The God of Eternity
Welcome, I am glad you are here to join us today! Today we begin a new series that has been placed on my heart and I hope you will join me for the rest of the series as well.
Today’s sermon is entitled the God of Eternity, because we are here to look at one of the common arguments as to why not to believe in the Christian God. A great many atheists and agnostics, like to argue that the God of the Old Testament is completely different from the way God of the New Testament and that the change in characteristics is unbelievable. As put by renowned atheist Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion (2006), Dawkins describes the God of Old Testament as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully,” (p. 51) while the God of the New Testament is ascribed as being the most loving and gentle mannered entity known to mankind dedicated to the ideals of love, compassion, and mercy. Seemingly those 2 descriptions cannot coincide and must be of two beings, right? Actually, wrong! The God of the Christian faith has always been the same, and unwavering.
Today’s sermon is going to begin a series of arguments as to why this claim of dual entities is not true. In this series I will do a superfluous amount of extrapolating on lesser known stories in the Bible and give context to almost every situation many bring up out of context. I will do this in hopes of bringing to light just how much God has never changed, just the way mankind has changed and altered their relationship with God.
First and foremost, I want to address probably the most important supposed contradiction. How does God’s absolute law and God’s covenant of Grace coincide? People like to point that God in the Old testament ruled the world, and specifically the Jews, with an iron fist while letting the Christians in the New Testament and modern era have complete free reign. What if I told you that this notion of God’s law limiting His people was not actually His purpose? And that there was a plan for our salvation even before the establishment of His law. In fact, the plan for our Salvation began in the Garden of Eden. As noted by Christian scholar Dr. Creech in an article entitled: Old Testament vs. New Testament: A Tale of Two Gods? (2017), our understanding of God is like that of a “sunrise allows one to see steadily more and more of what a room contains, so God’s progressive revelation has permitted human beings to understand increasingly God’s nature, will, and ways. The truth was there all along,” (p.7).
In the telling of the original sin we have an important detail come into play where most people just look at the curses laid upon Adam and Eve rather the serpent who was cursed first for his tempting of Eve and Adam. In Genesis 3:15 (NKJV) we read God’s curse laid upon the serpent (Satan), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Here, God refers to the coming of the Son of God and man. That one of the descendants would come and destroy Satan, while all Satan can do is hurt Him. Already, from here we can see the fact that God is going to send Christ as a sacrifice and as a bringer of justice: His 2 comings. It is good to note that God has a plan for redemption already in the narrative of the Bible, just 3 chapters into the Old Testament where God is supposed to be unforgiving and unmerciful.
To continue the Salvation plan, let’s look at how the New Testament literally starts. The book of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ from Abraham to David and down to Joseph. Now, why would the genealogy begin with Abraham? Let’s take a look for ourselves. In Genesis 17 God establishes a covenant with Abram, who now becomes Abraham, that God will “establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you,” (Genesis 17:7, New King James Version). Here we see God tell Abraham that God will be with His sons and family forever to be the God of the Jewish people as we know them to be. And among his descendants is David, a man that God loved and trusted for his faithfulness. As you read the story of David in 1st and 2nd Samuel you will get to the point in 2nd Samuel where God sends His prophet Nathan to David to establish His covenant with David. The covenant God bestows on David reads as “your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever,” (2 Samuel 7:16, NKJV). With these two covenants, God establishes with whom He shall have the Son of God born unto and when you correlate back with the genealogy provided in Matthew, you can see God’s consistency to provide for the future of His people. That despite thousands of years of His people betraying and turning their backs on God, He never lost sight of what He promised to His people all that time ago in the Garden of Eden.
So, all of this to just now discuss the actual intent of God’s law. Just quickly look back at what we have covered, from the beginning of man’s sin He had a plan to redeem us, and then through Abraham and David He established whom He would send the Redeemer through. But what do we need redemption from? I mean certainly the one sin of Adam and Eve cannot have been that bad? And this is where the law of God comes into play. Let us go back in time to when Moses climbs mount Sinai and receives the laws of God and establishes the Mosaic Covenant or as we commonly refer to it as the Mosaic Law. In Exodus we have the story of God’s people being delivered to the Promised Land, as was promised unto Abraham, and the establishment of God’s law. Starting with the 10 Commandments that most everyone knows or recognizes, but then they ignore the next three chapters of Exodus that give a full perspective of what God’s law is. The law is established in Exodus 20-23, where the first 10 commandments are given in chapter 20 and the rest of God’s laws for His people are laid out and He gives instructions to His people on how they are to conduct themselves. He establishes punishments and justice that His people are to carryout to show just how vile it is to Him when we sin. In this we are as a young child beginning to learn what it means to know what is wrong and right, and how are we to know if we are not taught and instructed. As Dr. Creech (2017) points out in his article again is that:
Progressive revelation can also be understood in terms of humanity becoming more and more responsible to God for our actions. A parent might permit a younger child to behave in a certain way—even when that behavior is not ultimately the parent’s will—because the child simply doesn’t know better. Later, however, as the child grows and becomes more responsible, higher standards are imposed.
In the same way, many practices permitted in the Old Testament (polygamy, for example) are later regarded as outside of God’s will for his people. As God’s people grow, so do God’s expectations. (p. 9-10)
Here we have the first set of refinement really brought to bear on the people of God, as He establishes clear cut rules and laws for His people. An important detail to note here, is that God required His people to love, and love their enemies long before Jesus’ commandments given in Matthew 22. If we look at Exodus 23, we see this in His law:
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it you shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. Also, you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:4-9, NKJV)
I do not know about you, but if I saw my enemy’s livestock I might take it for my own or slaughter it, but here God says we are to rightly return it to them. Less we be called poor in judgement by God and unjustified in the eyes of God. This is the very love that Jesus talks of in His ministry in the New Testament. Though, that is another sermon for later in the series, it is just important to note the consistencies between the Mosaic Covenant (Law) and the Covenant of Grace (Salvation).
Now, let’s finally begin to look at the Covenant of Grace, the supposed New Testament contradiction to the Law of God in the Old Testament. In Luke we see Jesus directly acknowledge His purpose when He talks with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus admits his sin “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:9-10, NKJV). So, He has come to those who are lost, and He says that He has come as salvation to the house of Abraham, meaning the Jews and the Gentiles. Both sets of peoples are lost, but how are the Jews lost if they have the law? The answer is because they have the law that they are lost! The apostle Paul speaks heavily on this subject of being lost in the law throughout the book of Romans. Instead of trying to rewrite all of that which Paul wrote, let us look at his words together starting in Romans 7:4 and ending in 8:4:
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. | There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:4-8:4, NKJV)
So, in essence, the purpose of God’s law was to highlight our faults and why we needed to be saved and redeemed. For each one of us has sinned, and we fall short of perfection, and no matter what we do we cannot possibly undo all of our sins. And so the sacrifices once required to be of lambs and other livestock now is replaced by the Holy Son of God and He fulfills the law that we may have a chance at eternal salvation should we choose to accept it. God gave us the sacrifice and taught us the error of our ways. Now all that remains to us is to choose the gift of Grace. It is no longer what is forced upon those born in a bloodline but is something that any man, woman, or child can attain. God’s law showed us the error in our ways, and the Son showed us the way to live, there is no contradiction in these two fashions of teaching us, His people. To say that God’s law is in contradiction of God’s grace is to show ignorance of His plans and methods. In summary, God’s law is just a stepping stone to God’s grace and Salvation plan.
Thank you for your time and for joining us. I pray that you were able to learn from today’s study and I pray that you will join me in parts to come.