First off, thank you to all who participated and even those who looked on during our last post. You may continue to add to the 130+ comments, 65+ pages of data, and over 26,000 words here if you wish, and I will comment back. Perhaps we will revisit this theme again.
These are my observations and conclusions – some language taken directly from the comments.
There is a difference between the OT and the NT economy, in terms of salvation and in terms of covenants and other matters, such as promises given to national Israel.
When we ask, “how were OT people saved?” we are not simply asking about justification by faith. What we are attempting to ascertain is this, “what did the OT people who were saved believe?” Or, “what constituted saving faith in the OT?” Was there a set of propositions that needed to be held to (understood, believed, and trusted in exclusively) for a saving faith? It is these matters we have been taking up here. What was the gospel in the OT? What constitutes salvation in the OT?
Israel was a called out nation, and as a whole was under the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There were people who were called into that covenant from the outside (like Rahab) and those who were “in” but weren’t really in (like Balaam, or Korah).
This whole process further strengthens my understanding of the necessity of the doctrines of grace. There are none that seek after God, not one, and so whatever had to be in order for the benefits of Christ’s atonement to be delivered to OT saints, one thing is clear; it was all of God.
1. It is Christ who saves
The Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ in history were necessary events for the salvation of any and all persons. The placement of individuals on either "side" of the Incarnation is irrelevant to the fact that salvation is through Christ.
2. Faith is the "instrument"
The OT, NT, and any persons who are saved are saved by grace through faith; justification by faith was and is the way it is accomplished at all times in history.
3. People in the OT had to heed the revelation that they already had
. It is clear that one could be saved in the OT without explicit knowledge of the historical person and work of Jesus. This is not the case with persons born after the Ascension of Christ.
Faith is not bare mental assent, in either OT or NT periods. An understanding and fidelity to the revealed will of God for salvation purposes was essential. We are certain that the content of “faith” was not the same for both periods. The body of knowledge that had to be understood had changed as revelation progressed throughout the Biblical era, but after Christ it is static. Just as some never heard of the Jewish faith or Yahweh, and were not part of the covenant people of God, so too today some never hear of Christ, and yes, that means they are not saved.
People of today have the complete revelation of God in Jesus, and therefore He is whom they must respond to. The serpent story in John 3:14 before John 3:16 tells us by way of illustration that following God’s will is a key. We are saved through the process of doing God’s will, but only those so called are able to do so in a saving way. That will is to believe on Christ in the NT.
God makes provision for those in His covenant. Whatever the precise, if any
, data set that was needed in either OT or NT period, this knowledge is and was given by God. God brings the believer to salvation and He keeps them as well.
Regarding this statement: Faithfulness to God is the substance of saving faith, not one's access to information.
In NT times, I for one do not believe that faithfulness to God is possible without the knowledge of Christ. It may be good civilly, but it is not done with an eye toward God’s Son, the Savior, and so it is not salvific knowledge of God or faith in God.
Regarding this statement: At the end of the day, I do not believe God judges on the basis of information, but rather on the basis of whether or not a person was faithful to the will of God to which they had access.
There is no one who does so without the grace of God, and even when faithful to His will in a limited sense, it is not that which saves us, for it is not enough. Otherwise it would be a “tipping of the scales”; at what point is it enough to merit salvation? No man is perfect and so no man can meet God’s unchanging standard of a perfect righteousness required for entering the kingdom – it must be all of grace in both OT and NT.
As for backsliding, just as in NT times, those that were brought to salvation by God, these would persevere and would never truly nor finally fall away. They may fall far, but would not fall completely. Those that would apostatize would have done so in accordance with the fact that they were not predestined to salvation in the first place.
So what of an OT Soteriology?
What of an Ordo Salutis?
They had to know there was a singular, Almighty God.
They knew they had a sin nature, and needed to be reconciled to God.
They knew they needed grace in order to be forgiven.
They knew they had to have a redeemer.
The knowledge of God in creation and the response to it does not save them (also true of people in NT times).
Christ saved the OT saints – we will use the name of Jesus as an acrostic to point this out. It is basic and doesn’t include everything I have written on the subject, but here is a brief outline. Perhaps you could see this as my version of TULIP…
Judgment on all flesh – Everyone stands condemned as a result of sin. None truly seek after God and all are damned without Him. Those that God saves understand that they are sinners in need of grace. The OT people who were saved knew this.
Elect unto eternal life – God calls those who are saved to Him. Men don't naturally follow God, apart from God's work in their lives beforehand. Since no one truly seeks after God unless God gives him or her the will to do so, God must elect those who are going to be saved, and give him or her the will to seek Him, and when they hear of Him, whatever the level of revelation needed to save at the time, they by faith receive Him. Today, anyone who will be faithful to the person of Jesus will have a chance to hear, and anyone who doesn't hear would not have been faithful even if they had. The OT people knew this; that God chooses some and not others based on nothing in us, but on His own will.
Satisfactory atonement – the work of Christ in history is sufficient to save all those in history that will be saved. Christ on the Cross – it is the way of salvation to persons in all times. The OT people knew that God would provide a sacrifice for their sins. Did the OT believers understand Hebrews 10:4 " For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins?” Yes. Some people believed themselves to be justified because they went through the motions of sacrifice, but these were not the saved people.
Unmerited favor – grace is needed to save anyone, no man can save himself, and none deserve it. God gave grace in the OT as well as the NT – Noah found grace, etc.
Saved unto good works – faith alone is not alone, we are saved and will experience differing degrees of sanctification, but God will ensure that we who are the called will finally persevere.
This is not exhaustive of the topic, but all this may indeed exhaust many…
May God richly bless you all, beloved…