Old Testament Salvation

CC BY-SA, James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons

“Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem” by James Tissot, The Jewish Museum, New York (Domain) 

“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24)

A major purpose of the Law of Moses was to expose sin (Rom. 3:20). The law itself, however, was not evil or bad for this reason or because it resulted in condemnation and death. Rather, Paul calls it “holy” and “good” (Rom. 7:12-13) because it accomplished God’s purpose in the plan of salvation until it was completed in Christ.

An instructive, long-term secondary purpose of the law was to prepare people’s hearts for righteousness by training them in God’s requirements.

The Faith of Old Testament Believers

I find it important to stop and consider the piety of those who lived under the Law of Moses. Christians perceive Old Testament worshipers as possessing an inferior devotion than theirs because they knew nothing of Jesus. Or, we presume they didn’t understand righteousness by faith, which couldn’t be true since the cornerstone of Judaism is Abraham’s righteousness by his faith in the promise God made to him (Gen. 17) that, subsequently, has become all our faith.

Not knowing Christ or the full revelation of salvation does not dismiss their piety or render it disingenuous. These people lived by faith in God’s promise their whole lives, although they never realized it (Heb. 11:13). Yet God mercifully provided them his law by which they could discern his holiness and their own sinfulness until grace should appear in Christ (Gal. 3:15-22).

The law was a precursor to salvation—a mere bicycle for those God was preparing for motocross one day. And although one could never be justified by the law (Gal. 5:4), it was very valuable for instructing the Israelites about God’s moral character (e.g., the Decalogue).

The Promise Remains

Nevertheless, Paul says, “The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise” (Gal. 3:17). Jehovah was strongly central to Hebrew practice and his promise to Abraham was its foundation. The people’s worship and faith were never inhibited but encouraged. This is unavoidable in the Prophets.

Jesus dispels the later Pharisaical notion that God required his Chosen to meticulously subscribe to the 613 statues. How symbolic that is: God sits high in his Heaven and we must climb the rungs to reach him. Yet when we miss one or snap one off, or just tire, we plummet to our deaths. So in breaking one rule, we indeed break them all (James 2:10).   

Instead, Christ’s work achieves propitiation and righteousness for all believers, past and present, because it is based on God’s promise, not rules; it is confirmed by faith, not merit. Real devotion…genuine salvation is just that: receiving the promise by faith.

God accepted the worship of Old Testament devotees who served from their hearts in the spirit of the law. Our way of salvation and their way of salvation are the same: by grace through faith.

Hail the Morning Light

CC BY-NC, M.RICHI, Flickr

CC BY-NC, M.RICHI, Flickr

What is it that makes the God of the Bible greater than all others?

Ever since humankind fell into sin, however it occurred at the dawn of human existence, God, who anticipated it all, responded in un-godlike fashion, if we believe the historical characterizations of deities.

He did not become intemperately furious and rain down destruction to wipe humans from the face of the earth; he did not scorn his creation and leave them without divine support. Instead, he chose to communicate himself and a grand design for restoring the race that was blind to its need.

The salvific nature of God—that he redeems—is among his greatest characteristics. God has committed himself to a plan of reconciling all things to match his wonder. No other god takes the time to deal with sinners more than to exact punishment upon them. But God seems to specialize in processing and refashioning what is broken and repudiated and presenting it to a watching world gloriously restored.

Is this not the story of so many biblical characters? Better still, could it not be your story? Our life’s journey bears the twists and turns that only bend at the permissive nod of a God who loves us extravagantly. We climb mountains and plow through valleys, experience the heat of drought and the refreshment of the stream—are they all not teaching moments? Do we merely live and die? I dare not believe that life is a circle lacking of real purpose in my experiences.

Contrarily, I know that every experience builds me in some way and anticipates a greater moment, not only for me but also for those who should enter my life. Every good and bad moment is a teaching moment of how to ride the waves being disciplined and true to God. You see, God redeems the brokenness of our lives and life itself.

Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” This verse is proof to me of God’s purposeful intention in our lives. The one who stands and raises his or her hands atop the mountain is the one who with strength and determination, cuts and sweat, conquered not only the mountain but every mental foe that threatened their resolve.

When that person takes in the view, perhaps a sunrise, they cherish every moment in the process it took to get there. Our redeeming God is eager to get our attention so we don’t waste our time. Many people don’t have a clue that they’re on any kind of journey or, sadly, don’t wish to climb the mountain. Some mountains don’t move because they’re not meant to move—we are. But it is never about the mountain.

In the end, the joy belongs to those of us who ascended. We may not have been perfect, but that certainly wasn’t the point. It was that we were committed to God and loved him back as richly as he first loved us. We acknowledged him and his plan in every high and low of life, and we served others with the knowledge we were blessed to experience. His reward to us is a view from the top, an uninhibited look at his goodness, the grace that all along pushed us higher and higher. This is the glory of God.