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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

Old Testament Salvation
Date Posted: September 29, 2021

"I like Jesus, but I'm not very fond of that God of the Old Testament." Ever heard that before? Or how about this? "Today we are saved by grace, but in the Old Testament they were saved by works." I'm sure, if you haven't heard that, you've seen it, understood it, or, perhaps, even thought it. But ... is it accurate?

As it turns out, the Bible has one, single message -- Jesus, the Christ. According to Paul, that was the promise "before the ages began" (Titus 1:1-3) ... which is before time. At the Fall (Genesis 3) we see the promise of Christ (Genesis 3:15) as an offspring of Eve. After that, the Old Testament is full of prophecies about the coming Messiah. But that's not actual presence. Was Christ present?

John wrote, "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known" (John 1:18). "Now, wait, John!" I can hear the protests. "We know better than that. Adam walked with God in the garden. The Israelites in the desert saw the cloud and the fire and saw God on Mt. Sinai. Didn't Moses see God? I mean, it says he did, right?" Well, it appears that John has a different perception of what actually took place. According to John, any time anyone "saw God" in the Old Testament, they were actually seeing Christ. "He has made Him known." Those who spoke with Adam and Abraham, Noah and Moses, the prophets and the people, were all "the only God who is at the Father's side," God, the Son, the Christ. And, look, don't we know that Jesus Himself confirmed this? Who was it that spoke to Moses at the burning bush? "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, 'Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you"'" (Exodus 3:14). What was it that Jesus said that made them want to stone Him to death? "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). No, they weren't going to stone Him for bad grammar. They knew what He just claimed. The One speaking in the Exodus account was none other than Christ Himself. And this shouldn't really be much of a surprise, since we know quite clearly that Jesus is "the Word" (John 1:1).

Beyond this there is the Old Testament character called "the Angel of the Lord". This particular entity shows up quite often. Unlike other angels who refuse worship, this one accepts it. Unlike other angels, this one is referred to as God (e.g., Genesis 16:7-13). (Compare Exodus 3 with Acts 7:30. Turns out the one in the burning bush was "the Angel of the Lord".) Look into this one some time. This is none other than the Pre-Incarnate Christ.

The fact is that Christ was throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, if you want to properly understand the Old Testament, you must look at it through this filter. The whole Bible is about Christ. Repeatedly in the New Testament Christ is found in the Old Testament. When the prophet wrote about Israel coming out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1), Matthew found Christ (Matthew 2:15). Where the prophet warned of a "stone of stumbling" Paul and Peter found Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:7-8). Where Moses saw a sacrificial lamb and a scapegoat (Leviticus 16), the New Testament sees Christ (John 1:29). Over and over and over, Old Testament images and characters turn out to be Christ. The physical form, Jesus, appears on the scene at the beginning of the New Testament, but Christ has existed from before time -- eternally.

How, then, were those in the Old Testament saved? They weren't saved by obedience to the Law. The New Testament affirms that this could not happen (Romans 3:20). We might think they were saved by the sacrificial system, but the New Testament tells us that the sacrificial system was just an indicator, a pointer. Hebrews says, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Paul says instead of God that "in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins" (Romans 3:25). That is, He put on hold the actual punishment of sin until the propitiation of Christ was in play. Then He applied that payment to those who trusted in God's propitiation for their sin. In Revelation we see it from the reverse perspective. There we read of "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). That is, the God who is not bound by time already had His Son, "the Lamb", classified as slain before the world began. Thus, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointed to a future event in time that was already an accomplished event to God and was the single event that provided salvation (by grace through faith) to all.

Still not buying it? How about this? In Acts 4:12 we read, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." If it is true that there was a large period of time in which men were saved by means other than Christ, then this statement is not true. Indeed, there will be many in heaven who can claim, "I am here because I followed the divine prescription of sacrifices and obedience." So it is not only those of us since Christ, but all who are saved by grace through faith; "And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Abraham (Galatians 3:8) was saved by the same mechanism that you were; by faith in Christ (Romans 4:3-8). His faith looked forward and yours looked back, but it is the same faith and the same focus and the same Person, the Lamb that was slain before the creation of the world. Now that's amazing grace.

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Biography Information:
Born and raised in a Christian home, I've been treated to immersion in the Word and squandered it. 'But God ...' I love the phrase. God has been faithful when I was unfaithful. At every turn He has crowded me to Him.

I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.

For more writings you can see my blog at
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