How Were People Saved in the Old Testament? (Part 1)
Adam and Eve
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) On the sixth day of creation, the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:7-9).
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17) Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Gen. 2:22). The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Gen. 2:25).
The Spiritual Fall of Mankind
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
From other scriptures, such as Revelation 12:9, we know that the serpent is the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. Also 2 Cor. 11:3 tells us that Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Gen. 3:2-7).
These fig leaves were an attempt to cover their guilt, to undo what they had done. It was like trying to work their way back to God’s favour, much like a legalistic spirit in people today.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:8-15, emphasis own)
This enmity or hostility and hatred between Satan’s seed or offspring and the woman’s offspring runs throughout the Bible from the beginning to the end.
The Salvation of Adam and Eve
Adam understood more than we sometimes think he did because in response to God’s statement that the woman’s offspring will crush Satan’s head, and Satan will bruise his heel, Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all the living. In other words, Adam believed God and so did Eve. This became evident when God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. The clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins was evidence of these animals being sacrificed.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22)
It seems that Adam, Abel, Noah, and Abraham and his children knew much about the law even before God gave the law to Moses at Sinai. I believe this because in Genesis chapter 4, Abel’s offering of fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock was looked on with favour by God, but when Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord it was not looked on with favour by God. Also, when Noah came out of the ark, (Gen. 8), he built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the ceremonially clean animals and ceremonially clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord. Apparently, information about sacrificing animals to cover sins must have been passed down to Noah from Adam and his descendants.
The gospel in the acorn was revealed to Adam as the seed of the woman. And all the animal sacrifices which required the blood and life of the animals was a shadow, a type or a picture of the future sacrifice of Christ as it is revealed in the New Testament.
God changed Abram’s name, in Genesis 17:5, where it says, “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations” (emphasis own).
Abraham is very significant when it comes to understanding faith or belief in God and trusting what he says. Jesus Christ was revealed to Adam only as the seed of the woman and was afterwards revealed to Abraham as Abraham’s own seed or a descendant of Abraham which would be the Christ, the saviour of all who believe as revealed in the New Testament.
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
What was it that Abram believed?
Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD and he credited it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:4-6).
Why was Abraham so strong in his faith? Because he was fully persuaded in his heart and his mind that God had the power to accomplish what he had promised.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom. 4:18-25). And without faith, [believing God], 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 (Heb. 11:6). The Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Gal. 3:8, 9).
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
Dennis Fry is a deacon in Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, PA.
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