Questions About Salvation: The TOP 100 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Salvation
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – Salvation and the Old Testament – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About Salvation and the Old Testament and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
What was the Old Testament way of salvation?
Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament? How were people saved before Jesus died for our sins?
Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice? What is progressive revelation as it relates to salvation?
Question: What was the Old Testament way of salvation?
Answer: How people were saved during the time of the Old Testament is a confusing question to some. We know that, after Jesus’ death on the cross, salvation comes by grace through faith in Him (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus is the Way (John 14:6). But what was the way before Christ?
A common misconception about the Old Testament way of salvation is that Jews were saved by keeping the Law. But we know from Scripture that is not true. Galatians 3:11 says, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Some might want to dismiss this passage as only applying to the New Testament, but Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4—salvation by faith, apart from the Law, was an Old Testament principle. Paul taught that the purpose of the Law was to serve as a “tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24 NASB). Also, in Romans 3:20 Paul makes the point that keeping the Law did not save either Old or New Testament Jews because “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” The Law was never intended to save anyone; the purpose of the Law was to make us aware of sin.
If the Old Testament way of salvation was not keeping the Law, then how were people saved? Fortunately, the answer to that question is easily found in Scripture. In Romans 4 the apostle Paul distinctly says that the Old Testament way of salvation was the same as the New Testament way, which is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To prove this, Paul points to Abraham, who was saved by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Again, Paul quotes the Old Testament to
make his point—Genesis 15:6 this time. Abraham could not have been saved by keeping the Law, because he lived over 400 years before the Law was given!
Paul then shows that David understood salvation by faith (Romans 4:6-8, quoting Psalm 32:1-2). Paul continues to establish that the Old Testament way of salvation was through faith alone. In Romans 4:23-24 he writes, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” In other words, righteousness is “credited” or given to those who have faith in God—Abraham, David, and all other believers share the same way of salvation.
Much of Romans and Galatians address the fact that there is only one way of salvation and only one gospel message. Throughout history people have tried to pervert the gospel by adding human works to it, requiring that certain things be done to “earn” salvation. But the Bible’s message is that the way of salvation has always been through faith. In the Old Testament, it was faith in the promise that God would send a Savior someday. Those who lived before Christ looked forward to the Messiah and believed God’s promise of the coming Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). Those who exercised such faith were saved. Today we look back on the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior and are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins (Romans 10:9-10).
As early as Genesis 3:15, we see the promise of a coming Savior, and throughout the Old Testament there are hundreds of promises that the Messiah would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; cf. Isaiah 53:5-6). Job’s faith was in the fact that his “Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Job and the other Old Testament saints were aware of the promised Redeemer, and they were saved by faith in that Savior, the same way people are saved today. There is no other way. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12, quoting Psalm 118:22).
Question: Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?
Answer: Before Jesus died on the cross, God required animal sacrifices to provide temporary forgiveness of sins and to foreshadow Christ’s perfect and complete sacrifice (Leviticus 4:35; 5:10). Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). When Adam and Eve sinned, God killed animals
to provide clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Abel sacrificed the “firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4-5). After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God (Genesis 8:20-21).
God commanded the nation of Israel to perform numerous sacrifices and to follow certain rules. First, the animal had to be spotless. Second, the person offering the sacrifice had to identify himself with the animal. Third, the person offering the animal had to inflict death upon it. When done in faith, this sacrifice provided forgiveness of sins. Another sacrifice required on the Day of Atonement demonstrates forgiveness and the removal of sin. The high priest was to take two male goats, sacrifice one as a sin offering for the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:15) and then release the other goat into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). The sin offering provided forgiveness, while the other goat signified the removal of sin.
Why, then, do we no longer offer animal sacrifices today? These sacrifices have ended because Jesus Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. John the Baptist recognized this when he saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Just as the animals who died as a sacrifice did no wrong and died in place of the one performing the sacrifice, Jesus Christ also did no wrong but willingly died for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, we can receive forgiveness.
God originally commanded animal sacrifices so that an individual could experience forgiveness of sin. The animal served as a substitute; that is, the animal died in place of the sinner. But these sacrifices were only temporary, which is why they needed to be offered over and over. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute once for all time (Hebrews 7:27) and is now the only mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
Question: How were people saved before Jesus died for our sins?
Answer: Since the fall of man, the basis of salvation has always been the death of Christ. No one, either prior to the cross or since the cross, would ever be saved without that one pivotal event in the history of the world. Christ’s death paid the penalty for past sins of Old Testament saints and sins of future saints.
The requirement for salvation has always been faith. The object of one’s faith for salvation has always been God. The psalmist wrote, “Blessed are all who
take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and that was enough for God to credit it to him for righteousness (see also Romans 4:3-8). The Old Testament sacrificial system did not take away sin, as Hebrews 10:1-10 clearly teaches. It did, however, point to the day when the Son of God would shed His blood for the sinful human race.
What has changed through the ages is the content of a believer’s faith. God’s requirement for belief is based on the amount of revelation He has given mankind at a particular point in time. This is called progressive revelation. Adam believed the promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s offspring (Jesus, thousands of years later) would conquer Satan.
Abraham believed God according to the promises and new revelation God gave him in Genesis 12 and 15. Prior to Moses, no Scripture was written; but mankind was responsible for what God had revealed. Throughout the Old Testament, believers came to salvation because they believed God would someday take care of their sin problem. Today we look back, believing that He has already taken care of our sins on the cross (John 3:16; Hebrews 9:28).
What about believers in Christ’s day, prior to the cross and resurrection? What did they believe? Did they understand the full picture of Christ dying on a cross for their sins? Late in His ministry, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). What was the disciples’ reaction to this message? Peter and the other disciples did not know the full truth, yet they were saved because they believed God would take care of their sin. They didn’t know exactly how He would accomplish that any more than Adam, Abraham, Moses, or David knew, but they believed God.
Today, we have more revelation than the people living before the resurrection of Christ; we know the full story. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Our salvation is still based on the death of Christ, our faith is still the requirement for salvation, and the object of our faith is still God. Today, we have the knowledge that the content of our faith should be that Jesus Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Question: Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice?
Answer: The whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life on our behalf. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system. God, speaking to Moses, declared, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
A sacrifice is the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. Leviticus 17:11 can be understood this way: God said, “I have given to you the creature’s life (which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (to cover the offense you have committed against Me), so that you may live.” In other words, those who offered the blood sacrifice were set free from the consequences of sin.
Of course, the Israelites of Moses’ day did not know of Jesus or how He would die on their behalf and rise again—but they did believe God would send a Savior. Each of the many blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament was foreshadowing the true, once-for-all sacrifice yet to come; the Israelites would never forget that, without the blood, there is no forgiveness. This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Under the Old Covenant, an animal died in the place of the Israelites; under the New Covenant, Jesus died in the place of believers.
Hebrews 9:11-18 confirms the symbolism of blood as life and applies Leviticus 17:11 to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 13 clearly states that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and only atoned for sin partially and for a short time, hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ died, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Question: What is progressive revelation as it relates to salvation?
Answer: Progressive revelation refers to the idea that God revealed His will and overall plan for humanity step by step, over a long period of time. These “steps” have been referred to as “dispensations” by some theologians. A dispensation is a distinguishable economy (i.e., an ordered condition of things) in the outworking of God’s purpose. While dispensationalists debate the number of
dispensations in history, all believe that God revealed only certain aspects of His plan in each dispensation, with each new dispensation building upon the prior one.
One does not have to be a dispensationalist to believe in progressive revelation. Nearly all students of the Bible recognize that certain truths contained in Scripture were not fully revealed by God to prior generations. For example, the New Testament “mysteries” such as the indwelling Christ (Colossians 1:27) and the rapture of the church (1 Corinthians 15:51) are teachings that were obviously not revealed in the Old Testament but were made plain in the New. (See also Ephesians 3:1-6.)
So, how does progressive revelation apply to salvation? Were those living before the first advent of Christ saved in a different way than people are saved today? In the New Testament era, people must place their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and believe that God raised Him from the dead to be saved (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 16:31). Yet, as scholar John Feinberg says, “The people of the Old Testament era did not know that Jesus was the Messiah, that Jesus
would die, and that His death would be the basis of salvation.”- That being the case, what exactly did God reveal to those who lived before Christ, and how were the Old Testament saints saved? Did salvation change from the Old Testament to the New Testament?
Two Ways or One Way of Salvation?
Some charge that those holding to progressive revelation espouse two different methods of salvation—one that was in place before the first coming of Christ and another that came after His death and resurrection. L. S. Chafer refutes this claim: “Are there two ways by which one may be saved? In reply to this question it may be stated that salvation of whatever specific character is always the work of God in behalf of man and never a work of man in behalf of God. … There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God
made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.”-
The revelations in the Old and New Testaments concerning salvation can be reconciled. Charles Ryrie sums up the matter: “The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various
ages.”- In other words, no matter the era in which a person lives, salvation is dependent on the work of Christ and faith in God. However, the knowledge a person has concerning the specifics of God’s plan has increased through the
ages. That’s progressive revelation.
In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the tax collector is justified before God with this prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In this simple, saving prayer, we find 1) a faith in God, 2) an acknowledgement of sin, and 3) an acceptance of mercy. Remember, Jesus told this story to people who lived prior to His death and resurrection. Even then, it was understood that justification involved God’s mercy on a sinner who believed.
People in the Old Testament were saved by faith (Genesis 15:6), and part of that faith concerned an understanding—however basic—of the Messiah. Job looked forward to his “Redeemer” (Job 19:25). David believed in his “Lord” who sat at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1). Isaiah preached vividly of the “Suffering Servant” who would bear the sins of the people (Isaiah 53). The Samaritan woman at the well anticipated “Christ” (John 4:25).
Scripture states that faith is the key to salvation for all people down through history (Hebrews 11:6), but how could God save people without their knowing of Jesus and His sacrifice for them? The answer is that God saved them based on their faith in what they did know. The Old Testament saints’ faith looked forward to something they could not see; today, believers look back on events they can see. The following graphic depicts this understanding:
God has progressively revealed His plan to mankind. In every age, He has given people enough revelation to exercise faith. Now that Jesus Christ has accomplished His redeeming work, the specifics of faith’s content have changed; the basis for faith has not changed.
Prior to Christ’s coming, God foreshadowed Jesus’ death via the sacrificial system and conditioned His people to understand that sin leads to death. The Law was a tutor that clearly defined sin and led people to Christ’s righteousness (Galatians 3:24). From God’s promise of the Serpent-crusher (Genesis 3:15) to Jesus, the living Word (John 1:1) and fullest revelation of God to man (Colossians 2:9), the detailed content of our faith has increased; therefore,
people today have a fuller understanding of what God requires of them.
Referring to God’s progressive revelation, John Calvin writes, “The Lord held to this orderly plan in administering the covenant of his mercy: as the day of full revelation approached with the passing of time, the more he increased each day the brightness of its manifestation. Accordingly, at the beginning when the first promise of salvation was given to Adam (Genesis 3:15) it glowed like a feeble spark. Then, as it was added to, the light grew in fullness, breaking forth increasingly and shedding its radiance more widely. At last—when all the clouds were dispersed—Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, fully illumined the whole
Progressive revelation does not mean that God’s people in the Old Testament were without any understanding. Those living before Christ knew God and by faith received His promises. The faithful were “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
No one is saved apart from the death and resurrection of Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The basis of salvation has been, and will always be, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and the means of salvation has always been faith in God. However, the content of a person’s faith has always depended on the amount of revelation that God was pleased to give at a certain time. In Christ, “a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:19).
Links to Other Q and A on Salvation
Top Questions About the Plan of Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Jesus and Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Who Can Be Saved with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Assurance of Salvation with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Salvation and Works with Biblical Answers
Top Questions About Salvation Terminology with Biblical Answers
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Top Questions About Salvation and the Old Testament with Biblical Answers
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