The Content of Faith Differs from One Dispensation to the Next (WIP)

Although every man at any time is saved by the grace of God through faith, the content of faith differs from one dispensation to the next (Rom 1:17, Heb 11):

  1. The message that is offered and believed for righteousness and salvation varies according to God’s progressive revelation.
  2. The “good news” found within these different messages can be understood when we carefully study what God had revealed, when it was revealed, and to whom it was revealed:
    1. Adam:
      1. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were blessed by God and given the good news that they were to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it. They were also told by God that they had been given every herb and fruit yielding tree for their food (Gen 1:27-30).  In Gen 2:15-17, God placed Adam in the garden and gave him the good news that he could eat freely of every tree in the garden, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
        1. Righteous standing for Adam and Eve involved avoiding a particular tree.
      2. After the Fall, Adam and Eve were given the good news that one of their descendants (her seed) would bruise the head of the serpent that deceived them (Gen 3:15).
      3. There is no mention of the God/man Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection within these passages.
    2. Noah:
      1. Noah was counted righteous because of his obedience by faith toward God. He and his family were saved through building an ark in a world without rain.  His faith and obedience was not based upon the knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but in the living God and His promise of a flood (Heb 11:7, Gen 6:13-19).
      2. While Peter explains that Noah’s salvation was a figure of the salvation found in the resurrection of Christ, there is no mention in Scripture of Noah’s understanding of this truth. Peter reveals that no prophet understood such a salvation through Christ until after His death (1 Pet 1:10-11).
    3.  Abram:
      1. It cannot be ignored that Abram was counted righteous because of his faith in God’s promise of a mighty nation – not the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gen 15:6).
      2. James states the matter plainly: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” James 2:21
      3. The word of faith that Abram believed was the promise of a land, seed, and a world-wide blessing – the Abrahamic Covenant.
        1. As Paul explains, Abraham was “strong in faith” (Rom 4:16-21, Gen 12:1-3).
      4. The specific promise that God made to Abraham was not that a Messiah would die for his sins, but that his wife would produce a son, though she was barren and beyond her age (Rom 4:18-20, Gen 15:1-6).
      5. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:3, Gal 3:6, Jms 2:23):
        1. A simple reading of Gen 15:1-5 tells us what Abraham believed – “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen 15:4).
        2. Abraham believed in a promise given to him (Rom 9:8-9) and this had nothing to do with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    4.  Moses:
      1. While Moses was able to have personal conversation with God, he wrote about a righteousness gained from the obedience of faith in the law (Deut 6:25).
        1. Paul expounds upon the understanding of Moses when he quotes Lev 18:5 in Rom 10:5.
      2. This righteousness and the faith that Moses and his followers had in God’s covenant was not faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 10:2-9).
      3. Their faith in God and His Law required obedience.
      4. The requirement to do works was a product of the content of their faith in God’s revealed covenant.
    5. John the Baptist:
      1. After a four-century silence in God’s plan with Israel, John the Baptist appears on the scene preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mk 1:4).
      2. The message he taught was the soon coming of the promised kingdom to Israel and their Messiah.
      3. Once again, the content of faith was changing, yet the object of faith (Christ) remained the same.
      4. Those who believed his message accepted his baptism.
      5. Those who were unfaithful to God’s promises rejected his message of faith (Mt 3:7).
      6. The result of accepting John’s baptism was a remission of sins and righteousness by the obedience of faith.
      7. Jesus demonstrated this by taking part in the baptism, although John declared that He did not need it (Mt 3:14-15).
    6. Jesus the Christ:
      1. During His earthly ministry, Jesus also taught the gospel of the kingdom, as John the Baptist did (Mk 1:14-15).
      2. However, Jesus additionally taught the righteousness of the New Covenant Law (Mt 5:17, Mt 5:20).
      3. Although this standard of righteousness seemed to be stringent, they were promised the power of the Holy Ghost to help, and abundant rewards for those who “endured to the end” (Mt 6:33, 10:22).
      4. Even though Jesus taught the Law, the coming kingdom, and His identity as the Son of God, belief in His atoning death, burial, and resurrection was not the gospel message offered for righteousness or salvation during His earthly ministry.
        1. In fact, when He did try to explain to His disciples that He had to die, they were ignorant of the matter, and the Lord let them be ignorant (Lk 18:34, Lk 9:1-6 vs. 1 Cor 15:1-4).
    7. The Disciples and the New Covenant:
      1. After the institution of the New Covenant (Heb 9:15-17) and empowerment by the Holy Ghost, Peter and John wrote about a faith in Jesus as the Messiah and His resurrection.
        1. Peter explains that remaining faithful to God and His Son through the immediate trials of tribulation would secure salvation and righteousness for believers in the end (1 Pet 1:7-9).
      2. The content of the faith that they had to believe was preached by Peter at his Pentecostal debut (Acts 2:36).
      3. John also writes that their faith rested in the message that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the promised Messiah (Jn 20:31, 1 Jn 5:1, 1 Jn 5:12, 1 Jn 2:29).
        1. The apostle Paul recalls this message in Rom 10:9 – 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.
          1. Paul is addressing Jews in Romans 9, 10, and 11.
      4. This message of faith in the name of Jesus as Christ and the Messiah was essential to entering the kingdom and receiving the salvation that God had promised.
  3. What is not included in this list is the glorious gospel of grace revealed by Christ to Paul. This short list is sufficient to see that there were separate messages offered for righteousness and salvation as God’s word was progressively revealed.
  4. The message was different, but the means of salvation has always been the same:
    1. Salvation can only ever be by God’s grace through faith.
    2. The content of their faith is what changed as God revealed His will over time.
  5. The message we preach for faith today is in the finished work of Christ, the grace of God:
    1. God justifies freely those that believe (Rom 3:24-25, 4:5).
    2. Our faith is not accompanied by our works, because our faith is in the finished work of Christ.
      1. Works are a natural outgrowth of grace received and comprehended.
  6. Paul says that in his gospel is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith (Rom 1:17).
    1. Men are always saved by God’s grace through faith.
    2. The content of faith is what changes and with it the required response.
    3. The man of faith obeys.
    4. The Bible tells of many men of faith, but what they knew and what they believed was different (Heb 11, 12:2).

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