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Salvation: How is faith the common thread?

Gary Googe Nov 29

There’s a sense in which the means to salvation has always been the same.  Essentially, it has always been by faith in the Lord and what He said at the time.  A good illustration of this would be Abraham.  In his writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul makes a statement about this.

Romans 4:2-3

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [Emphasis added]

Works of personal righteousness have never been the basis for man’s salvation.

Romans 4:4-6

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, [Emphasis added]

Passages leading up to this in Romans tell us essentially the same thing.

Romans 3:19-20

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [Emphasis added]

The salvation provided in justification is a gift of God received by grace through the redemptive work of the Redeemer—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:24

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]

However, though God’s provision of salvation has always been gracious in character and has always been received by man through faith, the manner in which that faith has been manifested has changed during the course of history.

There could be no appeal to believe in a crucified and risen Christ unless such information had been clearly given.  It is evident that for several thousand years of human history, before the advent of Christ, faith must have been expressed in a different message from that which we have in the present dispensation.  Even though Old Testament Scriptures contain shadows and types of Christ’s redemptive work, there is nothing in Scripture there to indicate that the people of pre-cross times placed their faith in a coming Redeemer who would die for their sins.  There is no evidence in Scripture at all for this.  There is no doubt that many Jewish people believed that God would one day send a Messiah who would deliver them from their enemies and establish for them a kingdom of peace and prosperity [Isaiah 2:4; 35:10].  However, there’s no reason given in Scripture  to believe that anyone in Old Testament times understood the prophecies concerning a suffering Savior, as in Isaiah 53.  We can now relate this passage to the historical reality of the cross of Christ.  But this is something they were unable to do.  It is also evident that the Twelve Apostles had no knowledge of our Lord’s coming death and resurrection, even after being under His teaching for approximately three years.  The whole idea of such a thing was totally contrary to anything they had ever heard or believed.

Luke 9:44-45

44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.

45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. [Emphasis added]

Luke 18:31-34

31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. [Emphasis added]

You may recall that even when our Lord first mentioned going to Jerusalem and suffering such things He was rebuked by Peter.  Our Lord’s reaction to this rebuke was very strong.  He even equated Peter’s remarks to those of Satan.

Matthew 16:21-22

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. [Emphasis added]

Not until after the resurrection did believers see that our Lord’s suffering on the cross had been prophesied.  Only when our Lord “opened their understanding” did they put it all together.

Luke 24:44-46

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [Emphasis added]

It has sometimes been assumed that somehow believers in Old Testament times knew that God would send a Savior who would die for their sins.  Some have concluded that by their faith in this, these people were saved.  However, there is not even a thread of Biblical evidence for such a belief.  This idea has been fabricated totally by assumption, not based on evidence from Scripture.  It has also been erroneously assumed by some that because faith required Old Testament believers to do certain things, such as offer animal sacrifices, they were saved by works.  The reality is that the works prescribed as expressions of faith in Old Testament times did not save anyone.  It has always been faith in the person of God and what He has said that has been the basis for salvation.

Romans 4:3

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [Emphasis added]

As in the case of Cain and Abel, it was Abel’s obedience that attested to his faith.

Hebrews 11:4a

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, [Emphasis added]

The offering didn’t actually save Abel.  It just bore testimony to the fact that he was a man of faith.  He had believed the promise of God.  It was Abel’s faith that caused him to offer the animal sacrifice just as he had been told to do.

Genesis 4:4-5a

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. [Emphasis added]

Faith caused believers in the apostle Peter’s day to submit to water baptism for the remission of sins [Acts 2:38-41].  It was always faith in God and His Word which brought people of past dispensations into a saving relationship with HimHowever, had these individuals refused to do the prescribed work of faith, it would mean only unbelief and the absence of faith, as in the case of Cain [Genesis 4:5a].  Just as Cain was rejected for salvation, so it was for those who refused to be baptized.

Luke 7:30

30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. [Emphasis added]

In former times, saving faith and the works of that faith were closely associated.  But this is not true in the present dispensation.  The apostle Paul shows the distinction between the attainment of righteousness in this present dispensation as compared to the attainment of righteousness in former ones.

Romans 3:21-22

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [Emphasis added]

The “but now” at the beginning of verse twenty-one indicates a dispensational change.  Today God does not tell us to believe and to do some particular thing or things as an overt expression of our faith.  In this present dispensation, faith’s object is the finished work of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection.  Anything we try to add to that faith becomes a sign of unbelief rather than belief.  The Pauline Epistles have made it clear that in our dispensation God has given no demand for any ritual as a sign of faith, and this includes water baptism.  Today the faith of the one believing says he accepts the fact that Christ has done all the work necessary for his salvation.  However, bear in mind that we are speaking of the work which provides justification for salvation, and not works unto which the believer has been saved.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. [Emphasis added]

A believer’s life should abound in good works, but this is the result of salvation and spiritual growth and has nothing whatsoever to do with entrance into salvation.

As you probably know, the content of this article concerning the importance of faith alone in salvation is not known or understood by most people.  I hope you’ll take the time to pass this on to them.

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