Did God Change Between the Old and New Testament?

April 11, 2024

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How can I teach my children that the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament?


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode. Today's question says, "How can I teach my children that the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament?" Really interesting question for us to think through and an important one because if we encounter this question with our children, we want to make sure that they understand that God is the same God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

Before we dive down deep into answering this question today, I would just ask that you take the few seconds that it takes to rate this content because when you do that, that helps us get it out to more people so that we can equip even more Christian adults to get the kids in their care carefully thinking. Also, we love when we hear your questions. That's how we do this podcast. We rely on your questions. So if you have a question that you would like for me to answer in a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit it by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast.

Now, before we answer this question, anytime we're wanting to answer someone's question, it's important to make sure that we understand the heart of the question, that we understand the root of the issue before we jump in with an answer. Now, I can't do that as the podcast host because I don't have this person in front of me, but what I would encourage you to do is if your children ask you a question about this, if they ask you why does it seem like God in the Old Testament is different than God in the New Testament, would really encourage you to ask some follow up questions to figure out why do they think God is somehow different in the Old Testament than he is in the New Testament? What I'm going to do here today is I'm going to take a guess at why children would ask this question or why anyone would ask this question and then try to respond to that. However, when you're in this situation with your children, try to ask questions to get to the heart of what makes them think that God is different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.

Now, when I have encountered this question just from people in my life asking it, I think that there are two main reasons why people think that there's this drastic divide between God and the Old Testament and God and the New Testament, and one of the reasons that I have encountered is the focus a lot in a lot of the Old Testament in God's judgment, specifically his judgment against the nation of Israel when he was punishing them for their sins and when he was judging other nations for their sins. That's one of the reasons why I think people sometimes think of there's this drastic divide between God as he's presented in the Old Testament and God as he's presented in the New Testament. And then another reason why I found that people think that there is this drastic divide is that in the New Testament, Jesus focuses a lot on loving God and loving others, and so there's this huge focus on love and that Jesus going to the cross is the ultimate act of love. So I think these two things many times cause people to think, "Oh God in the Old Testament is so different than he is in the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament is just wrathful and full of vengeance and anger, and then God, as he's presented in the New Testament, is loving and kind and compassionate". And so if this is the case, my question then for us would be are we viewing God through the actual lens of his self revelation, which is Scripture. Or are we viewing God through others' representations of God, whether this be Christian material or non-Christian material or friends or sermons or different things like that? Are we actually having our understanding of God rooted in Scripture in his self revelation? Because we want to make sure that our children, anytime they have a question about something, that we anchor it back in Scripture.

I just did this last week. Last week I was bringing two boys from my church to school in the morning that their parents couldn't drop them off at school, so I would pick them up in the mornings and drop them off. And as we were driving to school one day, one of the boys asked a question about something and I knew the answer to it. I had it right on the tip of my tongue, but instead of answering it, I said, you know what? Why don't we go to the Bible and see what the Bible has to say about this? And then we read a certain portion of Scripture and we talked through then, okay, how does this portion of Scripture answer this question?

So we want to make sure that if our kids are claiming that God in the Old Testament is different than God in the New Testament, we're saying, okay, where in Scripture are you finding this? Now, if you don't know how to root your children in a thoroughly biblical understanding of who God is and how to study his word, highly recommend that you check out two of our curriculums in our biblical literacy track here at Foundation Worldview, we have an "Attributes of God" curriculum for children 4 + and a "Studying the Bible" curriculum for children 8 +. And both of these curriculums are designed to root our children in a biblical understanding of who God is and then a correct understanding of how to soundly read, interpret, and apply his word. So highly recommend that you check out those two curriculums because they're going to give you so many more skills and tools than I can in this short 20 minute podcast.

Now thinking about this specific question, and if our children are saying, "well, God is just very judgmental and full of wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament", we can then talk through that and say, "okay, we do see many instances of God's judgment in the Old Testament. You're right, we do see many instances of that" and we can ask them, what are some of the instances of God's judgment that you can think about and then have them list some. And if they can't list many, you can probably list many. Just thinking for myself, I know the flood is a big instance of God's judgment, Saddam and Gomorrah, the Exodus and the plagues on Egypt, then the Canaanite conquest, then Israel's exile. There's many that we see throughout the Old Testament.

Well then the next question we'll want to ask our children is, "okay, so God did judge the people in these cases. What was the cause of this judgment? Why is it that God judged these people?" And then take them to the actual text and read through the text. So I have pulled out several shorter portions of Scripture. If I was going through this with a child, I would actually spend an entire week going through this, and I don't mean spending a week as an eight hours a day doing this. I just mean taking 10 to 15 minutes here and there and consistently looking at, okay, what does the Old Testament say? What does it reveal? What does the New Testament reveal? So I've taken shorter portions of Scripture. If you're doing this with child, you can augment this, do this with longer passages.

But saying, okay, let's look at the flood. And so Genesis chapter six verses five through eight, we're going to look for, okay, why is God destroying human life on earth minus Noah and his family through the flood? And Genesis chapter six, verses five through eight says, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." And so then to ask our kids, okay, so according to this passage, why is it that God wiped out humankind minus Noah and his family in the flood? Was God just so angry? Did he get ticked one time and he exploded in anger? No, it's because of human sin. It says the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great, that every intention of his thoughts and heart was only evil continually. Then you can talk through that. What are some of those things? What are some of the evils that God would've seen on the earth? He would've not only seen people lying and throwing temper tantrums and arguing he would've seen people stealing and killing and abusing one another. Would God actually be a good God if he did not judge those things? No sin deserves judgment. Then for Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis chapter, actually you know what? I have the wrong reference here. I have it's Genesis chapter six, but I'm sorry in my notes it's wrong. It's chapter 18 of Genesis verses 20 to 21 and 32. You can just Google where Sodom and Gomorrah happens in that chapter of Genesis. It says, "Then the Lord said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done all together according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know." And then in verse 32, when he's talking to Abraham, it says, "God answered, for the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." Okay, so there's this outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah because it is said they are such wicked cities, okay? And God is saying that he's coming down, he's going to check out if these things are true, which we know that God already knew these things, but this is all part of his plan with Abraham. And then when God visits Abraham and he tells him that he is going to bring judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, there's this exchange between Abraham and God where Abraham asks God, if there's so many righteous people, if there's 50 righteous, will you destroy the city? And then he keeps going down and down and down, and eventually he says, well, what if there are 10 people that are living the right way that are following God? And God tells Abraham that for the sake of 10, he would not destroy the city, but there weren't even 10 righteous people there. Okay? So again, we see God's judgment because of sin.

Well then think about the Exodus when the plagues are brought upon Egypt, two passages of Scripture that very clearly speak to why God brought the plagues on Egypt, why he brought his people out. In Exodus chapter one, verse 22, it says, "Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live." So what was Pharaoh doing? Massive genocide of the Hebrew people that every time a baby boy was born, that boy was to be cast into the Nile River to drown. Then in Exodus chapter four, verses 22 and 23, it says, God is speaking to Moses and he says, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, "Let my son go that he may serve me." If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'" Okay? So when the Passover happens, and God actually kills every firstborn son of the Egyptians, it wasn't out of this one moment of anger, God forewarned Pharaoh, that if you do not let my firstborn son Israel go free, I will bring judgment on your firstborn sons. Just as Pharaoh, what Pharaoh had done that this is a punishment that is fitting the crime that Pharaoh had commanded that all the sons of Israel that were born to the nation of Israel should be killed. So again, okay, so in the example of the flood and in Sodom and Gomorrah and the Exodus, we see that God is judging the people because of their sin.

Then when we think about the Canaanite conquest, when God sent in his people the nation of Israel and they wiped out the cities in Canaan, we see this foretold in Genesis chapter 15, 13 through 16. It says, "Then the Lord said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." So in that passage we hear both about why God is going to eventually judge the Egyptians that he's going to bring judgment on them because of how they have afflicted Israel. But then in verse 16, he says that this isn't going to happen until the fourth generation because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. That they had to reach a certain point in their rebellion against God before God was going to bring judgment on them. So for four generations, God was patient with the people who lived in the land of Canaan, but because of their sin they were judged.

Then when we think of the Israelite exile in Leviticus chapter 18 verses 26 through 28, God says, "But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you." So here God is warning his people saying, all of these laws that I've given you follow these laws, do not commit the same abominable sins that the nations in this land before you committed. Because if you commit those same sins, the land will vomit you out. Okay? God's going to kick them out of the land just as he did the Canaanites before them. Okay? So in all of these situations we see the common theme is sin that the people were judged because of their sin.

Now, an important thing for us to talk about with our children is if we just read these passages consecutively, it can seem like, whoa, God did a lot of harsh judging in the Old Testament. We also need to remember that the Old Testament covers thousands of years of history. We're not talking about a week or a month. We're not even just talking about a hundred years. We're talking about several thousand years of history. And when you think about history that long, that's actually not too many acts of judgment. Even when you just think about the last century and how many wars have taken place in the last century, and how many heinous war crimes have been committed in the past 100 years. In every hundred years in Bible history, we do not see a major judgment. We only see this every several hundred years. And so this really points to God's patience with people that he did not immediately judge them for their sin.

Now, it's also important for us to remember as we're talking with our kids about the New Testament, that we also find these same consistent themes that God is holy, that God wants what is best for us, and because of God's holiness and because of his desire for what is best for us, sin will always bring about judgment. And we see this same consistent theme in the New Testament, and so some passages you can take your children to point this out. Matthew chapter five, verses 21 and 22, Jesus is speaking and he says, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell a fire." So yes, did Jesus preach about God's love? Yes. Did Jesus show the ultimate act of love by going to the cross? Yes, but Jesus was also clear that sin brings about judgment that sin brings about God's just condemnation, his just wrath.

In Matthew chapter 25, verse 41, Jesus is also speaking again and he says, "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Now, in the fuller context of this passage, this is when Jesus is talking about God separating the sheep from the goats and he's going to say to those whom he has never known depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angel. So Jesus is showing that our sin brings about just condemnation, it brings about just wrath.

Then another passage that makes this clear again is Mark chapter nine, verses 43 through 49. And Jesus again is speaking, "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.' So in all of these passages, it's clear that Jesus is telling that sin brings about judgment.

So this concept of judgment of sin leading to just condemnation is consistent in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. And similarly in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God's mercy and grace are spoken of consistently throughout both testaments.

Now, I'm not going to take you to every single passage that talks about this or else this would be a several hour long podcast, but I'm going to take you to three key passages that I think we can take our children to show them how throughout both testaments, God's mercy and grace is clearly demonstrated. In the first book of the Bible, in Genesis chapter three verses 14 and 15, after Adam and Eve have rebelled against God and eaten from the fruit of the tree, God is speaking to them and specifically in verses 14 and 15, he's speaking to Satan to the serpent and it says "The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel." Even in the garden of Eden, right after Adam and Eve were building against God, God gives this prophecy that one day he is going to send someone to bruise the head of the serpent. That things are not over for Adam and Eve and their children, that God is going to send someone to rescue them.

Another passage we can take our children to. In Jeremiah chapter 31 verses 31 through 34, God is speaking through Jeremiah and it says, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." So here, even in the midst of the exile when God's people were captives in Babylon, God is speaking of his future mercy and grace towards them that he's going to make a new covenant where he's actually going to write his law in people's hearts and he's going to forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.

And we see this echoed in Ephesians chapter two verses one through seven where Paul writes, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." And so we see this grace and mercy in this passage in Ephesians chapter two that was foretold in Jeremiah chapter 31, that all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see both this theme of God's just judgment towards sin and God's just unfathomable grace and mercy that he offers to us, that he promised to us in the Old Testament and that then came to fruition in the New Testament through Jesus offering up himself as the perfect sacrifice, that Jesus bore the full weight of God's wrath toward our sins so that we could be redeemed, that we could be forgiven, that we could be made new in him.

We want to make sure that our children understand this, that we see both judgment and mercy woven throughout both testaments, that God is consistent in the Old Testament and the New Testament, and we want to make sure that we're always grounding our kids in Scripture so that anytime they have a question about who God is, they're not just going to us or to somebody else that they consider an expert, but they are seeing what has God revealed in Scripture, his self revelation. Again, highly recommend that you check out our "Attributes of God" and our "Studying the Bible" Curriculum because everything we do in these curriculums is designed to align with the way that God has designed the child mind to learn, so that we're actually transforming, thinking and rooting our kids in Scripture so that they know the first place that they go for the answers to these questions is Scripture.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode, but as always, as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation in which you and the children, God is placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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