Romans 10: 9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This is often the “go to” Scripture passage for Christian salvation.
Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. You have to believe in your heart that Christ died for your sins and rose from the grave, and that is the ONLY way to be saved. Once we are saved, there is no difference between our races, genders, social standing, wealth, or anything else.
That is it. That is the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ from the time of Paul to now.
But is that the same way people always have been, or always will be saved?
Some people would say, “absolutely!” They might turn to Hebrews 11 and show you that “by faith” Abraham, Noah, Abel, Moses, and other Old Testament heroes did great things which led to their salvation.
Then they might turn to Ephesians 2:8-9 to demonstrate that “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
This seems to make sense. Those Godly men had faith and were saved. We are saved through faith. Salvation is, was, and will be the same.
However, I do not agree with this. I believe that the Bible is extremely clear – different dispensations (or “ages”) have different methods of salvation. One phrase I want you to keep in mind as you read through this is “things that are different are not the same.” One cannot make an argument that salvation is the same throughout all dispensations if it is different in any way.
WHAT HAPPENS AT SALVATION
At the very moment that a New Testament believer gets saved, several things occur at once.
- Justification (Romans 3:28, 5:1,9; Galatians 3:24);
- Sanctification (Romans 6:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:12)
- Born Again (John 3; 1 Peter 1:23)
- One Spirit with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17)
- Member of the Church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2; Ephesians 2:20-22) Body (Colossians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 12) and Bride (Ephesians 5) of Christ
- Spiritual Circumcision (Colossians 10:2-11)
- Permanent Indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
- Going to Heaven (John 3:3 John 3:16; 1 Peter 1:4; Revelation 4:1)
When looking at salvation throughout the dispensations, remember: Things that are different are not the same.
CHURCH AGE FAITH
Once again, Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it abundantly clear that it is through faith . . . NOT OF WORKS that saves us. When Paul wrote this epistle to the church at Ephesus, he was writing to those of us in the “Church Age” – the period from Acts to the present. It is different than the Old Testament, because the focus of Christianity turned to the Gentiles when the Jews stoned Stephen to death in Acts 7. The Jews rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Church Age will end when the Church is raptured and the Tribulation begins. The Tribulation is the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), which means the focus shifts back to the Jews as it did in the Old Testament.
Now, salvation, according to Paul, is rooted in faith alone. No works are involved. You do not have to constantly confess all your sins. You do not have to sacrifice animals on an altar at the temple. You do not even have to pray, go to church, or read your Bible. You do not have to be baptized or take communion. NONE OF THESE “works” have anything to do with your salvation.
You need not “do”anything, because “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
You must believe in the Gospel. That is all.
OLD TESTAMENT FAITH
Adam, the first man, was created sinless. He and Eve walked alongside God in the Garden of Eden.
Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, and Elijah believed. They had faith. Did they call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Did they believe in the resurrection of the Savior who died on Calvary for their sins?
No. They did not.
There is no way you can make a Scriptural argument to support the idea that they did.
The details about the Lord’s virgin birth was not penned until Isaiah 7 and there were no clear details of His death until Isaiah 53. The Jews were under the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. They had to sacrifice animals in the temple to atone for their sins. They were given specific tasks to demonstrate their faith – like Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son.
They had to do as well as believe. If you just cannot wrap your head around a “works AND faith” based salvation, you still have to admit that none of these saints were saved like you and I.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit came and went. King Saul had the Holy Spirit and lost it (1 Samuel 16:14). Samson lost it (Judges 16:20). David was afraid of losing it (Psalm 51:11).
Is this the same for you? No.
When Romans 8:35-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” is that true for Saul? For David? For Abraham?
Of course not.
The Holy Spirit did not dwell permanently in the faithful of the Old Testament. That did not occur until the book of Acts.
When the Christian is saved, they become one Spirit with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christians are born again (John 3:3). Christians go immediately to heaven when they die, but the Old Testament saints went to “paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom” (and what of those who died before Abraham? Was there a “bosom” for them to retire to after life?) rather than heaven.
James 2:21-24 speaks of Abraham and states, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
Was not Abraham justified by works? This question is asked because yes, he was. Abraham was justified when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice on the alter (works). Verse 22 shows that faith AND WORKS were together when justifying Abraham. It was at this moment when righteousness was imputed to him.
However, Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham, “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This occurred when Abraham (Abram, at that time) believed that Isaac would be born. This seems to contradict James 2.
Abraham was counted righteous in Genesis 15, but it was not until Genesis 22 that his faith was made perfect unto him according to James.
We Christians received the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ the very moment we accept the gift of salvation (Romans 4:24). It happens immediately. Likewise, are we justified immediately, UNLIKE how Abraham’s faith was “made perfect” (complete) when he offered Isaac many years after he was counted righteous.
This is not the same, because things that are different are not the same.
Looking Forward to the Cross
I have heard this refrain from many Christians about the Old Testament saints. Now show me that in Scripture. You cannot, because it does not exist. There is no mention of the Messiah being hanged on a cross. Isaiah 53 speaks of His wounds, bruises, and stripes, but not the crucifixion.
When did Noah look to the cross? When did Abraham? Moses? Elijah? Enoch (the only man in all the Bible that did not and will not die – because he is a “type” of the raptured Christian)? David? Lot? Jonah? Solomon? Daniel? Anyone? Bueller?
Furthermore, there is no mention of the resurrection, which is another MAJOR component of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints, and even Christ’s disciples, were unaware of this aspect of the Lord’s sacrifice. The disciples had Old Testament Scripture, but were clueless about the coming resurrection until Christ told them it would happen in John 2.
So no one until after the resurrection was saved by faith that Christ died on the cross and rose again after three days and three nights.
These saints were not saved the same was as Christians. They just were not. Period.
Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
The Church is the body of Jesus Christ. The Jews are not.
The Church did not come about until after Christ’s resurrection. Therefore, anyone “saved” before the existence of the Church IS NOT IN THE BODY OF CHRIST.
It is different. If we were all saved the same way from the time of Adam, then Moses, Job, and Joshua would be in the Church – which we know is not true.
What trips most Christians up is the failure to understand dispensationalism – and some even call dispensationalism a heresy.
Without understanding that there are different ages, the Bible can be a very tricky Book. Many false teachings come about because someone took a verse for Jews and applied it to Christians.
Take, for instance, James 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Faith is dead without works? But I thought that it is through faith we are saved, NOT OF WORKS. How does this square?
Because Ephesians is written to the CHURCH at Ephesus (Christians), while James is written to the JEWS. The very first verse of the first chapter begins, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (emphasis mine).
If you are pulling your Christian doctrine from James, Hebrews (literally named for the Jews), or Acts (especially the early chapters before the Christian church existed), then you are going to be teaching a false doctrine.
Matthew is also a book for the Jews. The opening genealogy exists to demonstrate to the Jews that Jesus Christ was a decendent of David and heir to the throne.
Matthew 24:13 says, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
Is this how you, dear Christian, are saved? By enduring?
Of course not. Matthew 24 is a passage about the tribulation meant for the Jews. Once the Church Age ends and the Time of Jacob’s Troubles begins, you can be saved by enduring all seven years. During this time, you must have faith, but also endure or be martyred – these are works.
The tribulation adds an element of works to salvation, just as in the Old Testament. It is no long by grace through faith alone.
Revelation 20:4 shows what happens when these folks endured, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
This is DIFFERENT than it is for us. Salvation during the tribulation is not the same! Things that are different are not the same.
If you want to make the argument that faith is necessary for all dispensations, I would agree. To say that salvation is the same throughout the dispensations, I would not.
The Bible tells us to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
This verse demonstrates not only the importance of studying God’s word, but that there are divisions in the word of truth.
Dispensations are divisions in ages and the context changes between them. The Old Testament is divided from the New Testament. The Jews are divided from the Gentiles. The saved from the unsaved. The righteous from the wicked. The circumcised from the uncircumcised. The Law from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rightly dividing is of the utmost importance.
If you tell a new Christian that they must “endure to the end” and that “faith without works is dead,” then they will live a life demonstrating their faith through deeds rather than living it through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can get the Christian doubting their salvation when they read about Saul and Samson theirs.
These are not good things, and they wrongly divide the body of Christ.
Dispensationalism is not a heresy – it is a necessity. Believing that salvation is not the same throughout the dispensations is not “extreme,” it is rightly dividing.
I will say it again – you and I are not saved the same way as Moses or those who will enter the tribulation. Only during this Church Age are we saved by grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. THIS is the only relevant Gospel, regardless of what Noah and David believed.
I hope that if you have made it this far, that you will understand that a belief in dispensations or different salvation in different dispensations has Biblical backing. It is not some false teaching conjured up on some heretical theory. If you still disagree, then you can present your verses. If you are wrongly dividing, I will call you out. If you can show me, with Scripture, that Moses was saved the same way as Paul, I would love to see it. If you have a verse that demonstrates the doctrine of Abraham “looking forward to the cross,” then present it.
If you cannot, then at least cut the rest of us some slack and stop misusing terms like “heretic” whenever you disagree with a doctrine or theology. Like it or not, dispensational salvation is Biblical.
2 thoughts on “Dispensational Truth”
I am a righteous human being. To be righteous is to be in right standing with God. If I am in right standing with God, I am saved; redeemed; born again–whatever you want to call it. I am not righteous due to my own goodness or merit. I am righteous because the shed blood of Jesus Christ covers my sin, ALL of it. The righteousness I claim is not my own, it is imputed to me by believing — having faith– in what Christ did on the cross on my behalf. Up to this point I believe you and I are in agreement. Perhaps it is just semantics, but I believe other Scriptures need to be examined to clarify some things that you stated in your writings above.
Paul makes it clear in Romans 3:27 – 28 that there is a distinct delineation between works and faith: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In other words, Paul states that works has no part in the justification of a human soul — it is by faith only.
Paul further clarifies this in Romans 4:1-5: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what sayeth the scripture? Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Abraham’s righteousness–his salvation–was rooting in faith only, and not works. Otherwise, as stated in verse 4, God would have imputed His righteousness to Abraham because Abraham WORKED of it and God OWED it to him.
Pertaining to what James says in his epistle, yes, his writing is directed to a Jewish audience, but his statements about faith vs. works are universal truths applicable to both Jew and Gentile in all ages. Works are nothing more than the fruit of faith. If a person has genuine faith–in anything–not just in God–that person’s works validates that the faith is real. You and I agree that the post-resurrection believer is saved by faith ONLY, but we still perform works BECAUSE OF our faith. Do you pray? do you give offerings to the church? do you teach your children Christian principles for living? do you love your wife as Christ loves the church? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! These things, and hundreds more, are works. Why do Christians do these things–to be saved? No, but because we are ALREADY saved; these are merely fruits of our faith. James rightly states that when a person claims to have faith but there are no works accompanying that claimed faith, that faith is dead–non-existent, and that person’s claim to salvation and righteousness is false. Abraham did not almost sacrifice Isaac to PROVE his faith was genuine; it was already genuine and to sacrifice Isaac was a natural manifestation of the faith that was ALREADY THERE. Again, going back to Paul’s explanation in Romans 4, Abraham’s works did NOT earn him God’s favor, but his faith — belief — did.
I appreciate the reply. This does not at all negate my argument.
Abraham had righteousness imputed in Genesis 15 AFTER he believed (faith) and his justification was completed in Genesis 17 AFTER the demonstration of his faith (works). That’s what the Bible says. You cannot ignore Genesis and James.
Abraham was also not under the law, which is absolutely a works based (with faith) salvation, hence the WORK of sacrifices for atonement of sins, which once again – we do not have to do because of Christ’s shed blood.
Regardless, their salvation was not like ours. That is the point.