How were people saved in Old Testament times?
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Now in our last lesson we were looking at the fact that Abraham was justified by faith + nothing! I can’t emphasize that enough, although I should be known for that by now. Our salvation rests on nothing that we can do in the flesh, but it is all resting on the finished work of the Cross through His death, burial, and resurrection, and now we appropriate it by faith. Then after we have received salvation, then yes we move into an area of service and what ever you put on it. But not for salvation. Now in verse 7 Paul continues on with Abraham as his theme.
“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, (in other words those of us who have entered into a salvation experience by faith only) the same are the children (or the sons) of Abraham.”
Now I’ve got to stop there for a while. How many people have come up to me and said, “Well we’ve always been told that when we became a Christian we became a Jew.” And I always tell them, I don’t know who told you that but they are way out in left field, because a Jew is a Jew by virtue of, first and foremost, his birth, his genetics, his blood line, and the keeping of the Law. But a Gentile is a Gentile of the Gentiles, and if you’ve had salvation then you are simply a Gentile sinner saved by Grace, and not a Jew. Then they point to this verse we have just read. “But the Bible says, we are children of Abraham.” Well you’ve got to realize what the Bible is saying, and not take it out of context. What the Bible is really saying here in verse 7
“…they which are of faith, (way) the same are the children of Abraham.”
We have entered in the faith way + nothing the same way that Abraham did, and so consequently we are spiritually now connected to this man Abraham. Now to follow that up we’ve again got to go all the way back to Genesis. I’m sorry. I hadn’t planned on doing this but we must. So let’s turn to chapter 13, and there are some interesting words in this passage. Now of course this is the chapter after the Abrahamic Covenant was given so he’s already on covenant ground, he already has all these promises. Now look what God says to Abraham.
“And I will make thy seed…”
Or your off spring. Also here is another little quirk of Hebrew. You have to discern from the context whether the word seed is singular and speaking of Christ or whether it’s plural and speaking of the whole Nation of Israel. Now that takes some doing I know, and I know when we taught Genesis I gave the example even in our English language. You can have 12 sheep over there, and 1 over here, but what do you call them? Sheep. It’s the same way with the Hebrew word that pertains to the word seed. It can be plural, but the same identical word can be singular, so you must use your where with all to determine from the text is it speaking singular, and the Messiah, or it is speaking plural the children of Israel. Well this one is plural.
“And I will make thy seed (the off spring) as the dust of the earth:…”
Now what’s dust? Is it earthly or heavenly? Well it’s earthly. So his earthly progeny would be as the numbers of the sand of the sea. In other words the Nation of Israel would be in terminology of course that is comparative. Compared to the rest of the nations of the ancient world were by far more in number. Now turn the page to Genesis chapter 15, and verse 5. And now look what God promises.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and (count or) tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
Now what was God doing? Playing games? No. God in His infinite Sovereign Grace was promising Abraham 2 different groups of people that would be connected to him. Now naturally the dust of the earth was his earthly offspring who came by the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now when God brings him out and tells him to look toward the heavens, now God is talking about a heavenly connection. Most of you have been hearing me teach long enough to know that we have two concepts in Scripture, “The earthly people Israel and The heavenly people who are the Church.” All right. Abraham is being promised a connection to both of them. He will have an earthly progeny which was the children of Israel, but he’s also going to have a heavenly progeny which are those who have entered in like he did by faith, and faith alone.
So now you have this two fold promise the Nation of Israel which would be earthly, but also a group out there some place who would be connected to him only in the realm of the spiritual. Now I think that I’ve already made my point as you come back to the Book of Galatians. Let me put something on the board, and maybe it will help a little bit. On the time line we have Abraham back here 2000 years before Christ. Also on this time line we have the finished work of the Cross at Calvary, and then here you and I stand in this interval from the time of the early Acts, and I think especially with Paul’s ministry, and the Body of Christ is being called out.
All right I think I’ve already made my point. How do we become members of the Body of Christ that is being called out? By faith + nothing! Abraham became the Friend of God and his righteousness because of his faith + nothing also! And this was done just by believing what God said. Now if you were in an algebra class what would I be able to say? There’s an equality. Right? This is equal to this. Why? Because Abraham received eternal life the same way the Church age believer does, we all came in the same way. Now to make my point, how did people back here from Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, and all the way up to Abraham, how did they come into a right relationship with God, faith + nothing? No way, but rather it was faith + sacrifice. They couldn’t approach God without the sacrifice. Coming up to the Cross even in Christ’s earthly ministry, did Jesus ever teach the concept of a salvation by faith and faith alone. No. What were they to do? They were still to be adherence to the Law of Moses, they also had the added responsibility of repentance and water baptism, + their faith. But faith alone wouldn’t cut it. Even in the early chapters of Acts, it wasn’t just faith and faith alone. They had to repent and be baptized, and that was a requirement. It wasn’t just empty words, but a requirement.
But then along comes the apostle Paul with faith + nothing, and this is why he had so much opposition. And that’s why I imagine out there at least silently I’ve also got that opposition. I don’t hear it personally, but I know it’s out there. “Les you make it too simple! You’ve got to repent and be baptized.” And I’ve even had people call and say, “Well we’ve always been told that you have to repent, be baptized, and speak in tongues before we’re saved.” Well that’s not faith + nothing, that’s faith + something. OK now what’s my point?
That just as surely as Abraham was saved by faith + nothing when he believed God when He told him to go to a land that He would show him. We, in the Body of Christ, are saved by faith + nothing when we believe God when he tells us to believe the Gospel for salvation in I Corinthians 15:1-4. So by the basis of faith + nothing Abraham had imputed righteousness, you and I as members of the Body of Christ have also imputed righteousness, and that makes us just like Abraham. Does that make sense? No one else in all of God’s economy had that privilege. Let me show you in the Book of Hebrews. Maybe that will make my point. Chapter 11 – the great faith chapter. It goes clear back to Genesis chapter 4.
“By faith Abel (believed God? No. He offered. He did something) offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” By faith, primarily, but it was faith plus. Now you come all the way down to verse 7.
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear (and what did he do?) prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
He did something. Now, let me ask you. If Noah would have stood out there in the Middle East and said, “All right God, I believe you that a flood is coming,” and never built an ark, what would have happened? He would have gotten washed away along with the rest of them. But along with his faith that a flood was coming, what did he do? He built an ark. And all the rest of the way up through Scripture, all those great men of God, Jacob, Isaac, David and all the rest. They were men of faith, but faith alone? No! Faith plus Temple worship, plus Law keeping, plus this, plus that. Am I making my point? But Abraham never made a sacrifice until years later. He did not do anything he just simply believed God. God saw that man’s faith and He imputed righteousness to him. And so it is with us. Without out doing a thing, we just simply say, “Yes Lord, I believe it, that you died for me, that you were raised in resurrection power, with all my heart.” And that’s all God is looking for.