The Bible says that God does not change, but the God of the Old Testament is so different from the New. Can you explain this?
It is written in the Bible that God never changes. But when you look at the Old and New Testament, God seems to be quite different in the two testaments. It is written that Jesus has always existed. So is it correct to say that God was not changing himself from what He was in the OT to what He was in the NT, but rather He was revealing more of Himself in the NT? As we all know, humans are fallible and we are very much vulnerable to sin. In the OT, the Jews had to keep asking for forgiveness and killed lambs for atonement. In the NT, we just have to believe in Jesus for atonement and Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice. But even though people believe in Jesus, we are still vulnerable to sin and usually commit sins, so we must keep asking God for forgiveness every time we sin. So my question is, what’s the point of this ultimate sacrifice of Jesus if we still keep sinning and have to keep asking for forgiveness from God?
I have studied the Bible intensely for forty years and have reached the very strong conclusion that the God of the New Testament is exactly the same as the God of the Old Testament. The Bible story is the same throughout. The message of the Old Testament is this: The Messiah is coming and he is bringing salvation. The message of the New Testament is this: The Messiah is here and he has brought salvation. I believe that if you will get a copy of my book From Shadow to Reality (at www.ipibooks.com), you will see that what I am saying is true. The God of the Old Testament is a God of love, but also a God of holiness and a God of justice. He is an all-powerful God. This is exactly the God of the New Testament. I see no difference.
I can see why some people feel that the God of the Old Testament is different. This is not a crazy idea. A fairly quick reading of the Old and New Testament can lead one to conclude that this is the case, so I cannot blame people for feeling this way. For example, there is the matter of progressive revelation. God reveals increasing information about himself over time. The reality of heaven is stated here and there in the Old Testament and is implied time and time again, but the bottom line is that this doctrine is spelled out more explicitly in the New Testament. Other things about God are revealed more clearly in the New than in the Old Testament. However, I am convinced that if we do a careful analysis, in the end, although the level of emphasis may change in some doctrines, the teaching is identical in both. Paul explains in Romans why the doctrine of salvation has always been the same. Salvation has always been by faith. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This is both in the New and the Old Testament.
There is also the matter of the Old Testament teaching things through physical things, whereas in the New Testament the same thing is taught through spiritual things. In the Old Testament the blessings are more physical–homes, fields, reaching old age and the like, but in the New Testament the blessings are more spiritual, but the nature of God is the same in either case. In the Old Testament God made allowance for divorce “because of the hardness of their hearts.” In the New Testament, as an example of progressive revelation he does not make allowance for divorce at all, at least for those married in the Church. Again, God has always hated divorce (Malachi 2). The nature of God has not changed, although the command has changed to some extent.
I could go on for many pages, but I submit to you that the claim that the God of the Old Testament is materially different from the God of the New Testament is simply not supported by the evidence. Like you point out above, God does reveal himself more clearly in the New Testament. This is the nature of progressive revelation, but there is no indication in this that the God of the two Testaments is different in any way. As for the doctrine of salvation, forgiveness of willful sin has always been only based on repentance and faith. Old Testament sacrifices may have created ceremonial cleanness, but the blood of bulls and goats does not take away sin (Hebrews 10).
As Christians, we do NOT have to ask forgiveness every time we sin. In 1 John 1:8f, we learn that for those who walk in the light, their sins are continually cleansed. If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and his blood purifies us from all sins. You can ask for forgiveness of particular sins. In fact, in Matthew 6 Jesus told us to ask God for forgiveness, but our salvation is dependent on our faith and on the grace of God, not on our specific repentance for every sin we commit. I say you should ask God to forgive you, as Matthew told us to pray, but your forgiveness is not earned through prayer. If you are a baptized believer, then you are forgiven. Period. You can lose your salvation, but as long as the Holy Spirit remains in you, you have a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. You can mark it down.