WHOM DOES THE BLOOD SAVE?
T. PIERCE BROWN
The following question has come to my attention, and although it may not seem to be of any practical value in living the Christian life, a study of it may deepen our appreciation of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. It is my conviction that there is no truth we can learn from God’s word that will not have practical value directly or indirectly.
Hebrews9:15teaches that the blood of Christ was “for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament.” Question: Does the blood of Christ also redeem those BEFORE the Mosaic Law? Were there any that lived contemporaneously with the Mosaic system saved without becoming proselytes? If so, were they also redeemed by the blood of Christ? How?
First, let it be firmly understood once and for all that under NO dispensation could men be saved, once having sinned, separate from the gracious acts of a loving God. That is, there was no offering or deed he could perform which would take away his sin. There are some preachers connected with the Lord’s church who seem to think that under the Old Covenant one was saved by his works of righteousness, but under the New, we are saved by grace. That distinction is not a Biblical one. Anyone who was ever saved was saved by grace.
Second, let us understand that God had to be just in justifying the ungodly (Rom.3:26), and could not arbitrarily forgive. Sometimes we hear preachers say, “God could have forgiven our sins on any basis He might have chosen, but He chose for Christ to die, and for us to be baptized into his death.” I firmly deny the implications of that. If God could arbitrarily forgive sins, and yet chose to let His Son die a useless death, then the whole Bible, and especially the plan of redemption, is worse that an imponderable mystery.
When the Bible speaks of forgiveness in the Old Testament, it surely was forgiveness IN VIEW OF the offering of the blood of Christ. We are plainly told in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission,” and in Hebrews 10:4, “For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins.” But even if the Bible did not say it in so many words, one might logically conclude so by the following reasoning: 1. Man’s soul is worth more than the whole world (Mt.16:26). 2. Man lost his soul by sin (Psa. 59:2). 3. Since man owns nothing, he cannot pay for his redemption (Psa. 50:12). 4. God would therefore have to provide for the redemption by His own grace.
The only way I know that we can properly reconcile the many statements in the Old Testament that God DID forgive sins, with the truth that it takes the blood of Christ to pay for sin, is in the fact that God could properly forgive PROSPECTIVELY, or with a view to that which He had foreordained — the offering of His Son on the cross. I am convinced that John1:29refers to the sin of the whole world, from Adam down. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” God tells us that “by one man sin entered into the world (Rom.5:12), and God is going to “judge the world” (Acts17:31, Rom. 3:6). So 1 John 2:2 reiterates that “He is the propitiation not only for OUR sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
We can see no way that God could justly “wink at” or overlook sin (Acts17:30) except to not hold a person accountable for it in view of the death of Christ. So, since we know that God commanded sacrifices before the law was given (Heb. 11:4) and had priests outside the Israelite nation (Heb. 7:1; Num. 22), and since it was the function of the priests to make offerings for sin, and since there is no way we can logically or scripturally find to pay for sin except with the blood of Christ, we concluded that the blood of Christ was the means for the redemption of both those under and those not under the Mosaic system.
Again, the only way we can find that the blood of Christ could be applied for sin is a typical or figurative fashion. We know that He was called “the Lamb of God.” We can be sure that all sacrifices for sin were types of His sacrifice for sin. It is our conclusion, therefore, that when a person, whether under the Mosaic or Patriarchal system, offered a sacrifice for sin by faith, he was TYPICALLY accepting the sacrifice of the blood of the Son of God, and God could, in justice, forgive him PROSPECTIVELY, for the one who offered the sacrifice by faith had accepted the sacrifice of the Son of God as really as you and I have when we are buried into His death. After all, we accept His blood only in a figurative way. We are no more “washed in His blood” literally than they were, and if we could be, it would not cleanse us from sin!
This means that the Ninevites, for example, could be saved without becoming proselytes to the nation ofIsrael, provided they availed themselves of whatever means God provided them. Although the book of Jonah does not deal directly with eternal salvation, nor mention any sacrificial offering for sin, but only deals with their deliverance from the physical punishment as a result of repenting, there is nothing in the story of which we are aware, nor in any other place in the Bible, that suggests that a person had to become a proselyte to the Mosaic economy to be saved. If the Bible went into detail about this, there would not be much need for a question about it, but our conclusion is that whenever they offered their sacrifices by faith (and their faith had to be produced like ours — by hearing the word, and not by some wild guess) those sacrifices were accepted of God as typical of the Lamb of God, whether the offerers were Israelites or foreigners. If this be not so, we find no reason for Jethro (Ex. 18:1,12), Balaam, and others to be mentioned as they were, as priests of God.
A question may be raised about those today who have not heard of Christ, but who offer sacrifices to God to the best of their ability. If a sacrifice of one of the patriarchs could be accepted of God TYPICALLY from one who did not know Christ, could it be so with a heathen today? Although we do not have time and space to deal properly with that question in this article, Romans 2:11-16 should cast some light on it. Note two things: 1. Those who have sinned without the law shall perish without law (Rom.2:12). It does NOT say they are excused, but “they shall perish.” 2. Those who “have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law” are still to be “judged by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom.2:14-16). This is still another indication that all men, no matter in what area or era they lived, must somehow be related to the gospel (the death of our Lord and salvation through it) in the day of judgment. If we could find any person today who offered a sacrifice as did the patriarchs, by faith, then we have no doubt that sacrifice would be accepted. But faith always comes by hearing the word of God, not by assuming and doing the best you can without the word of God.
If this article raises more questions than it answers, we have no apology to make, for we have discovered that in digging for hidden treasure, we do not always find the gold for which we search, but may uncover diamonds and many other precious gems instead.