The Israelite - saved by law or by faith?


Sat, Jan 10, 2015 5:26 pm
Subject: re: the law and faith

Dear _______, 

I want to clarify my answer of “no” when _____ asked me if I thought that God accepted the Israelite when they brought a sacrifice for sin.  The scripture is clear that the expectation of the law was that sacrifice for sin was necessary.  However, my “no” was because full acceptance is dependent upon belief/faith in God. 

I checked Mr. _____'s word again quickly when I got home, and my concern with his statements remains the same – i.e., his statements as to the sin offering were too absolute and unguarded in that he left out faith.  He says, “once an Israelite had sinned the only way in which that sin could be dealt with in a way that satisfied God, was by bringing Him a sin-offering.”  He then made a number of similar statements – “It is important to understand that the only way this Israelite could be right with God was by bringing the sin-offering … It was the only way.  There was absolutely nothing else he could do to remove that sin …”, etc.  

It can be argued that he understands the side of faith; however, that is really not clear from his statements.  Thus, my concern when I wrote to the publisher was that, taken at face value, it is being taught that salvation for the Israelite was based upon bringing a sacrifice for sin; whereas, the truth is that salvation, per se, is only arrived at through belief/faith in God.  At best the statements as quoted above simply lack the side of the inclusion of faith and possibly, at worst, there is a misapprehension as to the true basis of salvation for the OT saint.   

Be all the above as it may, my concern has become enlarged beyond this particular preaching to the end that, for any Christian – in taking up the general scriptural doctrine as to salvation – it appears there is a danger that it might be held that, in relation to Israel, faith is somehow given a second place, as it were, to the act of sacrifice under the law.  The primary question is, ultimately, how is a man saved?  From the very beginning of scripture and onwards the answer is clear:  “ye are saved by grace through faith”. 

It is necessary to understand the intent of God in bringing in the law by reading Romans.  To understand the intent is all important.  “The law indeed [is] good … But sin, that it might appear sin, working death to me by that which is good; in order that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”  The law was brought in by God as a demonstration of sin.  Galatians 3:19 shows, “Why then the law? It was added for the sake of transgressions” (i.e., to show the transgressions of mankind). There is no ultimate intent by God to satisfy His demands for righteousness in the implementation of the law [Of course, God was able to demonstrate the reality that the Lord, as shown in Isaiah 42:21, “magnified the law and made it honorable'“ — thus necessarily demonstrating that the law could be and was upheld by One righteous—Editor].  Thus, the law and the accompanying sacrificial system could never save man – “…by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him”.  The opposite is the reality – Paul writes “but without faith it is impossible to please him” and “he that draws near to God must believe that He is”. 

Why, then, as was raised last night, is the language of, for example, Leviticus adamant as to the need for sacrifice?  The answer is that it is the nature of the law – it is written in stone.  Everything must be kept and adhered to – “not one iota or tittle of the law shall fail”; but, the sacrificial penance of the Israelite only assured them of meeting an immediate requirement of the law – it, by itself, could not bring salvation.  Paul writes in Romans – “And every priest stands daily ministering, and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”. 

Hebrews adds to Romans and together they highlight the great side of faith – which is shown to be retroactive to the OT.  Romans 4 shows the forgiveness of sins  “on the principle of faith, that [it might be] according to grace, in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not to that only which [is] of the law, but to that also which [is] of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all” and, prior to that, “since indeed [it is] one God who shall justify [the] circumcision on the principle of faith, and uncircumcision by faith.”  That is immediately applicable to our own time, of course; but, it includes OT saints (see Rahab as set out in Hebrews).  Galatians 3 was alluded to last night as suggesting that the law pertained to the OT for salvation and faith pertained to NT times – “So that the law has been our tutor up to Christ, that we might be justified on the principle of faith. But, faith having come, we are no longer under a tutor”; however, this is simply a reference to the existence of the law (and, it’s moral import and benefits) for the OT saint and it’s inapplicability, per se, in NT times. 

I think that Dad used to say that we have to start with the NT to properly understand the OT – the householder has in his bag things new and old (in that order).  Using the following only as an example of this necessity, it was said last night that the Israelite had to place the blood on the lintel so that the destroyer would pass over that house, and that this demonstrated the necessity of keeping the law (of course, as we know, the law as such had not even yet been given); however, Hebrews 11 says “By faith he celebrated the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.”  That’s the thing there.  The keeping of God’s word (the law) was simply an evidence of the faith.  As I said last night, I simply cannot see from scripture that salvation as such is based on anything throughout other than belief/faith in God. 

It always behooves us to look into the truth and, as I’ve said before, I can say myself that I am conscious of the need to tread carefully in Divine things. 




..... I never wrote that he didn’t understand it – only that I had written to confirm the thinking on this point (this is what I wrote to _____ _____:  “I think the statements noted above put undue emphasis on – skewed a bit – the activity of the sacrificial system in the OT rather than on the faith that would underlie it … That’s it – I don’t make much of it – I almost didn’t write”).

As far as the individual Israelite bringing the sacrifice, it is vital to understand that, while the provisions of the law might well be met in such a sacrifice, a great number – perhaps a preponderant number – of the Israelites fulfilled the sacrificial demands; but, with the faith absent.  Thus, the Lord’s words to them as a nation prophetically through Isaiah were, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith Jehovah. I am sated with burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and in the blood of bullocks, and of lambs, and of he-goats I take no pleasure …. Bring no more vain oblations!  Incense is an abomination unto me,—new moon and sabbath, the calling of convocations—wickedness and the solemn meeting I cannot bear.  Your new moons and your set feasts my soul hateth: they are a burden to me; I am wearied of bearing [them].”

It is circular reasoning to say that, if the law demanded a sacrifice for sin, each Israelite who brought the sacrifice had the necessary faith or they wouldn’t have brought the sacrifice.  The Lord severely castigated the Pharisees since, while they evidently exceeded in the law since they went so far as to even wash the outside of the cup, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of rapine and intemperance.”

There is a fundamental question that I have posed:  “How is a soul – how was the Israelite – saved?” 

If the answer is “By keeping the law” we know that to be an impossibility and in direct contradiction to Scripture.  If it is said, “By faith” then this agrees with what I have been seeking to highlight all along.  One might say “By both”; but, that is just an obfuscation that begs the question.  And, in like fashion, if one said that under the law an Israelite couldn’t be saved if they ignored the precepts and sacrifices of the law, that, again, is simply begging the question. 

_____ asked me when this issue of the law surfaced again (I had pointed out that the “sinner” of Luke 7 who had weepingly washed the Lord’s feet with her tears was told “Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace”) that, if the Israelite brought a sacrifice were they justified/accepted (I believe that or a similar word was used) before God?  I said “no” and subsequently explained that I said “no” because full justification/acceptance/salvation involves faith/belief which is through God’s grace (“Ye are deprived of all profit from the Christ as separated [from him], as many as are justified by law; ye have fallen from grace”).  The Israelite that brought a sacrifice would have been, of course – based on the tenets of the law – accepted according to the law.  But, the law and the sacrificial system does not and cannot save. 

I am pressed with the thought that there is an obtuse attempt here to argue that, by keeping the sacrificial system according to the law, an Israelite could somehow be constituted righteous since the sacrifice for sin satisfied the righteous requirement of the law.  But, this would be works (which as I said to you is a Catholic notion) and, second, the Bible is adamant in insisting “the righteousness which [is] of God through faith”.  That is the only righteousness which I can see that is upheld by Scripture.   Mr. _____’s word was that “It is important to understand that the only way this Israelite could be right [i.e., “righteous” – Editor] with God was by bringing the sin-offering …. It was the only way” and I simply wrote to _____ _____ to confirm an understanding on this point. 


Friday, January 16, 2015 2:49 PM
Subject: Re: the law and faith