Minister’s Message


Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1

There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

     Have you ever heard anyone say that the “God” of the Old Testament was harsh and cruel, but the “God” of the New Testament was a God of love? Such a statement betrays a total lack of knowledge of the true God of the whole Bible.

     It is false to believe that in the Old Testament God was harsh and cruel, but that He somehow either changed His nature or changed His mind about His actions in the time of the New Testament. God is the same in both testaments. He is both a God of wrath and a God of love.

     He demonstrated this to His servant Moses in Exodus 33 and 34. In Exodus 33 Moses had asked God to show him His glory (verse 18). God had agreed to pass before Moses and there “proclaim the name of the Lord” before him (verse 19). The next chapter describes this event.

6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

     In this, God’s own self-description, the Lord presents Himself as a God of both grace and wrath. He is a God of grace in that He has mercy and grace for sinners. This mercy and grace were made available even in the Old Testament to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

     You may ask how Old Testament people knew of Christ prior to His coming. They knew of Him through the Ceremonial Law of God. All those Old Testament laws of sacrifice and ceremony pointed forward to the One who was to come as the fulfillment of them. The sacrifice of the lamb on the Passover (Ex. 12:1-14), for example, pointed forward to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It was only by believing in the One to whom the Old Testament ceremonies and sacrifices pointed that a believer in those days could have his sins pardoned and cleansed away. Those ceremonies themselves could do nothing to remove sin (Heb. 9:13-14); they could only cleanse externally. Only Jesus Christ, to whom they pointed, could take away sin.

     So there is mercy and grace in the Old Testament through the same Lord Jesus Christ who is fully and finally proclaimed in the New Testament.

     God also presents Himself as being a God who is very longsuffering. This word is interesting. It means that God has a very slow nose—that is, He is slow for His nose to become flared in anger. God puts up with a lot from sinful people. If He were to treat us all as we deserve, none of us would be here today. But He is slow to anger, He treats us with a kindness which we do not deserve.

     He is also full of goodness and truth. If you are looking for someone who is truly good, it is God. He is also true in the absolute sense. There is no “dark side” to God—“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). You need never worry that He will lie to you, or play you for a fool.

     But God will not be played for a fool either. He is also a God of wrath; One who will punish sin. He will not let the guilty escape punishment. God will never say, “Oh well, after all, they are merely human.” No! Instead, He will punish sin in all who are not trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ, for salvation (see John 3:36). He states that He will punish the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations.

     Two comments need to be made here.

     First, the parallel passage in Ex. 20:5 says that God will punish the iniquity of the fathers upon the third and fourth generations “of those who hate Me”. In other words, these are people who hate the God of the Bible, and pass on this hatred to their children and their grandchildren. The children and the grandchildren are not innocent in this—they have grown to hate God and rebel against Him.

     Second, God’s mercy is far greater than His wrath. In the parallel passage in Deut. 7:9, God is described as One who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations of those who love Him. Therefore, the Bible presents God as One whose wrath is poured out on three or four generations of those who hate Him, but whose grace is showered on a thousand generations of those who love Him!

     God does not overlook sin. He does punish it in history, and will punish it on the Day of Judgment. But He is also a great God of mercy and grace, who showers His love and grace on undeserving and sinful people who repent of their sins and trust in His Son.

     Which do you know in your life right now—the wrath or the mercy of God? You cannot escape knowing the one or the other. Even if you are under His wrath right now, you can still find grace in His eyes if you will turn from your sin and trust in the complete and perfect work of Jesus Christ to save you from your sin and the consequences of it—the wrath and curse of God.

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This page was last updated 19 June 2008.