How do we reconcile the God of the Old Testament, who appears vengeful, violent and angry with the compassionate, loving Jesus of the New Testament? In this message, Eric outlines the supreme revelation of Jesus being the perfect revelation of the Father.
Eric’s Speaking notes are below.
Last time, I ended the year with two messages – who is your God – is he God the Father, or “The God Father.”
– We looked at two key narratives – the Fall and the Cross.
– The 2 most significant events in all of history.
– But how we view the narrative of God in these events paints two wildly different pictures. One you get God the loving Father, the other you get the God Father – a cold ruthless authoritarian.
At the Fall our common narrative is one of sin and separation — that the all holy God who must separate from his sinful children.
– But when we examine it, we sin causes shame in God’s children who estrange themselves from God. And ever since its God who is chasing after them to be reconciled.
At the Cross, our narrative is that God the Father punished Jesus in our place for sin. Pouring out his wrath and thereby paying our debt to God.
– But if Jesus was paying our debt, then that makes the Father into a debt collector who simply collected payment from Jesus – and thus we really aren’t really forgiven.
– But when we examine it, we actually find the Cross is actually the victory over sin death and also the creation of a new covenant of eternal forgiveness.
Well funny thing, these have surfaced the underlying issues that so many people have with God the Father. And in response, I have heard a number of confessions of fear with the Father…
– Some confessing they never read the Old Testament… I just focus on Jesus
– A strong Christians friend, read the whole Old Testament this past year and said she is traumatized…And utterly confused about the Father
– Other Christians struggle with unbelief about the legitimacy of their faith because of contradictions of God in the Old Testament – a God of violence and wrath.
This is not a new phenomenon… this is a problem almost 2000 years old.
– In year 144, Marcionism spread through the early Church. Marcionism was developed by Marcion of Sinope, Rome.
– He discarded the Hebrew God and the entire Old Testament and embraced Jesus as the supreme God. And relegated the wrathful and vengeful God of Old Testament God as a lower deity.
– Marcion was declared a heretic, excommunicated, and marcion’s writings were destroyed.
– His rationale was that the God of the Old Testament was such a contradiction to Jesus, there was no way Jesus was the same God.
The problem is, today’s Christians are not far from being practical marcionists.
– Where we focus on Jesus and hope no one asks us to talk about any of that scary stuff.
– I admit, if you have followed my teachings over the past decade, I am all about Jesus.
– But I cannot deny that Jesus came to reveal the Father and reconcile us to him.
– And being a father myself, God continues to remind me of his attributes as a Father.
We need an answer to this thorn in our faith – where we can understand Jesus in light of the Old Testament God, and the Old testament God in light of Jesus.
So my aim tonight (and my next message) is to help us untangle the mental mess of who God is really like between Jesus and God the Father
– What is God like and how do we really know? (Tonight)
– What do we do with all the scary passages in the Old Testament (Next Time)
So tonight, I want to focus on what is God really like? And how do we know the real answer?
– Because if you read the Bible cover to cover, you get a very complicated montage of who God is. Lots of seemingly contradictions.
– You have Yahweh of the Old Testament, who is full of judgement, laws, wrath, and is the military leader who vanquishes his enemies…
– Then you have Jesus who brings us grace and teaches us to love our enemies.
– How do we reconcile what God is really like with these two extremes?
o Most Christians have no answer at all, or if they do, they have a bad one.
At the outset, let me tell you how we have gotten into this mess…
Most evangelicals hold a flat view of the bible:
– They hold that all scripture is divinely inspired (which I hold that view too).
– But they believe if all scripture is divinely inspired, they it must all carry the same level of divine authority.
– In this view Jesus’s revelation of God is placed on the same level as every other biblical depiction of God
– This creates a mental-montage of what God is like.
– In this mental montage, part of the God is Christ-like (NT), but other parts are the vengeful, jealous, and capable of doing horrible things like commanding genocide and causing parents to cannibalize their children (OT)
No wonder so many believers have trouble feeling passionate love for God.
– As you’ll see tonight, all scripture is divinely inspired, but not all scripture carries the same level of divine authority.
I am now persuaded that the Bible itself instructs us to base our mental representation of God solely on Christ.
– That is the conclusion tonight
– Other biblical portraits of God may nuance our Christ-centered picture, but only to the degree that they do not contradict what we learn about God revealed by Jesus.
As we will see, Jesus himself taught everything in scripture is to be interpreted in a way that points to Him.
– Therefore, Nothing in scripture should ever be interpreted in a way that qualifies or competes with His revelation of God.
– So you have the conclusion, let’s see how we arrive there.
Jesus should be our entire basis in knowing who God is because…
#1 Jesus Reveals Himself as the same God of the Old Testament
God’s name in the Old Testament is “I Am” or “Yahweh”
In Exodus 3, Moses asks God, “What shall I tell people your name?” And God replied, tell them I am sent you. “I am” and “Yahweh”
– But because our English translation does not have an exact translation for Yahweh, we see it the word written as LORD (all caps) in our Bibles. This is to know when Yahweh or I AM is being used.
– In Jewish culture, Yahweh was too sacred to even utter. When referring to God, ancient Jews used the words Adonai and also Elohim because uttering God’s name was to Sacred.
But then Jesus comes and the Jews are questioning Jesus how he knows the Father. Jesus remarks that Abraham is rejoicing seeing this day to where Jesus has come, to which they reply
– John 8:57-58 “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
– Jesus invoked the very name of God as Himself.
– And they freaked out and tried to stone him
Jesus does this a second time, invoking “I AM,” right before his betrayal.
– When Judas led the officers and soldiers to capture Jesus, they asked for Jesus the Nazareth. Jesus replied, “I am” (the name for God) and at the words I am, all of them fell back and hit the ground.
– In fact, in 7 other places, Jesus uses the words I AM in conjunction with himself. I am the bread of life, the light, the good shepherd, the door, the vine, the light, the resurrection and life, the way the truth and the light.
At one point in Jesus’s ministry, Philip asked him, “Show us the Father.”
Jesus responded, John 14:9 “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
– Jesus makes it crystal clear that if you want to know what God is like, you simply look at him.
Jesus goes as so far as saying that He does nothing apart from the Father. And only does what he sees the Father doing.
John 5:19 – the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
– Jesus gives us the standard by which we view the God of the Old Testament. The same God of the Old testament has come in the form of the Son.
Jesus should be our entire basis in knowing who God is because…
#2 The New Testament Reveals that Jesus is the perfect image of the Father
Hebrews 1:1-3 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
Clearly we see Hebrews making a distinction about Jesus is not just a representation of God… he is the exact representation of His nature. It says Jesus is the radiance of his glory.
But I want to draw your attention to the words “many portions”
The Greek word for “many portions” is polymeros. Which can be interpreted as diverse portions, or as “glimpses of truth.”
– In other words, scripture is filled with God speaking in many ways to many people, but all they got were glimpses of truth.
– And now Jesus comes, and we have the perfect representation, the radiance of His glory.
– What does radiance of His Glory mean? It means that when God shines, it looks like Jesus. When God is at work, it looks like Jesus.
– This means that in the Old Testament, people were still catching authentic glimpses of truth, and they were seeing the same Son, its just that they had clouds obstructing their vision.
Speaking of glimpses, Jesus also infers this to be the case.
Jesus stepped foot on the earth and in John 14:6, Jesus declares “I am the way the truth, and the life.”
– The Greek word for truth is aleithia, and it literally means “uncovered” or “unveiled”
– Just like the glimpses of truth in the Old Testament, Jesus is saying he is the full unveiling. Jesus is what God looks like when there are no clouds in the way.
In other words, Jesus is the perfect revelation of everything that makes God God.
Paul is so convinced that Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father, he said this to the new believers in Corinth
– 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
o The revelation of who God was to the new believer came exclusively through Jesus and him crucified.
o You have to understand what it means for Paul to say this. He was a a Pharisee of Pharisees, who was at the supreme level of knowing the Old Testament. And he says, I take all my knowledge, and I presume to only know God as Jesus crucified – and that’s it.
Paul elaborates on this further in his letter to the Colossians
Colossians 2:2-3 “The full assurances of understanding – the true knowledge of God’s mystery is found in Christ… in whom are all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge”
– This passage again reveals there were hidden truths about God before that are now answered in Jesus.
– It tells us the fullness of understanding is in the Crucified Jesus
But Paul doesn’t stop there – a few verses later declares that Jesus is the full embodiment of God himself.
Colossians 2:9; 1:19 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form; For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
Notice it doesn’t say one aspect of the deity. Not part of it… not a really good example of it. All of the fullness!
– Paul claiming that all the attributes and activities of God – his spirit, word, wisdom and glory – are disclosed in Christ.
Everything we need to know and can be known about God is found in Christ.
– It was the Father’s good pleasure to put the fullness of deity in Jesus. Why? Because no longer would there be any mystery. No more glimpses. No more shadows. It would be fully revealed in perfect essence.
This was Jesus’s aim. To reveal himself as the perfect representation of God the Father.
In the book of John, we see Jesus wishing he could be spared the terrible fate that awaits Him. But he quickly expresses resolve saying, “No, it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.”
Then, with a view of the Crucifixion, Jesus explains, “Father Glorify your name!”
John 12:28-31 Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.”
In ancient Jewish Culture, to speak of a person’s name was to speak about their character and reputation.
– So when Jesus says, “glorify your name” Jesus is declaring, “illuminate your character and reputation! The Father replies, “I already have” – meaning, that Jesus’s life has already brought light to who the Father is. But then the Father said, I will glorify it again.
– What does that mean? God is saying, there is one more thing to demonstrate my nature and character. And that is to lay down your life so that others may live.
– Let me show you the world how much I love them by laying down my own son to be killed by man, in order that they may have victory and eternal life.
John revisits this in 1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
What is God’s love and character like? It looks like Jesus and it looks like what he did on the Cross.
– What is really important is that the revelation of God in Jesus should never be regarded as one revelation among others. Jesus is the revelation that culminates and surpasses all previous revelations.
Jesus is not part of the view of who God is. Jesus is the superior and absolute view of who God is.
– The revelation of Jesus is superior than any other revelation of God that preceded him. The revelation of the Son for how it reveals what God is like, has no rivals.
I like how Michael Ramsey puts it – “God is Christlike and in him is no unChristlikeness at all.”
Jesus should be our entire basis in knowing who God is because…
#3 The New Testament Reveals the Old Testament Can Lead to an Imperfect Revelation of what God is like
What is fascinating about Jesus’s rebukes to the Pharisees, is these are the ones who should have been first to recognize Jesus as the messiah.
– They know the Old Testament frontwards and backwards.
– But yet Jesus says this to them..
Matthew 11:27 – No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son…
– Think about this… Jesus declares no one knows the Father… that’s a pretty big statement! All the laws and prophets and Jesus says no one knows the Father.
– We have to assume this Jewish hyberolic language to draw extreme contrasts like Jesus often did. But it makes a huge statement about the Old Testament.
– In essence Jesus is saying that his knowledge and revelation of that Father is so much greater, its as though they didn’t know God at all.
But he repeats it again, this time in John.
John 8:54-55 It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him.
– He is saying “You have not known Him” to those who have virtually memorized the Old Testament.
– How is this possible?
The author of Hebrews gives us an explanation for how this is possible.
Hebrews 10:1 8:13; The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves…When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
The Hebrews author says that the Old Testament is simply a shadow pointing to a future.
– Old Testament was the imperfect revelation that was pointing to a perfect revelation that would come.
John makes this exact distinction between the former law and the reality that is now present in Jesus.
John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
– Therefore we have to look at the Old Testament as largely the story of God’s people with an imperfect revelation.
– The full truth did not come until Jesus
– What Moses and the Old Testament brought was not the full picture
This doesn’t mean we throw away the Old Testament and texts – They are shadows and you need to realize they are not the perfect revelation
– But do you know what is the perfect revelation? Jesus. That is why Jesus is called the perfecter of the faith.
– Hebrews 12:2 Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith
– Something that is perfect already is not needing to be perfected.
– It’s a revelation that what we had was not clear, it was not the perfect revelation.
– It means that something before Jesus, the laws and prophets were imperfect. They were just shadows.
– When you have the real object, you don’t need to supplement what you know about it by examining the shadow that it casts.
– In other words, the Old Testament is authoritative by simply the nature that it points to Jesus.
So Hebrews says that the Old Testament was a shadow… and set of glimpses – not the realities – and which are becoming obsolete. Stunning.
Paul makes this stunning statement about the Old Testament
2 Corinthians 3:15-16 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
– In other words, if you’re not looking to Jesus, the old testament will lie to your heart.
– Paul is saying the surface reading of the Old Testament, without looking to Jesus, will hide God’s true nature from your heart.
– Only when you turn to Jesus who is revealed in perfection, can you see clearly.
Here’s the bomb of the night…
When we make God the Father out to be someone different than who Jesus was, we partner with the same deception that actually used scripture to justify killing Jesus
– Jesus was killed because people did not believe he was the same as the God of the Old Testament.
People think that the Romans put Jesus to death.
– It actually was the Jews. Jews were under Roman rule and used the Roman manner of death (Crucifixion) as the method.
– Here is something no one realizes… Jesus was put to death by church leaders — experts of the Old Testament who killed Jesus in accordance with Levitical Law
Jesus stood before the high priest and all the council and revealed he was the one the scriptures had spoken of. They declared him to be put death – for blasphemy. That’s what Leviticus 24:16 instructs – to put to death those who blaspheme.
So what do we do? Do we throw the Old Testament away!? No! Jesus said this to those who knew the scripture best…
– John 5:39-40;46 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life… For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
– Jesus presented Himself as the one whom all previous revelations are about!
– That is mind blowing.
– Our responsibility is not to throw away the Old Testament as an incomplete and imperfect revelation of God. Its to discover how to testifies about Jesus.
– If you read the Old Testament and do not see Jesus revealed, you are reading it like a Pharisee and missing who God truly is.
We should not feel bad about looking at the Old Testament and being confused with how Jesus was the answer.
After Jesus’s resurrection, he walked with the disciples and explained to them that all of the former scriptures are about Him, and reveal him.
Luke 24:27;45 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures… Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures
– Jesus was explaining the scriptures to people who knew it backwards and forwards – more than we ever could comprehend. And they still didn’t understand Jesus revealed in it until Jesus explained it and opened their minds.
– This tells us that something else is going on beneath the surface of the scriptures.
So what do we do now? What do we do with the Old Testament itself? How do we begin to look at ugly and horrifying depictions of God in the Old Testament in find Jesus in it?
– That is what I will attempt the next time we meet.
But I want to make sure we leave all knowing this one truth.
Everything we can and should think about God the Father, should solely be based on Christ Crucified.
– Jesus is the supreme authority by which the character of the Father is determined.
– All other scripture, while divine inspired, is glimpses and shadows. Jesus is not a supplement to what is known about God Old Testament, but God is perfectly known through Jesus and we must look to the Old Testament to find how all scripture leads us to knowing a God who is not just Yahweh but Christ Crucified.
If you read or believe something you believe doesn’t match the character of the crucified Christ, you have reason to question.
– And I hope to help you explore some of those questions next time.