Old Testament Law and Old Testament Gospel
Introduction – Why This Lesson:
In Joshua 1, God says repeatedly that Joshua’s success is dependent on his obedience.
- If Joshua obeyed, spoke, and meditated on the law, he would succeed in securing the promise land.
- These verses make it appear that Joshua’s relationship with God was based on Joshua’s works.
- And of course, so does much of the Pentateuch.
Some Scriptural examples:
- Deuteronomy 10:12–13 (ESV) — 12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
- Deuteronomy 30:8–10 (ESV) — 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
But we can’t help but wonder where the Gospel of grace is in this relationship.
- In Joshua 1:9 the text tells us – “…for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
- What is God’s presence supposed to mean in the context of all this law?
- Skeptically, God’s presence could be construed as bad news for Joshua.
But on the other hand, God’s presence could just as likely point us to the Gospel of grace in the OT.
- But why might we see an OT Gospel of grace in God’s presence?
- What is the OT Gospel anyway?
- And how do we square the Law with this OT Gospel?
Not knowing the basics on these issues gives way to some serious misconceptions about the OT.
- Michael Horton puts the misconceptions like this:
“Many of us were raised not knowing what to do with that first half of our Bible. The idea was, Israel in the Old Testament was under the law and Christians in the New Testament are under grace. This means that the Old Testament equals works-righteousness and the New Testament equals the gospel of grace” – Michael Horton.
- This view couldn’t be more wrong.
And these misconceptions are understandable.
- The OT seems to suggest that God’s law can be kept.
- “The general assumption of the OT is that the law can be kept, although occasionally another note is struck (see 24:19, Ps. 143:2)” – Marten Woudstra.
Leading to Bad Teaching:
But what’s worse is that our misconceptions lead to terrible teaching.
- The idea of “works-righteousness” begins to crowd out the “gospel of grace”.
- It is simply easier to understand and to teach law rather than grace.
- And doing so mistakenly puts humanity in a position where they think they can mediate their relationship to God through their behavior.
- Do works = Be righteous
- Religion formula 101
Sally Lloyd-Jones frames this problem in context of teaching our children:
“When we drill a [OT] Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done. Children don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do it better. That just leaves them in despair. The moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it” – Sally Lloyd-Jones.
- This results in the development of an overly pious, moralistic, and legalistic relationship with God and His word.
- Not the more desired and accurate Guilt-Grace-Gratitude progression.
Michael Horton is even more adamant about this flaw in teaching.
“David really lived in history. And the usefulness of that life, measured by the fact that the Bible records great segments of it, is not determined by how many instructive lessons we can learn from character studies, for there were greater men and women of character, no doubt, who never made it into the Bible. David’s inclusion into the canon of Holy Scripture is defined by the place he had in redemptive history—not only as a precursor of Christ, the Son of David, but as someone to whom the gospel promise came, in spite of all his failures and unfaithfulness” – Michael Horton.
So to answer the questions we have raised and put aside our OT misconceptions, we need to dive a little deeper into a number of issues.
- We need to know what the OT Law is.
- We need to know what the OT Gospel is.
- And we need to know how they relate to each other.
We need to be aware of some obvious basics as we go forward.
- Yes, God commands, demands and expects obedience, as we saw with Joshua.
- And yes, obedience led to blessings – disobedience led to curses
- But…obedience to God’s law did not save Joshua, Moses, or anyone else.
- Salvation was not a blessing arising out of an act of obedience to the Law
- Galatians 3:21b (ESV) — 21b For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
- “Since we are unable to achieve righteousness by adhering strictly to the law, the role of the law is not to justify…” – Millard Erickson.
- Yes, salvation via an OT Gospel of Grace is present in the OT.
- A Gospel involving Faith–Grace–Done work of God–etc.
1) THE LAW OF THE OT
What is the OT Law of God?
- Before we can get into the role, use and purpose of the law and deal with our misconceptions, we need to get an idea of what the OT law is.
Three Kinds of Law:
Typically, the OT law is seen in three categories.
- Ceremonial Law
- Civil Law
- Moral Law
These laws governed Israel’s religious life.
- “There are the special feasts and fasts, together with the elaborate sacrificial system and temple worship” – Michael Horton.
- These laws were given as part of the Mosaic covenant on Sinai – a renewal of God’s covenant with Abraham – Calvin and Sailhamer.
- Sinai is often called a different “administration” of the covenant of grace.
Importantly, these laws are no longer in effect post-Jesus:
“As we can see, especially from the book of Hebrews, all of these types and shadows are fulfilled in Christ. They all pointed to Him. He was the temple, so why go on with temple worship? He was the sacrifice, so how could we offend God by thinking there was still a need for a better or fuller sacrifice for sins? Therefore, the ceremonial laws vanish with the coming of the one they were designed to foreshadow” – Michael Horton.
Because Israel was a theocracy, civil laws were issued by Yahweh to regulate how Israel was to operate as a society and nation.
- This law included things related to the death penalty, economic statutes, etc.
- “Just as Israel’s ceremonial laws prefigured Christ as the great prophet and priest, so her civil laws prefigured Christ as the great king” – Michael Horton.
- And like the ceremonial law, “so too we ought not to seek to return to the Jewish theocracy when we have the fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom in His spiritual reign through the proclamation of the gospel” – Michael Horton.
- These laws were also given on Sinai and were part of the covenant renewal – a new administration of the covenant of grace.
A further word about the ceremonial and civil laws:
- Calvin called the ceremonial and civil laws, “supplements to aid in observing the moral law” – John Sailhamer.
- These were not originally part of God’s law but were added at Sinai.
Why were they added?
- Both Paul and Jesus give us insight into this question.
- Galatians 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
- “…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners” – 1 Timothy 1:9.
- “because of transgressions” of the “lawless and disobedient”
- “Jesus also said that the law (of divorce) was given ‘because of the hardness’ of Israel’s heart” – John Sailhamer.
- “because of your hardness of heart” – Matthew 19:8
- Both of these reasons are exemplified by Israel’s making of the golden calf at Sinai.
Why have they been abrogated?
As already alluded to, in the new covenant of grace mediated through Jesus, the old administration of the covenant of grace “passed away, [therefore] so did the law that had become a part of it (cf. Heb 7: 12: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well”) – John Sailhamer.
And “In the New Testament, we not only do not find explicit calls to obey various ceremonial or civil laws of the Old Testament, we find it expressly forbidden, as a return to shadows after the reality has come. However, the New Testament does reiterate the moral laws of the Old Testament, giving them fuller explanation and a particular New Testament application” – Michael Horton.
- So what of the “moral laws of the OT”?
- The moral law is the third type of law and is still in effect post-Jesus.
What is an important implication of this abrogation?
- In the OT, an adulterer could be stoned.
- In the OT, an old man collected fire wood on the Sabbath and was put to death.
- In the OT, God’s people were to not eat certain foods.
- In the OT, God’s people were not to wear clothes made of different materials.
- So why don’t Christians stone adulterers or refrain from eating certain foods, etc.?
Tim Keller puts the answer as follows:
“One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question— ‘Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?’ If you are asked, ‘Why do you say that?’ you could respond, ‘If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others’” – Tim Keller.
Formalized in the 10 Commandments, this law was “given to regulate personal [moral] conduct for covenant members” – John Sailhamer.
- This law has always been in existence.
- Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua all lived under the moral law of God.
- “Every person—even the most perverted or confused person—has the law written on his or her conscience” – Michael Horton.
J. Budzisewski says our knowledge of this law resides specifically in our “deep conscience”:
Now, deep conscience “is the interior witness to the foundational principles of moral law“. In it resides “the knowledge of basic goods, of formal norms, and of everyday moral rules.” It is not a feeling but an innate knowledge of morality. In fact, it was “designed as a witness to moral truth” by God. Therefore, it “cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every human being.” And knowledge of moral truth obligates us with duties to self, neighbor and God.
The apostle Paul puts it like this:
- Romans 1:19–21 & 32 (ESV) — 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
BTW – This means the 10 Commandments weren’t given because of “a lack of data” – Horton.
Both Jesus and the OT sum up the moral law in this way:
- “Individuals are to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves” – Michael Horton.
2) OT LAW AND ITS USES
Now having a basic understanding of what OT law was, we need to look at its purpose or use.
Three Uses of the Law:
What was the purpose of all this law?
- Generally, three uses of the law have been identified.
- They have gone by a variety of terms.
- Here I have tweaked these terms a bit for simplicities sake.
- Civil Use
- Condemning Use
- Conforming Use
The “first use of the law is that of a deterrent in the civil sphere” – Michael Horton.
- How were citizens of Israel to conduct themselves as citizens?
- How were they to handle the inheritance of assets, etc.?
- God’s civil law answered these questions for the people of Israel.
- And importantly, this law is “part of God’s common grace and is not a means of special grace” – John Sailhamer.
- In other words, this use of the law is relevant to the believer and unbeliever alike.
- A nation’s laws are for the good of her people, believer and non-believer alike – Romans 13:1-7.
Paul explains this use of the law as follows:
- Galatians 3:24 (ESV) — 24 So then, the law was our guardian [or tutor] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
- “The function of the law is to bring men and women under conviction of sin and of their inability to meet the demands of the law” – John Sailhamer.
- “Just when we think we are not quite as bad as the guy down the street living with so-and-so, the law puts us on trial and compares us—not to other fallen men and women, but to God. This is meant to drive us to despair so that we seek our shelter from God’s wrath…” – Michael Horton.
- This use of the law is also relevant to both believer and unbeliever alike.
- The law condemns all because, simply put, we can’t keep it.
Scripture is clear on this point – all are unrighteous.
- Psalm 143:2 (ESV) — 2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
- Jeremiah 17:9 (NTL) — 9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.
- Romans 3:23 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- John 2:24–25 (ESV) — 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
It must be said, that the law is not the problem.
- Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
- The law is “holy and righteous and good”.
The problem is that the sinful heart “employs the law for its own purposes” – Alistair Begg.
- Paul puts it like this –
- Romans 7:9 (ESV) — 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
- Romans 7:11 (ESV) — 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
The sinful heart corrupts the law in at least two ways.
- (1) It purposely disobeys it and relishes the rebellion.
- (2) It creates a religion of works and works righteousness.
But, when the condemning use of the law comes into contact with a “circumcised heart” – a heart given eyes to see and ears to hear – it has the following result.
- Psalm 32:3–5 (ESV) — 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
So, where the law solicits religion or rebellion from the sinful heart, it solicits confession and repentance from the circumcised heart.
- If grasped with a “circumcised heart”, this use of the law will lead one to “acknowledge” and “confess” and thus into the Gospel of Grace.
- Romans 7:24 (ESV) — 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
- The words of a “circumcised heart” to be sure.
This use of the law has effect only for believers.
- The law is meant to conform believers to the will and character of God.
- It answers the question, what is God’s will for my life as a believer.
“Christians cannot conform perfectly to this law, and they ought never to approach the law as though they could even come close to its moral excellence. Rather, believers ought to approach the law as the perfect standard God requires as the expression of His moral character and live, not in order to meet God’s requirements (for that is achieved only in Christ), but in order simply to obey God’s requirements. In the former approach, one sets out to earn God’s favor by attaining His own righteousness; in the latter, one sets out to obey a gracious heavenly Father simply because He has already accepted him or her as righteous and holy” – Michael Horton.
This is the relationship King David had to God’s law; he speaks of this use of the law as follows:
- Psalm 19:7–11 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
- “Revive” here means “to return”, “bring back”, or “restore”, the very thing this use of the law is to do for the believer.
Only the Gospel of Grace can bring us into this relationship with the law.
- And as David’s words make clear, this relationship did exist in the OT.
- As we have said, the Gospel of Grace was in the OT and we are headed there.
Blessings and Curses of the Law:
In the OT, and especially in Deuteronomy, much is made of the blessings of obedience and curses of disobedience to the law.
- Joshua, having replaced Moses and being tapped by God to take the promise land, would have been well aware of the blessings and curses.
- And in Joshua 1:6-9 the blessings and curses were no doubt part of the equation.
All of Israel was subject to the curses of disobedience – even those who were saved.
- The bulk of the disobedience curses are outlined in Deuteronomy 27:9ff and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
- Deuteronomy 28:15 (ESV) — 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
Likewise, all of Israel could find blessings in obedience as the covenant people of God – even those who were not saved.
- The bulk of the obedience blessings are outlined in Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
- Deuteronomy 28:1–2 (ESV) — 1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.
But – and this is a very big but – there was never a time in the OT where a blessing of obedience is salvation.
- We have already seen why this is.
- The main blessing was always nation, people and land – not salvation.
- But it must be repeated to emphasize that the OT does not contain a message of works righteousness.
- Salvation is by the Gospel of Grace – which we will get into soon.
Paul taught us this:
- Galatians 3:10–11 (ESV) — 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Summary of Law:
So it should be clear that the law of God was operating in two contexts.
- Although all of Israel was chosen by God – Deuteronomy 7:6 (ESV) — 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
- Not all of Israel was the elect – the remnant – the saved.
- And whereas the unbeliever of Israel had one relationship to God’s law.
- The believer had another relationship to God’s law.
- There were many similarities, but there were some drastic differences.
- The law could not conform an unbeliever to the will and character of God.
- And the law could not condemn a person who was righteous by faith.
- And though obedience would bring the blessings of nation, people and land, it would never result in salvation.
And this finally leads back to the questions we had earlier.
- What saved the elect of Israel?
- What was the Gospel of the OT?
- Why did the writer of Joshua want to make the connection between Joshua’s obedience and the presence of God?
Galatians 3:7–9 (ESV) — 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
3) THE GOPSPEL OF THE OT
Thus far we have seen that Joshua 1:6-9 clearly suggests that Joshua’s success depends on his relationship with the law of God.
- Because of the nature of his relationship to the law, we proceeded to learn a few things about God’s law.
- We saw three kinds of law – ceremonial, civil and moral.
Interestingly, we saw that the ceremonial and civil laws were added by God at Sinai because of what Paul calls the Israelite’s transgressions.
- “The laws are a sign of Israel’s failure. The laws in the Pentateuch are a graphic picture of Israel’s failure to obey God” – John Sailhamer.
We saw three uses of the law – civil, condemning and conforming.
- Importantly, the conforming use is in effect only for the elect.
- Only the elect/saved can be conformed to the character of God.
- Millard Erickson puts it as follows, the law was “the standard God set for those people who would adhere to” the covenant of Grace.
- It condemned those not adhering to this Covenant.
We also examined the concept of blessings from obedience and curses from disobedience of God’s law.
- All the Israelites had this blessings/curses relationship with God’s law.
- The saved and the unsaved alike.
- But, the chief blessing of obedience related only to people, nation and land.
- Never is a blessing of obedience salvation in the individual spiritual sense.
So understanding the law, we can now turn to salvation in the OT.
- We can finally answer the question how were OT people saved.
- What is the Gospel in the OT?
- And what is the importance of the presence of God that the author of Joshua wanted us to take notice of to this Gospel?
Like the concept of “life after death” and resurrection, the concept of spiritual salvation gradually shows up in the OT.
- “Although the OT begins to point [to spiritual salvation], the majority of references to salvation speak of Yahweh granting deliverance from real enemies and out of real catastrophies” – TWOT.
- So as you read through the OT, just as you won’t find much talk of either “life after death” or resurrection, you won’t find much talk of “being saved”.
- However, spiritual salvation is always under the surface because of God’s covenant of grace with Abraham.
- So, “the acts of salvation in the OT build toward the final act of salvation which will include all people under its possible blessing (Isa. 52:10)” – TWOT.
Scriptural Examples of Spiritual Salvation:
Allusions to spiritual salvation:
- Psalm 24:5 (ESV) — 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
- Psalm 51:14 (ESV) — 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
- Isaiah 46:13 (ESV) — 13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
- Isaiah 62:11 (ESV) — 11 Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”
- Ezekiel 37:23 (ESV) — 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Now we can look at the Gospel of the OT as contained in:
- (1) Covenant of Grace
- (2) Faith
- (3) God’s Presence as His Done Work, Future Promises and the object of saving Faith.
(1) Covenant of Grace:
The Covenant of Grace “is that arrangement whereby God planned to save man from the just consequences of his sin; namely, immorality, misery, death, and damnation” – Calvin Knox.
- “The covenant of grace is the progressive historical account of the administration of the Gospel in the history of redemption” – R. Scott Clark.
Adam and Eve:
“The first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 announces the covenant of grace, i.e. redemption of the elect by the Mediator” – R. Scott Clark.
- Genesis 3:15 (ESV) — 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
“God manifested his grace here in two ways. First, he would make Adam and Eve enemies of Satan and therefore friends of God. Second, through the promised Redeemer God would break the power of Satan over men. When Christ died on Calvary’s cross, Satan’s power was broken. Wherever the gospel of the crucified One is preached with the blessing of the Spirit, Satan is powerless to enslave” – Calvin Knox.
This expression of the Covenant of Grace in Jesus is immediately followed by a present reality for Adam and Eve.
- Genesis 3:21 (ESV) — 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
- God apparently killed an animal (a sacrifice) and used its skin to symbolically “cover” their sin.
In spite of man’s depravity and evil heart, God changed/modified/relented in the Adamic curse on the land (many scholars argue).
- Genesis 8:21–22 (ESV) — 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
“The Abrahamic covenant is a renewal of the…covenant/promise made to Adam (Genesis 3:15; 17). In the history of redemption, the covenant of grace was renewed in Abraham such that he is the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11; John 8:56)” – R. Scott Clark.
- Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Other OT Mentions:
Throughout Israel’s history, God revealed more and more about how he would ultimately fulfill His covenant.
- Hosea 2:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
- Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
- Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Summary of Covenant of Grace:
“In the covenant of grace God promised eternal life to those who put their trust in the promised redeemer. At different times and within distinct contexts, the covenant of grace was administered in a variety of ways. God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai was one way in which the covenant of grace was administered. The new covenant that Christ initiated by his death and resurrection is another distinct administration of the one covenant of grace. The Sinai covenant and the new covenant are thus the same covenant with different administrations” – John Sailhamer.
(2) Faith in the OT:
(1) Faith Connected to Righteousness of God
- Just as in the NT, salvation in the OT involves the righteousness of God.
- And as in the NT, in the OT this happens “through faith”.
- Genesis 15:4–6 (ESV) — 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
- Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
And looking at the OT spiritual salvation texts we just cited one sees clearly the connection made between spiritual salvation and righteousness.
- Psalm 24:5 puts it so clearly when it speaks of a “righteousness from the God of salvation”.
- This is the same idea when Ezekiel says that God “will cleanse them” from their sin – Ezekiel 37:23.
- And this is why David speaks of being delivered from “bloodguiltiness” and praising God’s “righteousness” in Psalm 24:5.
Paul puts this relationship of faith and righteousness as follows:
- Philippians 3:9 (ESV) — 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2) Faith Connected to Law Fulfillment
- Faith’s relationship to righteousness also carries with it another NT parallel.
- In the NT, believers are seen by the Father as having perfectly met the requirements of the law.
- Because of our union with Christ, we participate fully in the benefits of Christ’s perfect obedience.
- His works are seen as our works.
- This perfect obedience of Christ is the basis for the imputation of God’s righteousness to us.
Interestingly, the same is said of Abraham.
- Genesis 26:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Now, it must be noted that the law as referenced by Moses in verse 5 did not exist yet.
- So Moses has done either one of two things:
- (1) He has committed an anachronistic error.
- (2) He is teaching us something about the nature of the righteousness that is by faith.
- The answer is of course, the second.
- Moses is showing us the relationship between faith and law fulfillment.
- “Abraham could not have ‘kept the Sinai law’ in a literal sense, as it had not been given until the time of Moses (cf. Ex 15: 25b). Abraham lived a life of faith, and God counted that to him as his ‘keeping the law’ (cf. Gen 15: 6)” – John Sailhamer.
Now we can move on to the significance of the presence of God to the OT Gospel.
(3) Presence of God – Done Work, Future Promises and the Object of Saving Faith:
We saw in our handling of Joshua 1:6-9 that God’s presence provides the foundation and context for Joshua’s conquest historically of the promise land.
- We saw via the connection to Deuteronomy that the author of Joshua wants us to make God’s presence of utmost importance to Joshua’s success.
- Being strong and courageous; knowing, talking about, meditating on and obeying God’s law; and not being afraid or dismayed are all possible because of the presence of Yahweh.
So how does the presence of God relate to the Gospel of the OT?
- A question we asked in our Joshua 1:6-9 lesson.
- The answer is that the presence of God, as we are about to define it, is the object of saving faith.
- And because it is the object, not the faith, that does the saving; God as the object of faith is foundational to both the Gospel of the OT and the NT.
What is the presence of God?
- Very simply, it is the self-revelation of God in history.
- Certainly, not just this – His covenant faithfulness, holiness, eternity, etc and so much more.
- It therefore includes His word spoken into and His active involvement in history.
- In the beginning, God acted and created (in history) and made Himself known to Adam and Eve with His words, “And God said…”
- The God we love and trust is the God whom has revealed Himself to us – His revelation of Himself in history.
- Or what we can infer about Him from the things He has revealed.
A couple more examples of presence of God as Revelation:
- Exodus 20:2 (ESV) — 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
- God then goes on to present the 10 commandments.
- He created; He brought them out; He has the authority to command.
- Ezekiel 36:27 (ESV) — 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
- John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Two Aspects of Our Faith in God as He Has Revealed Himself to Us:
It is God as He has revealed Himself that is the object of our saving faith.
- And in this respect, faith is “cumulative” or “progressive”.
- As God reveals more, faith will trust the “more”.
And in the OT, as in the NT, faith in God has two aspects.
- (1) Faith in the Done Work of God in history.
- Faith is to trust that God has done what He has said He has done and then submit to the implications of this.
- (2) Faith in the Future Work of God in history – His Promises.
- Faith is to trust that God will do what He has said He will do and then submit to the implications of this.
John gets at (1), the Done Work of God in history when he says:
- John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of (2), the Future Work of God when he says:
- Hebrews 11: 1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction [evidence] of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation [the approval/attestation of God].
- Commendation means, in contrast to John 2:24, that Christ did entrust Himself to them.
- The things hoped for are the promises of God.
- Two examples:
- For Abraham an example would be the offspring
- For us an example would be resurrection
This is not blind faith – it is grounded in the Done Work of God.
- If God created everything and brought Abraham out of Ur – a “done work” of God – then Abraham has every rational reason to trust that God will do in the future what He has promised.
- This is why Abraham can have assurance of his “offspring”.
Likewise, if Joshua trusted that God brought them out of Egypt, then he also has every rational reason to trust in God’s future promises.
- Specifically, he can have every reason to trust that God will deliver the promise land.
- In the same way, given the Done Work of God through Christ’s incarnation, death, burial and resurrection, we have every reason to trust in our own resurrection.
All of these are the “assurance of things hoped for” – the Future Promises of God – grounded in the Done Work of God.
- Promise Land
So the Gospel of the OT should be taking shape now within:
- (1) Covenant of Grace
- (2) Faith and Righteousness
- (3) Presence of God – Done Work and Future Promises
- BTW – there are obviously more aspects to the Gospel of the OT.
Our response should be Faith and Trust which involves submitting to all the implications of the God’s Done Work and Future Promises.
- Our response should not be religious – works righteousness!
A Final Question:
What about the necessity of Jesus in Salvation?
- How are the faithful of the OT “connected” to Christ, whom they did not know?
The simple answer is that the OT Gospel looked forward to the Done Work of the Messiah.
- We know this to be true because the NT tells us.
- Hebrews 11:13 (ESV) — 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
- This means that OT faith in both the Done Work and Future Promises of God is ultimately faith in Christ.
Paul also addresses this concept we he talks about the forbearance of God in dealing with the sin of the OT believer.
- Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
- God’s forbearance is “a ‘truce with the sinner’, awaiting the final revelation and redemption in Christ (Acts 17:30)” – NBD.
- “In the Old Testament, God gave his people a forbearance until Christ could come and pay their sin-debt for them. In this way they could avoid the punishment for their sins, even though Christ had not yet died for them” – Greg Johnson.
- What does this say about OT sacrifice?
Final Summary of OT Gospel:
“The believing Jew, therefore, whether he understood what he was doing or not, was committing himself to the God of the promises, the God who had faithfully formed the nation of Israel and brought her out of Egypt and into the land, and the God who had revealed all along that sin could be atoned for by means of blood sacrifice…The person who committed himself in faith to that God, and all that He had revealed about His saving and keeping power, was saved” – John Feinberg.