Galatians 3:6-14, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
This passage is so beautiful and simple dear reader. It begins in verse 6 with a declarative statement—Abraham BELIEVED GOD and it was accounted to him for righteousness! That is the only way anyone has ever been saved, which is exactly what the next verse says—“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” God made a wonderful PROMISE of eternal life by faith alone, even before the world was created. Titus 1:2-4, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” This PROMISE of salvation by faith was preached to Abraham and to “Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
This PROMISE was made before the world began, and it was preached to Abraham. The Bible was already settled permanently in Heaven before God ever dictated a single Word to Moses. Galatians 3:8-9, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” The GOOD NEWS (Gospel) was preached to Abraham. This PROMISE guaranteed that all the Jews and Gentiles alike could be saved by simple childlike faith in Christ.
The Old Testament Jews were under the curse of the law, because Christ hadn't come to die on the cross yet. Galatians 3:10-14, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
To understand the Old Testament system, and salvation back then, you need to understand what the ceremonial law was. Carefully notice that “the law” was more than just the “Thou shalt not” Ten Commandments, but the entire priestly system of sacrifices and atonement for sin itself. Since Christ hadn't come yet, the blood and bulls and goats could only temporarily atone (cover) for the sins of the people. The rituals were symbolic, object lessons, shadowing God's sole responsibility to deal with the matter when Christ would someday come, and not something that the people were required to do to be saved. The ceremonial laws were NOT required for salvation. This is evidenced by the fact that the Jews failed to keep the Sabbath Day for 490 years. God later punished them by sending the Jews into Babylonian captivity, one year for every seven they hadn't kept the Sabbath (70 years). The law made nothing perfect...
Hebrews 7:18-25, “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
The Old Testament sacrifices each year were temporal. The high priests were temporal. They all eventually died. The Old Testament ceremonial laws were a SHADOW of good things coming in the future. Hebrews 10:1, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” Since Jesus is eternal, and the perfect sacrifice for sin, He CAN forever forgive and wash away our sins with His blood (Revelation 1:5).
So now you can understand Galatians 3:19, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” The ceremonial rituals were symbolic of Christ Who would one day come, as our eternal High Priest, forever taking away our sins (Hebrews 4:15-16). They were still saved by faith alone, but God required the Jews to keep ceremonial laws to avoid judgment (Deuteronomy 28). Old Testament Jews were required to keep the law, not to be saved, but to please God as His people. Obviously they didn't please Him, which led to the eventual fall of both the northern kingdom of Samaria in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. Israel failed as God's ambassadors to the Gentile world. It was the Lord's initial plan and hope that Israel would be a beacon of shining light in the world, a peculiar people zealous of good works (Exodus 19:5-6). This didn't make Jews better than Gentiles, it just meant God had chosen them for a certain job.
Please consider that when the Jews were conquered and enslaved by Babylon in 586 BC, the work of the high priest ceased. Solomon's magnificent temple, which cost billions of dollars to build, was totally destroyed. So did all the Jews go to Hell? Obviously they were NOT saved by works. There were many times in the Old Testament when there was no priest or sacrifices; such as, during the time of the Judges, and the 400 years between the Old Testament and New Testament. They were saved by believing God, as did Abraham in Genesis 15:6. How did the Old Testament saints get saved in the 2,500 years prior to Moses? It is theological ignorance for any preacher to teach that anyone was ever (or ever will be) saved by faith plus works.
Old Testaments Saints Were Only Saved By Faith
Acts 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
The following very helpful truths are being quoted from Dr. John R. Rice's invaluable verse-by-verse Bible commentary titled, “Acts: Filled With The Spirit,” pages 250-252:
All Prophets Preach the Same Savior, the Same Plan of Salvation
Not only are the Apostles witnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and above five hundred other witnesses who saw Him after His resurrection, but “all the prophets,” that is, every prophet in the Old Testament as well as the new Testament times, bears witness to the same Saviour and the same plan of salvation!
There are some who think that the Old Testament saints were saved by animal sacrifices and the ceremonies of the law. They are utterly mistaken. The sacrifices and ceremonies of the Old Testament were simply object lessons pointing to Christ and salvation by faith in Him. Baptism now pictures that one is buried in the likeness of Christ's death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:4, 5), and those that take the Lord's Supper in the bread and cup “do shew the Lord's death till he come” (I Cor. 11:26). So Old Testament sacrifices taught the same thing, that salvation is only through Christ. Every prophet in the Old Testament pictures Christ. So Jesus could preach to Nicodemus the Gospel from Numbers 21:5-9, about the serpents in the Wilderness. So Philip could preach to the Ethiopian eunuch from Isaiah 53:4-6, preaching the same Saviour and the same Gospel. It was this Saviour whom Abraham saw and believed in (John 8:56; Rom, 4:3). It was by faith in this Jesus that “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” the firstling of his flock which pictured an atoning Saviour. It is Christ and salvation by faith in His shed blood that is pictured in the passover.
There are those hyper-dispensationalists who think that John the Baptist preached a different Gospel from Christ when he commanded repentance (Matt. 3:2). But it is the same repentance Jesus commanded in Matthew 4:17, in Luke 13:3 and 5, and the same repentance that Paul preached in Athens that God “now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30 31). Repentance is not a different plan of salvation from having faith: it is part of the same plan of salvation. Or rather repentance is simply another way of describing or looking at the plan of salvation. One who turns from sin to God has done so by trusting in Jesus Christ. A change of mind toward sin is necessarily involved in saving faith.
Everyone who genuinely repented under the preaching of John the Baptist put his trust in the Saviour John the Baptist preached, and was regenerated. There is no such thing as being “a disciple of John the Baptist” in any honest sense without being a disciple of Jesus, that is, without trusting Christ for salvation.
There are those who think that Peter in Acts 2:38 and 39 preached that baptism was essential to salvation when he said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” But the phrase “for the remission of sins” could well be translated “referring to the remission of sins” for the indefinite preposition of reference and so used many, many times in the Bible. People are not baptized in order to be saved, but baptized with reference to the salvation they had when they repented. So it has always been among Bible-believing Christians who follow the Scriptures.
So here in Acts 10:43 we have the statement by Peter, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Get this great doctrinal matter settled: God has only one plan of salvation and that is all He ever had! He has only one Saviour, and that is Jesus Christ. Every Old and New Testament prophet agrees in this that “whosoever believeth in him shall have remission of sins.”
SOURCE: Evangelist John R. Rice, “Acts: Filled With The Spirit,” pp. 250-252; Sword Of The Lord, Murfreesboro, Tennessee; ©1963
Boy I love that! The Old Testament ceremonial laws, just like the Lord's Supper and water baptism today, were object lessons. These were NOT necessary to be saved. Salvation was always by faith, as we read in Habakkuk 2:4b, “the just shall live by his faith.” In Number 21:9, all God expected of the Israelites was to LOOK AND LIVE. Jesus used this passage to teach the Gospel to Nicodemus in John 3:14-16. Isaiah 45:22 teaches to LOOK AND LIVE! Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Salvation has always been by grace through faith in Christ.
The Gospel Is An Eternal Promise!
God's PROMISE of eternal life existed before the world was created. It is a promise! The Gospel (Good News) is a promise. God revealed the GOOD NEWS of that promise to the patriarchs. God shared this GOOD NEWS with Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Eve's “seed” in this passage refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:29, “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Throughout the Old Testament, people looked forward to the coming Messiah. We see this truth evidenced in John 4:25, “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” The Samaritan women didn't understand the Gospel, but she BELIEVED that Christ, when He came, would TELL US ALL THINGS. She had faith in the blessed Savior!
I keep hearing wacky dispensational preachers saying that the Apostle Paul revealed a NEW Gospel. Dear reader, please read the following words of Jesus from Matthew 16:21, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” Jesus was preaching this same GOSPEL long before Paul was! Galatians 1:11-12, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus revealed the SAME Gospel to Paul, which He had been preaching to others. Some people were questioning and criticizing the apostle. You know how people can get. So Paul asserts his qualifications, letting everyone know that the Lord Himself delivered this Gospel truth to him to preach.
After Jesus had bodily risen from the dead, He came across two men walking upon the road to Emmaus. The Lord asked them if they had heard about a man named Jesus (I love how the Lord messed with people's minds...lol.). They were naïve and skeptical. They didn't believe yet. Take a look at what the Lord said to them in Luke 24:24-27, “And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Our blessed Lord didn't just rebuke them, He took the time to expound them in all the Scriptures. Please notice that Jesus rebuked them for not QUICKLY BELIEVING all that THE PROPHETS had spoken concerning Christ (Acts 10:43). Thus, Paul did not reveal a new Gospel, he simply reiterated the promise of eternal life which existed before the world began. The Lord Himself charged Paul to preach the revelation of the Gospel given to Him.
Anna was a 84 year old seasoned Christian women, who preached the Gospel to visitors who came to Jerusalem inquiring about the Messiah...
Luke 2:36-38, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
The wise men came from Babylon in the east, looking for the Christ child. Word had gotten out that the Christ was here. Anna was a soulwinner. So we see that the knowledge of the coming Savior was big news, known by the masses for thousands of years. We are so blessed today to have the privilege to look back with hindsight and a clear understanding of history. We are not worthy! Throughout the entire Old Testament, all of humanity was awaiting the coming the the Messiah. That was their great hope and salvation. Psalms 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” David said that the Lord Himself was his salvation, not his works. It is tragic how preachers are always finding ways to attribute salvation to man, instead of God's grace.
Eternal life was PROMISED by God before the world even began (Titus 1:2). That precious PROMISE continued through the entire Old Testament by faith. The ceremonial laws were later established as a means (a TOOL), to ultimately bring lost sinners to Christ so they could then be saved by grace through faith. LAW and CHRIST. It is marvellous how God did all this, giving us a living illustration, spanning thousands of years of history, to demonstrate LAW and CHRIST.
“God Himself became a Man, to give mankind a concrete, definite, tangible idea of what kind of Person to think of when we think of God. God is like Jesus. Jesus was God incarnate in human form. His appearance on earth is the Central Event of all history. The Old Testament sets the stage for it. The New Testament describes it. As a man, He lived the most strangely Beautiful Life ever known. He was the Kindest, Tenderest, Gentlest, most Patient, most Sympathetic man that ever lived. He Loved people. He hated to see people in trouble. He loved to Forgive. He loved to Help. He wrought marvelous miracles to feed hungry people. For relieving the suffering He forgot to take food for Himself. Multitudes, weary, pain-ridden, and heart-sick, came to Him, and found healing and relief. It is said of Him, and of no other, that if all the deeds of Kindness that He did were written, the world would not contain the books. That is the kind of man Jesus was. That is the kind of Person God is. Then: He Died, on the Cross, to take away the Sin of the world, to become the Redeemer and Saviour of man. Then: He Rose from the Dead: is Alive Now: not merely an historical character, but a Living Person: the Most Important Fact of History, and Most Vital Force in the world today.” —Theologian Henry H. Halley (1874-1965)
Evangelist John R. Rice (1895-1980) had these helpful words to say:
“The simple truth is that there has never been but one kind of salvation. Peter said, in preaching to Cornelius in Acts 10:43, that "To Him (Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Wait! Read that again! Every prophet in the Old Testament, as well as New Testament apostles, agree, says this Scripture, that all who trust in Christ are instantly saved! Animal sacrifices, baptism, the Lord's Supper, good deeds, never were essential to salvation. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. It always was the same.”
SOURCE: Dr. John R. Rice, “BAPTISM IS CHRISTIAN, NOT JEWISH; NEW TESTAMENT, NOT OLD TESTAMENT; GRACE, NOT LAW”
Amen and amen! People, then and now, have always been saved BY FAITH in the name of Christ (Acts 10:43).