How were people saved in the Old Testament?
LAWSON: There is only one way of salvation. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There is not one way to be saved in the Old Testament and a different way to be saved in the New Testament. That would be two different gospels. There wasn’t one way for the Jew to be saved, and now a different way for the gentile to be saved. That would be two roads to heaven. There’s only one road to heaven. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
In the Old Testament, they were saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, looking ahead to the coming of Christ. Jesus said in John 8:56, “Abraham saw My day, and he was glad.” We are saved by looking back to the first coming of Christ, who died on the cross bearing our sins. In the Old Testament, they simply looked ahead to the coming of Christ. We all meet at the foot of the cross. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that anyone is saved. We must be crystal clear about this.
I have an Old Testament text, Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” When Paul makes his case for justification by faith in the book of Romans, he doesn’t cite the example of how Matthew was converted, or how John Mark was converted, or Luke, or John; he goes back to the Old Testament. In Romans 3 and 4, specifically chapter 4, he uses the examples of Abraham and David to teach in the New Testament how someone is justified by faith. And in Romans 1:17, he says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for it is written, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith,’” quoting Habakkuk 2:4.
Paul makes his case in the New Testament by quoting the Old Testament, referring to the very same gospel. Even the Bible itself teaches there’s only one way of salvation. If I could give you one more verse, Nathan—you said that I’ve got all the time I want.
BINGHAM: We’ve got a three-column Scripture index ready to go.
LAWSON: Romans 1:1–2: “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, set apart for the gospel of God, which was recorded in Old Testament Scripture by the prophets long ago.” The book of Romans says that the gospel was recorded in the Old Testament, and they believed it and were saved, just like we believe it and are saved.
“There is salvation in no other name, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Then 1 Timothy 2:5–6: “For there is one God.” How many gods are there?
BINGHAM: One God.
LAWSON: Very good. “One God and one mediator between God and men.” How many mediators?
BINGHAM: One mediator.
LAWSON: “The man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.” There are as many mediators as there are gods. There’s only one God, and there’s only one mediator to this God, and that is the man, Christ Jesus. That is an immutable truth that is as equally true in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament.
There’s the old saying, “If it’s new, it’s not true.” So, if you ever hear some new way of salvation, you can just mark it off as heretical.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Steven Lawson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.