Is God more gracious in the New Testament than the Old? Some would say God has changed since we live in a new era, no longer under the law. Pastor Lutzer distinguishes three changes from the Hebrew Testament to the New Testament. Even today, we must turn to Jesus—the One who saves us from the wrath to come.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that entitled, “The Eclipse of God in American Culture.” What we’re trying to do is to understand the fact that if this nation does not go back to God, we’ll continue to slide into depravity. If you were with us last time, you know that we spoke about the very severe judgments that God imposed upon people in the Old Testament, and today we turn to the New Testament. Years ago scholars used to say that there are really two “gods.” There’s the “harsh bully” of the Old Testament, and you have the very gracious God of the New. Well, somebody who says that has never looked at the New Testament very carefully. Obviously it is the same God. But things are different.
I remember a homosexual speaking to a friend of mine who said, “I sure hope that you don’t believe the Bible anymore, because if not you would stone us.” Well, in the Old Testament there were penalties of stoning. That is to say, people were stoned for homosexuality, adultery, false prophets. Oftentimes, that wasn’t carried out as I mentioned last time, but the point still is we live in a very different era. How do we understand this? Has God changed His mind? Is He more lenient? Let me ask you this: Is it safer to sin under grace, because God does not take sin as seriously as He did in the Old Testament? Huge questions and only a few moments to give an answer. We must remember that in the Old Testament there were three kinds of laws.
There was, of course, the civil laws. You know, if your donkey goes over to your neighbour’s property, how do you handle it? Civil laws. Ceremonial laws: If you sin you bring animals and all of that was detailed in the book of Leviticus and elsewhere. But there were also moral laws. And I maintain that God has not changed His mind at all about the moral laws. Sin is just as serious in the New Testament as it was in the Old.
Now I want you to think about a passage of scripture with me and when I mention a passage like this, that goes by so quickly in the few minutes I have with you, look it up for yourself sometime and study it in detail. Hebrews 12, and if we begin at verse 18, we’ll notice that the writer is making a contrast between Mount Sinai, where you have God coming without a mediator and, of course, the mountain shook and the people were told to stand back, and Mount Calvary, where people are invited to come. One said, “Stay away”; the other said, “Come.” There are three changes that have been made as a result of the New Testament versus the Old.
The first is this: we go from the earthly to the heavenly. It says, you know, in the Old Testament you weren’t supposed to touch the mountain. “But you have come”—it says—”to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…an innumerable company of angels.” It goes on and on. Three contrasts very quickly.
First of all, we go from the earthly to the heavenly, but second, we have a new covenant, it goes on to say (and this is very important). The Old Testament was a theocracy; God intervened directly through the prophets and oftentimes through the kings, and that’s why we notice the difference. Today that’s not the case at all. The church of Jesus Christ is a trans-national community, scattered throughout the whole world, and therefore we are no longer a theocracy. So we do not implement some of the same kinds of punishments as mentioned in the Old Testament.
But now we get to perhaps the most important change. It is this. In the Old Testament you have immediate judgments for people. Immediate judgments. In a sense that was gracious because it reminded the people that sin was very serious. In the New Testament you have future judgment. You have deferred grace, if I might put it that way. You have deferred judgment, if we do not accept God’s grace. That’s a more accurate way to put it. I want to read a continuation of this passage. What the writer is really saying is, under grace there’s more severe judgment because you have more light. It’s just that we don’t see that judgment today, it is going to be a future judgment.
Let me read. “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape, if we reject him who warns us from heaven.” Jesus came to warn us from heaven. And it goes on to talk about how that time His voice shook the mountain, today it shakes the world. And how does this passage end? “Our God is a consuming fire.” It’s chilling.
Do you remember that passage in the book of Ecclesiastes? And I’m paraphrasing it where it says this: Because the judgments against evil are not carried out immediately, people feel it is safe to do wrong. Well, my friend, it’s not safe to do wrong. And what you and I must do is, we must flee to Jesus Christ because He is the one who saves us from the wrath to come. It is important to realize that God is a consuming fire. God is a God of wrath and we’re going to pick up on that in one of our sessions. God is a God of wrath. But thank God for a refuge.
Jehovah bade His sword awake,O Christ, it woke ‘gainst Thee!Thy open bosom was its ward,it braved the storm for me.Death and the curse were in our cup,O Christ, ‘twas full for Thee!But Thou hast drained the last dark drop.‘Tis empty now for me.
God of judgment? Yes. God of mercy? Yes. Flee to Christ because without Him, our God is still a consuming fire. Thanks for joining us. I hope that you subscribe and follow. And as for today, my friend, you just go with God.