Regularly the question arises as to how Old Testament saints were saved. Many propose that they were saved by obedience to the law. Others affirm that they were saved by grace through faith, but that their faith was in God's promises and those promises often go unspecified. Others will say they were saved by faith in God's promise of the Messiah to come but stop short of calling that promise the gospel of Jesus Christ. The realty is that those who are saved have always been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Saints throughout all ages were and are saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One verse should elucidate this all important truth and demonstrate that the gospel of Christ was preached to our first parents, Adam and Eve. In the aftermath Satan's temptation and Adam's sin, God Himself declared to Satan in the presence of Adam and Eve, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:15)." Not only are the character and work of Christ on display in this verse, but those dynamics are highlighted further in the instituted form of worship subsequently given. What is entailed in the aforementioned promise of a deliverer and subsequent institution?
First, the promised deliverer would not be an angel or some other creature but a man, "for there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5)." The deliverer was to be "her Seed," the seed of the woman. How sublime is the fulfillment of this promise. Christ Jesus, "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8)"
Second, the promised deliverer would be unique concerning His human nature. He would be the Seed of the woman only and not the Seed of an earthly father. Much debate is centered on the virgin birth of Christ. The fact that Matthew and Luke are clear in their affirmations that Christ was indeed born of a virgin (Matt. 1:23; Lk. 1:27) should stop all debate on this issue. While alma in Isa. 7:14 literally means "young maiden," not only is the implication of virgin clear in that text but declared with no equivocation in the gospels with the use of the word parthenos, or virgin. But more compelling is the unity of Scripture from Genesis to Isaiah to the gospels and the intent of the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning this wonderful reality. Those with eyes to see understand clearly the Seed of the woman in Genesis to be a clear gospel reference to the nature of Christ’s birth as the sinless One.
Third, the promised deliverer would accomplish His mission through suffering. The word of the Lord was "you shall bruise His heel." This statement is the gospel in a phrase! "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Pet. 3:18)." Christ died as a sinner by way of imputation: our sin imputed to Him. The Just One suffered for guilty sinners. But, because He had no sin of His own, death could not hold Him and three days later He came out of the grave with all power and glory in His hand.
Fourth, the promised deliverer would ultimately defeat sin, Satan, and death. Christ abolished death (2 Tim. 1:10), destroyed the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8), and disarmed all principalities and powers, having made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through the cross (Col. 2:15). These blessed realities are summed up in the promise, "He shall bruise your head."
Fifth, the promised deliverer would thus be revealed in His divine nature. If the Seed of the woman was virgin-born with no earthly father, it follows that His origin is special in more than one way. Further, if this One was to suffer for guilty sinners though He had no sin of His own, and if this One was to conquer sin, death, and the powers of darkness, it follows that such a One would have a unique power and nature. One who could atone for sin and defeat Satan, reverse the fall, (and be not only typified in worship but worshipped in the process as we shall see momentarily), could be nothing short of Divine. The deliverer would be God Himself. As noted, He would also be man. Thus, the deliverer is none other than the God-man. "And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Lk. 1:35)." "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, 'God with us (Matt. 1:23).'"
Sixth, the promised deliverer would reconcile His people to God. Out of the mass of humanity, Satan's children, by nature, children of wrath, Christ would redeem a people for Himself (Jn 8:44; Eph. 2:3; Matt. 1:21). The mass of humanity is at enmity with God for the Lord declared, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed." Of course, this enmity is the result of the first Adam. But, our reconciliation, the fact that "He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" is the work of the Second Adam on the cross. "Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life (Rom. 5:18)."
Seventh, the promised deliverer would be typified in worship and indeed be worshipped in the process so as to declare fully "the way" and "the who" of our salvation. While the form of worship has changed from the primeval period to the patriarchal period to the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, the essence of worship has not. The essence of worship is the glorification of God though the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In the aftermath of Adam's sin, it is obvious that men were commanded to worship God by way of sacrificing animals that were consumed wholly upon the altar after the skins had been removed. The skins were to be used for clothing (and not for food as men were not allowed to eat animals until after the flood). The Lord Himself demonstrated such in slaying the first animals and covering our first parents' nakedness. Subsequently, Cain and Abel were given to the same activity. Cain's offering of fruit was not accepted because he did not obey God in faith and offer that which had been commanded (Gen. 4:3-7; Heb. 11:4).
Of course, as Adam and Eve covered their own nakedness with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7), the fact that God slew animals and covered them with the skins demonstrated to them that they could never cover their own nakedness or work for their salvation, but that God had to cover their nakedness and He had to do so through the sacrifice of His Son and cover their shame with His righteousness by way of imputation. O what blessed gospel truth is here proclaimed!
And, what gospel truth is preserved in the revealed mode of worship given to Adam and his immediate posterity as they had Christ in a figure every time they offered a sacrifice to God! Every time they remembered what God had done and every time they made an offering to the Lord they were hearing and proclaiming "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:15)." Every time they worshipped they heard and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, even as we do the same.
It was the gospel that saved Abel, Enoch, and Noah by faith (Heb. 11:4-7). It was the gospel that saved Moses who "[esteemed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward...by faith (Heb. 11:26f)." It was the gospel that saved the Old Covenant saints: "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them...For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest to the people of God (Heb. 4:2-9)." It was the gospel that saved Abraham and it is the gospel that saves us: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed (Gal. 3:8).'"
It's the gospel, beloved. It always has been, it is, and it always will be the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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