Tag Archives: Old Testament

Abraham and the Righteousness of Christ

 

In two of the more recent posts, we’ve looked at significant Old Testament figures and their hope in the coming of The Redeemer.  It is by faith that they embrace this hope in a forward-looking faith as they awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Though an argument from silence, it would not be difficult to reach the conclusion that these two individuals, Eve and Lamech, were saved.  We move now to a third example of salvation from the OT, one much more explicit and much more foundational to our understanding of salvation in the OT.

In Genesis 11, we are introduced to the man Abram and his wife Sarai.  Abram was called by God to move his family to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1) and along his journey we see God unfolding the Abrahamic Covenant while simultaneously pointing forward to the New Covenant (far too much to cover in this post, see Genesis 12:7; Gen. 15; 17:1-14, 19; 22:12-18 ).  In Genesis 15:1-6 we read

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

The context for this passage is the promise of a son to Abraham who would be his heir and provide the lineage for the Messiah who would fulfill God’s covenant in an ultimate sense, literally an innumerable offspring for all those who are “in Christ” (another lengthy post for later).  Abraham’s response is that “he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  This may be a familiar verse upon first reading.  It may be one that you’ve read over time and again, and perhaps like I have, taken it for granted.  However, it’s central to our understanding of salvation in the Old Testament because the Apostle Paul references this passage in Romans 4 and follows up in chapter 5 with a significant doctrinal statement.  Read carefully the following:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

The context for this passage is the justification of Abraham by faith.  Subsequently, Paul is laying the foundation for understanding the salvation of all believers, not simply those in the New Testament, which is why he chooses the Patriarch of Israel to destroy any notion of a second way of salvation for Jews versus Gentiles.  Romans 4:3 is a direct reference to our passage from Genesis 15:6.  Notice how Paul expands this idea of Abraham’s justification by faith to include a contrast between “the one who works” and “the one who does not work but believes in him” to show that this concept of salvation by faith alone is not limited to Abraham, but is a paradigm for all salvation.

The phrase coincident to our passage from Genesis 15 and this passage from Romans 4 is that Abraham’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness”.  What does this mean?  There are a couple of ways to approach this answer, the first is that “counted” is better translated “imputed”.  If fact, I’m disappointed with the ESV translation here.  The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a massive concept in Scripture and “counted” fails to adequately convey this thought.  The NKJV follows suit with “accounted” while the NASB is slightly better with “credited”.  Secondly, I prefer the word imputed (or even reckon) here, but I understand the NASB’s reason for their choice because the idea being conveyed is that on God’s accounting ledger of justice the “debits”, i.e. sins of a sinner, are cleared upon their repentance while simultaneously Christ’s righteousness is “credited”, i.e. imputed or reckoned, to the sinner upon their profession of faith in Him (an oversimplification of the necessity of both repentance and faith).  The Apostle Paul builds upon this doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in Romans 5, particularly in verses 12-21.  In this passage we can see the Apostle outlining clearly the “imputation” of Adam’s sin and guilt to his posterity contrasted with the “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness to His posterity, or all those who are united with Him, namely believers.

Simply stated, because of Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law, He has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  Adam in his disobedience had the guilt from his original sin “imputed” to all mankind.  Subsequently all mankind, fallen in Adam, has failed to meet God’s righteous requirements set forth in His law.  Therefore, we are in need of a righteousness from outside ourselves, namely the righteousness of Christ.  His righteousness, not our own, is credited to us upon our salvation resulting in our justification before God.

Now you may be asking what does any of this have to do with Abraham, let alone salvation in the Old Testament.  I think we now have sufficient evidence to set forth clearly the passage from Genesis 15:6 where Moses, writing about Abraham 2000 years before the birth of Christ, writes an explicit statement about Christ’s righteousness being imputed to Abraham by faith.  Let that sink in for a minute before you ask how can this be?  How can Abraham, 2000 years before Christ even set foot on the earth possibly be declared justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ, “he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness”.  Answer: Abraham was justified by a faith that looked forward, believing the promise of God; a forward looking faith that ultimately reached its destination in the finished work of Christ (be reminded also of Hebrews 11:8-12; James 2:14-26).  He was justified, i.e. saved, by faith through the grace of God and the righteousness that comes from Christ alone was imputed to him.  Salvation in the Old Testament is perfectly consistent with salvation in the New Testament.  God has 1 people and 1 plan to redeem them, His Son Jesus Christ.

Sola Fide

Sola Gratia

Solus Christus

The Old Testament – Messianic?

Last week I finished up my seminary Hermeneutics class, which is largely why I haven’t posted recently.  The course caused me to really reflect on the Scriptures, particularly its Christ-centered nature.  In my reflection, there were some things brought out from the course that I felt deserved some additional thought, one of which was the New Testament use of the Old Testament.  Coming from a background where most of the churches I’ve attended have been dispensational, who largely dismiss the Old Testament as Jewish Scripture with little, if any value for the New Testament Christian, it’s interesting to think through how the NT uses the OT.  I‘ve never really felt comfortable with the dispensational view because of its tendency to drive a wedge between the continuity of God’s Word.  For the dispensationalist, what are we to do with all of the New Testament references to the Old?  What about when the New Testament makes explicit references to the Gospel and the person and work of Jesus Christ from the Old Testament?  To answer these questions, and others, I’d like to make a proposition, as stated by Jim Hamilton: “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.”[1]  In this way, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament and the Old Testament is always pointing forward to Christ.  Here is a brief collection of some passages I pulled together which seem to support this or at least cause a deeper reflection:

Matthew 21:42 (quoting Psalm 118:22-23) “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Matthew 22:29-33 “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Matthew 22:34-40 “34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 26:54 (Jesus at His Betrayal in the Garden) “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Mark 14:49  (Jesus speaking) “Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:25-27;44-47 “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke 24:44-49 “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 1:67-71 “67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;

John 5:39-40 “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. “

Acts 2:25-31 “25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me,  for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken: 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”

Acts 8:29-35 “29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 10:43 “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 17:2-3 “2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Acts 18:24-28 “24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Acts 26:22-23 “22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Romans 1:1-3 “1 Paul, a servantof Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from Davidaccording to the flesh”

Romans 3:21-22 “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Romans 16:25-27 “25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”

2 Timothy 3:15-16 “15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 

In Hamilton’s work from which the above proposition was cited, he proves his thesis by working from the Old Testament forward, beginning with the proto evangelion in Genesis 3:15 progressing through the rest of the Bible.  He concludes, “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.  I believe the messianic thrust of the OT was the whole reason the books of the Hebrew Bible were written.  In other words, the Hebrew Bible was not written as the national literature of Israel.  It probably also was not written to the nation of Israel as such.  It was rather written, in my opinion, as the expression of the deep-seated messianic hope of a small group of faithful prophets and their followers.”  I concur with Hamilton’s conclusion.

The Old Testament is referenced or alluded to in all of the New Testament books except Philemon and 2 & 3 John.  The above is just a sampling of the more explicit references to the Old Testament by the New Testament, but I think they equally prove this massive proposition.  Interestingly enough, Trevin Wax[2] has consolidated 7 example categories for Christ centered preaching based on Sidney Griedanus’ book Preaching Christ from Genesis. They are as follows:

  1. Redemptive-Historical Progression  (For more information on the redemptive-historical hermeneutic see Dennis Johnson’s excellent book Him We Proclaim.)
  2. Promise-Fulfillment   (This is what Hamilton does with Genesis 3:15)
  3. Typology (I’ve pointed out some examples of typology here: Jesus Calms the Storm here: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and here: Every Story Whispers His Name )
  4. Analogy (See Matthew 24:37-41; also the parallels between God and Israel and Christ and the Church)
  5. Longitudinal Themes (from Wax, “Examples of these themes would be God’s kingdom (brought ultimately by Jesus Christ the King), God’s presence (foreshadowed in the Temple but fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation), and God’s judgment (seen in God’s actions against sin, but also His willingness to bring salvation through judgment)”).
  6. New Testament References (This is what I’ve attempted to show above)
  7. Contrast (This would be what is commonly referred to as “discontinuity”, whereas the majority of those above would be focused primarily on the the continuity between the Old and New Testaments)

God has always had one plan of redemption for one people through His Son Jesus Christ and all Scripture, both Old and New point to that reality.  You can clearly reach that conclusion from either direction.  The question remains, given the Christ-centered focus of Scripture, why would anyone be content preaching stories from the Old Testament or morality from the New Testament. Preach Christ!

 



[1]James Hamilton, “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10.2 (2006), 44, n.5. Readers may find this online in its entirety at: http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/hamilton_sbjt_10-2.pdf

[2] Trevin Wax: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/06/04/7-ways-of-preaching-christ-from-the-old-testament/