The gospel is not a New Testament Phenomenon
I heard it said recently that a man couldn’t be saved by reading the Old Testament. Lets look at a few things that may help us to answer this question.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states:
VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respect, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.
The divines assert that men are saved/justified in the same fashion in all time frames. For instance, Abraham had the gospel preached to him in his day:
“Gal 3:8 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. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
Much of this error comes from the dispensational view that the justification of the elect happened at Calvary when Christ gave up the ghost. This is not true. What actually occurred at Calvary’s cross was the consummation of God’s promise. The cross of Christ reaches, spiritually outside of time. The bible says that Christ was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Was he? Yes and no. In time, he died at Calvary; However, his redemption is efficacious to saints before the cross also, else how were men saved prior to the cross? In a different fashion? That’s a problem because now we are saying that men are saved in two ways, not one. God had two plans of redemption, not one. The first plan failed. That’s not right. God does not make mistakes.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus encounters two disciples, a bit downtrodden from the crucifixion. He tells them:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:25–27
A man is shipwrecked on a deserted island. He has very little food and resources to last him any longer than two weeks. In the two weeks as it comes closer to the day when he will run out of food, he finds a tattered bible that has washed up on the shoreline. Upon examining it, he finds that half the book has been lost at sea. The binding has a large chunk missing out of it. Parts of the front are also missing. Upon closer examination, he finds that it is a bible that had lost all of the New Testament and the first chapter of genesis. He thinks to himself, ‘This is a find, I will keep busy for my time here reading this bible-I have never had a bible in my hands before and it will keep me busy while I wait on the rescue teams”. He begins reading immediately. Long into the day, he reads. This goes on for a few weeks.
He reads about the creation of man; He reads about the serpent. He reads about God giving the man a helper. He reads about Gods warning to not eat of the certain tree in the garden. He is amazed at the portion in scripture of how the woman was beguiled by the serpent. He thinks to himself, God is the creator. His creation is rebelling against his commands. He thinks to himself, ‘why would they choose to do what the creator would warn against-He is only looking out for their best interests’. He sees the result of sin and what will now become of the pair. They are cast out of the garden. He then gets to Gen 3:17 and sees that God has a larger plan. He sees a redemptive plan for God’s people. Theologically speaking, this passage is considered the first Gospel call; it is better known as the Protoevangelion. In the Greek, it means ‘first gospel’. We continue: All the benefits the pair once knew are now in the past. Thorns and thistles will the ground bear. The man will have to work and sweat. The woman will bring forth children in pain and suffering. But then he sees relief:
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.
He stops reading, pondering this last statement. He thinks on this all night. He cannot sleep. He finally comes to the conclusion that the enmity spoke of is enmity between the serpent and the woman; the bruising that occurs is a crushing of the serpents head. He continues to ponder, who is the owner of the bruised heel? He continues to read. He reads about the flood and how the ark was a type of salvation. He sees how God chooses some to save and other, he leaves in their sin. He can see, imbedded in the passages, how a messiah would do the same thing on a larger scale. He understands that the ark is akin to messiah, i.e. those who are in the ark are safe. He sees how God is a God of covenant and in those covenants are promises. He wonders how a God so great can condescend to the degree he has with his creation; the creation that rebelled against Him. He thinks to Himself, ‘This God is endearing and loving towards people that he calls, ‘my people’.
He reads about God commanding Abraham to sacrifice His own son, Isaac and is intrigued by what Isaac’s father says about God ‘providing a lamb’. He reads about God’s law and how binding it is. He is a bit overwhelmed by it. He thinks, ‘Who can keep these laws’? He reads through Deuteronomy and is amazed at the complexity; it has prophecy, history and wisdom. He reads through Leviticus and can see God’s plan in the commanded sacrificial system and how a messiah is anticipated to fulfill these requirements.
He reads in numbers: “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth . And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.” He reads in Isaiah: “Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low. And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. For in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under Him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.”
He continues to read Isaiah: “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;He sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in.
Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.
Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
For He has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” . . .
O Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us, Thou hast wrought for us all our works.
O Lord our God, other lords besides Thee have ruled over us, but Thy name alone we acknowledge.
They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end Thou hast visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.”
And then in Jeremiah: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord. . . .Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. . . .Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the Lord; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.”
He reads more into the book of Isaiah and comes to this passage that stops him dead in his tracks: “13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Then in Isaiah ch 6: “6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
He can see that God promises a messiah. In Isaiah 11 he reads: “Is. 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”
He continues to read deep into the night again:
In Isaiah 61: “Is. 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
In the early morning hours, the man stops reading. He sits back and ponders the greatness of this messiah; he is amazed at the complexity of God’s character and why He would go to these extremes to keep a people unto himself; especially those who have at every front failed Him. The people were generally faithless, but God was not! It is because of who God is and not who men are that God keeps His promises. It is because of who God is that he send this savior. He believes this deep down in his being. This book has changed him! He understands Gods law and mercy. He understands how sin has separated men from God and that this messiah was central in their reconciliation. He feels different in that he is no longer worried about being rescued. He knows that God is with him and all will eventually be well with him as he has this ‘messiah’. He remembers earlier reading about prayer; he finds that his thoughts and ponderings are now directed heavenward. Instead of just aimlessly pondering, he is now asking questions of God, thanking God for this plan of redemption.
At that moment, he sees in the distance, a faint image off the horizon. He keeps his eye on it. Hours pass. The image is closer now and he can see it is a boat. He waves his shirt and the crew sees him on the shoreline. He is rescued. He cannot believe that the ship came. He thanks God for the mercy He has shown him. He is lifted into the boat clutching only the tattered bible that he once found. The captain asks him, “What happened to you-how is it that you are here on this island-tell us your story of grief and suffering?”
He recalls a song his mother had taught him:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved, a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”
He recalls the words of Joseph:
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day,”
The sailors look upon him in astonishment. He rests on a bag of potatoes, looking heavenward. They don’t quite know what to make of this man and think to themselves, “He is a bit mad from the turmoil of the isolation”, but if only they understood what God had done in this man’s life-a miracle had occurred.
We can see from this short story and from the scriptures presented that the gospel message was in the writings of the Old testament. The gospel is not a New Testament phenomenon. God works out salvation in one way. It is one redemptive plan for the elect. God is not fickle. He is perfect and all His plans are successful.
I pray this paper blesses you.