“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
Is God’s Character Consistent?
One common misconception about the Bible is that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament. The claim isn’t exactly that he’s a different person, merely that he has changed from an angry judge to a merciful Savior, from warrior to gentle Rabbi. But this is a myth, easily dispelled by a careful reading of the whole Bible.
In fact, the storyline of the Bible has a great deal of continuity, and God’s character and dealings with humanity are consistent throughout. Both the Old and New Testaments tell the story of the Creator God redeeming from the lost world a people for himself. The point of the Old Testament is to show us that the law cannot save us. We are not able to meet God’s perfect standard. The point of the New Testament is to tell us that God has solved our problem: we are saved because Jesus paid the price for our sin and made it possible for us to have a relationship with God (Romans 7-8). He met the righteous requirements of the law and made us holy.
B. B. Warfield describes the connection between the two testaments like this: “The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before, but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.”
One theme that runs consistently throughout Scripture is that salvation comes through faith. The Old Covenant promised blessings to those who obeyed God’s laws and punishment for those who did not, but it did not offer salvation through works. Abram was saved by grace through faith (Genesis 15:6). Of course, the New Testament openly proclaims that the means of salvation is specifically through faith in Jesus Christ.
The character of God is also consistent throughout Scripture. He is tender and full of steadfast love (Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16). He saves and rescues his people, from both human and supernatural enemies. God is also a holy judge who punishes sin on a national and individual level. He punished the Egyptians, the idolatrous inhabitants of the Promised Land, and individuals such as Achan, Ananias, and Sapphira. One day he will bring everyone who rejects him to judgment (Acts 17:31). This is the same God, with the same character, progressively revealing his plan to show mercy and do justice. With each new revelation about who he is and how he works, our picture of God becomes more clear. But God does not change.
In both the Old Testament and the New he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.