In answering the question, “Is the God of the New Testament different than the God of the Old Testament?”, let’s ask this, “Is the Old Testament different than the New Testament?”; “Are there changes from the Old to the New?”
Well, duh. The first clue in answering the question is the name given to each part of the Bible – “Old” and “New.” The “old” has changed so it is called “new.” Old way, new way. Old contract, new contract.
Look at some changes between the Old and the New:
A change in the priesthood: Hebrews 7:12 – “For when there is a change of the priesthood there must also be a change of the law.” According to God’s law, priests had to come from the tribe of Levi: Deuteronomy 18:1. Uh oh, We’ve got a problem. Jesus came from the tribe of the Judah, not Levi: Hebrews 7:14. How did he get to be priest? God obviously did something different. Something changed.
A change in the agreement: 2 Corinthians 3:6, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” See also, Hebrews 7:18-19; Hebrews 8:13 where the writer says the “old is obsolete.”
A change in sacrifice: Hebrews 10:9, “He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.”
Peter experienced some of this “change” himself. Before Acts 10, Peter could not eat Mac’s Sausage Biscuit. Nor could he eat “endless shrimp” at Red Lobster. Why do we not lobby for capital punishment when church members run around on their mates Deuteronomy 22:22? Why does no one think twice of me preaching with glasses Leviticus 21:17-21?
Something has changed. Who? What?
The reason Peter could eat a ham sandwich or toss around the pig skin is because God changed His law Acts 10:15.
In Sunday School I was introduced to a Bible interpretation principle called “progressive revelation.” Progressive revelation means that God progressively revealed more truths about various subjects. The Bible wasn’t dropped out of heaven in bonded leather with a red book mark. God delivered what we were ready for a bit at a time when we were ready for it. God revealed only what people were able to grasp. John “Paradise Lost” Milton said, “For such is the order of God’s enlightenment of His Church, to dispense and deal out by degrees His beam, so as our earthly eyes may best sustain it.” J.R. Sampey, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1928-1942 expressed his understanding in this way, “The Bible slopes upward.”
How about this take on it:
“To be able to interpret plainly consistently, it is imperative to recognize that revelation was given progressively. This means that in the process of revealing His message to man, God may add or even change in one era what He had given in another. To fail to recognize this progressiveness in revelation will raise unresolvable contradictions between passages if taken literally.
That must have been a quote from some crazy liberal, right? Not so fast. Those words are from none other than Charles C. Ryrie of Dallas Theological Seminary, in his book Basic Theology. He actually said, “God may add or even change in one era what He had given in another.”
Kind of blows up our theological boundaries doesn’t it?
Does “progressive revelation” help you to better understand – notice I didn’t say “completely understand” – some of the difficult Old Testament passages? Maybe a bit? Maybe not?
How does God “changing” His revelation help us to answer the question, “Is the God of the New Testament different than the God of the Old?” Well, let’s keep practicing a “faith seeking understanding.”