HOW WERE PEOPLE SAVED WHO ONLY HAD THE OLD TESTAMENT?
The basis of salvation is for a person to give all of themselves that they have to all of God that they understand. God reveals Himself to everyone through their inner awareness of a sovereign God and through His creation. But then, what about those who also have the clearer revelation of God in the Old Testament, but lived before Jesus and only had vague prophecies about his future coming? What would be their standard for salvation? It would be no different than what we already mentioned, giving all of themselves that they had to all of God that they understood. It’s just that they would understand God much more clearly from His revelation of Himself in the Old Testament.
You see, the basis of salvation is always the death of Christ. That is the only way God can forgive sin of anyone, because Jesus paid for it on the cross. There is no other way. And the requirement for that pardon to be applied is always faith in God from the heart of the individual requesting forgiveness. What changes through Bible history is the content of that faith, what God has revealed to man. For those who don’t have the written revelation of God, the content of their faith is in a creator God who is sovereign over all. For those who knew more about Him, the content increases. Adam, for example, understood that innocent blood had to be shed to cover his shame and guilt. He and his descendants offered sacrifices as a way of showing their faith in God who would remove their sins.
Now when God revealed the Law to Moses and the Jews on Mt. Sinai, they got a much deeper, clearer revelation of Who God was and what He expected. Their faith in God was shown by living by the rules and regulations in Exodus and Leviticus. It wasn’t that doing these things earned their salvation, for salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that inner faith shows itself outwardly by wanting to follow God – James’ “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-20). Salvation didn’t come by their putting faith in what they did, but in putting faith in the God who told them to do it. Actually, the law could not bring salvation, no matter how well it was kept. Its purpose wasn’t to be a way to earn salvation, but to show man his sin and the impossibility of being perfect in God’s sight (Galatians 3:14-24). Today our faith isn’t shown by our trust in God as seen in His Law, today we are under grace and we trust in our gracious God to provide free salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Those with the Old Testament had the same truth revealed to them as we have in the New Testament. Man’s heart is wicked and corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9) and even our righteous acts are dirty in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). Because God is holy, He must separate Himself from sinful man. Man cannot reach up to God, only God can initiate the contact by reaching down to man (Isaiah 59:1-2). He reaches down to reveal that the way between God and man can only be open by the shedding of innocent blood (Leviticus 17:11). The blood of animals can’t pay for sin, but the sacrifice of the sinless God-man Messiah can pay for it (Isaiah 53:1-12).
So, faith in the provision of the coming Messiah was a key ingredient in the faith content for those who had the Old Testament. They didn’t know His earthly name would be ‘Jesus,’ but that wasn’t the issue. Putting faith in this coming Messiah was the critical point. God would provide for their sins, for they could not. For this to happen the Messiah would have to be “cut off” (crucified, Daniel 9:26). This would be a painful time of suffering for Him (Psalm 22:1-31). This is what God revealed and in what those with the Old Testament had to put their faith (Genesis 15:6).
Clearly God is totally fair in wanting all to come to Him, but also just in judging sin. He gives each person a free will choice. We should be thankful for the clear revelation of Jesus and salvation we who are living in these days have. (August 1, 2022 Doylestown, PA)
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Are you depending totally on Jesus for your salvation or do you also lean on the good you do (or the bad you don’t do)? Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone for God’s glory alone.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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