What has always puzzled me is the salvation of the righteous under the old covenant. How were Moses Abraham David et al. forgiven? If through faith in Christ looking forward to the Messiah that would save them, as opposed to us looking back at the Christ that saves us, then how did they come into contact with the blood of Christ if they weren’t baptised? Did they somehow get forgiveness through the old covenant procedures and sacrifices God had instituted? And by the way was John’s baptism for forgiveness or just repentance? I would be most grateful to get this cleared up. — Steve (Durban, South Africa)
How were people forgiven under the old covenant since Heb 10:4 says that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins? You have correctly surmised that their salvation must have been granted in some roundabout way and I would like to offer an analogy I think will throw some light on the matter.
Doug owes Steve ten thousand Rand. Doug cannot afford to make the payment now but he has a good friend Joshua who is willing to help out. Joshua tells Steve "Hey I promise to pay you the ten thousand Rand which Doug owes you." Steve is happy (though the price is yet to be paid); Doug is very happy. Here is the point: even though the price has not yet been paid debtor Doug is released from his debt on the basis of the word of the one who will pay. The Old Testament saints were saved through Jesus and when he came to the earth and died the "promissory note" was paid in full. And yet because of the power and integrity of Jesus’ word, these men and women of faith were released from their debt of sin.
As for John the Baptist who ministered in the final years of the old covenant, Mark 1:4 affirms that his baptism did indeed confer forgiveness of sins. That is, the erring people of God were in fact restored to their relationship with him. However there was one enormous difference between his baptism and the baptism in Jesus’ name: John’s baptism did not bring the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 19:1-6.)
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