By Marty Solomon
The concept that the God of the Previous Testomony is a God of regulation, whereas the New Testomony exhibits us a God of grace, is a typical idea that always underpins our studying of the Bible. That is in all probability exacerbated by the concept that the Hebrew Scriptures painting a God who is stuffed with wrath. Even when we reject this concept on precept, it appears to have had such an impression on how we learn the Bible.
I believe most of us, no matter our opinion on the God of the Previous Testomony versus the God of the New Testomony, would affirm the concept that God doesn’t change and would agree that his character is constant all through the catalog of his revelation to his individuals (Psalm 55:19 ; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).
The excellent news is that as an individual continues to develop in his capability to interact with the Hebrew Scriptures by way of his personal Jewish context, he finds a constant gospel-centered message.
This may be found by strolling via the historical past of creation tales (students like John Walton do an excellent job of exhibiting how the Hebrew story undermines the dominant cultural assumptions of their time) or by trying on the profoundly distinctive attributes within the story of the Flood and Noah’s relationship with this very uncommon God (Sandra Richters The epic of Eden might be invaluable right here) and alliances to which they’re accustomed. It turns into very apparent that the Torah is attempting to convey one large concept (amongst many): This God is completely different from the gods you’re used to.
What units this God aside? His grace. He’s a God of compassion and mercy, a God who is able to enter right into a relationship with His creatures and meet them the place they’re.
The Previous Testomony exhibits God’s grace
God impresses this on his first companions by exhibiting the Abrams household that he’s a God who makes a promise and fulfills a bloody path (Genesis 15), provides sacrifice to fulfill the wants of believers (Genesis 22), and takes our forgiveness and builds a greater future (Genesis 50).
Outdoors of some judgment tales (the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of the Exodus), God continues to fulfill his individuals the place they’re and patiently lead them via what looks as if an infinite story of errors and failures. There could also be some sensible limitations to this precept, however God’s work of grace is an simple mark of his story and, as he intends, of his individuals.
One may start to assume that the rationale we soar to conclusions about an historic short-tempered God is as a result of we learn historic, primitive, and barbaric tales. It requires us to know the historic context and nuances with a purpose to see God’s gracious works for what they’re.
It could be that our personal presupposed theology causes us to load these assumptions into the story.
Take God’s nice private introduction to Moses in Exodus 33. Moses calls for to see God; wrestle and search encouragement. He desires to see God. God explains the issue with Moses’ request, however agrees to let Moses see the place he has simply been. Nonetheless, earlier than any of this occurs, God sees match to clarify one thing to Moses. God desires to talk to Moses’ ears, not simply his eyes. Within the subsequent chapter God says this:
And he went earlier than Moses, proclaiming, Lord, Lord, merciful and gracious God, gradual to anger, full of affection and faithfulness, sustaining love for hundreds, and forgiving wickedness, insurrection and sin. Nonetheless, he doesn’t depart the responsible unpunished; he punishes the youngsters and their kids for the sin of the dad and mom to the third and fourth technology (Exodus 34:6-7).
One query that nearly each Christian reader desires to know is that this: What does it imply that God will punish kids as much as the third and fourth technology?
That is attention-grabbing, as a result of it requires us to fully ignore the plain hyperbole utilized in God’s assertion. God has simply insisted that He’ll maintain the love of hundreds (in different passages the place God refers to this concept, the Hebrew states a thousand generations; some translations insist that it’s implied right here as properly), however punish 4 generations.
A thousand to 4. That is a fairly gracious distinction.
However we additionally go over 5 phrases that immediately discuss with God’s grace. compassionate . . . merciful. . . gradual to anger, full of affection. . . and forgiveness of wickedness, insurrection and sin. Why do not these get our consideration? Six phrases that talk of God’s grace and one hyperbolic literary gadget that speaks of punishment (within the ratio of 1,000 to 4, keep in mind), and have you ever thought of the theology behind that final phrase?
I believe our Augustinian biases are exhibiting.
Jesus is God’s grace incarnate
God has at all times been a God of mercy. He offered himself because the God of grace in Genesis. He acted out of grace within the Exodus. He outlined his grace in Leviticus. He requested his individuals to respect his grace in Numbers. He commanded them to recollect his grace in Deuteronomy.
Actually, Jesus insisted that this was at all times the reality behind the Torah. Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claimed to interpret God’s Torah in accordance with its unique intent, as God gave it to Moses. You’ve got heard it stated, . . . however I inform you that Jesus settled all of the disputes that existed between the Torah and its software.
And simply once we thought that possibly Jesus was right here to begin one thing new, he insisted that he was, in actual fact, restoring one thing that was at all times meant to be. Jesus stated,
Don’t assume that I’ve come to abolish the Regulation or the Prophets; I didn’t come to abolish them, however to meet them. For actually I say to you, till heaven and earth go away, not the smallest letter, not the smallest stroke of a pen, will go from the Regulation till all is fulfilled. Subsequently, whoever rejects considered one of these least commandments and teaches others accordingly shall be least within the kingdom of heaven, and whoever does and teaches these commandments shall be referred to as nice within the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you: until your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and lecturers of the regulation, you’ll not enter the dominion of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).
Jesus appeared adamant that he was not overturning the Torah of their Jewish context, however restoring it. So no matter we consider about Jesus and his character, we should mission that onto our understanding of God.
One among my favourite quotes for Christology comes from Brian Zahnd:
God is like Jesus.
God was at all times like Jesus.
There was by no means a time when God was not like Jesus.
We did not at all times know what God was like
However now we all know.
The author of Hebrews claimed that Jesus was an correct illustration of his being (1:3) and insisted that Jesus is the best and clearest revelation of God’s work on the earth.
Merely put, if Jesus is grace, then God is grace.
And if God doesn’t change, then it should at all times have been true. No matter what we have been taught and skilled to see. Whether or not it really works with our slick displays and explanations of theology.
We should proceed to higher perceive and apply God’s grace
In my latest e-book, Asking Higher Bible Questions: A Information for the Wounded, the Cautious, and the Craving for Extra (NavPress, February 2023), I say this:
All through my Bible instructing profession, I’ve been surrounded by individuals who act in a means that claims they’ve accomplished it as a result of they’ve mastered the Bible.
Apparently they obtained sufficient training, frolicked with sufficient of the suitable individuals, signed the suitable creed, preached sufficient sermons, prayed sufficient prayers no matter it was and so they obtained it. Woof! Lastly!
Typically these should not people, however actions, establishments, spiritual traditions and different teams of individuals. Such tribal identities are very efficient of their capability to empower us and supply us with safety, inner or in any other case.
They’re additionally very efficient of their capability to deceive and provides a false sense of safety.
However no matter what drives this perception, or the considering behind it, or the genesis of its existence, the thought appears fully backwards.
We don’t management the textual content. Ever.
But when there may be any reality in these beliefs in regards to the inspiration of the textual content and the facility of the biblical God, then that is the reality:
God is attempting to manage us.
And one of many methods He does it in a gracious, sleek, compassionate, loving and wooing means is thru this mysterious, deeper than all waters, holy textual content we name the Bible.
Apostle John stated within the closing verse of his Gospel that Jesus did many different issues. If every of them have been written down, I think about that the entire world wouldn’t have room for the books that might be written (John 21:25).
Amen and amen, Rabbi John. I do know it scares us as a result of I do know it scares me to contemplate all of the issues I do not know, not to mention the issues I do know and do not perceive but.
However I consider in God’s energy to write down a greater story than the one written by my dogmatic theology. I consider within the energy of asking good questions, and I consider that if I proceed to ask higher questions, that journey will open me as much as develop into the individual God desires me to be.
I assume considered one of my greatest passions is that we keep trustworthy and vigilant about our assumptions and the place they arrive from. As a result of the very fact is that regardless of all of the Protestant chest-beating about grace and the place it comes from, we appear to have pulled out all her tooth and given her a theological prosthesis.
God’s grace has at all times been one of the vital tough issues for God’s individuals to know and apply. God’s grace, as seen in Jesus, upset the spiritual authorities each time they noticed it (and nonetheless does in the present day, for anybody paying consideration). God’s grace was one of many issues the early church dedicated itself to demonstrating to the world time and again.
And irrespective of how properly we packaged and defined it in the course of the Reformation, irrespective of how lovely our classical theology is and the way flawlessly the methods work, irrespective of how properly the idea is outlined in lexicons, irrespective of how a lot it’s pontificated about within the pulpits. . .
The actual fact is that this grace is much from a brand new concept.
It’s as outdated because it was at first. . .
Marty Solomon is the president of Influence Campus Ministries. Amongst different endeavors, he’s the host of the BEMA Podcast, a stroll via the context of the Bible and the Textual content itself, in addition to the encircling historical past.