R.C. Sproul | – How were people saved in the Old Testament?

We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But how were people reconciled to God before the coming of Christ? From one of our Ask Ligonier events, Steven Lawson explains how the saints of the Old Testament were saved. To get real-time answers to your biblical and theological questions, just ask Ligonier. Visit [support us]

About The Author

Ligonier Ministries Ligonier Ministries is an international Christian discipleship organization founded by theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul in 1971 to equip Christians to articulate what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. Proclaiming God’s holiness is central to Ligonier’s purpose. Ligonier produces Renewing Your Mind radio broadcasts, the Reformation Study Bible, Tabletalk magazine, books through the Reformation Trust Publishing division, and various teaching series. It also offers academic degrees through Reformation Bible College. In addition, Ligonier hosts national and regional conferences, offers an online learning community through Ligonier Connect, streams twenty-four-hour Christian internet radio through RefNet, and makes available thousands of unique discipleship resources online at Ligonier.org. Ligonier Ministries

Comment (42)

  1. Super awesome, but for some reason there are questions coming into mind about animal sacrifices. Does anyone understand why there was a need for blood shed to take place to cover sin, yet at the same time people in the old testament were also saved through faith alone? Was it because Jesus himself hadn't "shed his own blood" yet so it's kind of like temporary fix?

  2. God~ Says I Will Send The Sword~ & Famine~ & Plague~ Against Them like Figs° That Are So Bad They Cannot Be Eaten~ I Will Pursue Them With The Sword~ Famine & Plague & I Will Make Them abhorrent° 2 All The Kingdom's Of The Earth Are Cursed~ & An Object Of Horror Of Scorn°

  3. Jesus Christ said when a demon finds a house empty he enters in . Well you just made my house full with truth as far back as Genesis . Righteousness, peace, joy . This man speaks through the spirit and not the flesh. And I understand it blessed be the name of the lord.

  4. People error because they are not equipped with the one thing that God say we must have , FAITH . People think that when Jesus came through the flesh ; died and was resurrected ; appeared before the Father for our sins ; that the forgiveness for sin started at that point ; but they are 100 % wrong . Question , Did Abraham , Isaac , Jacob , David , etc ……. live and die before Jesus Christ came in the flesh ? If the answer is yes , how were they justified from sin ? These men wll be in the kingdom of God . The apostle Paul stated in Romans 3:23 , " For all have sinned , and come short of the glory of God " ; So how can anyone before Jesus resurrection and appearing before the Father for our sins be justified ? In Romans 6:23 , " For the wages of sin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord " . Jesus is the atonement for our sins , but most people do not realize , that this represents TWO TYPE OF SINS ; the sin of the first death that Adam put ALL of us under , the grave ; which is the free gift , nothing is required , even if you do not believe in Jesus . By sinning against the laws of God , Adam condemned the entire creation back to the dust of the ground ; for all have sinned and come shot of the glory of God . By living a righteous life , unblemlish without sin , Jesus was not worthy to die as we are ; so he died not for himself , but for ALL who have transgressed the laws of the Father ; which is given to ALL who have ever lived ; that how he defeated death , by overcoming sin . By defeating sin ; which brings on death , now ALL will be resurrected from their first tabernacle ( body ) , and live forever in their second tabernacle ( body ) ; but can we dwell with the Father , if we die in our first tabernacle in sin ? 1 John 1:5-7 , " This then is the message which we have heard of him , and declare unto you , that God is light , and in him is no darkness at all . If we say that we have fellowship with him , and walk in darkness , we lie , and do not the truth : But if we walk in the light , we have fellowship one with another , and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from ALL SINS " . The free gift redeems you from the sins of the first death , the grave , but to dwell with the Father in his kingdom , something else is required . This is what Jesus Christ said , as he started his ministry in Mark 1:14-15 , " Now after that John was put in prison , Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God , And saying , The time is fulfilled , and the kingdom of God is at hand :REPENT YE , AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL " . The God of Israel has always required that you repent of your sins with a sorrowful heart ( like king David did in Psalm 32 & 51 ) ; and believe by obedience ; which means to start keeping his laws/commandments/instructions ; which includes all covenants ; that's how you have faith with him , by obedience . The gospel that Jesus taught are the same words that Moses & the prophets gave in the scriptures ( Hebrews 1:1-3 ) . Remember what Moses said to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 , " The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee , of thy brethren , like unto me ; unto him ye shall hearken ; ACCORDING TO ALL THAT THOU DESIREDST OF THE LORD THY GOD IN HOREB IN THE DAY OF THE ASSEMBLY , SAYING , LET ME NOT HEAR AGAIN THE VOICE OF THE LORD MY GOD , NEITHER LET ME SEE THIS GREAT FIRE ANYMORE , THAT I DIE NOT . And the LORD said unto me , They have well spoken thatwhich they have spoken . I WILL RAISE THEM UP A PROPHET FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN , LIKE UNTO THEE , AND WILL PUT MY WORDS IN HIS MOUTH ; AND HE SHALL SPEAK UNTO THEM ALL THAT I SHALL COMMAND HIM . AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS , THAT WHOSOEVER WILL NOT HEARKEN UNTO MY WORDS WHICH HE SHALL SPEAK IN MY NAME , I WILL REQUIRE IT OF HIM " . Question , What did the children of Israel desire at Horeb , or Mount Sinai ? Answer , the ten commandments that the God of Israel spoke to them ; and all of the other statutes and judgemets ; which includes the covenants , that they were afraid to hear from God , but would hear through Moses . Jesus Christ himself said that he came not to do his own will , but the will of the one who sent him . In John 12:44-50 , Jesus said that if you do not believe the words that he speak unto you , the same words will judge you on the last day ; which is the white throne judgement ; because he speak the words of the Father . The second sin that the blood of Jesus cleaneth you from requires repentance and faith ; which means to believe by obedience ; this redeems you from the second death ; which is the lake of fire . By redeeming you fromthe first death of the grave with the free gift , now your tabernacle , or body from heaven ( 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-51 ) is in danger of the lake of fire ; because you cannot dwell with the Father in darkness ( sin ) . Before the children of Israel were given the law of animal sacrifice for the first tabernacle or body , the God of Israel required all men to live by faith ( repenting of their sins with a sorrowful heart ( mind ) and start walking in the light ) ; Why does Proverbs24:16 say this : Proverbs 24:16 , " For a just man falleth seven times , and riseth up again : but the wicked shall fall into mischief " ? Answer , if a just man falleth seven times , then he is redeemed seven times by repenting and believing like king David ; remember this was long before Jesus came in the flesh . For the atonement of sin , it requires a sacrifice ; a sacrifice through a priesthood . What priesthood was around at the time of Abraham ? Answer , The priesthood of Melchisedec . How was Melchisedec identified in Hebrews 7 ? ( King of Righteousness , King of Salem , King of peace , without father , without mother , without descent , having neither beginning of days , nor end of life ; but made like unto the Son of God ; abideth a priest continually ) . Now , who does this look like ? ( Micah 5:1-2 , Luke 1:26-33 , Romans 10:4 , Romans 1:1-4 ) . Remember the Word created the heavens and the earth , and all things that is ; and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . What did Jesus say in John 5:37 ? ( John 5:37 , " And the Father himself , which hath sent me , hath borne witness of me . Ye have neither heard his voice at any time , nor seen his shape " ) ; which means that the one most call Yahweh , or Jehovah , or I AM , or God Almighty , or The God of Abraham , Isaac , and Jacob , and Melchisedec ; is none other then the one who came in the Father's name in John 5:43 . The one we call Jesus Christ created us , and has been interceding for us as high priest from the beginning of the creation ( Melchisedec at the time of Abraham ) , until it is completed ( Jesus Christ now ) ; which is the white throne judgement . The apostle Paul explains this ( Romans 5:13-14 , " For until the law sin was in the world : but sin is not imputed when there is no law . Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses , even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression , who is the figure of him that was to come " ) . What is sin ? Answer , the transgression of the law of God ( 1 John3:4 ) . Paul stated that until the law ( what law ? ) , sin ; which is the transgression of the law of God was in the world , but sin ; which is the transgression of the law of God is not imputed ( represents something undersirable as been done , caused , or possesed by someone ) when there is no law . This law is not the commandments/instructions of God ; which includes all the covenants , but a sin sacrifice law that came at the time of Moses ; the law of animal sacrifice of works ; which was not of faith ( Romans 3:27-28 ) . Once you fell under this law , which was written in the book of the law of the priesthood , under the mediator Moses ( Leviticus ) ; it had to be carried out , just as it is written ; no grace or mercy . When the children of Israel went into a covenant with the Father in the wilderness , all their sins were forgiven ; the only thing that they waited on was the promise to redeem ALL MEN from the sins of the first death , the grave . When the children of Israel begin to break the laws of the Father and not repent by faith ; he gave to them , through their mediator Moses , the law of animal sacrifice for the body , of the earthly tabernacle ; to keep from killing their flesh , hoping that their would rethink themselves and repent by faith , before they die ; or they would die in their sins . Shalom !


  6. With God Everything is by faith. Unfortunately these modern theologians are always SELLING books but never the King James and never talk about Prayer.
    Only Trust the Holy SPIRIT as your teacher. 2Peter Let that no man TEACHETH you
    The HOLY SPIRIT and only the Holy SPIRIT should be our Teacher. With God everything is by Faith and Grace. SHALOM…

  7. According to our apostle paul’s ministry in The King James Bible,we are only saved by believing The Gospel of Jesus Christ,1st Corinthians Chapter 15 verse 1-4.Jesus Christ died on the cross,spilled His Blood for all of our sins,was buried and rose again on the third day.Jesus Christ Spilled Blood is what saves you when you believe this plan of salvation with your heart.

  8. Abraham believed God would make his seed as the stars of heaven he believed this. And because he believed this it was counted to him for rigteousness . James 2:21 Was not Abraham justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? :24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. :25 likewise also was not Rahab justified by works.
    Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of Gods righteousness, and going about to establisih their own righteousness, have not submitted themselfs unto the righteousness of God. :4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. : For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, thatcthe man which doeth those things shall live by them. Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
    Galatians 3:1 O Foolish galatians who hath bewitched you,
    3:2 This only would i learn of you, Receieved ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith. Read Galatians 3:10-12 And the law is not of faith: but the man that doeth them dhall live by them .
    Galatians 3:13 Christchath redeememed us from the curse of the law.
    The old testament mosaic law was faith in God and their works he must doeth them the Law doesnt mix with no works it is works with faith. After Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again its is by grace 5hrough faith in the dispensation of the grave of God. In the church age god is dispensation grace and doesnt demand works for salvatiom but under the Law of moses it was demanded that works and faith not by works alone. You have to make a liar of scriptures to say otherwise Fact.

  9. They did not look forward to the cross!!!! Jesus told the disciples about him dying and they did not understand what he meant …. and why did they sacrifice for sins if they got saved the same way?? Completely nice guy but totally wrong about this

  10. Yep and Galatians Chapter 3 is very clear. Starting in verse 5: So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Boom. Then more in verse 7: Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture FORESAW that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel IN ADVANCE to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

    Then in verse 19: Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

  11. This is the wrong question and a wrong answer. There are 2 questions that need to be asked, not one. How were your sins forgiven in the Old Testament? The answer is by trusting what God revealed to you. No one in the Old Testament put their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read Luke 24:11-12 and see that even the Apostles didn't believe it yet. So throughout human history our sins are forgiven by trusting in what God has revealed to you like Gen 15:6 but your sins were not yet cleared or paid for Exod 34:7. The OT saints had their sins paid for and cleared by the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. It's always been grace through faith in what God said yet their sins weren't cleared or paid for until the cross. That's why OT saints waited in Paradise or Abraham's bosom until our Lord went to get them after His crucifixion.

  12. No OT Jew was saved by believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God. They were saved by believing what God revealed to them in their day, which included following the works of the law (after codified under Moses). Yes, grace has always been a part of salvation since Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command regarding the tree of good and evil. OT saints didn't know the name of Jesus, or that He was going to die a death by crucifixion, then be raised the third day from the dead, as we do today. That just isn't in the OT message. Their salvation was attached to faith and obedience to the revelation of God. Today, in this day of Grace, one is saved by believing the gospel message delivered and preached by the apostle Paul, who was said to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15 & 16; Rom. 11:13 & 14; 15:15; 1 Timothy 2:7; Eph. 3:7; and Gal. 2:6-9). Paul's gospel, as I mentioned above (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), was unique to Paul. His message doesn't match that of Peter in Acts 2:38! Peter's message was for the house of Israel to believe who Jesus of Nazareth was – their promised Messiah, as prophesied by the prophets. The Jews rejected that message as a nation; therefore, God called Saul of Tarsus (Paul the apostle) to preach his gospel of grace to the Gentiles. Paul called his message "my gospel" (Rom. 2:16; 16:25), "that gospel which I PREACH among the Gentiles…" And it is uniquely known as "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

  13. People, do not listen to men who present their own interpretations and opinions on Scripture as the Gospel! Such are man-made gospels! Forget about those men! Run from them!

    Jesus brought us only one single Gospel which is for us to accept: not to compose ourselves! WAKE UP!! There is only one way to heaven and that is the Way from the beginning…

    Read Paul and John and Augustine and the entire early Church: separation and heresy lead to eternal damnation! WAKE UP!! There is only one Lord and one Gospel! WAKE UP!!

  14. I think Steve Lawson missed the point while discussing salvation. What are we being saved from? …. sin and the consequences of sin. Hebrews ch 9 clarifies it. The bible is clear that there is only one way that sin can be absolved and that is through spilling of blood. In the old testament this was done through the blood of goats, bulls and heifers. This was temporary and had to be repeated. In the new covenant (testament) Christ did it once and for all by spilling his own blood on our behalf. There is faith involved in both. Tne just live by faith. Before Christ you had to have faith that God forgave your sin through the blood of the lamb, goat or bull you sacrificed. After Christ you have to have faith in the sacrifice of Christ has taken away your sin. So I guess I would have to disagree that people in the old testament were saved by faith in Christ. Yes Abraham foresaw the day of Christ and he rejoiced. It does not say he was saved! He rejoiced because he knew we would be free from the rituals.

  15. 11Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.

    12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.

    13 Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works.

    14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.fn

    15And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
    Revelation 20

  16. I love Steve Lawson. He's a marvelous teacher and defender of the faith. I'm a nobody, but I have to disagree with this. Dr. Lawson is certainly correct that there is ONE way of salvation, that it is by grace through faith, not of works. However, the OT saints did not know that they were looking forward to the cross. The gospels are replete with this fact (e.g. Matt. 16:21-23; Mark 9:9-10, 31-32; Luke 9:43-45, 18:31-34, John 20:8-9). Why did the women go to the tomb? To anoint a dead body. Why did Peter fail to understand, even after seeing the empty tomb? (See Luke 24:1-12.) Hebrews 11 should clear up everything we need to know about this. Everyone, from Adam until today, is saved by faith alone. Are we saved by Christ alone? Absolutely. Was the OT saint saved by Christ? Yes. Was the OT saint saved because he knew that the Son of God would come and be crucified, buried, and risen the third day? No. The OT saint (again, leaning on Hebrews 11 here) was saved by faith in the amount of truth God gave him. I'm open to correction on this, so please help me if I'm wrong. I am in no way saying that there are two ways of salvation. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is but one gospel. But the people who lived and died before our Lord came did not know of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Was the gospel found in the OT? Absolutely! Did the people of that day understand it? Absolutely not (Luke 24:44-47). Mark 1:1: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." There is ONE gospel, ONE way of salvation. But the people who lived and died before the Lord came into this world did not understand that gospel like you and I do today. (Repeating for emphasis here.)

  17. Full disclosure: I have no college degrees and I never attended a seminary.

    I agree that no one was ever saved and no one will ever be saved except by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. (God’s grace is the source and means of salvation and faith – which is another gift of God’s grace – is the conduit or vehicle of salvation.)

    I’m always looking for better ways to explain the gospel, however, so I have some suggestions.

    The word “testament” means covenant.

    The prototype of the old covenant was what the children of Israel said at Sinai – “All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient.”

    The new covenant consists of any and all of the promises of the creator that pertain to salvation. The prototype of the new covenant was God’s promise as recorded in Genesis 3:15 “…I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

    I had known for some time that theologians refer to this promise as the “protoevangelium” but I supposed that that word was rather obscure. Imagine my surprise the first time I used it in composing an email for a friend and discovered that my spell checker DIDN’T indicate it was a misspelled word!

    So if all of the promises by the creator to Adam and Eve and to the Hebrew patriarchs of antiquity (including Abraham) are older than the old covenant as recorded in Exodus, why is the old covenant called old and the new covenant called new?

    Because the old covenant was ratified with the blood of animals at Sinai BEFORE the new covenant was ratified with the blood of Jesus on Calvary.

    In the light of this explanation, now please re-read the statement of Jesus – “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” – in its context (Matthew 26).

    I think the reason the translators of the King James version of the Bible labeled the Hebrew Bible as “Old Testament” and the Greek additions (Gospels, Epistles and Apocalypse) as “New Testament” is because they were laboring under the misperception (inherited from the Roman Church) that Christianity didn’t exist until after the incarnation of Jesus.

    That usage continues today, even among some Christians who subscribe to the doctrine that salvation has ALWAYS been by grace alone through faith alone in the Messiah alone and even though that usage is a contradiction (if unintentional) of the premise of this video.

    I agree with Dr. Lawson’s paraphrase of Romans 1:2 “Which was recorded in old testament scripture by the prophets long ago” but a few minutes’ search just now didn’t find a translation that uses that wording. (It isn’t among the four translations on our bookshelf.) If this isn’t an actual translation, I think it would be wise to let your viewers know that.

    Finally, I’d like to address the saying, “If it’s new it’s not true.”

    There is some validity to that saying if it is understood, for example, in the sense of evaluating and interpreting anything purported to be special revelation by older revelation.

    On the other hand, most people understand that saying to mean that if an interpretation or doctrine is new to THEM, it should be rejected. That’s what the majority of the Sanhedrien did 2,000 years ago.

    In the 1970s, a congregation of one of the larger protestant denominations (the denomination had over 10,000,000 members in the 1970s) invited me to teach an adult Sunday school class. They knew I didn’t have seminary “training” and that I had never been a member of their denomination but I had participated in some home Bible studies hosted by some of their members and they were satisfied I could teach. The pastor told me the elderly gentleman who had been teaching the class needed a break.

    After the first time I taught the class, the elderly teacher took me aside so as to not embarrass me and said “You don’t need to bother quoting the old testament here.
    We are a new testament church.”

    So, from then on, whenever I wanted to quote from the Hebrew Bible, I first asked someone in the class to read from a passage where Jesus or one of the apostles had quoted that passage from the Hebrew Bible. Some of what I was teaching was new to members of the class. If I had failed to make that change in my teaching method, presumably many of the members of that class would have rejected much of what I was quoting from the Hebrew Bible.

    After I had taught the class for a few months, the elderly teacher resumed his teaching – and I attended his class. Imagine my delight when he quoted the Hebrew Bible as authority!

    Subsequently, I decided to move to another state (U.S.). The congregation held a farewell dinner for me. I was invited to sit next to the pastor. During the meal he told me that, for the first time that anyone could remember, some of the members had asked him to baptize (immerse) them and, for the first time anyone could remember, the church board had voted to include a foot-washing service in connection with their next celebration of the Lord’s supper. I had only shown them evidence that such practices were historical and biblical. I hadn’t even suggested that they “should” follow suit.

    Apparently, some of the members agreed that new to them didn’t necessarily need to be considered “not true” or “not relevant”.

  18. If we are saves by Christ alone how can there be a trinity of three different being ?? But for a trinitarian you have to believe in their triune gods nowhere teach or you are an heretic mmmmmm Nobody was a trinitarian in all the bible whe are saves by Faith in Jesus BECAUSE Jesus is the One true God the Father manifested in flesh. Jesus never been teach as being a second person of a triune pagan divinity. Three Heads … really ???? and six arms ???

  19. in the old testament they where justify by believing in Yahweh and trough obedience to God law ,their salvation was conditional and their priests have to always renew the sacrifices to hide the sins of Israel to God eye. …. and the son of man Jesus is Yahweh who came among us (Only ONe God Yahweh) as the sacrificial Lamb to saves HIS PEOPLES (Yahweh peoples) and our Salvation is no more conditional but by Grace to the same God who came among us (Emanuel) '' if we see the Son WE SEE THE FATHER'' not another person. Faith it's to believe in the Son and the Father BECAUSE there is only one God the Father …manifested in flesh. Yahweh was THE SAVIOR of Israel and there is only One Savior.The MAN Jesus is the Mediator between men and the Father (Jesus Head or Spirit) To be in Christ it's to be in the Holy Spirit or we are dead in our sins. So if you do not believes in the true Jesus of the bible who is the true God (1John5:20) do you have the true Faith ????

  20. Faith alone +grace alone + Christ alone= three alones. How can it be alone if there are three of them?
    These guys speak fast, bombarding you with their fancy phrases won’t give you a chance to think.
    P.S. Habakkuk 2:4 is wrongly translated "by faith" it should be "faithfulness". Hebrew word ‘EMUNAH’ means: faithful, steady, steadfast; 48 times it’s translated as faithfulness and only ones as faith in Habakkuk.
    Greek word for faith is "pistis", witch can be translated as faithfulness. So faith without deeds is dead. How about that