Old Testament & New Testament agree on salvation, prof says
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Both the Old and New Testaments teach one way of salvation -- through faith in Jesus Christ, a professor told attendees at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fourth annual Give Me an Answer Collegiate Conference.
Thomas R. Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, noted that Old Testament saints placed their faith not in works but in Christ by looking forward to the Messiah whom God promised. The New Testament writers, he said, bore witness to the fact that Old Testament believers trusted in the promised One who would come and die for sinners.
“The New Testament writers could say, ‘Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory’ and ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my [Christ’s] day,’” Schreiner said during the Feb. 20-21 sessions in Louisville, Ky. “... All the Old Testament saints were putting their faith in the promise of God which has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
“The New Testament makes it clear that salvation comes through Christ alone,” Schreiner said, “or faith in the promise that points forward to Christ if you are an Old Testament saint.”
Scripture makes clear in passages such as Romans 1:18-3:20 and Galatians 3:10 that sinners cannot be made right with God by observing the law, Schreiner said. Salvation is based on the death and resurrection of Christ because He bore the punishment for sin that sinners themselves deserve to bear, Schreiner said.
The law of God does not save but demonstrates the righteous character of God and shows sinful humans their need for a Savior, he said.
“Humans never could be made right with God by the law and they never will,” he said. “They are saved through Christ’s redeeming work by faith.
“We see in the Old Covenant a picture of who God is,” Schreiner noted. “We see in the sacrifices that God is holy and demands perfection. We see that He provides forgiveness for those who repent. The law has shown how sinful human beings are and points to their need of Christ.”
Schreiner gave several examples of teachers and movements from church history that set salvation in the Old and New Testaments at odds with each other.
Marcion, who lived in the first and second centuries, rejected the authority of the Old Testament. He taught that the creator god of the Old Testament was wrathful as opposed to the loving god of the New Testament.
While Marcionite teaching is not prevalent today, Schreiner pointed out that evangelicals unwittingly practice Marcion’s doctrine when they ignore the Old Testament or fail to preach the truth of God’s wrath against sin.
The Epistle of Barnabus is another example of a false understanding of the testaments, Schreiner said. Written in the first century, it argued that the Jewish covenant was irrevocably broken when Moses broke the tablets in the golden calf incident (Ex. 32:19). This was God’s way of canceling the covenant with the Jews from the beginning.
A more recent example is found in classical dispensationalism as taught in the study notes of the original Scofield Reference Bible, Schreiner said. C.I. Scofield, who authored the notes, held that Israel was wrong to receive the law of God and to agree to the Old Covenant, because the Israelites in essence agreed to a salvation by works.
This view saw salvation by faith in Christ in the New Testament as a parenthesis between salvation through the law in the Old Covenant and the future millennium, Schreiner said. Modern dispensationalism does not teach this but correctly sees salvation in both testaments as coming by faith in Christ, Schreiner said.
Salvation by faith in Christ is a theme that appears almost immediately in the Old Testament, Schreiner pointed out. It is first seen in the promise that God would provide salvation through the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. The theme is then consistent throughout Scripture, he said.
“Throughout Scripture, then, you have the battle of the seeds,” he said. “There is Cain versus Abel, the Cainites versus the Sethites, human beings versus Noah, the human race versus Abraham, the world versus Israel ... and on it goes....
“The Old Testament animal sacrifices pointed forward to their greater fulfillment in Christ,” Schreiner said. “The Book of Hebrews makes clear that the blood of animals cannot save anyone and that only the blood of Christ, that perfect Lamb of God, has dealt with sin once and for all. So this has always been the only way to salvation, and when we put our Bibles together correctly, I believe this becomes clear.”