How were people saved in the O.T.? How were people saved in the N.T.? How are we saved today?
If the answer given is that there were different ways in which the Triune God in Scripture saved people, then it needs to be pointed out that this is wrong.
If an appeal is made towards sacrifices in the O.T., then it needs to be pointed out that this too is wrong.
- “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required” (Psa 40.6; Also see Isa 1.11-15; Jer 7.22-23; Amos 5.21-23; Heb 10.5-6).
“But,” the protestor complains, “did they not practice sacrifices in the O.T.?” Yes, but we would be wise to ask the question: “What was/is the real intention and purpose behind them?”
Faith. Trust. Belief. Demonstrated through obedience.
You see, faith without obedience is dead (Jam 2.17). True faith engenders (i.e. causes) acts of obedience.
If I trust someone or something, then my actions reflect my trust. On the contrary, to say that I trust someone or something, but then fail to act on it, then my lack of actions falsifies my trust.
Sacrifice was/is an act of worship.
Here, a bit of theological teaching is required.
Biblically speaking, life is in the blood (Lev 17.11). Where there is no blood, there is no life (Heb 9.22). Where there is no life, separation exists (i.e. death; Gen 3.8; Eccl 12.7; Rom 6.4). Being born sinners there is separation between us (human beings) and God (Eph 2.1-3; 4.18; cf. Col 2.13). Being holy, God hates sin (Prov 8.13; Zech 8.17). The blood of another (which possesses life) is substituted on our behalf providing atonement (covering) for our sin (Psa 49.7-8; 1Pet 1.18-19; Heb 9.11-14).
In the O.T., by offering the blood of bulls, goats and lambs the individual presenting the offering was admitting several things:
- They are God’s creature and are in debt to their Creator; therefore, they are required to listen (obey) His voice.
- They are dead in their sins, separated from Him—from life, from truly knowing Him.
- They are not capable of making their own covering or closing the gap of separation; this is only possible by God’s provision (i.e. all creation is His, and anything offered to Him has been provided by Him). In other words, they needed a substitute.
By this then, we may see that such acts did not save the person, but reveals they trusted the One who said they needed to do them. People in the O.T. era were saved by faith. Their sacrifices demonstrated their faith by being obedient to the voice of God; by doing what He commanded.
The same is true in the N.T. era. Just as God had provided the blood in the past, the Father provided a more perfect blood sacrifice in Jesus of Nazareth (a.k.a. the Christ; the Son of God; the Son of Man—all proper titles afforded to Him alone). By laying His life down and being nailed to a tree (i.e. cross), He was given as a substitute to sinners.
By trusting in His sufficiency to be our substitute, we demonstrate our faith (trust) in God. By this act of obedience, Jesus’ blood is then applied as a covering (atonement) for those who believe. This was true in the N.T. as can be seen in the Scriptures.
“But,” you ask, “what of sacrifices, are they not done away with?”
Well…no, not entirely. Those who trust in Christ are now fully equipped to offer themselves as living sacrifices. As we live for/in Christ we offer true worship to our Triune Creator (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12.1; italics added; cf. Eph 5.2).
True salvation, as we see in Scripture, has always been by faith alone, in God alone, by His grace alone. What we have been presented in the New Testament is that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29, 36). His name is the only Name given by which any may be saved (Acts 4.12). Salvation is in no other. Trusting in Christ alone saves, redeems and sanctifies the true children of God. If we truly trust in Him, then our lives will evidence His goodness in us by the things we do (i.e. our works of obedience).