit, it is about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit – working in perfect harmony toward a single goal.   

The story begins in Genesis with the creation of Adam and Eve. God required one thing: righteousness. We can define this as “right living” according to God’s law. When Adam and Eve failed in their righteousness, sin was born. But God had a plan.   

The story continues in the Old Testament as humans failed again and again to be righteous. Through countless prophets, God called people back to Himself. Through promised judgment, He redirected their steps. And in His mercy, God extended grace. He “credited” righteousness to those who believed in Him. 

God’s plan did not end there. As the cycle of sin and disobedience continued, Jesus entered human history. Through His Son’s perfect sacrifice, God poured out the fullness of His wrath on Jesus and extended the fullness of His grace to humanity. This time, God’s righteousness became available to all people, for all time, for those who believe in Him. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  

The story is still not over. God has yet to set all things right. Revelation 21 and 22 promise that one day He will. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians rest our hope in a God who keeps His promises.   

Seen as a complete narrative, the Bible is no longer one Testament versus another Testament. Or one God versus another God. We see one God, with a single plan, working toward an eternal purpose.  

If we look at God’s judgment in Numbers 16 coupled with Jesus’ mercy in John 8, we see both perfectly represented in the gospel. In that moment as Jesus hung on the cross, the fullness of God’s character was clear.  

The more we study the Bible, our perceptions about God change. And since His character is everlasting, our journey never ends.  Asking hard questions to the One with eternal answers is a great place to begin. When we honestly seek to know Him, we discover that He is greater than we ever imagined.  

More in this series: 

Why Does God Judge People He Loves?

Did God Choose Israel and Not the Other Nations?

Hollie Roberts

BSF Executive Director 

Hollie Roberts stepped into the Executive Director role in September 2021 after serving as BSF’s Chief Field Development Officer. Hollie and her husband, Kevin, have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren.

 

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75 Comments

  1. Thanks for a wonderful writing

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  2. I enjoy these so much. It does help to clear some things up. Thankyou!

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  3. Amen!! Beautiful stated reality of the character of God.🕊🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼💜🕊

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  4. This was a very helpful blog, thank you for writing it! Learning about God and his attributes has been life changing through studies in BSF.

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  5. I love the blog! It’s very enlightening and encouraging. Thank God for His grace and mercy and thank you Hollie!

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  6. Where can i find Holly’s Blogs in Audio?

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    • Bob – they are not available in audio at this point. We would love to offer that feature!

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  7. Your blog brings me joy!

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  8. Awesome comparison of who I am at any given moment giving a better perception of the whole me. God can’t be singled out in a single act either. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart.

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  9. Great message to start my morning!!!

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    • Just praying God to give me wisdom and love to understand how holy spirit works

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  10. We see one God, with a single plan, working toward an eternal purpose.

    Jesus is the greatest and the most perfect plan designed for the humankind.

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  11. Love the blog! Thank you.

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  12. Hollie, thank you so much for this blog. ❤ I am going to be praying that GOD will give me and others the insight/wisdom to know HIM, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT in a more indept way by continuing to read HIS Word.

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  13. Your discernment is so insightful. We, of course, need to look at all 66 books to understand God’s Word. Everything in the Old Testament points to our savior. Thank you for helping us see this.

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  14. What a joy it is to have new insight into “the hard questions” we have all wondered about! Thank you for your thoughtful answers and the Bible’s support! BSF USA part of my life and this year’s lesson challenges us as we witness our America and our world! I wish our leaders would call for a time of National Prayer for all nations! God is trying to get our attention!

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  15. Certainly, our God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is always good and loving us. I have no doubt in this as revealed no matter in The Old Testament or New Testament. The difference, I am afraid, is whether our knowledge of Him deviates from what The Bible as revealed from The Holy Spirit. Thank BSF who always emphasises the importance of revelation from The Holy Spirit.
    It’s quite disappointing to see so many different theological talks not in line with The Bible and make believers doubting the goodness of our Lord, which HE wants us to know, to proclaim and even to approve (Romans 12:2). I am afraid that satan has been working in those areas to deceive us continuously from histories. We really need to have a discerning heart and then guard it all over our life against all deceptions and doubts against our Lord who always work for our good (Romans 8:28).

    I truly believe that as our Lord is the same forever, so the reason is from men (and not from the loving God), especially men’s hidden pride that they even might not get aware of. And the consequences can be seen down to the Book of Malachi or even to the Book of Revelation as God’s wrath will then be poured even to Israel, after which Christ will come to save them. It’s quite a tragedy (though God never stop supplying ‘loving kindness’ or grace to them throughout history) but we can’t blame The Lord. He is the same GOOD God yesterday, today and forever. Otherwise we shall be most miserable. Praise The Lord.

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  16. Thank you so much for such explanation and clarity. It helps me understand better. How the Old and New Testaments never contract each other. Neither does God, the Son, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. My pray is God will continue to reveal the truths to me as we learn about these Divided Kingdoms.

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  17. This is a very “simple” way to clarify that God is Jesus is God is Jesus… The phrase “I like your Jesus, but I cannot accept your God.” or words to that effect are ones that I have heard very often, and I appreciate this blog entry for helping me to give reason for my hope, despite such assertions, especially in a world that is increasingly watering down Jesus as an acceptor of sin “because God was just too judgmental”. In the case of Elijah v. Elisha, even though both are human prophets found in the Old Testament, would it be way off base to view the God of the Old Testament as lining up with Elijah, whereas Jesus is exhibiting the characteristics of Elisha? God is far greater than both men, but in terms of their ministry and reducing it to a human description. The double portion of the Spirit having been given to the Son.

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  18. Thank you Hollie for the well written blogs.

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  19. The blog is excellent and helps clarify with biblical answers to some hard questions. Thank you for this rich supplement to BSF.

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  20. This is a beautiful explanation of why looking to the full counsel of God is so important. Thank you!

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  21. This is a golden oldie, that God in the OT is all wrath and Jesus in the NT is all love.
    I see the love of God in the OT expressed in Ex 34:6,7. “The LORD … the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love … forgiving sin.”
    On closer scrutiny we find that Father and Son are identical.
    In John 8 Jesus did not say he forgave the woman. Nor did he change the Law. He obeyed the Law. He was not a witness to the woman’s sin, and all her accusers had left, and no one could be put to death without the testimony of two or more witnesses. Therefore, under the Law of Moses, he could not condemn her. His words, “Go your way and sin no more,” effectively put her under a suspended sentence, which is exactly where we all are. We have no licence to continue to sin.
    Jeremiah 17:13 is interesting. (“… their names shall be written in the dust.”) In John chapter 7 they rejected Jesus, the spring of living water. And in John chapter 8 it looks as if Jesus wrote their names in the dust. So they went away, the eldest first. The eldest probably knew Jeremiah best.
    In Revelation 14:20, when Jesus returns to judge the earth, the blood runs for 180 miles up to the depth of a horse’s bridle. Thus there is more bloodshed caused by Jesus in the NT than in all the OT. Father and Son are exactly alike. There is no difference between the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of God.
    In Deuteronomy Yahweh calls us repeatedly to love him and obey his commands. To fulfil the Law is to love God! And Jesus says in John 14 if we love him we will obey his commands.
    Jesus “overcame” and shares his Father’s throne. And, if we overcome, we will share it with them. And that is Good News!

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  22. Who was Jesus sent to:
    The children of Isreal. MATT 10.5-6
    The woman at the well
    John 4
    Was Samaritan, gentile, yes
    Our father Jacob. She was an Israelite.
    How does this fit?

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  23. I loved the blog, because it loved me back. I am 91 years young and have been a follower of Jesus since I was 8 yrs old. I joined BSF in 2017 and the studies have been mind bending to me. What I have learned in the past 5 yrs has been joyous and wonderful. I look forward to each day of study and mostly the Christian women whom I cherish. Thank you for your time, energy and the lovely teachings

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  24. I am always blessed by the insight and great use of personal application, thank you for desiring to teach us as we grow together in our walk and relationship with our Wonderful God!❤

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  25. Excellent blog! Thank you so much!

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  26. Beautiful well thought out and studied commentary. This reading gives great wisdom and understanding to the contrasting testaments of the old and new.

    This series “Hard Questions” is amazing as are the authors who wrote them. I loved all three readings and am looking forward to more to follow.

    Thank you for your God inspired wisdom and writings (all of you). Keep giving us more!

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  27. Keep them coming!! They are Wondery!

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  28. I’m so thankful for BSF and these posts. They are always filled with truth and encouragement. Thank you.

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  29. thankyou for your perspective.

    Phillip

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  30. Very enlightening! Enjoyed the read. Opened new thoughts.

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  31. Very insightful – I want to see God in all that He is, than limit Him to just one thing I read about Him from one portion of the scriptures. May my/our eyes be opened to see Him as He is from the scriptures. Thank you

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  32. The Bible as a whole is God’s Grand Story from beginning to end is consistent with His Plan to save mankind created In His image through His Son Jesus Christ to live with Him from eternity to eternity.

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  33. Hollie thank you. This is an excellent article that needs to be passed on to as many people as possible.

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  34. Quite a great insight. It’s unbelievable how an incident such as even the death of a loved one can challenge our perception of God. I see the wisdom of having a wider perception.

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  35. Thank you for helping our limited understanding of God. He works in three dimensions beyond the physical which largely informs our worldview. What is comforting is that what His Word says is self evident experientialy not from afar.

    Reply

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