God Wants More For You. So Do We.

How were people saved in the Old Testament?

Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 1

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.
All right, welcome to the first episode of the Ask Pastor Alex podcast.
For those of you who might not be familiar with what this is, this is an ongoing series
that we’ve had available at our church, Georges Creek Baptist Church, for a couple of years
now, actually.
And usually we would take a Wednesday night or a Sunday night and answer a couple of questions
that are submitted through our website.
And I thought it’d be a fun idea to transition the series over to a podcast where people
could just listen at any time.
And I’ll try to keep all of these short.
That’s the goal.
But if you know me, you know, that’s a little difficult for me.
So this is what we’re going to do that.
We’re going to transition over to a podcast and people can submit questions and we’ll
address them as they come in.
So for this first episode, we have a question here that says, how were people saved during
the Old Testament when Jesus had not even been born yet?
All right, good question.
And I want to thank the submitter for that question.
Looking forward to hearing other questions as well as in the future.
But for this first question, it’s a question that I’ve heard a lot.
It’s a question that people have asked me a number of times at this point because I
think there’s a lot of confusion about this and so people want clarity.
So first off, I just want to say I know what you mean by Jesus had not even been born yet.
I know that the person who submitted this question is thinking that Jesus had not yet
been born of the Virgin Mary.
He had not taken on human flesh.
He was not living amongst us here on earth.
But we also it would be a good idea to keep in mind that Jesus is eternal.
So while he might not have had human flesh on at that point and been living among us
here on earth, he was very much alive because he’s always been alive.
All right.
The Bible says in John chapter 1 verses 1 through 3, in the beginning was the Word and
the Word was with God and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.
So the Bible says there that that Jesus has always existed.
He was present with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the very beginning and everything
that was made was made through Jesus.
So Jesus has always been alive.
But there is that second part of the question, which is, OK, well, how were people saved
in the Old Testament then?
You know, because we know as Christians we’re saved by Jesus and his life of righteousness,
his substitutionary death on the cross, his resurrection.
It’s all about Jesus.
So how were the people in the Old Testament or the Old Covenant times saved?
And there are two common misconceptions today that are pretty popular.
The first is that people were saved through offering up sacrifices to God.
And the Bible addresses this very, very clearly in Hebrews chapter 11 and in verse 4 we read,
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
So contrary to popular belief that people might have been saved by offering up sacrifices
in the Old Testament, the Bible actually says, no, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take
away sins.
And in fact, as the chapter continues, we even read in verse 11, and every high priest
or I’m sorry, every priest stands daily at his service offering repeatedly the same sacrifices,
which can never take away sins.
So there’s this laborious, tedious act of having to stand daily and offer these sacrifices.
And the frustrating part of it is they can’t actually take away sins.
And so while the theologian in me wants to address this issue further and get into a
theology of Old Testament sacrifices and what their purposes were, that goes beyond the
scope of this question.
So we might have to save that for another time.
Maybe you can submit that question through the website.
But just suffice it to say that people were not saved by sacrifices because the blood
of bulls and goats could never take away our sins.
Well then there’s another popular suggestion, right?
Well, if it wasn’t the sacrifices, then people must have been saved through obedience.
They would follow the law.
They would keep the commandments.
And if they were able to do that, then they were saved.
But the Bible also addresses this in Galatians chapter 3, beginning in verse 10, the Bible
says, For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.
For it is written, curse be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book
of the law and do them.
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall
live by faith.
But the law is not of faith, rather the one who does them shall live by them.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.
For it is written, cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree, so that in Christ Jesus
the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised
spirit through faith.
And so the Bible is saying there that people who try to keep the law, they are responsible
for keeping the entire law.
And if they fail to even keep one aspect of the law, they have failed to keep the entire
Because if you are a transgressor in one area, well then you’ve transgressed the entire law.
And so it is absolutely impossible for us as fallen human creatures to be able to keep
the law perfectly.
That is beyond our ability.
And the Bible says no one has done this apart from Christ.
The Bible says in Romans 3, 23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So we are all sinners.
None of us have kept the law perfectly.
The only person who has been able to keep the law perfectly is Jesus.
And praise God for that.
And so again, we get back to this question, well then, pastor, how were they saved?
How were people in the Old Testament and in the Old Covenant times saved?
And the answer is very simple, it’s by grace, through faith, in Christ.
And that might seem kind of strange at first because you might be thinking as the person
who submitted this question did, but Jesus was not born at that point.
He hadn’t come to earth.
He had not lived his perfect, righteous, obedient life.
He had not died his sacrificial, atoning death on the cross.
He had not risen from the grave and defeated sin and Satan and death and all these things.
And so how is that possible?
Well, we’re going to get into that in a little bit, but I just want you to understand that
it has always been by grace alone, through faith alone.
We even read this as early as the first book in the Bible.
Genesis 15-6 says that Abraham believed God, that’s the same word for faith, Abraham believed
God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
In other words, God declared Abraham to be righteous in his sight, not because of something
he did, not because of keeping commandments or obedience, but because he trusted in Yahweh.
He believed God.
In fact, Paul uses that example from Genesis 15-6 in his writing in Romans chapter 4 to
defend the doctrine of justification by faith, that we are declared righteous in God’s sight
only by faith.
In fact, the Bible says in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8, for by grace you have been saved
through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.
And so remember, the Bible even had said back in Galatians chapter 3 that no one is going
to be justified before God or in the eyes of God by keeping the works of the law, by
doing the works of the law.
That’s impossible.
It has always been by trusting in God.
And so how does this play out?
Especially because as the person who submitted the question asked, Jesus hadn’t yet lived
at that point, at least on earth.
Well, the Bible says in Revelation chapter 13 and verse 8 that Jesus is the Lamb of God
who was slain from the foundation of the world.
In other words, if you think about what that means, it means that you can also read Ephesians
chapter 1 to go along with this, but it means that God knew before he ever even created
anything, God knew that if he gave people the opportunity to follow him and be obedient
or give in to sin, he knew that eventually we would give in to sin, that we would fall.
And that’s exactly what happened.
And so before God ever even created anything, he had a plan to redeem his people in Christ
Jesus, that he was going to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
He was going to secure an eternal redemption through his Son in the future to secure this
eternal redemption that they knew they needed for salvation.
And so when you think about people like Abraham, especially Abraham, this is such a great example.
Abraham knew that he could not offer up enough sacrifices to have an eternal redemption.
He knew that there was no way he could be perfectly obedient.
If you read Genesis, you know that he wasn’t.
So what Abraham was doing is he knew the character of God.
He knew the God that he served.
He knew Yahweh intimately.
He was a friend of God.
And he knew that God was one day going to do something that would secure an eternal
And we actually read about that in the book of John, where Jesus tells the religious teachers
of his day, the Pharisees and the scribes, that Abraham looked forward to Jesus’s day
with great anticipation.
He was looking forward to that day and he rejoiced because he didn’t have the full picture.
Not one in the Old Testament did.
Not Isaiah or Jeremiah or any of these people.
They didn’t have the full picture of what God was going to do.
They had bits of prophecy, bits of revelation that God had given them.
They had a couple insights and they were starting to get this fuzzy picture.
It was as if they were seeing it through a veil, which Paul picks up on that in 2 Corinthians
chapter 3.
But they were seeing all this through a veil and they had a general idea of what was going
to happen, but not the particulars, but they knew that God was going to do something.
And so they looked forward to that day with great joy and anticipation and rejoicing.
And so God would declare them righteous in his sight because they were trusting in him.
They had faith in what God was going to do.
And so a good way to think about salvation in the Old Covenant times versus New Covenant
times is the difference between credit and debit.
I think this is a good example.
I’ve used this a number of times.
Let’s say you wanted to go and purchase something like a car and you didn’t have sufficient
funds to do it at the time.
You might use a credit card.
I don’t know if they actually let you buy a car with a credit card, so maybe something
else, maybe a fancy TV or something.
But you don’t have the funds readily available, but you do have a credit card.
What you’re doing is you’re securing the purchase in that moment with a guarantee that you’re
going to pay it off later.
Well that’s what God was doing with the Old Covenant saints.
He was saying, hey, you are saved in my sight.
You are righteous in my sight.
This salvation is yours and I’m going to pay it off later at the cross of Christ.
And so they were saved on credit.
But everyone after the cross were saved on debit, right?
Because the payment has already been made.
The payment is already in the bank.
Jesus has died on the cross.
He has risen from the dead.
He’s ascended back to the Father.
He’s in heaven with the Father right now interceding for His people.
And so when we hear the gospel message and we’re convicted by the Holy Spirit and God
draws us to Him by His grace in such a way that we actually turn from our sins, we put
our faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation, well we have that salvation right then and
right there and the payment has already been made.
So it’s kind of the difference between credit and debit.
And the big takeaway from all this is that there has only ever been one way of salvation.
There wasn’t one way for Old Testament believers, Old Covenant saints, or New Covenant saints
and New Testament believers.
There wasn’t two ways.
There was only ever one way of salvation and it has always been by grace alone, through
faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.
So whoever submitted that question, I hope that you find that answer helpful and I look
forward to answering some more in the future.
Take care.