Old Testament Salvation

Monday, June 26
Galatians 1-3

It seems so easy to understand. I sin so I deserve to die. Jesus died in my place so if I put my faith in God and Jesus and am baptized, then I am saved. Pretty simple. But what about the people that lived before Jesus was crucified? How could they be saved since Jesus did not die for their sins before they died themselves? Many people believe those Old Testament folks were saved by sacrificing animals for their sins since these instructions were included in the Old Testament Law that Moses gave to them. That seems logical, but there were many people that lived before the law was instituted, including Abraham and Noah. The Law could not save them because it did not exist yet. Galatians 3:17 says the Law came 430 years after the promises were made to Abraham. That brings me to my last question for now: If there was a way to be saved before Christ died and before the Old Testament law sacrifices were put in place, why would Jesus have needed to die? Why couldn’t we be saved in the same way Noah and Abraham were saved?
Hebrews 11 makes it clear that there were indeed people that were alive before the Law was put in place that are saved. Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham were all mentioned as men who had faith. Hebrews 11:16 states that God is not ashamed to be called their God and that He has prepared a city for them. They were saved by their faith, not from sacrificing animals. Moreover, Hebrews 10:4 says it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That makes it pretty clear that sacrificing animals was not the way to be saved, even for those following the Old Testament Law. So how were they saved since they were not baptized?
Acts 4:12 says, referring to Jesus, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Galatians 2:16 explains that we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus, not by the works of the Law. It also mentions that no flesh is justified by the works of the Law, which again throws out the animal sacrifices as a way to salvation. Therefore, we are saved by our faith, the same way that people in the Old Testament were saved.
But you may be thinking, how could the Old Testament people put their faith in Jesus when Jesus did not even exist yet? Jesus was not alive back then, but he was talked about a lot. The first reference to Jesus was all the way back in Genesis 3:15, but the coming Messiah was mentioned all throughout the Old Testament. I believe that their faith in God and the faith that He had a plan in place to make them righteous (the Messiah) was indeed having faith in Jesus, even though they didn’t know Jesus by name. I believe that Jesus death on the cross paid for their sins even though they died before that happened.
So why did all of the animals need to die if it didn’t save anyone? Galatians 3:24 said the Law was their tutor that would lead them to Christ so they could be justified by faith. It was a set of rules, if followed, that would lead them to Christ so they could be saved by their faith. Noah showed his faith by building an ark. Abraham showed his faith by packing up everything and moving to a new land. People alive when the Law was instituted showed their faith by following the law. We now show our faith by being baptized. All of mankind from the beginning of time was saved the same way, by faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:29 states, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” That verse seems to tie it all together. Abraham’s offspring belong to Christ and will receive the very same promise that was given to Abraham.

Rick McClain

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