Is the Creator of the universe a loving God? Does He step down from His position of power and wisdom to be a patient and benevolent Father to the creatures of humankind? Or, is He a strict and legalistic Judge who reigns from a place of divine distance, meting out rewards and punishment based solely on material law, void of grace and compassion? And perhaps one of the most critical questions – Is the Old Testament no longer relevant for contemporary Christians?
In other words, has the Son trumped the Father in order of significance?
The question of whether God’s grace existed before or after He sent His Son to walk among us is the topic of this Precious Gem teaching. This often-controversial issue has its roots deep in the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Jewish Bible).
The Hebrew Scriptures is the book that Christians call the Old Testament. It contains 24 books; The first five are known as The Five Books of Moses (which comprise the written Torah), followed by the eight books of the Prophets and 11 books of other sacred writings.
The emphasis of God’s loving-kindness translated as grace and compassion are demonstrated in many verses throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the ones below.
“Nevertheless, in Your great compassion, You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God” (Nehemiah 9:31 Tree of Life Version TLV).
“Great is your compassion, Adonai, in keeping with your rulings, revive me” (Psalms 119:156-159 Complete Jewish Bible CJB).
Christianity celebrates salvation obtained by God’s grace, so why are some Christians surprised to find grace (also known as “loving-kindness”) even mentioned in the Old Testament? Why is the Old Testament often seen as harsh, holding no grace, and depicting God primarily as a vengeful and vicious deity? Though God is just, didn’t He send His son (before the New Testament was written) to pay the penalties of the sins of all who would trust in Him? Perhaps one of the most beloved Scriptures that exemplifies God’s love and grace comes from John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 Tree of Life Version TLV).
Knowing the offenders couldn’t pay the penalties of their sins, didn’t God provide the means by which they could obtain justification and mercy from their sentence of death? Yes! And this He provided from the foundation of the world. What a just, awesome, and loving Ancient God!
With that said, where does all this negative bias come from?
The Gospel of Marcion – Distorted and Devalued
In the early second century, an influential Gentile teacher named Marcion began to preach a different gospel that, to this day, still has deep roots in Christianity. Marcion believed that Jesus was the Savior sent by God, and Paul the Apostle was his chief apostle, but he completely rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. And so, he decided to give it a significant rewrite.
One of the most successful heretics in the early church, Marcion’s theological errors (and there were many) came from one central root: he refused to believe that the God of the Old Testament was the same as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Marcion simply could not believe in a God full of wrath and justice. He stressed that the God of the Old Testament was a lesser but vicious god and because he created the universe and all material things this God was void of the spiritual nature that Jesus embodied. He believed Jesus displaced the “demiurge of the Hebrews” and offered the world a new message of love and spirit instead of law and material.
So, he threw away the Old Testament and took for his Bible a truncated version of Luke’s Gospel and selectively edited versions of Paul’s epistles. When all the cutting and pasting was finished, Marcion had the Christianity he wanted: a God of goodness and nothing else; a message of inspiring moral uplift; a Bible that does away with the uncomfortable bits about God’s wrath and Hell. A Bible void of Godly commandments and the need to be obedient to anything or anyone other than yourself.
Though Marcion was eventually labeled a heretic and excommunicated from the Church, his teachings still prevail. Sadly, many heresies from the early church have survived the ages and made their way into the lexicon of faith—this is a prime example of such a grandiose lie—masquerading through the ages as truth. Many still hang on to this erroneous belief in some form and have somehow determined God was intolerant before He sent His Son to pay the wages for sin.
However, the very reason God sent His Son was that He deeply loved the people in this fallen world.
Those who trusted God before Yeshua paid for atonement, believed in this magnificent and loving plan of redemption that was so eloquently spoken of through the prophets. They believed God’s plan before Yeshua was manifested, and they trusted in the promises that pointed to the Perfect One.
It was Abraham (the first convert from the pagan nations) that God counted as righteous because Abraham walked away from idols and trusted Him.
Enoch trusted God and was rewarded by being taken by God and not ever seeing death.
And it was a merciful and forgiving God that recognized King David’s heart for Him when he acknowledged his sin in Godly sorrow and called upon God’s grace to restore him.
Christians need to hear—really hear—this Word of the Lord Yeshua. If you love Me, obey My commandments. Not to be saved but because you are saved! How can one of any faith say about any god (be it Buddha or Vishnu or Yeshua,) “This is my god/God, I believe in him” and then not follow any of his precepts? Our life must reflect the teachings of our god/God. Period.
Therefore, if you are a disciple of Yeshua, you are saved because Yeshua loved you first. While you were still a sinner, not asking for salvation, He still died (just in case you might trust in Him). He pursued you, drawing you toward Him. You have absolutely nothing to do with your salvation except for submitting to this indescribable love. Saying yes as a response to His goodness is an act of self-sacrifice of your will. He gave His life, and you are to give Him your heart – that is your obedience.
The Bible tells us in Romans 2:13, “For it is not merely the hearers of Torah whom God considers righteous; rather, it is the doers of what Torah says who will be made righteous in God’s sight” (CJB).
Doing (or obeying) God’s instructions is not an evil thing that suggests you are under some dreadful law, it simply means you seek God for His instructions on how to live your life and depend on Him to help you actually do it by His Spirit. The Word calls it the Law of the Spirit. He is divinely “writing His Laws on your heart.”
In removing this fundamental truth, Marcion cut out the heart of Christianity.
God’s Love – The Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever!
Yeshua is the walking, talking, living Torah. When we receive Him in our hearts, the Torah is then alive and written on our hearts. Then, we become walking, talking, living “material” Torahs, guided by His Spirit. A new creation!
God of all Creation has always been and will always be a God that shows loving grace to those who love and obey Him, proving this by the covenant He offers us. A covenant that includes paying penalties for our sinful nature, pouring His divine Spirit in us to change us, guiding and teaching us in His Ways (laws) by over-riding our sin nature with a new Godly nature. Thus, we are changed, evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit now being displayed by our new character.
There is a phenomenon occurring as Biblical Christians realize the need for understanding the Spirit of Torah to demonstrate outwardly the workings of grace that has changed their hearts. There is something similar happening to those who practice Biblical Judaism who believe in the Tikkun Olam (the restoration of all things). Messiah has promised to change the hearts of His people from stone to flesh so the Torah they love may be implemented perfectly in grace. Torah and grace working in perfect synchronized spiritual balance. The Old and New Testaments working together in perfect harmony.
One day this will be realized when the coming King establishes His Kingdom on Earth and joins His family in Truth and Unity.
If this isn’t grace, I don’t know what is!