Evangelicals and Catholics have their differences, but one thing they generally agree on is that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. There are those, however, who dispute this, arguing that they are two different beings or a being who became something different.
The earliest known proponent of this idea was 2nd century theologian, Marcion of Sinope. He taught that the Old Testament deity was a lower god, a demiurge, who was wrathful, vengeful, and judgmental. The New Testament deity, he argued, was the higher God, who exhibited grace, mercy, and love. Many refuted his teachings, and Marcion was eventually excommunicated by the church as a heretic – and rightly so.
Although his teachings, known as “Marcionism,” originated centuries ago, they continue today, often under the title “New Mood” Christianity. Despite the name, however, the premise is the same: the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament. This view is contrary to Scripture.
In today’s passage, we’ll see that the God of the Old Testament, just like in the New, is much more than a harsh, cruel, wrathful judge. Here’s the passage:
31 “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
2 Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
3 the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
5 Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
and shall enjoy the fruit.
6 For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”
– Jeremiah 31:1-6 (ESV)
God Judges Sinners
In verse 2, God mentions the “sword” and the “wilderness.” These depict God’s judgment on Israel for their turning away from him and to other beliefs. This is a common theme in most of the prophetic books.
Israel was chosen by God to be a special people in that Messiah would come through them. He promised to protect and provide for them so long as they loved him first. If they turned to other beliefs and gods, however, then they would be punished.
They turned away from God. God punished them.
The sword and wilderness are references to that punishment.
Some people stop there, saying this shows the God of the Old Testament is a ruthless, vengeful, wrathful judge. However, that’s not all God said to Jeremiah.
God Forgives and Restores the Repentant
In verse 2, God mentions how the people “found grace.” What grace? That’s explained in verses 3-6.
God tells the people:
- “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (v. 3)
- “I have continued my faithfulness to you” (v. 3)
- “I will build you” (v. 4)
- “You shall adorn yourself” (v. 4)
- “[You] shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers” (v. 4)
- “You shall plant vineyards . . . and shall enjoy the fruit” (v. 5)
- “Watchmen will call . . . ‘Let us go up to Zion’” (v. 6)
All of these phrases describe two things: forgiveness and restoration.
The God of the Old Testament who some say is merely an angry, vengeful being, told Jeremiah that following Israel’s repentance, he will forgive their sins and restore them. The relationship that they tore apart because of their faithlessness, God will reunite.
Just as in the New Testament, God promises restoration for those who return to him.
Bringing it Home
The God of the Old Testament who judged sinners and restored those who repented is the same God of the New Testament.
He’s also the same God today.
Furthermore, we are just like those ancient Israelites. We turn away from God, putting our trust in our own abilities, our own might, our own wisdom, and our own resources.
Just like the Hebrews who turned to false idols, we turn to other faiths, other beliefs, or even no faith at all.
And just as God held the Israelites accountable for their sin, he will hold us accountable for ours.
The good news is that, just as God promised to forgive and restore Israel after they repented, he will forgive and restore us if we repent.
Despite Marcion’s teachings to the contrary, there is only one God, and he is unchanging. He’s the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The question for us, then, is this:
Are we ready to admit our sins, put our faith in Christ alone, and live in God’s forgiveness and restoration?
- 3 Characteristics of Christian Life and Church Ministry11 February 2019/