[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Many Times Does It Change?

by Rose

I read a really excellent book last fall called "Dispensationalism" by Charles C. Ryrie. I was really, at that time, looking for something from him that would help clarify, in my mind, some trouble I was having with a point of view that I called "dispensational confusion." Basically it was this: when I look at a passage in which Jesus tells someone during His earthly ministry that they have eternal life
  • They might not have understood His Deity and
  • They had no idea that the cross and resurrection was coming and that it would remove sins
The position kept asking me: "If those people could trust Christ for their eternal destiny in a saving way without those details, why can't someone today?"

Well, unfortunately, I found no clear guidance on this particular dilemma of mine in the pages of Ryrie's book. It was a great book and there was much that was very helpful; don't get me wrong!Check out this quote:

In examining salvation under the Mosaic Law, the principal question is simply, How much of what God was going to do in the future did the OT believer comprehend? According to both Old and New Testament revelation, it is impossible to say that he saw the same promise, the same Savior as we do today. Therefore, the dispensationalist's distinction between the content of his faith and the content of ours is valid. The basis of salvation is always the death of Christ; the means is always faith; the object is always God (though man's understanding of God before and after the Incarnation is obviously different); but the content of faith depends on the particular revelation God was pleased to give at a certain time.

(Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism, page 140)

After reading that I kept scratching my head wondering how often the content of saving faith changes then? I mean, the apostle Peter believed most of the revelation he was given, but as has been pointed out, he sometimes rejected that the cross would happen. Would we stipulate that he was a "believer"? Of course. Other people that ran into Jesus and had what seem to be saving encounters with Him during His earthly ministry, was their content of saving faith different from those who heard about Jesus after His death and ressurection? I am really wondering about this even more now because of yet another idea that has been brought out over at my personal blog inferring that the message Peter and Stephen are recorded as having preached is not the same as the message that folks are to believe nowadays to be saved, because Paul had not received the low-down on the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement until mid-acts.

I suppose my over-arching quesion in all of these discussions would be this:

So how often since Christ came to earth and began His ministry would we say that the content of saving faith has changed? What say you?


  • This was already sort of being discussed on my blog this morning, so I decided to bring a couple of comments over here.

    Rachel said:
    Matthew, You asked Art how the content of saving faith could ever change. This strikes me as odd since you consider yourself a dispensationalist (you do, right?). It's right near impossible to prove that Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, et al. believed the same thing we are required to today for salvation. Even if we take your minimalist version of the gospel, it's pretty tough to prove that the OT saints believed in or even knew of the name of Jesus, let alone that they had a concept of eternal life and were desiring it. There's certainly no evidence that the OT saints believed in the death and rez of Jesus. It seems manifestly evident that the required content of saving faith has not been the same at all times.

    Now, the basis of saving faith has always and will always be the same - the substitutionary atonement of Christ. The only reason anyone is able to be saved, forgiven of sin, and accepted into heaven is because of the work of Christ on the cross. That has never changed. But what specific beliefs have been required for people to be saved has changed over time as God has revealed more and more of his plan and truth.

    Dyspraxic Fundamentalist (Matthew) said::

    Rachel, if the saving work of Christ is objective in its value, why should the content involved in appropriating it change?

    If person in period A must believe X and a person in period B must believe X and Y, it would seem that the death of Christ is not enough to save a person, but extra conditions are required.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 7:34:00 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    A lot hangs on the words of Galatians 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

    1) What did God reveal unto Abraham?

    2) When did He so preach?

    Timewise, we have already had the protoevangelum of Genesis 3:15 - the blood sacrifice of Abel and others and the Ark - all powerful images of redemption through faith in the blood of Jesus.


    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 10:04:00 AM  

  • The content of saving faith has never changed.

    Faith is in the Christ for eternal life. The only thing that has changed is that since His coming, the name of Christ is known. However, it is still faith in the same person and therefore the same content.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 10:26:00 AM  

  • Colin and I are so close yet so far apart.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 10:27:00 AM  

  • Try looking at it from a different angle. The times that people got converted, they saw evidence of God's work, either in a person or in a situation (Rehab, Naman, the jailer in Acts, Simon the Sorcerer).

    Some scholars insist that the jailer had the Gospel preached to him before the incident of the miracle of the freed prisoners. My take: he was so shocked at the implications of the event, he wanted to follow Christ as oppposed to following his own way of living. If Paul had asked him to jump through hoops, he would have replied, "Whatevere it takes."

    Simon the Sorcerer had a different experience. Rather like someone who sees a new magazine on the stands and decides to buy a subscription to it. In the next issue, he finds unexpected goodies, and tries to acquire them in a manner more in keeping with a previous lifestyle. So we all make mistakes...

    By Blogger Anton, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 12:09:00 PM  

  • Thank you for your thoughts everyone. I will keep reading and hopefully have time to comment more later.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 2:40:00 PM  

  • Rose,

    Good stuff.

    I believe what ever Matthew will say on this matter.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 4:37:00 PM  

  • Well Rose,

    In the OT the Jews were supposed to "listen", and then "do", to appropriate the "promise", of God's "blessing".

    Then the ministry of "faith" was revealed through Christ.

    Ga 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed

    Mystery yes, but as shown by Paul and others, a good sleuth could have figured it out.

    So Christ's ministry was first, "faith" in Christ as the Messiah, and then faith in Christ as the fulfillment of the 'promise of blessng' to 'the people of all the nations of the world', who had the faith of Abraham.

    The faith of Abraham is described in various places. In Hebrews, I think, as Abraham being confident that God can deliver on what He says He will deliver. In Genesis. Etc.

    The content of "saving faith" in the OT was more of a "preserving faith", meant to keep people safe until the "seed" came to which the promise had been made.(Ga 3:19)The gospel of Christ then was, perhaps, even going to be preached to the dead.

    So I wonder if I can make short work of a potential lengthy discussion by just saying that the content of saving faith during Christ's ministry while here on earth was always the same.

    No matter how much knowledge or faith one has concerning Him, "no one was judged until after His revelation of the cross and resurrection".

    Content: The Son of God. See it (behold), believe, and be saved.

    All of the formal dispensationalists have painted themselves into a corner. But just plain old "free dispensationalism"(evangelical free, get it) is still not a bad way of describing things.


    By Blogger Todd, at Tuesday, March 11, 2008 4:52:00 PM  

  • God post Rose,
    Always thought provoking.

    be blessed,

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 2:52:00 AM  

  • Good morning all,

    Matthew writes: Colin and I are so close yet so far apart.

    I assume that I am not a candidate for your and Antonio's arrangement:

    "I agree with whatever Colin says?"



    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 4:11:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    Are you feeling agreeable today?

    (I know...probably not with me...but I thought I would ask before Matthew got in)


    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 4:15:00 AM  

  • O.k., so my lack of formal training cry's out. Stalks me like a cross-eyed shepherd's dog.

    By Blogger Todd, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:02:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    "Mystery yes, but as shown by Paul and others, a good sleuth could have figured it out."

    I meant to say here, not that Paul was the "sleuth" but that Paul encouraged others to confirm he and the apostles ministry by revealing the mystery themselves by "sleuthing" through scripture.

    Thinking of the reminder in Luke 24:27 that shows how Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in scripture.


    By Blogger Todd, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:13:00 AM  

  • Colin, you seem to be on similar lines, the difference is you are talking about the blood, I am talking about life.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:45:00 AM  

  • Rose, you asked,

    "So how often since Christ came to earth and began His ministry would we say that the content of saving faith has changed?"

    To answer your question simply, one time. But I want to point out that I don't think the content has "changed" so much as it has been specified/clarified. My view is that people have always needed to understand and believe that they are sinners and their sin separates them from God (Kurt has a good post about this on the thread at your blog about Paul's gospel), and that they can't do anything to fix it, so they need God to fix their sin problem. After Jesus' death and resurrection, I believe that those specific events were added to the content of saving faith. They had been hidden in the past, but had now been revealed. So now, instead of merely believing that God will take care of our sin problem somehow, we believe that God has taken care of our sin problem through the work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. The only real difference is that the OT saints didn't know how God would fix their sin problem, they just believed that He would. Now, today, we do know how He fixed it and therefore we must believe and accept that specific remedy because it has actually taken place now and has been revealed.

    By Blogger Rachel, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 8:43:00 AM  

  • Hi Rachel

    Have you ever led a person to Christ?

    Did he accept Jesus because of your views or because of your life?

    Maybe you should interview a few people and asked them what realy made them "sign on".

    By Blogger Anton, at Wednesday, March 12, 2008 11:51:00 AM  

  • Colin Maxwell,
    I forgot to tell you the other day how much I enjoyed reading that comment. Too funny - you have observed Matthew's pattern. I love patterns. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, March 14, 2008 7:13:00 AM  

  • Rachel,
    I am not satisfied with your answer. You say that the content of saving faith has only changed once since the incarnation, yet what you say following that is contrary to your statement. I see you as saying this: When CHrist walked the earth, people had to believe "A" but now they still have to believe "A" it is just that they also have to believe

    Don't get me wrong, I understand what you are saying. I also challenged Antonio this same way back in the summer on his blog and this blog I believe, saying that believeing in "Christ" has now been "enriched." The thing is though, just as you accused my statement that someone should "receive Christ" as being a little nebulous... when you actually start adding these points and subpoints it is really hard to lay hold of a Scriptural support.

    I also find it difficult to view the statements in the early part of John's gospel as honest evngelistic appeals if these thoughts are true, that the sub-points are now necessary.

    I really think for me, that I have to consider the fact that if I am going to carry my insistence in my original thinking to its logical end, I am going to end up where Art is on this (That the content of saving faith has changed several times since the incarnation). I hope you will try to also consider this and at least find some appreciation for the others who have traveled the thought process that they have. That is where I am at.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, March 14, 2008 7:23:00 AM  

  • Some points lifted from what Art, a mid-acts dispensationalist, said (on Rachel's blog):

    I think ART is being consistent in his criticism of the GES position, while I have not been... nor have others.

    You can go there to see them in their complete-ness

    Regarding my view of salvation before and after the cross:
    1. First, I understand people to have always been saved by belief in God's declaration of a coming Redeemer, beginning with Gen. 3:15. Early saints didn't have to know the Redeemer's name nor exactly how he would defeat the devil.

    2. Second, when Jesus' ministry began, it then became necessary to believe that he, Jesus, the Son of God, is that promised Redeemer. People now had to believe specifically in him, Jesus.

    It is important to acknowledge that, at that time (during Jesus' earthly ministry), the "gospel" did not yet include Christ's death for our sins. He hadn't yet died. Therefore, the disciples preached "the gospel" (Luke 9:6), but as pointed out, did not yet understand about his death and resurrection (Luke 18:31-34).

    ...the fact that the disciples didn't understand it does prove this wasn't required knowledge as yet.

    3. Third, on the day our Lord arose from the dead, he met with his disciples and "opened their understanding" to what the Scriptures had said about him (Luke 24:44,45...
    here we have "the faith that should afterward be revealed" (Gal. 3:23) and concerning which Paul said "whether it were I or they (the twelve) so we preach and so ye believed" (1 Cor. 15:11) and this content of faith has been necessary ever since.

    About using verses in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There certainly are fundamentals our message has in common with the preaching of the disciples when Jesus was here on earth. People do need to be saved; Jesus, God's only begotten Son, is the Savior; we must trust in him for eternal life. All of this is still true and is underlying support for our message today but by itself is not good enough because it doesn't go far enough. Our message is the faith that should afterward be revealed.

    Without this, I don't think we can maintain (with consistency) that in this dispensation knowledge is required for salvation that wasn't required before. And this, I think, must be maintained in order to refute the Hodges/Wilkin message of a crossless gospel.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, March 14, 2008 7:36:00 AM  

  • Yes,

    It is interesting in such a scheme that Jesus' message of evangelism, contained in the only expressely evangelistic book in the Bible, which by the way, by most scholars view, was the second to the last in the canon written, only had a 3 1/2 year shelf life.

    It would seem curious to me that John, having been informed of this now necessary information, as Art is concerned, by the Apostle Paul, does not make any such new information explicitely necessary in His gospel, but everywhere shows that the saving message of Christ is just that, the saving message of Christ that sufficiently tells us how to have everlasting life.

    Would't you think that John, writing with an expressly evangelistic purpose, would clearly state that Jesus' saving message when alive is now insufficient? Why even produce testimony after testimony about Jesus' saving message if it is now void? Why risk giving the false impression, years after Paul died, that Jesus' message was still sufficient today!?!?

    It just does not pass the critical thinking test. Why give such elaborate testimony to the saving message of Christ (which I take it in Art's estimation only had a 3 1/2 year shelf life) and then fail to clearly state explicitely that there is new content that is required from the standpoint of God (if indeed more information is indeed required!)?

    The facts mitigate against Art's shaky arguments.

    1) John's gospel is explicitely evangelistic and written much after Paul's epistles

    2) John's gospel fails to state anywhere that eternal life is gained by anything more than simple faith in Jesus, simple reliance on Jesus, simply taking Jesus at His word in His promise that guarantees everlasting life to the believer in Him.

    4) Since it is true that John did not make any explicit statement concerning new Pauline disclosed requirements for eternal life, we can either conclude that:

    a) John was misinformed years after Paul died or
    b) John's treatise fails to clearly and explicitely articulate for us precisely how one is born again

    4) Art has failed to convince that the gospel is a technical term denoting exactly what one must do and believe to be born again and nothing else. There is no such verse that says "believe the Pauline gospel and you have eternal life and/or justification and/or eternal salvation". Everywhere those things are conditioned on faith in Jesus.

    The mystery of the gospel in Ephesians is clearly the new information that God would make one organic unity out of Jews and Gentiles who believed in Christ.

    Is that something too that must be believed in this Mid-Acts dispensation?

    If the saving message of Christ is insufficient, where must one go to get all the information? We will not know what it is! Nowhere is it stated that one must believe this loose and ambiguous term, the gospel, and one has everlasting life. Where is the gospel, in its suposed technical sense, clearly, and sufficiently defined? Anyone who claims there is such a thing has never done a word study on the pertinent greek words, especially as used by Paul himself.

    1 Cor 15:3-11 doesn't even contain the deity of Christ or the necessity of faith alone.

    John never says that Jesus' message was changed!

    Imagine Art calling the saving message that I preach a false gospel! That would put me under an anathema. Imagine me being rebuked by Christ at the Bema for repeating His saving message!

    Jesus knew that the 4th gospel would give His words and be contructed with the purpose of being the only evangelistic book in the canon. Jesus is the Prophet Par Excellence! Art will not tell you, but the logical conclusion of his system will tell you to throw out the gospels as specific instruction for the church age. But funny. They give the teachings for those who are disciples of Christ.

    Quite frankly, it is sacriligious to suggest that Jesus' saving message, that was taught in the only purposely evangelistic book in the canon, authored by the Apostle John (which by the way Paul stated that the church was in the present position of "having been built on the foundation of the apostles" (Eph 2:20), John being one of these apostles), years after suposedly being instructed by the Apostle Paul on this new gospel (wasn't John there at the cross and already see Jesus risen from the dead? Didn't Peter preach the death and resurrection of Christ much before mid-acts?!) is now void. Imagine that. Jesus' saving message given in the only book that was purposely constructed for evangelism is now void. Sacriligious to suggest so!


    By Blogger Antonio, at Friday, March 14, 2008 9:49:00 PM  

  • Rose/Art:

    I think the "content of saving faith" had to change with the beginning of the new "Covenant of the Blood" that Christ announced. That being the present "covenant", we would have to have knowledge of the "cross" for that covenant to have its meaning. And it's beginning.

    Thank you for helping me sort that one out.

    It's possible that the the faith which was later to be revealed describes, generally, the coming of the Redeemer,but nontheless, a Redeemer who's life was going to necessarily going to have to end, hung on the cross, to redeem us from the curse of the Law.

    Paul says,"Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures", which suggests that "dieing for our sins" was able to be known about the Redeemer before Jesus' earthly ministry, and before the cross, but not be necessary to be believed or to be 'a part of saving faith' until the time that it actually came to be finished at the cross.

    Thus changing the saving content of faith after the cross.

    O.k., I got it now I think. Thank you.

    It is tempting to surmise how perhaps someone who started into the gospel message, and was not quite to the understanding of Christ's blood sacrifice, could still be saved. But technically, they could not. Unofficially however, I'm sure there will be a few close calls that Christ will have to make.


    By Blogger Todd, at Friday, March 14, 2008 10:20:00 PM  

  • Good morning Rose/all,

    We seem to have two left of centre views here:

    That either [i]Paul or [ii]John were the be all and end all of gospel knowledge while the rest of the Bible writers are to be content with second class status.

    I disagree.


    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Saturday, March 15, 2008 2:25:00 AM  

  • Colin Maxwell,
    To a great degree I agree with you.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, March 15, 2008 6:31:00 AM  

  • I glanced at this thread this morning and would like to briefly add something. Please understand, I am quite pressed, trying to get ready for tomorrow. But this is significant, I think, enough so to at least say it briefly for anyone to consider that might be inclined to.

    Differing from others, I view all books of the Bible as having been written to believers, including the Gospel of John. See John 1:16. My understanding is that Paul laid our foundation (1 Cor. 3:10), that this foundation was his teaching about Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11), and that John's Gospel, written long after Paul's ministry began, has Paul's gospel as undergirding truth. It looks quite clear to me that First John was written to believers that they might believe all the more (1 John 5:13). I think this is true of John's Gospel too. Thus, I see both John and his primary readers already knowing the gospel message that Christ gave to Paul.

    By Blogger Art, at Saturday, March 15, 2008 9:43:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Todd, at Thursday, March 20, 2008 10:55:00 AM  

  • Art,

    Paul did lay the foundation of Jesus Christ, as did the other apostles.

    Paul spent considerable time proving Jesus Christ from scripture, as did the rest of the apostles. They did not teach Paul but did confirm his teaching and apostleship. And Paul never claims himself to have added anything to the rest of the apostles.

    He never claimed 'his gospel' as exclusively his 'own' gospel but 'his' in co-ownership with the other apostles.

    And lastly, in response to your above remarks, Paul's gospel would have had to have been the undergirding truth to John's gospel, in a sense, because John's gospel was 'Christ's' gospel and so was Paul's.

    Remember, Paul said that the foundation he laid was 'Jesus Christ'. And so was the foundation that the rest were laying. Only Paul's was primarily to the gentiles.

    You say:
    "Thus, I see both John and his primary readers already knowing the gospel message that Christ gave to Paul."

    Why wouldn't they?

    In my opinion, this issue, a potential distortion of the gospel, deserves more respect than what you've given it here.


    By Blogger Todd, at Thursday, March 20, 2008 10:57:00 AM  

  • Art,

    That the issue "deserves more respect than what you've given it here" is to say that you should come more prepared to address any legitimate concerns.


    By Blogger Todd, at Thursday, March 20, 2008 11:15:00 AM  

  • Todd,

    Your remark, "Why wouldn't they?" manifests to me that you don't have a clue what I'm saying. And evidently, my disintest in input from you also is over your head. Your first remarks to me on Rose's blog told me all I care to know about you and your way of thinking. Thus, I responded only once to you there and this will be my only response here. You think I'm unprepared. Think whatever you like.

    By Blogger Art, at Friday, March 21, 2008 7:12:00 AM  

  • Art,

    I had no interest in inciting more excuses and self-pity from you, I simply put these things down for the record and felt obliged to encourage you, if you come again, to come back with some substantial input for your controversial beliefs.

    A man of your training normally would briefly and effectively put my critisisms to rest. Especially one who is as vehement as you are in what you're claiming. Your argument, based on "Sola Credentia (or, "solely on your credentials", - yes, I made that term up), is really not serving the issue with much respect.

    But good anyway, so I do have your attention.

    You said: "Your remark, "Why wouldn't they?" manifests to me that you don't have a clue what I'm saying."

    Well, it does not help my cause of understanding you, in what little you "are" saying, that you arrive at your conclusion based on the arguably erroeous evidence cited by you just immediately prior.

    But then, You really have no intention to be accountable for what you are claiming. That much I understand.

    What you are claiming in your recent remark is that John got some of his gospel not from Christ but from Paul. I can, perhaps did, show how John recieved it beforehand from Christ.

    It may be that you've been improperly trained somewhere along the way to speculate and draw hasty conclusions regarding these things. Come again when you're prepared enough to give your scriptural analysis the support and respect it deserves.


    By Blogger Todd, at Friday, March 21, 2008 6:33:00 PM  

  • Matthew,

    You said,

    Rachel, if the saving work of Christ is objective in its value, why should the content involved in appropriating it change?

    Why shouldn't it? Especially if the Bible indicates a change.

    You said,

    If person in period A must believe X and a person in period B must believe X and Y, it would seem that the death of Christ is not enough to save a person, but extra conditions are required.

    Why? I don't see the logic of this. The death of Christ is always enough to save a person. The changing of the content of faith doesn't impact this fact.

    By Blogger Rachel, at Friday, March 21, 2008 8:54:00 PM  

  • Hi Anton,

    I don't see how the reason that someone decides that the claims of Christ are true (evidence, people's lives, etc.) affects the discussion of what exactly is needed to believe about Jesus in order to be saved.

    By Blogger Rachel, at Friday, March 21, 2008 9:10:00 PM  

  • Hi Rachel,

    A straight reading of the text would indicate that the jailer said, "Hey this is good, I want some!" Of course, the circumstances indicate that it was a traumatic situation that he had just been delivered from, and that the decision wasn't a casual and unconsidered one, but I don't see him examining the theological implications of the Gospel and it's finer ponts at that instance of time.

    In a related incident, all evidence points to Peter deciding to follow Jesus IN SPITE of the seeming BAD teaching He espoused. (You should read what Jews think about the whole idea of drinking blood!):

    NASB John 6
    53 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day


    NASB John 6
    66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

    Maybe as a Christian born onto the faith, you can't identify the exact time you decided to follow Jesus, but I bet you can trace the path to maturity you walked. Somewhere along the path, you thought for yourself, as opposed to just following the herd, "This is good stuff!"

    Every Jew has to confirm his belief by going through a ceremony where he puts himself PERSONALLY in the place of one of the Israelites delivered from Egypt. Maybe we need something similar in Christianity. Oh yeah, I just remembered... we do: its called baptism!

    By Blogger Anton, at Saturday, March 22, 2008 6:46:00 AM  

  • Hi Rose!

    I haven't been on forever, but hopefully will start posting again on my site. Hope the Lord blesses you this Resurrection day!

    Tom <><

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, March 22, 2008 8:31:00 PM  

  • I had to deal with the doctrine of progressive revelation because of Tom Stegall's crossless article's. What I found was surprising and even some of the best scholarship (who is respected in both the covenant and dispensational camps) is not completely sure of the content changing. One thing is for sure, it has always been by faith.

    Also, Jesus Christ as the second person of the Trinity walked the earth before the incarnation. Here's a clip from the paper that hopefully will shed some light to this discussion,

    "I would dispute what the new Director of the FGA wrote in his PhD dissertation,

    'I would point out that the precise content of saving faith changes with each new dispensation in human history. That is, although sinners in all ages have been saved by grace through faith alone, the object of saving faith is not the same in each age. Abraham, for example, was saved by faith but his saving faith did not have as its specific object a Redeemer named ‘Jesus of Nazareth,' as required in the present age (cf. Gen 15:6).'

    By saying, as Dr. Hixson does, that the content and the object of faith changes make the point that Covenant theologians accuse dispensationalists of having two methods of salvation. The point I believe Dr. Hixson should have made is that belief in the redeemer/Messiah was required to be saved, but the patriarchs and others saved in the Old Testament did not know the specific name of the Messiah..."

    So I would agree that the content is as Rachel said the fixing of the sin problem. The Person of the Messiah as the object of faith - just read the rabbinic writings and you can see this - and faith in Him as the means you understand some of the basis. This is necessarily a limited understanding at first. You don't have faith in the content (although your presenting the basis [death and resurrection of Jesus Christ] of why one should believe in the Messiah) you have faith in the Person.

    One of the things God revealed progressively is the Name of the Messiah.

    I think Dr. Ryrie said it best,

    "The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God (though man's understanding of God before and after the incarnation is obviously different); but the content of faith depends on the particular revelation God was pleased to give at a certain time." (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 121)

    I do think that their is the possibility that the content did not vary much. And it is entirely possible that the identity of the Messiah was revealed. We are arrogant to limit God's revelation to Old Testament saints just because in His own counsel did not reveal it to us.

    Another prominent Old Testament scholar, Dr. John S. Feinberg points out,

    "Some might object that Old Testament believers obviously knew the truth about Christ, in light of passages like 1 Peter 1:11-12 and Hebrews 11:13. At the outset, let me make two points. First, I am not denying that God could have revealed the truth about Jesus to Old Testament saints. But I doubt that He did on any widespread basis. The passages in question do not state that He did. Second, even if someone like Hodge is correct, and even if the dispensationalist agrees with Hodge, I do not see that such an eventuality would necessitate abandoning dispensationalism. Since dispensationalism is not about whether Christ was the revealed content of faith in the Old Testament, a dispensationalist can certainly hold that He was, without having to surrender his dispensationalism." (John S. Feinberg, "Salvation in the Old Testament" Tradition and Testament. Essays in Honor of Charles Lee
    Feinberg. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981). pp.51-52.)

    Dr. Feinberg points out that it is possible that the name of Jesus Christ might have been known, but that we don’t have biblical evidence to prove it.

    Dr. Allen Ross a noted OT scholar says,

    "Of course, such truths about the plan of redemption were available to OT believers, for the New Testament writers drew them out of the OT. For us who know the New Testament so well, the passages seem so clear that it seems it should have been but a simple step for them to come to a complete understanding. But it is doubtful that they took that step. We cannot grant to the OT believer more understanding than the Scripture indicates he had."

    Nicodemus would be an excellent example of this.

    Also, the idea that the other apostles and writers of the New Testament took a back seat is ludicrous. Each author of the Gospels and other NT writings revealed particular things that God wanted to reveal to the Church.

    It seems to most people that John's book is the only one with express content to unbelievers.

    Paul and the other writers (if read properly) are speaking to those who they assume are believers.

    Last point, the Hebrew people and subsequently nation Israel understood the concept of the coming Messiah and King, but in general as a group/nation misunderstood the suffering for humanities sin by the Messiah, the redemptive and atoning acts of His death and resurrection. The nation of Israel had misunderstood the meaning of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 for example by positing the coming of two messiahs; instead of one coming twice. This is clearly attested to in the Talmud and Mishnaic writings.

    Also, I am not 100% convinced yet, but I am beginning to believe that some of the redeemed Old Testament saints actually understood the sacrifice of the coming of the Messiah. In other words, they understood the way of salvation – to believe the promise of eternal life through faith and to be assured of a personal resurrection.

    His forever,


    By Blogger Jim, at Saturday, March 29, 2008 6:21:00 AM  

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