Here is a bible study that I have written on the topic of salvation. It was written as a study for Parents and Children. The Italics are meant for the adults only. The goal of this is family discipleship. The Parents get more information, so that throughout the week they can teach there children the missing information.
Old Testament vs. New Testament Salvation: Is it the same?
This is critical topic for us to understand not only the method God has used to save men, but also to understand how we are saved. When studying this topic I found that the Christian Church as divided, on one point, mainly the Old Testament. The debate is whether or not works of the law saved a person in the pre-Christ era. There are some clear points to be understood, and that is where we will begin, where we all agree, salvation in modern times.
For the past two thousand years people have been attacking the simplest way for man to be saved, by God. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Christ Jesus; we are covered by his blood and are then given His righteousness, because we are wholly unrighteous in the sight of God. That is a strong statement that needs to be proved biblically, like everything that will be done in this class, we will use the bible for what it is, the Word of God meant for teaching, rebuking, and instruction in righteousness.
What does the Word of God say about salvation? Paul has a lot to say on the topic, let’s begin in the book of Ephesians. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9). This is as clear of a statement as you can get. We are indeed saved by grace by faith. This however raises some questions, who do we have to have faith in? What kind of faith must we have? The first question is answered by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the church in Rome. (Rom 10:10-17) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. We can clearly see who the object of our faith is, the Lord Christ Jesus, but what kind of faith do must we have? Jesus says in Luke 14:26-33 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. This is a faith that is willing to totally abandon everything else, for Christ. Do you have a faith like that? Are you modeling this kind of faith to your children, that even when the cost is high you choose Christ.
We can see faith clearly, what it requires of us, that is, our everything. But what does that faith do? I think by the grace of God that our faith has results. God acts based on the faith we have to save us. Acts 10:43 says - To Him (Christ) all the prophets testify that everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins through his name. It is by the name of Christ that our sins are forgiven, but how? Hebrews 9:22 says that […] without the shedding of the blood there is no forgiveness. But who’s blood? In the Old Testament it was the blood of animals, however Hebrews 10:4 states, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. This is why Christ Had to come to pay for sin, only a man can atone for mankind’s sins. We see that Christ came to pay for sin all over both the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, just as people are appointed to die once and after that to be judged, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. And he will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly wait for him, Hebrews 9:27-28. For you know that it was not with perishable things like silver or gold that you have been ransomed from the worthless way of life handed down to you by your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or defect, 1Peter 1:18-19. It was the blood of God that was shed for you, for your retched sins and for mine. His blood was shed on the hill, for the forgiveness of our sins. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6.
So then what is the debate about the Old Testament? Some say that it was a works based salvation, and some say it was by faith. What do you think? When originally writing this, I had planned on presenting both sides; however one side has such overwhelming support in scripture that I cannot in good conscience even mention the other view, other than to point out its flaws. I will start with the greatest patriarch in the Old Testament, Abraham. In this passage, God is giving Abram the promise to make him a great nation. 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." 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." And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:4-6. Now we see that there are two types of righteousness spoken about in the Bible, God’s and mans. We see that our righteousness is worthless before God (Isaiah 64:6), and that Heavenly righteousness is equated with being pure before God. Paul says this to the church at Philippi; Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 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-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11. What righteousness are you relying on for your salvation? What righteousness are you teaching your children to rely on? God credited Abraham’s belief as righteousness. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, Romans 4:2-5. We can clearly see the teaching in scripture that it is by faith in God we are saved.
Can anyone think of any other example of someone who did a lot of good works, yet was condemned? There are two in the gospels that make it clear that works are not the way to get saved. Look at what Christ spoke to the religious leaders of the day. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Matthew 23:25-33. They followed the law and then some. But in their hearts was wickedness. They made themselves righteous before men, but the wickedness was still alive in their hearts. They kept the law to the very letter, but Christ the Lord condemned them to Hell? How could this be if we are saved by our works of the Law of Moses? For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20. But how can this be, they worked far more than we ever have or can. Their life, job, was being the legal dealings of the Law. They had the entire Old Testament memorized. They led many followers? How can your righteous works exceed this?
Let’s quickly look at one more example of a person who kept the law, yet was unsaved. Listen to the story of the rich young ruler. Just then a man came up to Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good deed should I do to have eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you want to get into that life, you must keep the commandments." The young man said to him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "'You must not murder, you must not commit adultery, you must not steal, you must not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'you must love your neighbor as yourself.'" The young man said to him, "I have kept all of these. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me." But when the young man heard this statement he went away sad, because he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God." (Mat 19:16-24) This man kept all the commands, but was unsaved. Why is that, if righteousness come through the Law? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. The man asked the wrong question, he believed he was good enough to earn salvation. What does the Prophet Isaiah say about our righteousness? But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6). Let me make it completely clear to you that if you are trying to come to God with anything except for the shed blood of Christ Jesus you will parish and be in hell for all time.
The issue still remains that there was a major difference between how people were saved in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament. This is that one could not be born again in the Old Testament, like we can be in the New Testament era. What does this mean for those who died under the old covenant? Christ tells us what happened to them and Peter tells us how they got to heaven. I will be open and say that there are some good theologians who reject what I am about to teach, so please examine it for yourself.
When we look at Luke 16:19ff, we see that there were two places that someone who died under the old covenant could go, Hell and Abraham’s bosom. Often times people mistake this passage as a parable, however, the use of a name disqualifies It from being such. Why were these people here? I think the answer lies in the book of Hebrews, it says in chapter 10 verse 4 that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. They had no atonement for their sin. They had to wait for the Messiah, in which their faith was in, to come and pay for their transgressions. Peter then tells us what happened, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22. Paul expounds on the goings on of this time, Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. Ephesians 4:8-10. To make this a little more clear, I will briefly explain the Jewish idea of the afterlife. They believed that there were three places one could go after you died , Hell, Sheol, Heaven. Sheol and Hell were under the earth, heaven was above the sky and stars. They believed that most people went to Sheol, a holding place where they could pay for their sins before they entered heaven. So Paul is equating this false belief to the proper belief of Abraham’s bosom.
We can now clearly see that God’s method for saving people has been the same, yesterday, today and forever, it is by the blood of Christ. There are honestly only two religions in the world, do you have any idea what they are? Cain and Able (Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (Gen 4:1-5)). Cain was a farmer who brought his best to God, it was the best he had, and God rejected it. Able was a shepherd, who brought a pure lamb, and slit it’s throat, and came to God by blood. We today have the same choices. We can come to God by doing our best, or we can come by the blood. Only one will be accepted, but the choice is yours.