In church doctrine we proclaim we have been given salvation from God because it is something that we are not able to attain ourselves.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.[i]
We would agree this is the foundation of our Christian faith. We can not save ourselves and therefore we need a savior. As mentioned earlier the promise of a savior was first given in the book of Genesis. And now we today can not only know God has promised to save us, we can even say the name of our savior.
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”[ii]
We today proudly proclaim that we have been given the promise of the gift of salvation from God. We have been declared righteous in His sight. It has been revealed to us that we are not justified before God by observing the law but by faith in Christ.
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.[iii]
We are very relieved that God has provided salvation not by our merits, but by Him declaring us righteous because we believe Him.
But when was this justification by faith and not by works first announced? Was it first announced in the book of Romans? Maybe we might want to say the idea was introduced in the teachings of Jesus. Again we may ask, why is the answer to this question so important? It is very important for us who put our faith in the written word of God, who put our faith in the gospel announced in the Bible. I believe if we understand who had the gospel preached to them it will change our understanding of the gospel we have received and it will impact our faith and how we live this faith out. This is very important for us who believe the gospel according to the gospel.
The New Testament speaking about the Old Testament declares there was one who was set as an example of the grace that was to be given to us believers.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[iv]
Again the scripture declares…
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.[v]
It wasn’t the disciples who followed Jesus of whom the Bible first speaks of as being justified by faith. For most of us being justified by faith is considered a New Testament only theology. In our current understanding we can not imagine anyone being justified by faith before the cross and the resurrection. After all wasn’t the Old Testament only about rules and laws and rituals on how to give a proper sacrifice?
Not only does the scripture testify God credit Abraham righteousness, because he believed God, the scripture foresaw the justification that God would provide.
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[vi]
How interesting not only it is written, the scripture foresaw the gospel. It is also written in the scripture, that the scripture itself announced in advance to Abraham how God was going to justify Gentiles by this same faith that he had.
I know for many of us it is just so shocking and eye opening for us to come to the understanding that Abraham had the gospel announced to him in advance. Scripture teaches Abraham knew God was going to use him and his descendants to bring the good news of His promise to us. The promise of being justified by faith. What God had done for Abraham he has now done for us. He has justified us by our faith in Christ.
Don’t you consider this as absolutely amazing as I do? We now know that from the time of Mount Sinai the gospel has been preached. But the word of God declares that it was announced in advanced to Abraham. It is so sad for me to think of all those years in which I thought it was first announced in the book of Matthew. If you are like me and this is something new to your understanding rejoice, for Paul’s prayer for the saints is answered in you.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,[vii]
Praise God you are getting to know better the hope announced in scripture, your hope according to scripture. The gospel according to the gospel!
How exciting to think that the scripture, the Word of God, from the beginning not only foreknew but even proclaimed the gospel of salvation, a righteousness by faith. Why is this exciting? Because we have this great testimony of whom the Word is. That’s right, of whom the Word of God is.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.[viii] The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.[ix]
Jesus, the Word, has been faithful to announce the gospel of faith since the time of Abraham. I find it an awesome thing that Jesus who was with the Father from the beginning was proclaiming His own salvation for man kind since the life of Abraham. From the time of Abraham men by faith in the Word, the spirit of Jesus, have been being justified by faith just as their father Abraham had. Not only this, men have longed to know and see the day that God would work out His salvation in mankind.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.[x]
Isn’t this exciting to you as well? The Spirit of Christ in the prophets was pointing to Christ on the cross and our future glory. Then they wrote down what the Spirit of Christ was impressing on them. Now the Spirit of Christ has become the written Word of God, the written word of Christ! Isn’t this the most exciting news! I get besides my self sometimes contemplating such things.
Not only did the spirit of Jesus declare Abraham righteous, He foretold the gospel, through a covenant made between God and Abraham which included his descendants.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.[xi]
So what was the covenant? That God would choose for himself a people to be their God. God chose Abraham and his descendants as His people. The spirit of Jesus continues…
The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”[xii]
Should we say the promise of the inheritance, the Promised Land, was the main emphasis of the covenant, all though part of it? I think that a large group of us always consider the covenant that God made with Abraham to be the promised land and we stop there in our understanding of the covenant. Or should we recognize the key to the covenant is God declaring, “I will be their God”? Certainly the foundation of the entire covenant God made with Abraham was God declaring Himself to be Abraham’s God and his descendants after him. If this were not the case then the scripture would not have spoken of a day when God would judge the land and rip it from the people as their inheritance because they forsake the covenant of, “I will be their God”.
All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them.[xiii]
They abandoned their God who called them. They didn’t abandon the land causing God to be angry. God was angry because they abandoned Him, therefore He abandoned them and sent them into exile. The people forsake the covenant of, “I will be your God”.
Let us reflect on the fact that Abraham had received a covenant from God that declared, “I will be your God and you will be My people, you and your descendants after you.” So the very first part of our gospel is that we stand in a covenant that God has pledged to us that He will be our God and we will be His people. This is the very cornerstone of our faith, our gospel and our hope in Christ. After all it was the Spirit of Christ that had declared this good news to Abraham and his descendants. So now we can only imagine how important it is we get this cornerstone correct in our theology and everyday faith.
You may ask, how is this the cornerstone of our faith in Christ? Well let us first of all be aware this is not the only place in scripture where this kind of statement is made. The reinstatement of this covenant is made many times in scripture. Speaking to Abraham’s descendants, God reaffirmed the covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.'”[xiv]
Did you notice that God not only reaffirmed His covenant that He would be their God and they His people? He also reaffirmed their inheritance in the Lord, the Promised Land. Now for us who have had the gospel preached to us as they had in the desert at Mount Sinai. For us who have the same hope and faith in the gospel that was first announced to Abraham in advance. And for us who are justified by faith as our father Abraham is, where is our reaffirmation of this covenant you ask? Excellent question!
As I said before this covenant is mentioned many times in the Word as the Spirit of Jesus moved men to write down the testimony we have today. But there is one place that this covenant is real exciting to me. Get ready for some goose bumps because this is real exciting!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.[xv]
Oh how exciting! How glorious that God at the end of His testimony and at the beginning of the new age to come, has again reaffirmed the cornerstone of our faith, the cornerstone of our hope in the gospel. Didn’t the Sprit of Jesus confirm in you His word as you read the Scripture. I just love it and take great comfort when I read how He is making all things new. This is so wonderful to me. Then Jesus said to John write down His trustworthy and true words, “It is done”. The day is coming when God finally will have worked out in man a group of people who want to be His people and they want Him to be their God. And as if I don’t already have a big smile on my face, I also get to rejoice in the fact we too have an inheritance just as God gave the Jews their inheritance, the Promised Land. Now we too have our Promised Land, our dwelling with God where there are no more tears, pain, sin or death.
I almost feel like I have to come up for air. This is almost all too wonderful, all to awesome. Ok let us all take 15 for some praise and worship for He is worthy!
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.[xvi]
Circumcision is to be a lasting sign to the people that God had called them out from among the nations and He has chosen them to be His people and He is to be their God. Circumcision is the lasting sign in their flesh that God would be their God and they were to be His people. Probably very important to make sure all males get circumcised so there is no violation of God’s covenant with them.
God takes this covenant seriously with the utmost intensity.
Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”[xvii]
If a man chose not to be circumcised he would be excluding himself from the covenant and his inheritance in the Lord, because he has forsaken the God of the covenant. This covenant which is lived in faith, as people trust in God’s word, is crediting righteousness to those who put their hope in the covenant. For those under the law, a man who is uncircumcised has no hope of having his sins forgiven and being credit righteousness because he has excluded himself from the covenant.
I believe God takes His covenant very seriously because He would have it that none would perish. He has demonstrated to us His intense ferocity at which he contends for His gospel. He wanted no man to make light of the sign in the flesh His covenant of righteousness that comes by faith. If any man were to take flippantly the sign in his flesh concerning this covenant he would be cut off. This is a warning to all who would reject righteousness that comes by faith. It is His plan, His solemn Word to us, His Son, that He would not withhold from us.
In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.[xviii]
To prove the point that God takes His covenant seriously, that He is our God and we are His people, let me ask you Bible trivia people a trivia question to demonstrate the Lord’s ferocity at which He places importance in His covenant, the gospel reveled and foretold, the spirit of His son Jesus. What great prophet did God set out to kill after this prophet went to do what the Lord had instructed him, because he broke this very covenant? That is right. God told a prophet to go do something, but while the prophet was on his way, God was going to appose him to kill him because the covenant God had made was broken in the flesh. Any guesses yet?
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)[xix]
Doesn’t this just shock you? Maybe you are more scholarly and more learned than I, but my jaw dropped to the floor when I read this. This happened to Moses on the way back to Egypt to deliver God’s people out of bondage. This happened after the burning bush! It makes me wonder if Moses remembered this day when God was going to strike the Israelites down for breaking the covenant with God. He pleaded with God not to destroy the entire Israelite nation after they had sinned at mount Sinai and broken the covenant, by being disobedient to the God who had called them.
Even more astounding is the fact his wife Zipporah recognized what the covenant was and why God was set on destroying her husband, the people’s deliverer, on his way to Egypt. As if this is not enough for me to comprehend, I also read that Zipporah recognized the covenant was of blood and called her husband the “bridegroom of blood”. Does anyone want to guess who our bridegroom of blood is? Moses speaking of him declared,
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.[xx]
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.[xxi]
Those who had the gospel announced and foretold them looked forward to the one greater than Moses and we today look back to the one greater than Moses our Bridegroom Jesus.
Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”[xxii]
Jesus is the lamb through which God provided atonement for our sins and He is descried as our bridegroom. And if He is our bridegroom He certainly was our bridegroom of blood. For He shed His blood for our sins.
Isn’t it amazing how the gospel according the gospel flows so beautifully together? It is not choppy or contradicting. As God has been revealing to you His gospel, haven’t you been at awe like me at how His word is true and so complete. But why should we be shocked at this? After all the Word is Jesus according to scripture.
If God was not going to spare Moses whom He chose to be the deliver of His people and to be the great prophet of God to the people, don’t you think the descendants of Abraham would be wise to fear God.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.[xxiii]
This exhortation is not only for the physical descendants of Abraham who had the sign of the covenant marked on their bodies by circumcision, but to us uncircumcised believers who have accepted the same gospel that was foretold to Abraham. By putting our faith in this gospel, which was foretold and announced through the spirit of Jesus, we the uncircumcised are now considered Abraham’s descendants.
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.[xxiv]
It is not the circumcision that saves, for the circumcised and uncircumcised are credited the same righteousness. Circumcision was a sign in the flesh of God’s covenant. More importantly we just read it was a sign, the seal of righteousness that comes by faith. This is for Abraham and his descendants. Righteousness is credited to those who hope in God. Because of their faith righteousness is granted to those who, “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
The covenant with Abraham was with him and his descendants. Not him and those who would believe but to his descendants. So when we who are not of the linage of Abraham walk in the faith of Abraham he becomes our father. We by our faith in the promises of God given to Abraham become his descendants. Speaking of the work of Christ, scripture teaches us that Jesus destroyed the power of death.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.[xxv]
Clarifying it wasn’t for angles that Christ did this. It was for Abraham’s descendants. No matter what tribe, language or tongue we come from, we need to be like Abraham and walk out his faith in the promises of God. Then we will be his sons circumcised in our hearts and Christ work of destroying death will apply to us as Abraham’s adopted children of faith.
So now we know we have God calling a people for His own and He will be their God. Not only is this true He has also credited His people a righteousness not their own. He from Abraham and to his descendants has credited righteousness to those who walk in the faith of Abraham. The sign in the flesh is a sign of the covenant that God credits His people righteousness. Scripture teaches circumcision is the seal of righteousness that comes by faith. It is the seal of righteousness credited to the people of God. Specifically Abraham and his descendants. This promise was given to no other people on the face of the earth and we only enjoy this same righteousness credited to us when we by faith become children of Abraham. As gentile believers we now are under this covenant of credited righteousness and our Seal is the Holy Spirit. Praise God.
So why was God so angry with Moses? Not only had Moses simply not circumcised his son that aroused God’s anger. Causing us who read the story of how God was going to kill Moses on his way to deliver God’s people, to respond in confusion. Moses had not taken seriously the sign God had commanded them to put on their flesh. The sign of His covenant to take a people to Himself and for Him to be their God and they to be His people. Moses violated the very heart of the Gospel! He violated the sign in the flesh of the righteousness that comes by faith. Isn’t this one of the most powerful things to consider concerning our gospel? God was going to slay the greatest prophet of the Old Testament because he made light of, the sign in the flesh, the righteousness that God imparts to his people by faith.
We may see what Moses did as insignificant. After all he only forgot to circumcise one son. Well God doesn’t see it that way. I understand how we could think God went a little over the edge if we think, as most of the church does, that the gospel started in the book of Matthew. If we think the gospel started in the book of Matthew then this must mean that God is getting feisty about an over burdensome law right?. Reinforcing the idea that the Old Testament God is a God of anger and wrath. The very character assignation the church has let take root and gone unanswered concerning our loving God. Why, because we do not understand our own gospel. Therefore we do not know how to refute men who pervert the loving nature of the one who calls us to be His people.
But, if we are a people who understand the gospel according to the gospel, then we can see that God was not without reasons for apposing Moses. If we can justify ourselves when we mere men become indignant about those who malign the faith, how much more God? I personally am glad that God cares so much for His gospel, His promises to us, His Word, His Son. Because I can see that He is not just some crotchety God in the Old Testament, but a loving God who is fighting for our gospel message of salvation that comes by faith. He is establishing from the beginning the precedent not to take lightly His salvation. Even though it was only announce in advance to Abraham and had yet to be revealed to Moses God had put his gospel into practice by declaring Abraham and his descendants righteous. Moses violated the gospel of righteousness that comes by faith.
From the New Testament we preach from the pulpit…
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?[xxvi]
At least I hope we preach this from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classes. How much more was God, the author of the covenant, justified to appose Moses who treated as an unholy thing the covenant that God would use to give us grace? How much more was God justified when He was defending the very gospel we all have put our hope in, when Moses insulted the Spirit of grace?
Not only this, doesn’t it bring to light again the fact that God is not some mean old codger who makes up laws just so He can punish people who are disobedient. Like some would take the above passage when it said…
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.[xxvii]
But God is responding to those who are disobedient to His covenant the same way we understand it is justifiable for those who trample the Son of God under foot to be severally punished. Just as it is an egregious violation to treat the sanctifying sacrifice of Jesus in contempt, so it is also egregious to treat the covenant God made with Abraham and later spoke to Moses with contempt. We are not to be disobedient as God’s covenant people. We are not to reject God’s grace of righteousness that we receive by faith.
It is so ironic to me to see how we have misunderstood God in the Old Testament, based completely on our ignorance of the very gospel we put our hope in. The church has read but failed to understand the truth of God’s Word which became flesh and dwelt amongst us. It has seen but not perceived what the Spirit of Jesus has said in the Old Testament scripture. Maybe at this time we should humble ourselves before the living God in whom we put our hope and confess that we too have not understood. That we have let men assassinate His character as we sit silently, because we do not understand that the gospel did not start in the book of Matthew.
Remember when we read,
And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
It is not the sign in the flesh that makes one justified by faith, it is the faith that God credits one justified by faith. Otherwise the scripture would only speak of circumcision and not the faith that one needs to walk in as Abraham did.
Doesn’t this scripture ring true for Abraham and his descendants as it does for us.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.[xxviii]
I know this is New Testament scripture, but isn’t the truth of it for all mankind from the time of Adam to today? The Old Testament saints had to live by the truth of this verse as much as we do. I can name no man who is justified before God, who is credited righteousness outside of faith. Isn’t it true the gospel that was announce to Abraham and all the prophets had the same impact on them as it does us today? Our gospel is sinners being credited righteousness because of our faith in what God has said and we remain in this covenant through our obedience. This is no more and no less than what Abraham was promised and what the people of Israel experienced.
Just as Abraham had righteousness credited to him before the law was introduced, we to without the law are credited righteous by walking in the footsteps of the same faith Abraham had. What was credited to Abraham was by grace and was guaranteed to all of Abraham’s descendants.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.[xxix]
Again scripture teaches this promise is for Abraham’s descendants. Not to any other people race or tribe. When Jesus came He did not unravel what He had begun in Abraham. He confirmed it and this is why it is so easy to find New Testament scriptures that speak of this. We are seeing evidence of the gospel according to the gospel.
What do we always say when we share the gospel with our friends and neighbors?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.[xxx]
Is there any difference between us, Abraham and the people of Israel? Is there any difference between us being credit righteousness compared to them? Isn’t it the same God? Isn’t it the same gospel? Isn’t it the same grace? Isn’t the righteousness credited the same for us as for them? Who receives grace and righteousness credited outside of this example we have in Abraham? All of this makes Abraham our father in the sight of God. If we walk in the same faith Abraham had. Receive the same grace he did. And this same grace from God is credited to us even righteousness though we were to never receive the law, but our faith makes us children of Abraham.
If we find ourselves struggling with God’s word and the testimony of the gospel announced to Abraham, are we still gong to ignorantly insist that the gospel started in Matthew. What should we conclude then? That the gospel was announced and foretold by the Spirit of Jesus, the declared Word of God, to Abraham, yet his descendents did not have the same opportunity to walk in the same faith as Abraham and be declared righteous by the same covenant? That only us who have known the name of Jesus are credited this same righteousness by faith in the same gospel? Surely this gospel of faith was for all who would walk in the same faith Abraham had from the day of Abraham to today and through tomorrow. Why else would it be declared,
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.[xxxi]
You may answer that the scripture is true to declare righteousness credited by grace because of faith, but I take it too far. Assuming that those who were between the time of Abraham and Christ had the same gospel of righteousness that we have today, even though we have already seen that scripture testifies to this truth. If I take it to far, then why would the gospel according to the gospel continue in the next verses,
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”[xxxii]
Apparently David understood this same gospel that Abraham and we ourselves understand today. That is being credited a righteousness from God apart from works. The only thing that Abraham, David, and all those who walked in the same footsteps of faith that Abraham had before he was circumcised didn’t have was the cross.
Let us understand what the psalmist wrote when he declared,
Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.[xxxiii]
Is this cry to God any different than what we cry out to Him today? In fact I would probable argue it is a better prayer than what we pray when we cry out to God for salvation. But the cry is the same. God I am a sinner, please do not hold my sins against me.
Is there any more of a beautiful set of verses in scripture that sums up the gospel better than what was written in the Psalms?
Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness. May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.[xxxiv]
The author understood the promise of salvation to God’s servant Abraham. Yet we do not credit the Old Testament saints with this understanding of the promise of salvation to our father Abraham. The psalmist says he trust in God’s word. Does the he trust in God’s word any less than we do? Who in Sunday school classes or youth group teaches this? Who has laid the sure foundation to those who are to follow after us?
The Old Testament saints had such an understanding of the gospel, they knew that God’s word was His guiding counsel to them.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.[xxxv]
Shockingly to me, they even understood that God would take them to glory in death, after they had lived a life guided by His counsel. If it looks like the same gospel, preaches like the same gospel, glorifies God like the same gospel and declares the good new of salvation to mankind that is obtained by faith like the same gospel, it must be the same gospel. More importantly it is the same God who is making the same promises in His gospel through out all scripture just as the New Testament writer has declared.
Consider what was written about Jesus during the time He was in the grave. This part of scripture talks about what Jesus did while His body lay in a tomb for three days.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,[xxxvi]
Kind of a weird thing to say is it not? But the testimony is true. It wasn’t to those who had the gospel announced to them through the example of, and promises to Abraham that Jesus went and preached. Jesus didn’t go down to the grave to preach to David, Rahab, Aaron, Debora or even Jonah, but to those who died before the covenant was announced to Abraham. By going to those before Abraham’s time, God’s Word confirms that those from Abraham to John the Baptist had the same gospel already preached to them. They had as much opportunity to believe God at His word as we do today. Otherwise Jesus would have preached to them as well, so they could have the same opportunity in the grave as those who died in the days of Noah. I know this is a weird one, but the testimony is true. Let the gospel according to the gospel show you the significance of the scripture as it relates to our hope in Christ.
It is preached from many a pulpit that they had the law and we have grace, as if we have some new thing. For some reason we completely ignore the fact that scripture teaches that Abraham and his descendants were saved by grace just as we are. As if those to whom the gospel was first announced could not participate in it. Just because we say God gave His people the Law in the desert at Mt. Sinai it doesn’t mean that those people who being Abraham’s descendants were unable to attain the same gospel that was announced to their father Abraham. We without a thought exclude Abraham’s descendants from participating in the gospel. When in fact the word of God the Spirit of Jesus says just the opposite.
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.[xxxvii]
It blows my mind that we so willey nilley pronounce from the pulpit they had the law and we have grace. When in fact the New Testament declares they had the gospel preached to them at Mount Sinai. This fact has already been supported with other New Testament scriptures even from Jesus Himself. Therefore it was not through the Law the people were justified, it was by the righteousness that comes from faith. The same promise we have, not by the law but by the same faith.
It is clearly stated as a testimony for the whole world to see.
For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.[xxxviii]
It is not those of the Law who have the promise, it is those of the faith to whom the promise is given. In fact the testimony says those who live by the Law are not the ones who are the heirs. So again it is not through the law, but through the same righteousness credited to us and to Abraham and his descendents that we all hope in.
So now if we believe God at His word and we conclude that Abraham and his decedents had a covenant of righteousness that comes by faith. If we understand it was not through the Law they were made heirs but through faith. They had the promise that God would be their God and they His people. Then what happened to the people of Israel? Why did they fail? They had the grace and the credited righteousness, even the seal in their flesh of this righteousness that comes by faith, but they stumbled over the stumbling stone.
They left the covenant of faith that was recorded in the scriptures in which they should have put their hope in. They no longer walked in the faith of their father Abraham even though they had the testimony that Abraham was credited righteousness. They turned their backs on God’s grace and now tried to be righteous through the Law. No longer apart from works but based on works.
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”[xxxix]
Remember what happened to them at Mount Sinai?
And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.[xl]
Yes they had the Law but they only practiced the Law and did not put their faith in the gospel that was announced in the Law. The gospel that was announced to Abraham.
Remember through this Law and the prophets the disciples recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Remember that through the Law and the prophets, Jesus after His resurrection explained to His disciples how the Christ must suffer. Remember through the Law and the Prophets, the good news of salvation was preached first in Jerusalem and then spread to other parts of the world. Remember it was the Apostles who presented the gospel to their hearers by teaching from the Law and the prophets. Isn’t it something, they preached from the Law and the prophets to new converts but they did not make them obedient to the Law but obedient to the gospel that was announced in the Law and the prophets. This is so important it is worth repeating. The disciples did not make us gentiles obedient to the Law but obedient to the gospel that was announced in the Law. If we say we do not need the Law or we can ignore the Old Testament, then what is left to base our gospel on? Remember even Jesus Himself recognized the gospel in the Law along with the Apostles.
Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”[xli]
What was that? I didn’t hear what was just read did I? What was preached in every city from the earliest times and read in the synagogues on every Sabbath? Oh Moses! You mean the gospel, the covenant, the grace, the righteousness apart from the Law. The gospel that was announced in the Law. I guess we can trust that the leaders of the church did not want the gentile believers to be obedient to the requirements of the Law. Instead the Apostles wanted the new believers to be obedient to the gospel announced in the Law.
It wasn’t to just the Jews that the Law was causing men to stumble. It was to the new coverts as well. Paul had to warn the new converts not to make the same mistake his ancestors did. Stumbling over the Law, by not living by faith concerning the gospel in the Law, but he desired they should live by the faith of the Law.
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?[xlii]
How much plainer can it be?
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?[xliii]
Oh, I guess it can be spoken even plainer. Apparently Paul is trying to keep the Galatians from making the same mistake as the Jews who had the gospel presented in the Law of Moses. They made the mistake of living by the Law of the faith instead of living by the faith of the Law.
Our gospel is the Law. It is the same law preached to the Galatians to prove that Jesus was the Christ. Those Galatians were making the same mistake with the Law the Jews did. They were instructed to not live by the Law but have faith in the gospel of the Law and the one who has come to fulfill the Law.
We are warned, as believers in the gospel that was fulfilled in Christ, and now our revealed hope, not to abandon the example of the life of faith represented in Abraham’s life. We are warned how the life of the New Testament believer who lives the Law of the faith will end up.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.[xliv]
Because of the work of Christ we are now set free from the Law but not set free from the gospel of the Law. And those who want to go back to fulfilling the requirements of the Law have fallen away from grace. That is right, fallen from grace. Jesus is of no value to them. They will not participate in the salvation of God which they were waiting for. They are not living by faith to obtain their righteousness. They are guilty of the same error as those who had the gospel preached to them at Mount Sinai.
This testimony stands.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.[xlv]
I can still hear some of us holding stead fast to the idea that only since the time of Christ has man been able to be justified before God, and this only through the cross. This is no strange teaching to me, for I too have been taught the same. If this is so, then how can a Holy God take not only Elijah but Enoch as well, if these men were still in their sins? Not in death but in life to be with Him. Is it not that these men walked with God in faith and God credited to them the same righteousness He is willing to credit to us today? Does it not say in scripture,
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.[xlvi]
According to whose promise, ours in the New Testament or Abraham’s of the Old Testament? It was not to us that the promise was made, it was to Abraham the promise was made, that we now are heirs of.
Remember the scriptures we have already discussed that spoke of the promise as being for Abraham’s descendents? Remember scripture doesn’t teach of any other tribe nation or tongue having the promise of credited righteousness? We need to be Abraham’s descendents if we hope to be saved by grace. We are Abraham’s descendents if we belong to Christ. It is only those who are Abraham’s seed who belong to Christ. I am not saying all of Abraham’s seed belong to Christ for not all of his seed are of the same faith of Abraham. But we gentiles who walk in the faith of Abraham are his seed and belong to Christ.
If Noah can obtain the righteousness that comes by faith being called an heir of the gospel, how much more those who were descendents of the covenant God made with the Abraham, the man of faith.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.[xlvii]
Truly those who were in the desert at Mt. Sinai had the same promise and the same gospel we have today as proclaimed in the book of Hebrews. Truly Abraham had the gospel announced to him in advance. Truly God made a covenant with Abraham to be his God and for Abraham and his decedents to be His people. Truly circumcision was a sign in the flesh of the righteousness that comes by faith. Since all of this is so and the Word of God is perfect without contradiction or error, it must leave you wondering about the purpose of the cross. If this is so, then what exactly was it that Jesus did when he died, if men were already justified by faith?
[i] Ephesians 2:8-9
[ii] Acts 2:36
[iii] Galatians 2:15-16
[iv] Galatians 3:6
[v] Romans 4:1-3
[vi] Galatians 3:8
[vii] Ephesians 1:17-18
[viii] John 1:1-2
[ix] John 1:14
[x] I Peter 1:10-11
[xi] Genesis 17:7
[xii] Genesis 17:8
[xiii] Deuteronomy 29:24-26
[xiv] Exodus 6:6-8
[xv] Revelations 21:3-7
[xvi] Genesis 17:19-11
[xvii] Genesis 17:4
[xviii] Matthew 18:14
[xix] Exodus 4:24-26
[xx] Deuteronomy 18:15-18
[xxi] Hebrews 3:1-3
[xxii] Luke 5:34-35
[xxiii] Proverbs 1:7
[xxiv] Romans 4:9-12
[xxv] Hebrews 2:14-16
[xxvi] Hebrews 10:28-29
[xxvii] Hebrews 10:28
[xxviii] Hebrews 11:6
[xxix] Romans 4:17-18
[xxx] Ephesians 2:8-9
[xxxi] Romans 4:4-5
[xxxii] Romans 4:6-8
[xxxiii] Psalms 79:9
[xxxiv] Psalms 119:38-42
[xxxv] Psalms 73:24
[xxxvi] I Peter 3:18-20
[xxxvii] Romans 4:13
[xxxviii] Romans 4:15-16
[xxxix] Romans 9:30-32
[xl] Hebrews 3:17 – 4:1
[xli] Acts 15:20-21
[xlii] Galatians 3:2
[xliii] Galatians 3:3-5
[xliv] Galatians 5:2-5
[xlv] Roma-s 4:11-16
[xlvi] Galatians 3:29
[xlvii] Hebrews 11:7