The Gospel Before Christ
Lesson 21

It has often been said that the Jewish people, prior to Christ’ first coming, did not have the light of the gospel as people have since that time and that we are now under grace rather than the law, implying that before Christ’s coming people were saved in a different manner than they have been since. However, if we examine the Scriptures, we see that there was a vast source of truth that the Lord intended the Israelites to know, and which they might have in a large measure enjoyed. The fact that the vast majority failed to enjoy this light, does not in any way imply that it was not available to them, or that God saves people living at different times in different ways. Some of God’s faithful servants of all ages have seen the precious light of Christ even before His advent; all might have seen it. Those who saw the light of Christ, even before His advent to the world, rejoiced in it, and looked forward to the glad day when they would more clearly understand it more fully.

1. For what purpose were the Old Testament Scriptures given us?

1 Corinthians 10:11
1 Corinthians 10:11

Note: We need to keep in mind that all that the apostle says regarding the Scriptures is a reference to those writings that make up our Old Testament.

2. How did the sincere believers in Berea test Paul’s words?

Acts 17:11
Acts 17:11

Note: Many have been lead to believe that the writings of the Old Testament are inferior to those of the New Testament, but here we have evidence that the early Christians believed them to be inspired. As a matter of fact, Christ, as did the apostles, pointed to the Old Testament, which were the Scriptures of their day, to prove the validity of their own writings and mission.

3. What may we gain from these Scriptures?

Romans 15:4
Romans 15:4

Note: As we examine these truths, we will see that many of the very same truths that were overlooked by ancient Israel are being overlooked by the professed people of God today. Israel’s failures, however, should serve as warnings to the church today, by looking at which they would do well to take heed lest they fall into the same snares as the ancient people of God.

4. Was the blood of the sacrifices offered by ancient Israel effective for the cleansing from sin?

Hebrews 10:4
Hebrews 10:4

5. Where only may salvation from sin be obtained?

Acts 4:10–12
Acts 4:10–12

6. Was there a knowledge of the gospel before the coming of Christ?

Hebrews 3:16–19; 4:2
Hebrews 3:16–19; 4:2

Note: It is here plainly stated that the gospel which the church had in the days of Paul, and which she has been enjoying ever since was held by the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. The question however might arise as to whether this was the gospel of Christ.

7. Who does the apostle tell us was with Israel in the Wilderness?

1 Corinthians 10:1–4
1 Corinthians 10:1–4

Note: In his letter to the Galatians, Paul clearly states that the gospel was preached unto Abraham also. See Galatians 3:8.

8. What did Christ say regarding Abraham?

John 8:56
John 8:56

Note: From the foregoing it is clear that not only did Abraham have the gospel and that it was the gospel of Christ, but that as we by faith accept the gospel, we share with him in its blessings.

9. What are we told regarding those who are unrighteous?

1 Corinthians 6:9
1 Corinthians 6:9

10. How many are naturally righteous?

Romans 3:10
Romans 3:10

11. Why is this true?

Romans 3:23
Romans 3:23

12. How did Abraham receive righteousness?

Romans 4:13
Romans 4:13

13. How do we share in the promises made to Abraham?

Galatians 3:9
Galatians 3:9

14. Why is this so?

Galatians 3:11
Galatians 3:11

Note: Clearly, as no man can be justified by works of the law, salvation that came in the time before Christ must have been through faith in the promised Saviour. When, in Romans 1:17, Paul states that the just shall live by faith, he is not expressing a new truth but quoting from the Old Testament. See Habakkuk 2:4.

15. Whose Spirit was working through the prophets?

1 Peter 1:9–11
1 Peter 1:9–11

Note: Not only was it Christ’s Spirit that inspired them, but they wrote beforehand of the salvation to be obtained through Christ.

16. Who does the apostle tell us are sons of God?

Romans 8:14
Romans 8:14

Christ gave to His church in its infancy a system of sacrifices and offerings, of which He Himself was the foundation, and by which His death was prefigured. Every sacrifice pointed to Him as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, that all might understand that the wages of sin is death. The fact that the Jews lost sight of the true meaning of their ceremonies, and clung to the dead forms trusting to the sacrifices and ordinances themselves, instead of trusting Him to whom they pointed, does not detract in the least from the fact that they might have known the truth.

17. When these sacrifices became an end in themselves, did the Lord accept them?

Isaiah 1:11–15
Isaiah 1:11–15

18. What was necessary for their sacrifices to have value?

Isaiah 1:16
Isaiah 1:16

19. Where was the promise of a coming Saviour first given?

Genesis 3:15
Genesis 3:15

Note: In this prophecy is found the first intimation of redemption. It is as the grace of Christ is received in the soul that there is enmity against Satan. Without this grace, man would continue to be the captive of Satan. Whenever a man is seen to abhor sin instead of loving it, there is seen the operation of a principle wholly from above.

20. What was David’s prayer?

Psalm 51:10
Psalm 51:10

Note: It is only through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive a new heart.

At the very beginning of His ministry, in the interview with Nicodemus, Jesus unfolded the plan of salvation, and His mission to the world. In none of His later discourses did He explain so fully, step by step, the work necessary to be done in the hearts of all who would inherit the kingdom of heaven.

When, in response to the truth Jesus was opening to him, Nicodemus questioned how these things could be, Jesus posed the question: “Art thou a master in Israel and knownest not these things?” John 3:10. Had this truth not been taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus could not have asked such a question of him.

It is often said that when Jesus came a new era was brought about in the experience of mankind; and from this time forward men were regenerated through the Holy Spirit; till this time very little, if anything, was known of the Spirit. The Jews had nothing but law; their legality, someway, brought them into certain favor with God. However, it must be readily seen from this answer of Christ to Nicodemus, that this was not so; for the subject under consideration was the new birth, the regeneration of the soul by the Holy Spirit which convicts men of sin, and converts them to God.

That Nicodemus did not apparently understand, did not change the truth. It was his privilege, as well as the privilege of every other person in Israel, to have known what conversion was; to have been born of the Spirit and to have received a new heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lesson Home◄Previous LessonNext Lesson►

Print Lesson in Adobe Acrobat