Were the saints in Old Testament times saved any differently from the believers of our time? One of my readers asked me this question to which I cannot give a definitive, biblical answer because it is nowhere in the Bible stated how pre-Calvary saints were saved, but I can offer an opinion, based on normal biblical inferences and natural logic.
We know how post-Calvary saints are saved, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9) "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) All mainstream Christian churches teach along these lines.
But since nearly all pre-Calvary saints knew neither about Jesus Christ nor his redemptive work on the cross of Calvary, then they could not "confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus" hence the pertinent question of how are they saved.
All believers who are saved whether in Old Testament times or Post-Calvary (or will be saved in the future) have done so through one medium and one medium only - by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on Calvary's cross. There is simply no other way that anyone can be saved.
The Bible affirms this in these Scriptures:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
All these Scriptures are in agreement that Jesus Christ is the only one through whom we can be saved, acquire justification and gain access to heaven. There are many more Scriptures that show the same thing but for now these will suffice.
(Most religions have some good things about them and generally teach about love, brotherhood and peace but we must not delude ourselves that all religions lead to God and that they are all the same. To think like this can be fatal for the Bible tells us, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12))
If Jesus Christ is the only one through whom we must come to be saved, then how are we saved, how does God take us from a sinful person to a redeemed saint in Christ?
The answer is that he does so by his supernatural power through his unmerited favour that we call his grace. Every soul that is saved is saved by grace and that is because no one is worthy of salvation and merits God's favour. Absolutely no one. (Romans 3:10, Isaiah 64:6)
The Bible puts saving grace like this:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
Many believers think that grace is a New Testament concept but it is not, for the same grace that saves us today is the same grace that saved all the pre-Calvary saints.
Every believer who is saved is given the witness of the Holy Spirit:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Romans 8:16)
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9)
Here the Bible gives us references of some pre-Calvary saints who received grace from God and obtained God's righteousness, i.e., salvation:
"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD." (Genesis 6:8)
"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:3-5)
"And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name." (Exodus 33:17)
"And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." (Acts 13:22)
"And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" (Genesis 41:38)
"See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." (Exodus 31:2-3)
Clearly it is stated that all believers are saved by God's grace, by putting their faith in Jesus Christ, and his redeeming work on the cross of Calvary.
The pre-Calvary saints, having met the requirement of full saving faith in God, were credited with the redemptive work of Christ as prevenient grace, and all those saved after Calvary had resort to God's convenient grace with respect to Calvary. Together, all the saints, pre and post-Calvary, as one, form the redeemed and elect of God. It is worth remembering that in God's reasoning Jesus Christ was slain for the redeemed long before the earth was created, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013