Questions and Answers

Did the people in the Old Testament have forgiveness of sins? If they did, why was it necessary for Jesus to die?

Briefly, the godly people in the OT could have forgiveness in the prospect of Jesus’ sacrificial death whereas we can have forgiveness in retrospect of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Jesus’ death is the all-sufficient and only means of forgiveness for all, no matter when they lived. So it is efficacious for all sins – those which were committed before he came and those which continue to be committed since his death.

Regarding the past, Paul says in Romans 3: 25, 26:

“God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (NIV).

The King James’ version puts it:

(Jesus) “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God…that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”.

So in the New Testament and Christian era, we get (Luke 24: 47):

“and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his (Jesus’) name to all nations”.

In the Old Testament era, we get:

- the rather enigmatic verse, Genesis 3:15, which promises a descendant of Eve who would deal a mortal blow to the sin power.

- the promise to Abraham that in his seed (singular) all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18) – of no consequence to Abraham if it didn’t work for him too! This promise was repeated to Isaac and Jacob.

- all the elaborate ritual of the Law of Moses, teaching that every sin had to be atoned for through the offering of a perfect sacrifice. Clearly, God didn’t want a perfect animal but a perfect human being. No man could offer himself as this and so the faithful in the OT recognised that God would provide the means of satisfying this requirement. And so their forgiveness and salvation would come through him. That is why, in John 8: 56, Jesus says to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”. And why Paul in Galatians 3: 8 said, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”

Two points are worth pondering:

- God knows the end from the beginning (we don’t) and knew that giving human beings free will would result in disobedience (sin) requiring a saviour. Therefore God planned, from the beginning, to send Jesus to be a sacrifice for sin. So Jesus is referred to in Revelation as the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’’ (Revelation 13: 8).

- God cannot just ignore or turn a blind eye to sin. It is abhorrent to Him and must be dealt with. God demands perfect righteousness and He cannot compromise his holiness. Thus the problem – how can God be just and yet justify sinners? The solution He devised: accepting the offering of the perfect life of Jesus (one of us) and granting forgiveness of sins and imputing righteousness to those who believe and are baptised into Christ.

Bro Leon and Sis Joan Shuker, (South Africa)

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