Thursday, May 11, 2017

Salvation Of Jews; Is There An Aberration? (Salvation Of Old Testament Believers)

            Consider the number of Jews who reject Christ. Would they not be saved although they believe in the same God as Christians do? Is there an innate injustice in God’s plan for the salvation of Jews?

            Jews could be broadly categorized into:

            (J1) Jews who lived before Christ.

            (J2) Jews who live(d) during and after Christ.

            Jews are God’s chosen people. Intriguingly, it appears as if there are two plans of salvation for the Jews – a simple and a complicated plan. The simple plan does not explicitly involve Christ and applies to (J1). Since Christ was not explicitly involved in this salvific plan, the Jews had one less factor to believe. Hence this plan could be termed simple.

            The second plan, which involves Christ, applies to (J2). This appears to be a complicated plan because the Jews had to / have to believe in Christ as well.

            The apparent injustice is this; how could there be a simple and a complicated plan for the salvation of the same group of people? The only distinction between these two groups is that they’re either born before or after Christ.  

            This apparent injustice is magnified for God determines the precise time of birth of all people – Jews included. The individual Jew does not choose his/her time of birth. So it is rather plausible to infer that God placed the Jews born during or after Christ in a more precarious position than their ancestors. (Their ancestors did not have to deal with the Christ-factor for their salvation.)

Christ Is Necessary For Salvation

            The New Testament categorically asserts that both the Jews and the non-Jews (Gentiles) would only be saved if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, “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.” (Acts 4: 12, NASB). Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2: 8-9; John 1: 12, 14: 6).

            So mankind existing since the New Testament period should necessarily believe in Christ to be saved.

Salvation Of Old Testament Believers

            The term Old Testament (OT) believers include both the Jews and the Gentiles. The OT believers were not privy to the life and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, for they were born at a time when Christ was not revealed by God to the world.

            Two questions are in order. First, how did God save the OT believers? Second, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Understanding the salvation of Jews who lived in the Old Testament era should throw vital light into unraveling this predicament. Let us consider the three vital aspects of salvation: Justification, Regeneration, and Sanctification.

            Justification of OT Believers: Man is a sinner (be it in the Old Testament or since the New Testament period). So man remains guilty in his standing with God. If man is to be saved, his legal status must be changed from guilty to not guilty. If man met God’s requirements fully, he would be declared just or righteous in God’s sight. Man is justified when Christ’s righteousness is imputed upon him (Romans 5: 1, Galatians 3: 24, Ephesians 2: 8, Titus 3: 5).

            Abraham, Moses and King David never heard of Christ, yet they were saved (justified) by virtue of their belief in God (of the Bible). Salvation of OT believers included Gentiles as well (E.g. Job, Melchizedek, King Abimelech).

            OT believers were not saved by adhering to the law. Abraham lived 400 years prior to the establishment of the law, yet he was saved. Moreover, the law cannot be adhered to perfectly; the law merely brings knowledge of sin (Romans 3: 20; Cf. Galatians 3: 11). The uncircumcised Abraham was saved merely by virtue of his faith in God. The salvation of uncircumcised Abraham negates any notion of salvation by works (performing sacred rituals and doing good works).

            But Christ is necessary for salvation, and the OT believers, who lived before Christ by the plan of God, did not possess a conscious knowledge of Christ. So how were these people saved?

            Romans 4: 1-5, 9-10, 16 offers an answer to this question. Paul invokes Genesis 15: 6 to establish the fact that belief in God is adequate for salvation. Thus when man is saved by virtue of his faith in God, Christ’s righteousness is transferred upon this man, thereby rendering him as not guilty in God’s sight (Romans 3: 21-22, 5: 17, 6: 23, 8: 1; 1 Corinthians 1: 30).

            Regeneration of OT Believers: A regenerated man will ardently desire to live a holy life in his new birth. He will not desire to live a sinful life.

            One could argue that the OT believers could not have been regenerated since the Holy Spirit was not yet given. (The Holy Spirit would not be given until the Pentecost.) However, the Bible provides us with adequate evidence to corroborate the fact that the OT believers were regenerated.

            Moses contrasted the two groups of Israelites – those who were circumcised of heart (Deuteronomy 30: 6) and those who were stiff necked and stubborn (Deuteronomy 29: 19-20; Exodus 32: 9, 33: 3; Ezekiel 2: 4). As Paul said in Romans 2, a real Jew is the one who is circumcised of heart (v28-29). The heart of the real Jew is altered to conform to God’s will.

            The OT believers also experienced a change of heart (1 Samuel 10:6, 9; Cf. Isaiah 57: 15; Ezekiel 11: 19-20, 36: 25-26). This is similar to the transformation Jesus described to Nicodemus much before the Pentecost. Thus we deduce that the Jews who loved and obeyed God in the Old Testament period were regenerated.

            Sanctification of OT Believers: Sanctification is the process in which the regenerated man becomes progressively holier. The Old Testament ascribes righteousness upon Noah and Job (Genesis 6: 9; Job 1:1, 8). While one can argue that Abraham, Moses and Daniel were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it does seem that these men were under the influence of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says that they were faithful, meek, good and self-controlled (cf. fruit of the Spirit). Although the Holy Spirit did not indwell the OT believers, HE evidently exerted an external influence.   

            Thus we understand that the salvific pattern of the believers in Old Testament and New Testament exhibit great similarity.

Salvific Plan Remains Same

              God’s plan of salvation included Christ then and now. However, the Jews who lived before Christ did not consciously see or hear of Christ’s salvific work to believe HIM.

            The Bible also states that the OT believers were saved because they possessed a forward-looking faith based on the promise that a Messiah, or a Redeemer would come. While speaking of the OT believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, the Bible asserts that “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance…” (Hebrews 11: 13, NASB, Emphasis Mine). In the same chapter, Moses “…considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” (Hebrews 11: 26, RSV, Emphasis Mine). The Lord Jesus emphasized that Abraham was looking forward to the day of the promised Messiah, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8: 56, RSV, Emphasis Mine). So if the Jews before Christ had clearly heard and believed in the Messiah and in HIS coming, they were saved.

            But what about those Jews who probably did not hear of the Messiah’s coming? (There may have been Jews during the time of Christ, who may not have heard the gospel message clearly because of the geographical distance and the lack of technology to disseminate information quickly.) Would they be saved?  

            If the Jews had not heard about the coming of the Messiah in the future, they would not have rejected HIM per se. If these Jews believed in God, they would be saved. The benefits of Christ’s atoning death would be transferred upon them.

            One final question remains, is God’s plan for the salvation of Jews who lived after Christ more complicated because they had to believe in Christ as well?

            Regeneration or “being born again” is totally a work of God (John 1: 13; Ephesians 2: 5; James 1: 17-18; 1 Peter 1: 3; cf. Ezekiel 36: 26-27). When a Jew hears of God and of Christ, God speaks powerfully to him and the Holy Spirit works powerfully in him. (Herein God does what HE needs to do to bring man into HIS fold.) Then man responds to God in faith. When God works powerfully in us, the honest seeker would easily accept Christ.

            When Jews reject Christ, the only significant consideration is whether the gospel of Christ-crucified has been preached clearly to them or not (cf. Romans 10: 14). If the gospel of Christ has not been preached clearly to them, then they are not rejecting the Christ of the Bible. In this instance, there is every possibility that God would save them as how HE saved the OT believers. 

            Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that there is no aberration in the salvation of the Jews.


The God Of Jews & Christians Is Not The Same

            Jews reject the Trinity. So they reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Jews strictly worship a monotheistic God. On the contrary, Historic Christianity subscribes to a Godhead that is Trinitarian yet monotheistic in nature. The Godhead is comprised of a co-equal Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            The OT believers – the Jews and the Gentiles – worshiped the same God. However, when Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were revealed to mankind in the New Testament, the conception of the Godhead became different for the Christians.

            In other words, God revealed HIMSELF progressively to mankind. Hence, it is plausible to deduce that God would not expect the OT believers to believe in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, since HE has revealed the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, God would expect mankind in existence since the New Testament period to consciously believe in Christ for their salvation.

            The Jews (existing since the New Testament period, and if they reject Christ) and the Christians worship a different God. (In other words, although God is one, the Jewish and the Christian conception of God is totally different since the New Testament period.) The God of the Jews is similar to the Islamic conception of God (Allah). The Islamic conception of God is strictly monotheistic and the Muslims reject the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Yet the Jews and Muslims worship a very different God. If the Jews and the Muslims worship a different God, then by the same reasoning, we can reasonably deduce that the Christians and the Jews worship a different God. Therefore, the Jews in existence since the New Testament period would be saved only if they believe in Christ.   

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