Salvation by Grace through Faith
By Arlen L. Chitwood
What Must I Do?
Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30b, 31)
Eternal salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9), and it is based entirely upon the finished work of Another (John 19:30). Nothing that man has done, is presently doing, or will ever do can have anything to do with his eternal destiny. Man can do no more than receive by faith that which has already been done on his behalf. This is why Scripture states, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
In this respect, the answer to the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” is actually, Nothing!
This would have to be the answer simply because there is not one single thing left for man to do (nor could he do anything if something were left [he is “dead in trespasses and sins”]). This is the implication in Paul and Silas’ response to the jailor in Philippi. He was told simply to “believe [put his trust, reliance in]” the One who had already done everything on his behalf.
Coming into possession of eternal salvation was that simple and easy for the jailor at Philippi, and it remains that simple and easy for man today. The instant an unsaved person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he is eternally saved. He becomes a “new creation” in Christ, a part of the “one new man” (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:13-15). Anything in addition to unsaved man’s act of faith can occupy no place in the biblical answer to the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Such can occupy no place in salvation by grace through faith.
Only One Place in Scripture
It is of interest to note that the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” and the answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” only appear together one place in the entire Bible. Scripture is filled with information concerning redemption, but Acts 16:30, 31 is the only place from Genesis to Revelation where the question concerning eternal salvation is asked and answered in so many words.
Thus, within a completely biblical framework, if the question in Acts 16:30 is asked, there can only be one answer: “Believe . . . .” Man’s ideas, thoughts, comments are of no moment. God has spoken, and that’s the end of the matter.
(Note that the jailor at Philippi could not have been asking what he must do to be saved from death or saved from losing his position, as some infer.
The prisoners had not escaped; and, thus, death because of the loss of prisoners during his watch could not be forthcoming [v. 28]. Then, it would have been completely out of place for him to be asking Paul and Silas how he could be saved from losing his position, for they could not have had anything to do with the matter of his either retaining or losing his position.
Paul and Silas would be the ones to approach with a question concerning eternal salvation, which the jailor knew, and which the jailor did. And it is evident that Paul and Silas understood his question within this framework, for this is the manner in which his question was answered [vv. 30, 31].)
Some individuals have understood Acts 2:37, 38 to also ask and answer the question relating to eternal salvation. However, as seen in the text and context, this cannot be the case at all. Such a question is neither asked in verse thirty-seven nor is it answered in verse thirty-eight.
The question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” in verse thirty-seven can only be understood contextually, for the question is not completed in the same sense as seen in Acts 16:30. And, contextually, it is not possible to understand that these Jews were asking the same thing that the jailor at Philippi later asked Paul and Silas.
Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost concerned the fact that the Jewish people had crucified their Messiah, He had been raised from the dead, He had returned to heaven, and He was going to remain there until His enemies had been made His footstool (Acts 2:22-36). His stay in heaven would also extend to that time when those who offended Him (the Jewish people) had been brought to the place where they would acknowledge their offense (Hosea 5:15-6:2). Then, in that coming day after these things have come to pass, Joel’s prophecy, to which Peter first called attention, can be fulfilled (Acts 2:14-21).
Joel’s prophecy began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. Concerning events that had transpired on this day, Peter plainly stated, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (v. 16). Note that he didn’t say, “This is something like that . . . .,” or “This is a fore view of that . . . .” The simple fact of the matter is that which occurred on the day of Pentecost was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
And, had Israel done what Peter told those Jews to do in Acts 2:38 — “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ [national repentance and baptism on the part of Israel]” — Christ would have returned, restored the kingdom to Israel, and Joel’s prophecy (that had begun to be fulfilled) would have been brought to completion.
Joel’s prophecy is Messianic in its scope of fulfillment and necessitates the presence of Israel’s Messiah in the nation’s midst (Joel 2:27), and the Israelites whom Peter addressed on the day of Pentecost undoubtedly knew these things. Their question, viewed not only within the framework of the context but also within the framework of the whole of Christ and the Apostles’ previous ministry, can only be understood as a reference to what the people of Israel had to do in order to effect the return of their Messiah, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and all kindred events. And Peter told them exactly what they had to do.
Israel though did not repent, and with the setting aside of the nation there was also a setting aside of events concerning Joel’s prophecy. The fulfillment of this prophecy waits for that future day when Israel will be restored and Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, will be on earth in the nation’s midst.
Dispensational considerations must be involved in order to properly understand Acts 2:37, 38. These verses, as is Joel’s prophecy, are intimately connected with Israel. They have to do with the house of Israel at a time both past and future, not with unsaved man today — either Jew or Gentile.
Using these verses relative to eternal salvation is out of line with both the text and the context. And using these verses in this manner not only results in numerous false teachings and concepts about salvation by grace (placing both repentance and baptism in a completely wrong perspective relative to eternal salvation) but such a usage also does away with the correct understanding and interpretation of these verses.
The Clear, Simple Salvation Message
God’s message of eternal salvation in Scripture is so clear and simple that a child can understand all one needs to know in order to be saved. Christ has accomplished the work of redemption on man’s behalf, and His finished work has been extended to man as a “gift.” Unredeemed man can do no more than simply receive (or reject) God’s gift of redemption through His Son.
“Jesus paid it all,” and God is satisfied with the price which His Son has paid. As in the words of Jonah immediately before being delivered from the place of death, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).
. . . Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3b)
This is the gospel of the grace of God, the good news, which unsaved man is to hear.
The completeness of the work of salvation through divine action and the total inability of unredeemed man to act in this realm is seen time after time in Scripture. And the beginning point, allowing a person to come into a correct and proper understanding of salvation by grace, has been placed by God at the very beginning of His Word, in the opening verses of Genesis. To understand the matter as God Himself has revealed it in His Word, one must begin at this point in Scripture and move progressively forward in the Word, viewing different facets of the subject in the order and after the manner in which God revealed them.
1) As Seen in the Earth’s Restoration
The Bible is a book of redemption; and basic, unchangeable teachings surrounding redemption are set forth at the very beginning of Scripture.
In the opening verses of Genesis God sets forth the unchangeable manner in which He, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, restores a ruined creation. There is a restorative work that follows a specific pattern, and the matter is accomplished entirely through divine intervention.
And within this pattern that is set forth and established in a perfect God-ordained fashion at the very beginning, God reveals how any subsequent ruined creation would, of necessity, have to be restored. It would have to be restored in complete accord with the established pattern. In this respect, it would have to be restored after a certain order, and it would have to be restored entirely through divine intervention.
Thus, to establish correct thinking relative to the fundamentals of salvation (restoration), as previously stated, one must begin where God began — in the opening verses of Genesis chapter one.
In these opening verses, God begins by revealing His creation of the heavens and the earth (v. 1). Then, immediately following this, in the first part of verse 2, God reveals that the earth became a ruin (which, as subsequent Scripture reveals, could only have resulted from God’s actions following Satan seeking a higher regal position than the one which he held [the God-appointed ruler over the earth (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:14-16)] and be “like the Most High” [be like the Ruler over the entire universe, like God Himself (Psalm 103:19)]).
Then, immediately following the statement in Genesis 1:2a concerning the ruin of the material creation, God reveals the means that He used to restore this ruined creation (vv. 1:2bff) — a restoration accomplished entirely through divine intervention.
The importance of understanding that which is revealed in these opening verses cannot be overemphasized, for man, a subsequent creation of God, also fell into a ruined state because of Satan’s actions (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:1ff). And if ruined man was to be restored (as the ruined material creation had previously been restored), it would have to be accomplished exactly in accordance with the previously established pattern. It would have to be accomplished exactly in accordance with the method that God revealed at the beginning of His Word concerning how He restores a ruined creation.
This is the first of numerous unchangeable ways in which God has revealed Himself, His plans, and His purposes to man in His Word.
Once God establishes a pattern, no change of it can ever occur. And He has forever established, once for all, at the very beginning of His Word, exactly how He goes about restoring a ruined creation.
Genesis 1:2b, 3 records the initial act of the triune Godhead in bringing about the restoration of the ruined material creation — an act in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each participated.
In this foundational pattern, forming a type, the Spirit of God moved, God spoke, and light came into existence (note that nothing can come into existence apart from the Son, who is “the light of the world” [John 1:3, 9; 9:5]).
And in the antitype, within the framework of man’s salvation experience, the matter is identical. Salvation can occur only through a work of the triune Godhead, and this divine work follows an established pattern.
Thus, there is an initial past work of the triune Godhead that foreshadows an initial present work of the triune Godhead:
In God’s initial past work of restoring the ruined material creation in Genesis chapter one, the Spirit of God moved, God spoke, and light came into existence.
In God’s initial present work of restoring ruined man, the Spirit of God moves, God speaks, and light comes into existence.
This is the manner in which God began/begins His unchangeable, restorative work.
And, relative to God’s present restorative work, foreshadowed by the foundational pattern surrounding His restorative work on day one in the type, everything within the outworking of that which is revealed in this pattern is based on one thing — the Son’s finished work at Calvary almost 2,000 years ago (progressively opened up and brought to light in subsequent types).
(Note that God’s initial restorative work, seen on day one in the Genesis account, is the only part of His six-day restorative work that has to do with salvation by grace. There had to be an initial work, producing light shining out of darkness, before God could continue His restorative work.
And exactly the same thing is true concerning ruined man today. Ruined man has to initially be made alive spiritually — pass “from death to life,” light has “to shine out of darkness” [John 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6] — before God can continue a restorative work.
Man today [saved man] has a redeemed spirit dwelling alongside an unredeemed soul, with both housed in an unredeemed body. That which is foreshadowed by God’s work on day one in the Genesis account had to do with man’s spirit, and that which is foreshadowed by His work on days two through six had to do with man’s soul, with the body to be redeemed at the end of that which is foreshadowed by God’s work throughout the entire six days.
Refer to the Appendix in this book or to the author’s book, Salvation of the Soul, for additional information on the preceding.)
When the Son cried out from the Cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30; cf. Luke 23:46), He (the living Word) meant exactly that; and when God’s Word reveals that we have a salvation of divine origin, based entirely on the Son’s finished work, this Word also means exactly what it states.
When man sinned in the garden, he died spiritually; and when unregenerate man, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), is made alive today, he is made alive spiritually. The movement of the Spirit (Genesis 1:2b) and God speaking (Genesis 1:3) in order to restore the ruined creation are simultaneous events. It is the Spirit using the God-breathed Word to effectually perform a supernatural work in unredeemed man.
It is at this point — through the in-breathing of God — that life is imparted to that which previously had no life. It is at this point that God breathes into lifeless man (the Spirit imparting life, in accordance with the God-breathed Word, based on Christ’s finished work), and man is “quickened [‘made alive’]” (Ephesians 2:1; cf. Genesis 2:7; 2 Timothy 3:16).
At this point, light shines “out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6), a division is made between the light and the darkness (Genesis 1:4), and the darkness has no apprehension or comprehension of that which is light (John 1:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14).
The “spirit” of unsaved man, associated with “darkness,” is dead. It is a part of the totally depraved man, with his “body of . . . death,” in which there dwells “no good thing” (Romans 7:18, 24). But, with the movement of the Spirit — breathing life into unsaved, lifeless man — man’s spirit is made alive and, at the same time, separated from his soul (Hebrews 4:12).
The “soul” remains within the sphere of darkness, which is why “the natural [Greek: psuchikos, ‘soulical’] man” cannot understand “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That which remains in the sphere of darkness can have no apprehension or comprehension of that which has shined out of darkness. There is a God-established division between the two that cannot be crossed over (cf. Luke 16:26).
Thus, the unchangeable method that God uses and the pattern that He follows to restore a ruined creation have forever been set forth at the beginning of His Word, through the account of God’s restoration of the ruined material creation.
Then, in Genesis chapter three, God’s new creation, man, finds himself in a ruined state. But he is not to be left in this state, for man, at this point, becomes the object of a new divine restorative work. And this work, as seen in the latter part of chapter three and subsequent types, follows that which had already been set forth in an unchangeable fashion in chapter one.
2) As Seen In Eden
Man, in the garden in Eden, following his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, found himself in a ruined state. And man’s fall not only brought about his own ruin but that of the entire restored creation as well (Genesis 3:6-19).
As the federal head, the one created to hold the scepter that Satan held (Genesis 1:26-28), Adam’s fall “subjected” the whole of the restored creation to “the bondage of corruption” — the same thing which had resulted from Satan’s previous fall, following creation (Genesis 1:2a; Romans 8:20-22; cf. Isaiah 14:12-17; Jeremiah 4:23-28; Ezekiel 28:14-16).
Following Satan’s fall, there had been no redemption, leaving the material creation in a ruined state, with a restoration of the creation ultimately occurring only because of and for man. But things were different following man’s fall, which, of necessity, also resulted in things being different for the material creation as well.
Following man’s fall, God provided a means for his redemption, which, correspondingly, necessitated that the material creation would ultimately be removed from “the bondage of corruption.” The material creation had previously been restored for man, not Satan. It had been restored with a view to man rather than Satan holding the scepter and was, from that point forward, connected with man’s destiny. And as the ruin of the material creation at this time was inseparably linked to man’s fall, so is the future restoration of the material creation inseparably linked to man’s redemption.
Satan brought about man’s fall through a means very similar to that which had resulted in his own fall. Satan had sought to be “like the Most High,” and he deceived Eve into believing that she could be “as God” (literal translation) by partaking of the forbidden fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14). However, in each instance, rather than individuals becoming “like the Most High,” “as God,” a ruined creation resulted.
Eve’s act of partaking of the fruit of the tree was not really climaxed until Adam had partaken also. Satan had to bring about Adam’s fall (as the federal head), not simply Eve’s fall alone. But, once Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree, Adam had no choice but to also partake as well.
A part of his very being was in a fallen state (Eve, formed from a rib removed from his side, was bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh [Genesis 2:21-23]). Thus, Adam, as an incomplete being, was no longer in a position to eat of the tree of life (the tree that would have provided [for man, past] and will yet provide [for man, future] the necessary wisdom and knowledge to rule the earth).
(For information concerning the tree of life in the preceding respect, refer to the author’s book, The Bride in Genesis, Revised Edition, Appendix 2.)
Adam, apart from Eve, could no longer realize the purpose for his existence, something that Satan apparently knew. Thus, Adam followed what was really the only course of action available — cleaving to his wife (Genesis 2:24) — knowing that this was the only way he could bring about Eve’s redemption and ultimately find himself in the position of being able to partake of the tree of life as a complete being.
Adam was not deceived. And it is evident from the statement to this effect in 1 Timothy 2:14, along with comparing the type with the antitype, that Adam sinned with a full knowledge of that which he was doing.
Adam was a type of Christ (Romans 5:14; cf. Luke 24:27, 44); and, as a type of Christ, that which Adam did in Eden foreshadowed that which Christ did at Calvary.
There is no other way to understand man’s fall, with Adam’s actions at the time typifying Christ’s actions in this same realm 4,000 years later.
Adam found his bride (a part of his very being, removed from his body) in a fallen state; and he then partook of that which is associated with sin and death. Christ, in like manner, found His bride (a part of His very being, to be removed from His body) in a fallen state; and allowed Himself to be made sin, which was followed by death (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And the purpose behind the actions of both individuals centered around three things:
b) Ultimately being able to partake of the tree of life as complete beings.
c) Ultimately bringing to pass the reason for man’s creation in the beginning.
Following Adam’s sin, divine intervention in man’s salvation is further seen through God slaying innocent animals to clothe Adam’s and Eve’s naked bodies (Genesis 3:21). Death occurred, blood was shed, and a covering was provided, pointing ahead 4,000 years to Calvary where death would again occur, blood would again be shed, and a covering would again be provided.
(Actually, the blood of Christ does more than cover sin. The blood of Christ does away with sin, which is the thought behind the Greek words translated “reconcile” and “reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
These two Greek words are katallage and katallasso [noun and verb forms of the same word, meaning the same thing]. These words are derived from allasso, which means “to change,” “to transform.” And allasso is derived from allos, which means “other,” “another.” Thus, the root derivation of katallage and katallasso is allos.
In the preceding respect, the thought behind katallage and katallasso, as the words are used in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, would be to change sin into something other than that which exists, not cover sin as seen in “atonement” in the Old Testament. And a change of the nature seen in the text could only be accomplished through one means — doing away with sin.)
Man has been redeemed through Christ’s shed blood at Calvary (1 Peter 1:18, 19); and, in the light of the type, Christ’s finished work at Calvary allows God to clothe His creation, not with animal skins as in Eden, but with the very righteousness of Christ, in which sin does not, cannot, exist (cf. Zechariah 3:3-5).
God has imputed this righteousness to every believer (Romans 4:24, 25; 5:12-18), and within the scope of justification, God views redeemed man, positionally, as being just as righteous as His Son. That would be to say, God views every believer, positionally, as being just as righteous as He Himself is righteous, for the Son is God manifested in the flesh.
Thus, redemption, as seen in Eden, is accomplished entirely through divine intervention. The Son’s finished work at Calvary is foreshadowed by Adam partaking of the forbidden fruit; and the Son’s finished work allows God to clothe His creation in righteousness, as foreshadowed by Adam and Eve being clothed in animal skins.
3) As Seen in Cain Slaying Abel
In Genesis chapter four, Abel and his sacrifice(s) typifies Christ and His sacrifice. In this chapter one finds death (the slaying of lambs, and the subsequent slaying of an individual) and shed blood.
Abel presented lambs for a blood sacrifice at a set time in a particular place. Then he himself became the sacrifice when his brother, Cain, rose up against him and slew him.
Christ presented Himself — the Lamb of God — for a blood sacrifice at a set time in a particular place. In this respect, He, by the sacrifice of Himself, fulfilled both parts of the type surrounding Abel’s experiences. The sacrifice of lambs and the death of Abel foreshadow the death of Christ, the sacrificed Lamb.
God requires shed blood to atone for (cover) man’s sin (or, in New Testament terminology, do away with man’s sin). This is a truth established in Eden immediately following Adam’s sin. God slew innocent animals — which necessitated shed blood — and clothed Adam and Eve with the animal skins (Genesis 3:21).
And God’s work after this fashion, because of man’s sin, sets forth a dual truth relative to salvation that remains unchanged throughout Scripture:
a) “Salvation is of the Lord” — man, as Adam, can only remain completely passive (Jonah 2:9).
b) “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22) — death and shed blood are that which God requires (cf. Genesis 3:21).
Abel is a type of Christ, and Cain slaying Abel foreshadows Israel slaying Christ. The recorded account in Genesis chapter four is that of one brother slaying another brother; and the recorded account in the four gospels 4,000 years later is exactly the same — one brother slaying another brother.
(Israel is God’s firstborn son [Exodus 4:22], and Jesus is God’s firstborn Son [Hebrews 1:6]. Israel is God’s only adopted, firstborn son; and Jesus is God’s only begotten, firstborn Son. Consequently, Israel and Cain are both guilty of the same sin — that of fratricide, that of slaying one’s own brother.)
Cain, because of Abel’s acceptance and his own rejection, rose up against his brother and slew him in the field, a type of “the world” (Matthew 13:38).
It was during the time God’s Son was in the world that Israel rose up against Him, as Cain rose up against Abel, and committed the same violent act. Israel slew Christ, as Cain had slain Abel 4,000 years earlier, fulfilling the type that God had established.
In the type, the blood of Abel cried out to the Lord “from the ground” (Genesis 4:10); but in the antitype, the blood of Christ “speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).
The account of Cain slaying Abel is the third major part of a multifaceted Old Testament word picture depicting all the different things surrounding God’s provision of salvation for fallen man.
The first three parts of this word picture are presented in the first four chapters of Genesis.
The first part of the picture (chapter 1) presents basic foundational truths, which, apart from the remaining facets of the word picture, cannot be properly understood.
The second and the third parts of the picture (Genesis 3, 4) then begin to add to and build upon the foundation previously set forth in chapter one, progressively bringing the complete picture more into focus.
And subsequent parts of the picture (e.g., Genesis 22; Exodus 12; Numbers 21) continue to add details, ultimately bringing the whole matter into perfect focus in the only composite word picture of salvation that God has provided.
Note how much has been provided in the first four chapters of Genesis thus far, though still only beginning to form that which can later, through additional revelation, eventually be seen as a complete picture:
Chapter one centers on God’s revealed means for restoring a ruined creation. Relative to salvation by grace, revealed through God’s work on day one, the Spirit moves, God speaks, and light comes into existence.
The Spirit breathes life into the one having no life (cf. Genesis 2:7), and the one who was “dead in trespasses and sins” passes “from death to life” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1). “Light” then shines out of the place where only darkness had previously existed, and a division is made between the light and the darkness.
But, in order to provide understanding concerning exactly what is occurring in this opening part of the word picture that God has provided, there is more, far more, which must be added to complete the picture. And these additional parts of the picture begin to be opened up and revealed in Genesis chapters three and four. Then they continue to be further opened up and revealed in different places in subsequent Scriptures.
Chapter three, adding to the picture, reveals that God requires death and shed blood, and this chapter also introduces a truth more fully developed and opened up in later revelation: a Man, who knew no sin, would be made sin for the one who had sinned.
Then chapter four adds more details, bringing the two main things seen in chapter three together. Not only does God require death and shed blood, but this chapter introduces another truth more fully developed and opened up in later revelation:
The Man who would be made sin is also the One who would die and shed His blood. And, beyond that, this would be a vicarious death.
And subsequent types continue with more details surrounding that which has already been revealed. God, in the Old Testament Scriptures, within the numerous types, has set forth all the different aspects of the work of His Son at Calvary. There is uniformity throughout; and each type presents different facets of the matter, with each subsequent type adding to the details already given in previous types. Then, all of the types together form one complete word picture, which allows man, through the means that God Himself has provided, to come into a full knowledge and understanding of salvation by grace.
4) As Seen in Abraham Offering Isaac
Genesis chapter twenty-two presents the account of Abraham offering his son for a burnt-offering upon a particular mountain in the land of Moriah, in accordance with God’s command.
Following God’s command to offer his son after this fashion, the record presents Abraham acting in unquestioned obedience. Apart from any remonstrance or delay whatsoever, Abraham took his son, two servants, the necessary provisions for the sacrifice, and began the journey toward the mount (vv. 2, 3).
God was very particular about the place where Isaac was to be offered. The land of Moriah was the region where Jerusalem was later built (2 Chronicles 3:1). And the designated place of sacrifice in this region, located three days’ journey from Abraham and Isaac’s home in the land of Gerar (v. 4), was a mount later described by Abraham after two fashions:
a) The place where “God will provide himself [lit., ‘provide for Himself’] a lamb.”
b) By the name, “Jehovahjireh,” meaning “the Lord will provide” (Genesis 22: 8, 14).
The designated place was thus a mount in the land of Moriah where the Lord Himself would provide the sacrifice, a lamb.
The reason that God was very particular about the place of sacrifice during Abraham’s day is apparent. There are only two occurrences of human sacrifices under God’s direction in all Scripture. One occurs in Genesis chapter twenty-two where Abraham offered his son, and the other occurs in the gospel accounts where God offered His Son, the greater Son of Abraham.
It appears evident that Abraham offered his son at the same place where God would, 2,000 years later, offer His Son. This was the mount where the Lord would provide the sacrifice, which is exactly what He did during both Abraham’s day and 2,000 years later when He offered His own Son.
As Abraham was about to slay his son upon the mount, God stayed his hand; and a ram (a male sheep) caught in the thicket was provided as a substitute. The ram died in the stead of Isaac (a vicarious death), providing substitutionary atonement. The ram died in order that Isaac might live (vv. 9-13).
When God offered the greater Son of Abraham upon this mount, the Son Himself, God’s provided Lamb (John 1:29, 36), was the One who died (as in the type, a vicarious death), providing substitutionary atonement (“reconciliation” — a doing away with sin — in New Testament terminology). He shed His blood and experienced death Himself in order that others, through Him, might live.
Abraham and Isaac were alone on the mount. The two men accompanying them remained a distance from the mount and neither partook of nor saw the events that transpired. Abraham and Isaac alone entered into these events (vv. 5ff).
The same thing occurred at Calvary. Though there were people a distance from the scene (Matthew 27:36, 54, 55), as in Abraham’s day, the events were closed to their view or participation.
From the sixth to the ninth hour (noon to 3 P.M.) darkness enveloped the entire land (Matthew 27:45), and it was during this time that the Son bore “our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He drank the “cup” previously set before Him in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44), allowing Himself to be made “sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21); and God had to turn away from His own Son during this time, causing the Son to cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Abraham and his son alone participated in events set forth in the type, and God and His Son alone participated in events set forth in the antitype. Divine intervention on man’s behalf is seen throughout.
Isaac, in the type, insofar as the record is concerned, offered no resistance as he was bound and placed on the altar upon the wood. He willingly allowed himself to be the sacrifice.
God’s Son, likewise, in the antitype, offered no resistance as He moved toward Calvary. He willingly endured the Cross, allowing Himself to be the Sacrifice, a Sacrifice that would do away with sin (Hebrews 9:26; 12:2).
As Abraham “stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son,” he was stopped from doing so by the angel of the Lord; and a “ram caught in a thicket by its horns” was provided as an offering “instead of his son.” The ram died in Isaac’s place. The wages of sin (death) were satisfied via a substitute (Genesis 22:10-13).
The wages of sin today, likewise, have been satisfied in the person of a Substitute. God has provided “for Himself a Lamb.” The Lord Jesus Christ has paid the price that God requires.
And God is satisfied with the price that His Son has paid:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Man can either receive Jesus Christ, who has paid the wages of sin on his behalf, or man can reject Christ and pay the penalty himself. The Lamb has died, but the death of the Lamb is insufficient without the application of the blood (Exodus 12:6, 7, 12, 13).
Man must, personally, himself, appropriate that which God has provided through the death of His Son at Calvary. Man must, personally, himself, receive that which has been made possible through the finished work of God’s Son at Calvary.
And this salvation is offered as a gift — absolutely free — to anyone who will, by faith, receive the gift (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
5) As Seen in the Death of the Firstborn
Exodus chapters eleven and twelve record the death of the firstborn in Egypt during Moses’ day, four hundred years beyond the birth of Isaac. God had decreed that the firstborn of both man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt must die. This included those in the household of every Israelite and Egyptian family alike — from the most obscure Israelite family to the household of Pharaoh itself. No firstborn throughout Egypt (even in the animal kingdom) was excluded from this decree (Exodus 11:4-6).
However, the Lord made a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians by providing Israel with a substitute that could die in the place of, in the stead of, the firstborn in the family (Exodus 11:7; 12:3ff).
Each Israelite family was to take a lamb from the flock on the tenth day of the month, keep the lamb penned in a separate place until the fourteenth day, and then slay the lamb “in the evening.” Following the death of the lamb, blood from the lamb, which had been caught in a basin, was to be taken and applied to “the two side posts” and “the upper door post” of the house in which the Israelite family dwelled (Exodus 12:3-7, 22).
A few hours later, “at midnight,” the Lord was to pass through the land of Egypt and execute the previously decreed sentence. Death would befall all the firstborn throughout the entire land of Egypt at this time. No distinction would be made between those in the households of the Egyptians or the Israelites in this respect, for the firstborn in every household was under exactly the same sentence.
(“Midnight” is used in Scripture referring to judgment. The first use of this word occurs in Exodus 11:4, relative to judgment befalling the firstborn, establishing an unchangeable pattern [cf. Ruth 3:2, 8; Matthew 3:11, 12; 25:6-12].)
The distinction that God established between the Israelites and the Egyptians lay, not in excluding the Israelites from the sentence decreed upon the firstborn, but in providing the Israelites with a means of substitutionary death. The paschal lamb in Exodus chapters eleven and twelve was given to Israel, and only those in Israel could slay this lamb. And for an Egyptian family to have had a part in the provided substitutionary atonement the night of the Passover, that family would have had to go to Israel (cf. John 4:22).
When the Lord passed through the land of Egypt at midnight, He looked for one thing. He looked for the BLOOD of a slain lamb on the door posts and lintel of each house.
If the blood was there, He passed over that house simply because He knew that death had already occurred. The firstborn had already died in that household. A lamb from the flock had died in his place, and the Lord looked upon the matter just as if the firstborn in the family had himself died.
However, if there was no blood on the door posts and lintel — with no respect given as to whether it was an Egyptian or an Israelite household — the firstborn himself died. The absence of blood showed that death had not occurred in that house, and the firstborn from every household had to die, himself, personally; but the Lord provided for and recognized a vicarious death.
It cannot be over emphasized that the Lord looked for one thing and one thing only when He passed through the land of Egypt at midnight. He looked for BLOOD on the door posts and lintel of each house — nothing more, nothing less.
The blood not only had to be shed but it also had to be properly applied. Once the Lord saw the blood, He looked no further. Insofar as the death of the firstborn was concerned, nothing else was of any moment. God was satisfied.
And it is the same today. The firstborn is under the sentence of death, and God has provided a Substitute — “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). He has shed His blood; but the blood, as in the type, must be properly applied, which is accomplished through a simple act of faith:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
As in Egypt the night of the Passover, insofar as the death of the firstborn is concerned, nothing else is of any moment. Apart from believing, unredeemed man today can do nothing.
The Israelites during Moses’ day could do nothing but apply the blood of lambs, slain on their behalf; and man today can do nothing but apply the blood of the Lamb, which has been slain on his behalf.
And, as during Moses’ day, once this has been done, God recognizes a substitutionary death as having occurred, resulting in His satisfaction.
. . . it is appointed for men to die once . . . . (Hebrews 9:27)
A man can either keep this appointment in Christ or apart from Christ. That is, he can elect to either receive the One who has kept the appointment on his behalf, or he can elect to keep the appointment himself.
For those who have believed, the blood has been properly applied to show that the firstborn has died; and that’s the end of the matter.
For those though who have not believed, there is no proper application of the blood; and the end of the matter awaits.
(Note that Exodus chapters eleven and twelve address, in no uncertain terms, an issue often brought up today: “Who was responsible for Christ’s death?”
In these two chapters, God gave the paschal lamb to Israel, and only Israel was in possession of and could slay this lamb. In that which is foreshadowed by the type, Christ was the Paschal Lamb; and, exactly as in the type, only Israel was in possession of and could slay the Lamb [Christ came to Israel and presented Himself to the nation (Matthew 15:24; John 1:11)]. And, beyond that, beginning with the type in Genesis chapter four, Scripture clearly attributes this act to Israel [cf. Matthew 23:37-39; 27:25; Luke 13:33; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:17; 4:10; 5:28-30; 7:52].
Seeking to absolve Israel of this act — something very evident within and without Christendom today — is man’s way, within his finite thinking, of seeking to distance himself from that which he sees as anti-Semitism [seeing the Jewish people as the ones responsible for Christ’s death]. But, in reality, exactly the opposite is true. Seeking to absolve and remove Israel from any connection with Christ’s death is one of the most heinous, anti-Semitic acts ever perpetrated against the Jewish people.
If Israel could be absolved of and removed from the position that Scripture plainly attributes to the nation, that of Christ’s death, note what would have to be the result. Such thinking, if carried to its logical conclusion, would do away with God’s provided means of salvation for anyone, Jew or Gentile. And, in that respect, such thinking would not only be anti-Semitic but anti-God and anti-human-race, for God’s entire redemptive plan would be voided and mankind [Jew and Gentile alike] would have no Savior.
And the Biblical reasoning for that is very simple. Apart from Israel slaying the Paschal Lamb in 33 A.D., there can be no salvation for unsaved humanity [John 4:24], for, again, only Israel could slay the Lamb. And, to slay this particular Lamb, God’s Son [after God, through Israel, had provided the Lamb (cf. Genesis 22:8)], is the central reason God called the nation into existence. All other reasons for Israel’s existence rest upon and are dependent on this fact.
And, instead of being anti-Semitic, seeing Israel as the slayer is one of the most pro-Semitic acts in existence. And the reasoning for that is very simple as well. Through this act, Israel has provided man with a Savior; apart from this act, man would not have a Savior [cf. Numbers chapter thirty-five (ref. the author’s book, The Time of the End, Appendix 2, “The Death of the High Priest,”)].
And, while thinking along the preceding lines, a person might also want to consider which group of people God used to give mankind a Jewish Book to tell them about this Jewish Savior. And, to carry the matter one step further, a person might also want to consider which group of people God has used, continues to use, and will always use as the channel through which all spiritual blessings for mankind flow, with the provision of a Savior being the ultimate of all possible blessings.)
6) As Seen in Moses Lifting Up the Brazen Serpent
During His earthly ministry Jesus drew from Jewish history on numerous occasions in order to teach great spiritual lessons. While speaking to Nicodemus, with the events of Calvary in view, He called attention to the account of Moses lifting up the brazen serpent in the wilderness and likened this event to His being lifted up on the Cross at a future time (John 3:14; cf. John 12:32, 33; Numbers 21:5-9).
The account of the brazen serpent being placed on a pole was thus singled out by Christ as a type of His being placed on the Cross. God had brought certain events to pass under His sovereign direction and control of all things during Moses’ day in order that He, at a later time, might have these events to draw upon in teaching His people great spiritual truths concerning the events surrounding Calvary.
In the camp of Israel during Moses’ day, the people had sinned in a twofold manner:
a) By speaking against both God and His appointed leader, Moses.
b) By loathing the manna that God had provided for food to sustain them during their wilderness journey.
They spoke against both God and Moses because of their being in the wilderness, facing death (due to their previous refusal to believe God and enter the land at Kadesh-Barnea); and they had grown tired of the food that God had provided, resulting in their provoking and tempting God by asking for “meat” in place of the manna (cf. Numbers 20:5; Psalm 78:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 10:9).
The Israelites tempted God by trying Him to the limit. This is the manner in which the compound Greek word translated “tempted” in 1 Corinthians 10:9 should literally be understood (this is also the same word used in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament in Psalm 78:18, referring to the same incident).
After God had been tried to the limit, judgment fell. He sent poisonous “fiery serpents among the people [‘fiery’ — referring to a burning, inflammatory bite],” and many Israelites died as a result of being bitten by these serpents.
The people of Israel, experiencing God’s judgment after this fashion, then went to Moses and acknowledged their sin. Moses interceded on behalf of the people, and the Lord provided the antidote. Moses was instructed to make a serpent of brass and place it on a pole; and any Israelite who had been bitten by a serpent could look upon the brazen serpent and be healed.
The type brought over into the antitype, as Christ referred to both aspects of the matter, has to do with truths surrounding God’s judgment upon sin, the finished work of Another, and the fact that man can do no more than simply receive that which has already been done.
(Note that the primary interpretation of the account of Moses lifting up the brazen serpent in Numbers chapter twenty-one would, of necessity, because of the context, have to do with the sins of a people who had already appropriated the blood of the paschal lambs in Egypt [Exodus 12]. But Christ used this event in another respect — as a type of that previously seen through the death of these paschal lambs [one type reflecting back on a previous type, both pointing to the antitype].)
Moses was a type of Christ; and the brazen serpent was used in a metaphorical respect, pointing to Christ. Moses performed the work; he was the one who made the serpent and placed it on a pole. The Israelites who had been bitten by the serpents that God had sent into the camp had no part in any of this work.
After the work had been completed and the serpent affixed to a pole, the antidote for that resulting from sin was then available. Those who had been bitten by the serpents sent into the camp were told simply to look and live. That’s all they were instructed to do. And it is recorded,
. . . if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:7-9)
Carrying these same truths over into Christ’s finished work at Calvary, man, under the sentence of death, is just as helpless as the Israelites who had been bitten by the serpents, necessitating Another to act on his behalf.
In the type, serpents were responsible for the condition of the Israelites, and a serpent was brought forth as the remedy.
In the antitype it is the same. A man was responsible for the condition, and a Man was brought forth as the remedy. The first man, the first Adam, was responsible for the condition; and the second Man, the last Adam, provided the cure (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).
And just as Moses performed all of the work on the Israelites’ behalf in the type, with the people under the sentence of death being told simply to look and live, so it is in the antitype. Christ has performed all of the work on man’s behalf, and the only thing which man can do, as in the type, is look and live.
The serpent being formed from brass, in accordance with God’s instructions, is in perfect keeping with that which is seen throughout the type. “Brass” in Scripture speaks of judgment (cf. Exodus 27:1-8; 30:18-21; Revelation 1:15). God judged sin in the camp of Israel during the wilderness journey, and He also judged sin at Calvary; and sin was judged after such a fashion, in both instances, that God was satisfied.
The Israelites looked; and, by so doing, they, at the same time, through looking, exercised faith. They believed what God had said, and their acting on this belief (looking, as God had commanded) was the act of faith that God required (Acts 16:30, 31; cf. Hebrews 11:6).
Nothing more was required then, and nothing more is required today. It was look and live then, and it is look and live today.
It was look toward the place sin had been judged in that day, believing that God meant exactly what He had said, resulting in God’s satisfaction; and it is look toward the place sin has been judged today, believing that God means exactly what He has said, resulting in God’s satisfaction.
The six Old Testament types referenced — beginning with the foundational type in Genesis chapter one and ending with a sixth type in Numbers chapter twenty-one — by no means present the complete Old Testament word picture. But these six types, viewed together and in the light of one another, present a picture that is sufficiently complete for the purpose at hand — a correct overall understanding of salvation by grace.
a) As Seen in the Earth’s Restoration.
b) As Seen in Eden.
c) As Seen in Cain Slaying Abel.
d) As Seen in Abraham Offering Isaac.
e) As Seen in the Death of the Firstborn.
f) As Seen in Moses Lifting Up the Brazen Serpent.
Salvation by grace in the New Testament must be viewed in the light of the way God began His revelation on the subject in the Old Testament. Only through this means can an individual properly grasp and understand, from a completely biblical perspective, Paul and Silas’ statement in Acts 16:31, as they responded to the question in the previous verse:
What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30)
Again, the answer is simple. You can’t do anything. It has all been done on your behalf. Simply “believe [put your trust in, your reliance in]” the One who paid it all at Calvary. Then, and only then, will God look upon sin as having been judged in your life, personally, based on the finished work of His Son.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)