Men have always been redeemed by faith in the Gospel, in Old Testament times as well as now.
No study of the great doctrines relating to salvation would be complete without a consideration of the Gospel itself, which is distinctly called "the Gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13). Belief of the Gospel message is absolutely essential to salvation, for "the Gospel of Christ...is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).
The word "gospel" itself means good newsor glad tidings, and carries in it the thought of the proclamation of this good news. Thus the root meaning of the word is closely akin to our word "evangelize," so that we sometimes speak of the Gospel as "the Evangel."
The Word of God is filled with good news for those who hear and heed it, but the Gospel is God's good news concerning the way of salvation. The Gospel message is explained to us in I Corinthians 15 where Paul writes: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you...For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (vs. 1, 3, 4). The Gospel message, then, declares the vicarious death of Christ and His bodily resurrection: the fact that He "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). Therefore if we from the heart "believe that Jesus died and rose again" (I Thess. 4:14), we are saved.
The Gospel tells us that "Christ died." We are not saved by the righteous and perfect life He lived upon earth and our imitation of that life; we are saved rather by His death. "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom 5:10), for "Christ died for our sins." Thus we have interwoven into the Gospel message the fact that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and that God "hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).
I Corinthians 15:3 says that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." In prophecy and type the Old Testament Scriptures set forth the truth of the Gospel message, both that "Christ died for our sins" and that "He rose again the third day." Isaiah wrote prophetically of Him, that God would "make His soul an offering for sin," and, in the same verse, declared: "He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand" (Isa. 53:10). This fact necessitates His resurrection.
In the instructions given to the priest for the cleansing of the leper, "two birds alive and clean" were to be taken, "and the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water: as for the living bird, he shall take it,...and shall dip...the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water...and shall let the living bird loose into the open field" (Lev. 14:4-7).
Here was a picture of the Gospel message of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fact that we have been redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God" (I Pet. 1:19-21).
"Christ died for our sins," says the Gospel message, and "He was buried." His death was no farce; it was real. "And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher. But God raised Him from the dead" (Acts 13:29, 30). "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" (Acts 2:24). "He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
The only way by which anyone can be saved is by the Gospel, "the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). Faith in this good news about God's Son is the only condition, for we are assured here that salvation comes "to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [Gentile]." The message must be believed and, thus, received. The writer of Hebrews speaks of Israel in the wilderness, and says: "For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them; but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Heb. 4:2).
The Hebrews passage reveals that men have always been saved by faith in the Gospel message concerning the death and resurrection of God's Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that our Lord's death and resurrection were not accomplished facts in the days when Israel was in the wilderness, or in the days of Abraham. Nevertheless they were sure facts in the mind and plan of God and, therefore, men could be saved by the Gospel as they looked forward to that coming One. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen [Gentiles] through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal. 3:6-8).
In contrast to those who are not profited because they do not believe the Gospel, we see the blessedness of those who believe illustrated by the Thessalonians, to whom Paul wrote: "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5). When we believe the Gospel, we are saved by God's power. The Holy Spirit comes at once into our hearts to dwell forever, and assures us of our salvation, for "the Spirit [Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16).
Parenthetically, let us notice that there are also other forms of the Gospel which have been or will be preached in other ages. "The Gospel of the kingdom" is mentioned repeatedly in the record of our Lord's ministry upon earth. He "went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people" (Matt 4:23). This "Gospel of the kingdom," preached by our Lord and His disciples, and by His forerunner John the Baptist, was the good news that God was ready to set up upon earth the long promised and long awaited Messianic kingdom, and the message itself was: "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). The message was rejected by the Jews but will again be preached in the coming tribulation period, after the Church has been translated. Our Lord spoke of this coming announcement by the saved Jewish remnant of that day, when He said: "And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).
We read also of "the everlasting Gospel" (Rev. 14:6) which will be given by angelic proclamation just before our Lord's return to this earth in judgment. It is our purpose now, however, to consider the Gospel which is preached in this age, by which we are saved and which is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." This is "the Gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), for it tells of God's grace in giving His dear Son to die for us, "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18).
These glad tidings of salvation through the death and resurrection of our Saviour are variously spoken of as "the Gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1); "the Gospel of His Son" (Rom. 1:9); "the Gospel of Christ" (Rom. 1:16), and "the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 1:8).
It is also called "the Gospel of peace" because, when it is believed, it brings peace between a holy God and sinful man. As we believers clothe ourselves with the armor of God in order to stand against Satan and his wiles, we are to have our "feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). We are to stand ready always to go to others with the good news of the Gospel, and this readiness is a part of our armor against Satan. "For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom. 10:13-15).
The good news of salvation is also spoken of as "the glorious Gospel," or, "the Gospel of the glory" (ASV). "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:3,4). Again, Paul says that his doctrine is "according to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust" (I Tim. 1:11).
It is "the Gospel of the glory" because it speaks of our Lord's glory and also because all who believe it are sure of glory. "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 2:13, 14).
This passage from II Corinthians shows how Satan blinds people to the truth of the Gospel. He seeks to corrupt men's minds "from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3), and to veil the fact that salvation is wholly dependent upon acceptance of the Gospel message, "how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." All who believe this are saved eternally. All who refuse to believe it will come into judgment "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (II Thess. 1:7-9).
Let us, then, hold fast "the truth of the Gospel" (Gal. 2:5) and, with Paul, be "set for the defence of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:17), standing fast "in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:27). Thus will our manner of life be "as it becometh the Gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:27). Satan's hatred is directed toward the Gospel, and those who faithfully proclaim it will be persecuted; but God's grace will enable us uncomplainingly to be partakers "of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God" (II Tim. 1:8).
"The bonds of the Gospel" (Philemon 18) bind us to all who are in Christ and ought to fill our hearts with love toward them, as we together wait for "the hope of the Gospel" (Col. 1:23), which is the "hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2,) when we shall see our Lord and be like Him.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation by John B. Marchbanks. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1970. Chapter 15.
Selections from Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation