Friday, February 21, 2014

Nicodemus Should Have Known

  Life of Christ 29

          Occasionally, I run across inept theologians who insist that there is more than one plan of salvation in the Bible. Yes, they say, in the New Testament we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-9), but in the Old Testament it was different. Why back then, they assert, one had to keep Moses' Law in order to gain forgiveness of sin and entrance into Heaven.
          If that is the case, why was Jesus so upset with Nicodemus when Nicodemus didn't understand that salvation came by way of a new birth (John 3.3-10)? No, beloved, salvation before Christ's coming was exactly the same as it is in our day, by grace through faith. In today's blog post I am going to take the liberty of offering a number of Old Testament verses in proof of this. My aim here is to soundly establish in your mind that salvation by faith was taught in the Old Testament, and that the Jews of Jesus' day (and of ours) ought to have known this. It was not something hidden from them until Paul wrote Romans and Galatians. It was there all along.
          The natural condition of the Jew in the Old Testament was as a sinner who needed saved, not as one who was already safe because of 'the merits of the fathers.'

Psalm 51:7   Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

          The Old Testament states that sins were cared for when someone paid for them via death, thus 'redeeming' them.

Isaiah 44:22  I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

          Not only is this stated, but reminding Israel of this was the entire point of the sacrificial system laid down in Leviticus and lived out daily before the people for fifteen centuries. This redemption was done, not because of 'the merits of the fathers', but because of God.

Isaiah 43:25  I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

          Thus, the natural condition of iniquity was purged by pardon and mercy, not by 'the merits of the fathers.' This concept is found widely throughout the Old Testament.

Exodus 34:6  And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Exodus 34:7  Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Numbers 14:19  Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Psalm 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Psalm 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Proverbs 28:13 ¶  He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
Isaiah 55.7  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Micah 7:18  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Micah 7:19  He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

          There was, as Jesus asserted to Nicodemus, the necessity for a new heart and spirit if righteousness were to be present in the individual Jew.

Ezekiel 18:31  Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

          Thus, the Old Testament told the Jews that righteousness came by faith in God. This is Paul's entire argument in Romans 4 where he quotes Moses in Genesis 15.

Romans 4. 1 ¶  What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

          In my mind this has already been clearly established, but lest some still doubt let us turn to the penultimate Old Testament passage regarding the necessity for the atoning death of the Israel's messiah to pay for sins, rather than 'the merits of the fathers.' This passage is not only clear but clearly precious to those of us who have come to see in Yeshua our only and sure hope for Heaven.

Isaiah 53. 1 ¶  Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 ¶  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 ¶  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11  He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12  Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

          Beloved, there can be no doubt at all – salvation is by grace through faith, then, now, and going forward, until the devil is banished to hell, and sin ceases from the earth.
          It was always about Jesus Christ.

If you would like to listen to the audio sermon that accompanies this blog you may find it here on our church website. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 12, 'Ye Must Be Born Again.'

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