Study #4

The Way of Salvation in Both Testaments

                                                    By Ken Williams

                                                  Copyright (c) 2012

         Ask people who consider themselves to be Christians, "How does a person receive God's salvation?" and you will get a variety of answers.  A large majority of people who catagorize themselves as Christians would say, "Be a member of a church and do the very best you can."  I have a friend, who has now gone on to Heaven, who used to always say he was not a "dip-stick inspector."  He was likening the oil dip stick on a car to his inability to know whether someone was really a Christian, practicing what had been revealed to them through the Scriptures.  I am certainly no "dip-stick inspector."  I have no way of knowing whether a person is doing "the best they can."  I do know that joining a church is not a prerequisite to becoming a child of God (John 1:12).  I also know from the Bible that the very best I (or anyone else) can do is "filthy rags" in God's sight (Isaiah 64:6).  So, obviously, joining a church and living a good life is not the way to receive God's salvation, unless of course, you don't believe the Bible.

          A much smaller group of people who consider themselves to be Christians would say that salvation in the New Testament is provided through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; but salvation in the Old Testament was obtained through keeping the Law.  Again, according to the Bible, that answer is wrong!  It is true that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, did provide for our salvation by taking our sin upon Himself (Isaiah 53:6), dying in our place for our sin, then rising again the third day sealing the sacrifice He had made.  However, no one, not in the Old Testament or in the New Testament has ever saved by keeping the law; because no one, except for Jesus Himself, has ever kept the Law perfectly; and a holy God, according to the Bible, requires perfection - something mankind cannot deliver.

          If you were under the impression that salvation in the Old Testament came through keeping the Law; then how were people saved before the Law was given?  The Law was given to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai just over 1,500 years before the time of Christ.  There was no Law when Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt.  Yet he was a follower of the true God, and worshiped and served Him.  There was no Law when Abraham (described as a friend of God) obeyed God and departed from Ur of the Chaldees to find a land which God would show him.  There was no Law when God directed Noah to build an Ark when Noah and his family were the only followers of God remaining on the earth.  There was no Law when "Enoch walked with God and God took him."  We could go on and on.  We know from the Scriptures that God has always had a way open for those who would seek Him.  So what is that way.

          God is "immutable."  You will not find that word in the Bible.  It is a theological term used to label a biblical truth.  The word "immutable" means "unchangable."  God's program is perfect, complete, and unchangable.  A theme throughout the Scriptures is that God is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  There is a song I have sung a number of times which says, "Has it ever occurred to you; nothing ever occurred to God?"  That is an interesting play on words; but it contains great truth.  Nothing ever catches God by surprise.  Nothing has ever happened, or can ever happen, which will result in God having to make a change to anything in His plan.

          Before we continue we need to go back and quickly review some of the concepts we outlined in Study #2.

          First, God is holy and we have sinned.  The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah declared, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6 LB).  The prophet said that the very best we can produce is "filthy rags" compared to God's holy demands.  In Isaiah chapter 6 we have the record of Isaiah being called up to Heaven.  He writes, "I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.  Above it stood seraphim...  And one cried to another and said 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts'...  Then I said 'Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'" (Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV).  Here in the Old Testament, we have a "Holy God" and a chosen people who had fallen short of the mark of holiness.  In this passage Isaiah falls on his face expecting to be stricken dead before a Holy God.  Instead, God cleanses him (makes him holy as God is holy) and gives him an assignment.  Even such a wonderful, clean living man like the Prophet Isaiah, stood as a sinner before a Holy God.

          Second, God is Just and must punish sin.  The Bible says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4 KJV).  The Old Testament is the history of God punishing those who rebel against His plan and rewarding those who honor Him by faith.  Take note of that word "faith," because it will become very important in our upcoming discussion.

          Third, God is Love and the Rewarder of them that seek Him.  The perception that the God of the Old Testament is angry and revengeful, and that the God of the New Testament is Love and can overlook our shortcomings, is very far from the truth.  The Bible says God is always the same.  The Holy, Just, Loving God of the Old Testament is the Holy, Just, Loving God of the New Testament.  The God of Love provided a blood atonement.  "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul"  (Leviticus 17:11 KJV).  Faith in the atoning blood covers the stain of sin - Old or New Testament.

          Notice that word "faith."  No one has ever kept the Law completely, except for the eternal God who became the perfect man so He could suffer infinitely for His creation.  Take a look at Hebrews chapter 11 (sometimes called "The Faith Chapter").  "By FAITH Noah..."  "By FAITH Abraham..."  "By FAITH Isaac..."  "By FAITH... by FAITH."  Salvation has been by FAITH in all generations, all times, all ages, both Old and New Testaments.  There has never been and never will be any other formula.  However, because of their FAITH, the Old Testament believers did the things God asked them to do.  It is no different today.  Paul wrote, saying that when we receive God's free gift of salvation, "old things are passed away, behold all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17 KJV).  James, in his letter, wrote that if you say you have faith, but there is no difference in your life, your profession is without merit and "your faith is dead" (James 2:17-26).

          Moments ago we saw that "it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11 KJV); or in the New Testament, "...without the shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).  Although we are not told in the Scriptures, it is obvious that God communicated this fact to Adam and Eve.  In Genesis chapter 4, Cain and Abel (the first two sons of Adam and Eve) brought their offerings to the Lord asking for cleansing from their sin.  Cain brought an offering of the fruits and vegetables he had raised.  Abel brought the blood of a lamb.  God accepted Abel's blood offering to cover his sins.  God rejected Cain's offering because there was no blood.  As you go through the Old Testament you find God's people offering blood sacrifices to the Lord as an atonement for their sins.  Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and on and on we could go; because of their faith in the Creator, came to Him for cleansing in the manner in which He had prescribed.

          When God outlined the need for a blood offering to Adam and Eve, that being handed down from generation to generation, by FAITH, they did what God had proclaimed.  As far out, and as far removed from intellectual reasonsing as it seemed, they believed God; and by FAITH did what He required, offering blood sacrifices to Him.  All of those offerings looked forward to, and were a "type" of the promised suffering  Messiah, "...the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world"  (John 1:29 KJV).  When God set up the sacrificial system at Mount Sinai that was used by Israel in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple built in Jerusalem, every one of those blood sacrifices was a "type" of the coming Messiah who would make the final, ultimate blood offering which would cover all sin from all time.  Each time Old Testament believers brought a blood offering to God, they were by FAITH looking forward to the sacrifice which would be made by "the Suffering Servant" (Messiah).  They looked forward to the blood offering of the Lamb of God.  We look backward and place our FAITH in the blood offering that was made by the Lamb of God.

          Let's check this out in the Scriptures.  We are told that the old system of blood sacrifices, "gave only a dim fortaste of the good things  Messiah would do for us.  The sacrifices under the old system were repeated again and again, year after year..." (Hebrews 10:1 LB).  They were like rehearsals for the final sacrifice which was to come.  The following verse indicates that the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament did not take away sin; they could only cover sin.  "That is why Messiah said, as He came into the world, 'O God, the blood of bulls and goats cannot satisfy you, so you have made ready this body of mine for me to lay as a sacrifice upon your altar.  You were not satisfied with the animal sacrifices, slain and burnt before you as offerings for sin.  Then I said, See, I have come to do your will, to lay down my life, just as the Scriptures (the Old Testament) said that I would'" (Hebrews 10:3-7 LB).  In the following verses, we discover that Jesus (Messiah) fulfilled (completed) all of the Old Testament blood sacrifices; and that the animal blood sacrifices are no longer necessary.  Since the fulfillment of those sacrifices has been completed, not only are the animal sacrifices no longer necessary, they are no longer acceptable; they have been superceded by something better - the sacrifice of the blood of Messiah himself.  "Messiah gave himself to God for our sins as one sacrifice for all time, and then sat down in the place of highest honor at God's right hand...  For by that one offering He made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom He is making holy" (Hebrews 10:12 & 14 LB).

          Did you notice what Jesus is now doing at the right hand of God?  He is "making holy" those that He perfected in the sight of God, by His sacrifice.  This is the key to the whole plan of salvation!  You and I cannot stand before God unless we are as holy as He is.  Jesus, by His blood sacrifice, took our sin upon Himself, so that we could have a relationship right here and now; and at the end of this life, be allowed into His Heaven.  Look at II Corinthians 5:21.  "For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins.  Then, in exchange, He poured God's goodness into us" (LB), so that we might "be approved and acceptable in right relationship with Him, by His goodness" (Amplified).  Notice that God took our sin and placed it upon His Son; then took His Son's righteousness and applied it to our accunt.   His sacrifice is already done.  But now, He is making individuals holy before God as they come to Him and receive His salvation.

          Jesus was talking to one of the religious leaders of His day.  He told this member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, "With all the earnestness I possess I tell you this: Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3).  He then went on to explain, "For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes (has FAITH) in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust (have FAITH in) Him to save them.  But those who don't trust Him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God" (John 3:16-18 LB).  Notice that we cannot be made "holy" before God by church membership, living a good life, going through religious ceremonies or any other such thing.  Salvation is by FAITH in the Son of God.  When we "receive Him," we are made "children of God" (John 1:12).

          What does it mean to "receive Him" or "to have FAITH in Him?"

          First, there must be a realization of God's holiness.  God's holiness is beyond our human comprehension.  In the Hebrew language there are no exclamation points.  In order to express emphasis in Hebrew one repeats the word or phrase a second time.  When speaking of God's holiness it is repeated three times, "Holy, holy, holy!"

          Second, we must realize that everyone, that includes me, and it includes you, has sinned against God.  "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way..." (Isaiah 53:6).  "For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us..." (Isaiah 59:12).

          Third, sin separates us from God.  "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).  "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

          Fourth, Messiah (Jesus) would deal with the sin issue when He would come.  When He did come, He took your sin upon Himself, and paid the penalty you owned (II Corinthians 5:21).  "We are the ones who strayed away like sheep!  We, who left God's paths to follow our own.  Yet God laid on Him the guilt and sins of every one of us" (Isaiah 53:6 LB)!

          Fifth, We must seek and call on Him to receive redemption.  "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved"  (Romans 10:13).  "To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God" (John 1:12).  "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6).

          Did you notice that we made all of the above five points from the Book of Romans in the New Testament, and from the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.  The same points could be made from numerous other passages of Scripture.  Rabbis before the time of Jesus wrote, "All the prophets prophesied concerning, or up to, the days of the Messiah"  (Talmud Sanhedrin 99a).  What they were saying is that the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures) pointed toward the promised Messiah.  That is exactly what we have been declaring.  The Old Testament points forward to Messiah; the New Testament points back to His offering for sin.  There always has been, is, and will be one way of salvation; "by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).


Links for more information...




Finding Jesus in the Old Testament
(the Jewish Scriptures)
       Discovering the Jewish Roots of Your Faith

By Ken Williams

          Are you aware that the Old Testament (the Jewish Scrptures) teaches the Trinity?  It is not only a New Testament teaching!  Twice in the Psalms, God the Father is speaking to God the Son.  In Proverbs a rehetorical question is asked, "Who is God, and who is His Son?"  Again in the Book of Zechariah there is a reference to God the Son.  And in Isaiah we discover God describing Himself.  He says "I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last, Indeed my hand hs laid the foundation of the earth.  A bit farther in the passage, He describes Himself as "the Redeemer."  In this passage, the speaker (God the Son; the Redeemer; the First and the Last) says that "the Lord God (God the Father) and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) have sent me."  

          Rabbis before the time of Jesus wrote, "All the prophets prophesied concerning, or up to, the days of the Messiah" (Talmud Sanhedrin 99a).  In other words, all of the Old Testament points to Messiah.  All of the New Testament points back to Messiah.  Follow Finding Jesus in the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures) through every book of the Old Testament to discover the references to Messiah (hundreds of them), and how Jesus fulfilled them, or will fulfill many more at His second coming.

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