How Were People Saved in the Old Testament?

First and foremost, the Bible teaches that salvation is always…

– Offered by the grace of God
– Based on the atoning death of Jesus Christ
– Received by the exercise of faith
– Applied by the work of the Holy Spirit

Until the time of Christ, the object of faith was God (cf. Gen 15:6 “And Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness”). Once Jesus Christ had been crucified and raised from the dead, Paul declared:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”—Acts 17:30-31

This transition is consistent with the theological truth revealed in the book of Romans:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”—Romans 3:21-26

God has progressively revealed his gracious rescue plan to the nations over several millennia. But the focal point of this plan has always been the person and work of Jesus Christ.

*In case you missed it, you might be interested in the related post – “What about those who have never heard about Jesus?”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “How Were People Saved in the Old Testament?

  1. I must have missed something. How exactly did people in old testament times get saved without Christ. This would include people thousands of miles from the land of Israel.

    • In the Old Testament time people got saved exactly the same way as the New Testament times. In the OT time people were given the revelation of the bleeding savior by God releasing unto them saving faith unto salvation. In the NT time a person was given by God a revelation of the bleeding savior through saving faith unto salvation. Salvation for true belief for anyone is the same way(by grace, not of your works lest any person would bost). God reveals to a person by the effectual work of the Holy Spirit working conviction upon their unbelief toward Christ with a saving faith by revealing in God’s holy word, the saving blood of the lamb of Christ, his burial & resurrection to an individual. God does not save people different in the OT & NT.

      • You say {In the OT time people were given the revelation of the bleeding savior by God releasing unto them saving faith unto salvation. This would work for old testament Israel but
        Question: How exactly does this work on an aboriginal in the deepest jungles thousands of miles away from Palestine where their forest God is the only God they know ?.

  2. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  3. Hebrew children in the Old Testament were born into God’s covenant, both male and female. Circumcision was the sign of this covenant for boys, but the sign was not what saved them. Faith saved them. Rejecting the sign, circumcision, for boys, either by the parents or later as an adult himself, was a sign of a lack of true faith, and therefore the child was “cut off” from God’s promises as clearly stated in Genesis chapter 17:

    “Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

    What was the purpose of this covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? God tells us in the beginning of this chapter of Genesis:

    “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

    This covenant wasn’t just to establish a Jewish national identity or a promise of the inheritance of the land of Caanan, as some evangelicals want you to believe. In this covenant, God promises to be their God. Does God say here that he will be their God only if they make a “decision for God” when they are old enough to have the intelligence and maturity to decide for themselves? No! They are born into the covenant!

    If Jewish children grew up trusting in God and lived by faith, they then received eternal life when they died. If when they grew up, they rejected God, turned their back on God, and lived a life of willful sin, when they died, they suffered eternal damnation. Salvation was theirs to LOSE. There is no record anywhere in the Bible that Jewish children were required to make a one time “decision for God” upon reaching an “Age of Accountability” in order to be saved.

    Therefore Jewish infants who died, even before circumcision, were saved.

    The same is true today. Christian children are born into the covenant. They are saved by faith. It is not the act of baptism that saves, it is faith. The refusal to be baptized is a sign of a lack of true faith and may result in the child being “cut off” from God’s promise of eternal life, to suffer eternal damnation, as happened with the unfaithful Hebrew in the OT.

    Christ said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved, but he that does not believe will be damned.”

    It is not the lack of baptism that damns, it is the lack of faith that damns.

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    An orthodox Lutheran blog

    • Gary, first of all, if you do not believe then why would you be baptized in the first place?

      Secondly, why if you believe are you not baptized?

      Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
      Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
      Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
      Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
      Joh 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
      Joh 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (The above are the words of Jesus).

      Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Where else does one receive the gift of the Holy Ghost except the disciples after the death of Christ?). (And why would a person, a believer, not want to receive that gift?).
      Act 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Does it say here that they that received his words and believed but were not baptized were added unto them?).

      Gary, your argument against baptism goes against the New Testament teaching of Christ and His disciples. The Bible teaches grace, belief, faith, repentance, baptism and obedience. Just because we as humans cannot put it into perspective as to the salvation of Old Testament followers, that gives us no license to deny the teachings of Christ and His disciples in the New Testament concerning baptism.

      The teachings of the Old Testament were given as an example to us and that example is first and foremost obedience to God through a loving heart. Regardless if we understand it or can explain it, obedience is the sincerest belief and faith.

      Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
      Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
      …even to them that believe on his name: WHICH WERE BORN… This here states that in ADDITION to believing there is a birth required that is not of flesh but of God (spirit). To them (those that received him AND were BORN) to THEM gave he power to become the sons of God.

      Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Why would someone not want to be baptized into Christ’s death?)
      Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death (Why would someone not want to be buried with Christ unto death?): that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
      Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Where else in scripture are we in the likeness of his resurrection?)
      Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
      Rom 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Not he that believes only but he that is dead).
      Rom 6:8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (Does it say anywhere that if you are alive with Christ you shall live with him?).

      Gods word is in the Bible for every person to read. Gods word is never changing and the truth. It is every persons free will that allows them to deny Gods word or to believe it and be obedient to it.

      • Wow. I posted that comment a long time ago.

        A lot has changed. I am now an agnostic. There is no evidence for the resurrection of Jesus other than assumptions and second century hearsay. And if there is no evidence for the Resurrection, Jesus is dead. And if Jesus is dead, he is not God, and Christianity is false.

  4. Dear Friends,

    I challenge each of you to have the courage to do the following: Take a closer look at the evidence for your belief system. To do that, I would encourage you to read Bart Ehrman’s blog. (You can google it to find it) He is not the Christianity-bashing atheist that many Christians assume. For instance, he believes Jesus was a real person, that he was crucified, and that his disciples truly and sincerely believed that he had been bodily resurrected. Ehrman also believes that Paul was a real person, and that Paul met with Peter and James in Jerusalem.

    I think you will find Dr. Ehrman’s blog a fascinating resource of information regarding early Christianity.

    Peace and happiness to each of you,


    • Thanks Gary, Ehrman does hold to certain facts about the historical Jesus. However, he rejects all supernatural claims and he also rejects the bodily resurrection. Ehrman considers himself a happy agnostic. I agree, investigate the evidence. His positions have been responded to may many thoughtful scholars. In the end, his Jesus is exactly the one he sets out to find – a historical figure, but not the risen son of God. I share more of my critique here –

    • Hi, Gary! It’s interesting to see your comment from 2013 vs. your comment from 2015. You made a point in the 2013 post that I wanted to mention briefly. You note that faith is the necessary component of being saved, whether through the old covenant or new covenant. I’m assuming that you’re now an agnostic because you believe in a lack of proof of Jesus’ resurrection.

      Isn’t faith believing without the requirement of undeniable evidence? I think you were spot on about the faith aspect of your original post. I’m not sure what has caused you to require evidence two years later, but I would encourage you to reconsider the faith aspect.

      It’s certainly difficult to believe in things we haven’t seen with our own eyes, and Jesus knows that: 1 Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filed with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

      Just food for thought as an outside person looking at your two comments! Hope all is well.

  5. If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, why would God have the author of one inspired book copy almost word for word an entire chapter from another inspired book of the Bible? II Kings 19 and Isaiah 37 are identical. Read them for yourself.