Salvation in the Old Testament?

We know we’re saved by grace through faith, and one of the most common questions I’ve received since teaching the Bible is, “How were people in the OT saved, since they lived before Christ’s First Coming?” The answer is people were saved in the OT just like they’re saved in the NT: by grace through faith. God made numerous prophecies that a Messiah would come into the world. If they believed those prophecies, or had faith those prophecies would come true, or had faith that Messiah would come, they were saved as they looked forward in faith to the Messiah coming.

Last Sunday we looked at the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the Woman would come and crush the head of the Serpent. As soon as sin came into the world, that prophecy was introduced allowing people to look forward to, or put their faith in the Seed of the Woman. In other words, as soon as sin came into the world, so too did the opportunity for people to be saved by grace through faith. Just like we pass along to our children what we know about Christ, that prophecy would’ve been passed along to Adam and Eve’s descendants,  allowing them to be saved by grace through faith.

What was their faith IN since they didn’t know Jesus like we do? Their faith was in all the prophecies about His coming. If they believed Jesus would come, they were saved, similarly to how we’re saved if we believe Jesus has come. OT and NT believers are both saved by looking to Christ in faith, but from opposite sides of the cross. People in the OT were saved by grace through faith in Jesus coming like we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus having come. That’s why Gen 15:6 can say Abraham was saved (accounted righteous) by his faith or belief in what God had said to Him in Gen 12 when He established the Abrahamic Covenant with him. But didn’t Abraham live before the Gospel? Genesis 3:8 says God “preached the gospel to Abraham.” Consider that!!! Abraham heard the Gospel!  Here’s a quote I really like: “The basis for salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various ages.”

One thought on “Salvation in the Old Testament?

  1. Hebrew children in the Old Testament were born into God’s covenant, both male and female. Circumcision was the sign of this covenant for boys, but the sign was not what saved them. Faith saved them. Rejecting the sign, circumcision, for boys, either by the parents or later as an adult himself, was a sign of a lack of true faith, and therefore the child was “cut off” from God’s promises as clearly stated in Genesis chapter 17:

    “Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

    What was the purpose of this covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? God tells us in the beginning of this chapter of Genesis:

    “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

    This covenant wasn’t just to establish a Jewish national identity or a promise of the inheritance of the land of Caanan, as some evangelicals want you to believe. In this covenant, God promises to be their God. Does God say here that he will be their God only if they make a “decision for God” when they are old enough to have the intelligence and maturity to decide for themselves? No! They are born into the covenant!

    If Jewish children grew up trusting in God and lived by faith, they then received eternal life when they died. If when they grew up, they rejected God, turned their back on God, and lived a life of willful sin, when they died, they suffered eternal damnation. Salvation was theirs to LOSE. There is no record anywhere in the Bible that Jewish children were required to make a one time “decision for God” upon reaching an “Age of Accountability” in order to be saved.

    Therefore Jewish infants who died, even before circumcision, were saved.

    The same is true today. Christian children are born into the covenant. They are saved by faith. It is not the act of baptism that saves, it is faith. The refusal to be baptized is a sign of a lack of true faith and may result in the child being “cut off” from God’s promise of eternal life, to suffer eternal damnation, as happened with the unfaithful Hebrew in the OT.

    Christ said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved, but he that does not believe will be damned.”

    It is not the lack of baptism that damns, it is the lack of faith that damns.

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    An orthodox Lutheran blog

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