This article explores mercy and grace of God in Old and New Testaments, specifically, a few controversial issues about them. Main principles of mercy in Old and New Testaments are investigated in this article.
Keywords: mercy, grace, Old Testament, New Testament.
Mercy and Grace in Old and New Testaments
In the process of considering Christianity, a few controversial issues arise. Christian beliefs are based on the Holy Bible, which describes all of the principles in Christians’ lives. They profess God of love, who has compassion, forgiveness, and help; God who gave His life for them. But often, while reading the Old Testament, one can see God, who may destroy whole nations. This is the first controversial issue is in this sphere.
At first sight, it seems that God of the Old and God of the New Testament are different gods with different principles of mercy and grace. So, the principles of mercy and grace in both Testaments should be considered.
To do this, first of all, it is necessary to consider the mercy of God in the Old Testament. The first obvious fact is that the Old Testament’s God is the Creator. God made everything perfect and placed everything in ideal conditions. People can see His mercy because of this fact:
1) After the Fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did not die immediately. God gave them the opportunity to live on, and gave hope for salvation.
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between your seed and between her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). This is the first promise of the coming of Jesus Christ. The fact that God saved the life of Adam and Eve after the Fall also makes God's grace visible;
2) God preserves life for Cain, who killed his brother Abel. God has given him time to repent. This fact is also might be considered as God's mercy;
3) Another example of God’s mercy is Biblical Flood.
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
God wants to bring a flood, not because he was tired of people, but because they have been very corrupted, and it was impossible to leave the situation unchanged. Otherwise, it would lead to a complete degradation and death of all mankind.
In general, all of God's judgments on the nations are characterized by the fact that these people have been very corrupted. For example, in Gen. 19:1-5, one can read:
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, where are the men, which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.”
That is what the state of society was before the destruction of Sodom. Ellen White wrote: "God judged the antediluvian world of people not for what they ate and drank. In great abundance He has given them the fruits of the earth to meet the immediate needs. Their sin was that they used these gifts, without feeling of gratitude to the Giver, and humiliated dignity that indulged in unrestrained gluttony. God's plan provided marriage. Marriage was one of the first institutions of God. God gave specific instructions about this holy setting, with holiness and beauty. But these instructions were forgotten: the real purpose of marriage has been perverted, and it began to serve only the satisfaction of passions” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 101).
God saw that it could not continue. But at the same time, He has provided mercy. God commands Noah to build an ark. Not only Noah could go into the ark, but also his family. God has extended the life of the human race. God offered to other people to enter the ark. People refused to enter the ark, and, therefore, died. But God's grace is manifested in the invitation to enter the ark;
4) God shows mercy to the people of Israel, deducing them from Egyptian captivity. Deliverance of Israel was also controversial:
“And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).
The issue of killing people is controversial. It has been discussing during the decades. But the answer can be found in Gen. 15:13-16:
“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”
God has said to Abraham that his descendants would live where Amorites lived. But it took about five hundred years before it was fulfilled. During this time, God gave the Amorites a chance to change from evil to good, but they did not repent. And God has condemned these people. Today, in countries that have the war with Israel, children, from the earliest ages, are taught to hate the Jews. From the very young age they are saturated with hatred to this nation. The same evil contamination was in those peoples who inhabited the Promised Land. And the God of the Old Testament is not different from the God of the New Testament. "I and the Father - one": Jesus says (In.10: 30). Jesus, because of his nature, is not different from God the Father.
Christ gave His mercy not only for the people of the New Testament; He was also in the Old Testament.
"Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, do not persist against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him" (Ex 23:20-21). Jesus was the angel because the name of God was in Him. Christ led his people in the desert. He was full of mercy. Many years later, He came to Earth to discover the nature of God more deeply. God of the Old Testament has the same mercy as the God of the New Testament. There is no contradiction between them.
The obvious evidence is that many quotes, spoken by Christ, are taken from the Old Testament. For example:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" is a quote from Matthew 22:39; God in the Old Testament taught mercy and love. And the principles of mercy are the same in both Testaments.
Considering the grace, it is important to give definition of this concept. Grace is "God's undeserved good attitude of the heart”. One can find the word ‘grace’ in the Bible more than 160 times, including 128 times in the New Testament. The Bible says about God as a ‘God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10); and Jesus Christ as a definition of ’full of grace’ (John 1:14). Holy Spirit is called ’the Spirit of grace’ (Hebrews 10:29). Thus, all three persons of the Trinity are closely connected with grace and mercy.
In the Old Testament, the word ‘grace’ is "to descend to the downstream by kindness." The New Testament word means “benevolence, compassion, mercy."
The following definitions can provide understanding of the word:
“Grace is love, manifested to unworthy people”.
God is love, but when He gives love to guilty, impure and rebellious sinners – this is grace.
Love to someone or something higher is adoration and reverence; love that comes down from heaven is grace. The Bible says that God's grace is a manifestation of love and mercy to the man, who deserves wrath and judgment.
Grace is manifested in the fact that God gave the best of Heaven to save the worst of Earth.
The New Testament shows the grace that cannot be earned, and that is the evidence of God's mercy. If man could gain salvation by good works, it would be his achievement (Romans 4:4-5, 11:6).
God does not owe the man anything. He gives salvation like a gift.
Mercy and grace in the New Testament does not work according to the law.
The following are some of the differences between law and grace in the New Testament:
1. The law requires to an act, Grace reports about already completed action;
2. The law says, "Do that, and you'll be alive." Grace says, "Live, and you will do so";
3. The law says: "Love the Lord God." Grace says, "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) and "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19);
4. The law condemns even the best of men (Romans 3:19), but grace saves the worst of sinners (Romans 3:24; 4:5);
5. Law opens sin (Romans 3:20), grace opens salvation (Titus 2:11-13).
Man is a sinner and rebel against God's holy law (Romans 3:23, Colossians 1:21), so he should be judged. By violating God's holy law, a man appears guilty before God and deserve God's curse (Romans 3:19, Galatians 3:10, James 2:10). A man rejected and killed the Son of God, he could not show his rights to God (John 12:31-33, 3:18).
Thanks for Christ; God forgives the sins of those who trust Jesus. It is the essence of salvation. Christ is the sacrificed Lamb, atonement for the people. Grace requires only faith from sinner seeking salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). The Gospel tells us how God can save sinners by grace and still be holy. This is the highest manifestation of mercy and grace.