I grew up in a very small Methodist Church in Sydney, Australia. Built in 1851, the church could only hold about 60 – 70 people and was eventually demolished to make room for a larger facility. Across the road from the church lived a delightful old christian named Mr. Storey. He would occasionally invite the young people of the church over to his home on a Sunday night after church for refreshments and fellowship. He also shared some wise words from time to time. One of them I never forgot related to the Bible: He would say to me, ‘In the Old is the new concealed. In the New is the old revealed.’
In other words, he was saying the Bible is one complete book, not two. In the Old Testament are all the beginnings of what we believe and what would eventually be revealed in all its fulness, with the coming of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament.
Recently, I have gone back to consider those words of wisdom. Many people view the Bible today incorrectly as though it is two books (Old Testament and New Testament) and as though there were two Gods (The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament).
This is not a new idea. Marcion back in the 2nd century took this to extremes. (See the footnote to this letter.)
We need to remember that ‘There is only one God!’
GOD IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT
Some people view God as the God of judgment in the Old Testament versus the God of mercy and grace in the New Testament. I hear and read people use these terms, in this way, regarding God. Let’s look at some aspects of this –
People think of this as a New Testament revelation of God’s character. In actual fact, God has always been and always will be merciful. It may come as a surprise to some people that there are four times as many references to mercy in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. Just think of some of them. Even in the giving of the law, God states, ‘Showing mercy to thousands to those who love me and keep my commandments.’ Exodus 20. Likewise, Deuteronomy 7:9 declares, ‘. . .the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy. . . ‘
More than three times as much is said about grace in the New Testament. However, grace was there in the Old Testament, if you look for it. Even before the law was given to Moses. Genesis 6:8 declares, ‘Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’ Moses, likewise, reminds the Lord, ‘You (Lord) have said, “I know you by name, and you have found grace in my sight.”‘ Even at the time of receiving the law, Moses recognized that he had received the grace of God. God’s dealings with Moses were based on grace not law. Moses knew that and went on to say, ‘Now therefore, I pray if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now your ways, that I may know You and that I may find grace in your sight.’ Even when God was giving the Ten Commandments of the Law to Moses, at a crucial point in history, He did so because of grace.
GRACE IN JOHN 1:14-18
Here in this passage, John declares that Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth.’ (v14) He then goes on to say, ‘For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ (v17)
This does not mean there was no grace before Jesus (we saw already that was not so), nor does it mean there was no law after Jesus came (see Jesus’ words, ‘Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’ Matthew 5:17) The meaning is in the word ‘fulness’ which is the Greek word ‘pteroma’ meaning the sum total (i.e. In this case the sum total of all that is God was revealed to us in Jesus Christ, God’s son).
A.W. Tozer, the renowned evangelical Bible teacher, has this to say about this passage in John. ‘We read that the law was given to Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (see John 1:17). Christ is the blessed channel through which grace flows, but it is possible to misunderstand this. Unfortunately, a great many have. Never underestimate the ability of good people to misunderstand. For the most part, many have made this to mean that Moses knew only law and Christ knew only grace. This was not the teaching of our fathers and you will not find it in any of the writings of the Puritans, nor even of John Calvin or the great revivalists and reformers. It cannot be said too often that it takes all of the Word of God to make it the Word of God. To divide it, even rightly, is to run the great risk of misunderstanding. When we divide and categorize Scripture, we run into the danger of misinterpreting the mind and heart of God. Leave this work to the Holy Spirit who breathes truth into our hearts.’
There is a concept that has been helpful to people, to bring this together, namely ‘progressive revelation.’ This is the idea that Christianity is a historical religion and that God over time has revealed more and more of Himself to man through the prophets and apostles, in both the Old and New Testament and, in particular, though the coming of His son Jesus, who was the ultimate revelation of God to man (see John 14). In the midst of all this was an ever increasing revelation of His plan for the life and salvation for the people He created.
God didn’t change across the years and certainly didn’t change from the OId Testament to the New Testament. He is the same God throughout the Bible. There is only one God.
This brings up an important attribute of God.
Simply stated, immutability means ‘God does not change.’ Malachi 3:6 states, ‘For I am the Lord, I do not change.’ Why? Because that is His character, His essence. He is not like the weather, that can change from day to day and certainly not from the Old to the New Testament times. God is God and always will be. He is always holy, always merciful, always just, always loving, always good, always righteous, always full of grace and truth. In all of this He is who He is: He is God.
A FINAL WORD
Get the big picture. There is only one God. He changeth not and the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. Love the whole Bible, because we need the whole word of God to fully discover who God is and His plan for both salvation and our lives.
Remember . . . there is only one God!
‘In the Old is the new concealed.
In the New is the old revealed.’
Historical Footnote – Marcion was the son of the bishop of Simope, Pontus (in modern-day Turkey). Around 140, he traveled to Rome, where he was welcomed by the church, but by 144, his views had gotten him into trouble, and he was excommunicated.
Among other troubling beliefs, Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament was legalistic and wrathful, a fundamentally different being from the gracious and loving God of the New. He rejected the authority of the Old Testament, and also attempted to liberate the church from all law. He believed the only way to do this was to rid Christianity of all traces of Judaism. Marion ended up creating his own Bible, which included only a shorter and earlier version of the Gospel of Luke and ten epistles of Paul. Marcion also edited these books. For example, he cut all Old Testament citations from Paul’s letters.
The early church concluded that Marcion’s divisions between the law and gospel, Old and New Testaments, were foreign to the apostles’ teaching. Second – century theologian and bishop Irenaeus spoke forcefully against Marcion. He wrote that Marcion ‘mutilated the Gospel according to Luke, removing all the narratives of the Lord’s birth, and also removing much of the teaching of the discourses of the Lord wherein he is the most manifestly described as acknowledging the maker of this universe to be his father.’
– Taken from Christianity Today, October 2015