Categories
Theology

The John 3:16 of the Old Testament

I’ve talked to many Christians who were taught and believed that God’s people Israel in the Old Testament were saved by works, rather than grace.

Of course, looking at the prologue to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 will show that’s simply not true. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex. 20:2).

God acts. God does the work. God does the saving.

Then he gives them his law. The order goes like this: God rescues his people. Then he tells them what their lives should look like under his kingly rule.

Add to that Hebrews 11 where we see that those saints who have come before were saved, not by their commitment to the law, but for their faith. That’s the whole point of that chapter.

That should be enough.

But another passage stuck out to me this morning I hadn’t noticed before. Deuteronomy 4:37: “Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength.”

That sounds a lot like John 3:16, doesn’t it? That verse says, “God loved the world this way: he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” 

  • “Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them” → God loved the world
  • “He brought you out of Egypt” → will not perish but have eternal life 
  • “By his Presence and his great strength” → he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him

When you lay the two passage side-by-side, we see that God’s love is the initiating motivation for salvation. His very real presence and grace is the power of salvation. And finally, freedom and life with God–the rescue from bondage and death–is the result of God’s salvation.

Whether Old Testament or New, the salvation of God does not come because of the obedience or conformity to God’s law, in part or in whole.

It comes freely and only to his people by his grace, his power, and his very Presence.

Categories
Life

God Loves Us Because He Loves Us

God’s heart is to carry us as a man carries his son (Deut. 1:31). Yet, despite God’s word, how often do we refuse him (Deut. 1:32)?  Still, how much more often does God say, “You transgressor! You stubborn of heart! You have no faith in me. You are running to everything else and whoring after idols! You are far from me, but nevertheless I will run to you. I will give you my righteousness. I will give you my salvation. You will be my glory. I’m doing this because I love you.”

Isaiah 46:12-13 says,

Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness; I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 says,

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.  The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

And so God doesn’t just say, “I love you.”  He ends with, “And I love you because I love you. And I will love you until you obey me.”