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Salvation: One Way for Us and ANOTHER Way for O.T. Israel?

       Let’s start by asking the question: Is God fair?   Does God have a double standard?   Does God have one way of salvation for one group of people, and a different---infinitely more difficult---way of salvation for others? 

       It is a very widespread belief among church-goers that God has one way of salvation for Christians, and a very different way of salvation for Jews---or, at least, for the Jews of Old Testament times.  The thought is, that ever since the time of Christ, all that anyone has to do to gain salvation is to profess belief in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.  For the Jews of Old Testament times, however, they supposedly could gain salvation only by law-keeping and animal sacrifice.

       So, again, does God have two ways to salvation?   One way for those of Old Testament times, and another way for us today?   To answer this question, let’s consider three points.

 

(1)  God is Not a Respecter of Persons

       The Bible states that “God is NO respecter of persons” (Acts 10: 34, KJV).   The New King James  renders it like this:  “God shows no partiality.”   Yet, if it were true what many people believe on this subject, then God would be a tremendous respecter of persons!....that for a period of about 1,500 years mankind had to obey supposedly harsh laws in order to gain salvation; whereas ever since then, all that one has to do to gain salvation is to accept Christ.   What an unfair God that would be---a God who shows great partiality between people!   In one group, a lack of obedience leads to loss of salvation; whereas those in the other group are saved by grace, with nothing required of them, other than to profess Christ.

       The 6th chapter of Ephesians also speaks of God’s impartiality:  “there is no partiality with Him” (verse 9).   Also, in the third chapter of Malachi, we read this:  “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (verse 6).   Yet, what a change that would be---if God dealt so dramatically different with these two groups of people! 

 

(2)  Old Testament Israel Wasn’t OFFERED Salvation!

       Israel was God’s “chosen nation.”   This was so, not because God was playing favorites, but because He had a job for them to do!

       One reason God raised up the nation Israel was so that they would live His way of life---according to His laws---and thereby serve as an example or “light” to the other nations (Deut. 4:5-8).   So, God entered into an agreement (covenant) with this nation which He was raising up.  The agreement was that if the people would obey His law, God would grant them---NOT salvation---but material and national blessings (Deut. 28: 1-14; Ex. 19:5-6).

       The people agreed to these terms, but then overall utterly failed to obey.  They did not uphold their part of the agreement or covenant.

       Yet, God knew beforehand that such would be the case!   And this fulfilled another of God’s great purposes in raising up the nation Israel:  to demonstrate that mankind needs the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.  God never offered the Holy Spirit to those of Old Testament times---only to the prophets and patriarchs.  Without God’s Spirit in them, the Israelites could not truly live God’s way.  They could not live by the spirit and intent of God’s law; and oftentimes they did a very poor job of obeying even the letter of the law.

       So, not having God’s Spirit, they proved what we read in Rom. 8:7---“the carnal [natural] mind is enmity [hostile] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

       Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong said:  “God gave PROOF, through Israel, that WITHOUT the Holy Spirit, MAN IS HELPLESS!  They even had God to appeal to.   But they did not have His Spirit within them….One of the purposes of this nation was to prove by human experience that man without the Spirit of God within him cannot be righteous”  (Mystery of the Ages, 1985, p. 175).

       So, this was the lesson of the Old Covenant.   And just as under the Old Covenant, those who enter the New Covenant also (at baptism) enter an agreement with God to strive to live by His spiritual law, summarized by the Ten Commandments.

       Yet, notice this important difference in the two Covenants.   The New Covenant is based on “better promises” (Heb. 8:6).   Instead of the Old Covenant promise of national blessing and greatness, those who fulfill their calling under the New Covenant have two “better” promises:  (1) the promise of a resurrection to eternal life, and (2) the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is the essential ingredient OF the New Covenant.

       Yes, the Holy Spirit is the “essential ingredient.”   Having God’s Spirit within you, enables you to fulfill your part of the Covenant agreement:  to obey God’s spiritual law---to obey not only the letter of the law, but also its spirit and intent.

       What was the fault of the Old Covenant?   The “fault” of the Old Covenant was NOT with the law, but with the people!   Notice verse 8:  “Because finding fault with them [with the Israelites], He says:  ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when 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…For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts…” 

       Yes, both the Old and New Covenants are based on the keeping of God’s spiritual law!   The New Covenant, rather than doing away with the law, actually validates God’s spiritual law!   How?   By putting God’s laws right into the minds and hearts of those who enter into that Covenant.

       What’s more, the exceedingly wonderful news is that this New Covenant is not only for Israelites  alone, but also for Gentiles!  [see sub-heading “New Covenant For GENTILES?”]

       Let’s now look at one other passage in this regard.  “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, IF indeed the Spirit of God dwells IN you” (Rom. 8: 8-9).    This passage plainly shows that it is only by having the Spirit of God IN us, that we can please God ---that we can live a life of obedience to His spiritual law.  Because without God’s Spirit in us, we are in the category of people spoken of in verse 7:  we are “not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be”!

       Again, the Holy Spirit is the essential ingredient of the New Covenant.   And that brings us to the third and final point.

 

(3)  The One and ONLY Way to Salvation

       We can begin to see this “one and only way to salvation” by reading Rom. 8:11---“But IF the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [How?] through His Spirit who [which] dwells in you.”   So we see that having God’s Spirit dwelling in you, is the one and only means to salvation---the only means to life after death.

       So, the big question is, how can a person come to have God’s Spirit dwelling within him?   Peter sums up the answer for us:  Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

       At baptism, we actually enter a covenant (or agreement) with God.   God agrees to give us His Holy Spirit on the condition that (1) we accept Christ as our Savior, and (2) we repent of---turn from---our past way of life.  We make an unconditional surrender to God---that we will henceforth strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit---to live in accordance with God’s spiritual law.

       As we're told in Acts 5:32, God gives His Spirit only “to those who obey Him”---only to those who have repented---only to those who are striving to live God’s way.   True Christians ---also called “saints”---are described as “those who keep the commandments of God” (Rev. 14:12; 12:17).

       So, upon entering that agreement with God at baptism, the individual (upon having hands laid upon him) then receives God’s Spirit.   It is the death of the old self and the start of a whole new life! (Rom. 6: 3-6, 12-13). 

       Yes, at baptism the person begins a new life of being “a living sacrifice” unto God (Rom. 12:1).   He enters a lifelong process of having God’s laws written in his mind and placed in his heart (Heb. 10:16).

 

In Conclusion

       As for the idea that those of Old Testament times had to earn salvation by law-keeping, and that we today are saved by merely professing Christ---both these ideas are wrong!   The truth is that God has only one way to salvation!

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

1.  For a further discussion of this subject, see the two articles entitled  Progressive Revelation and  Dispensationalism and Is 'BELIEF' All That’s Necessary for Salvation?

2.  The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were given temporarily to a carnal people as a reminder of sin.

3.  Is God a “respecter of persons” for offering salvation to those under the New Covenant but not to those under the Old Covenant?  No, because all who have ever lived will eventually be given a chance for salvation.  (See the booklet  Is This the Only Day of Salvation? by Roderick Meredith, pastor of the Living Church of God.)

4.   All true Christians are Israelites---i.e., spiritual Israelites---Israelites by grace, not necessarily Israelites by race. [see subheading “New Covenant for GENTILES?”]