The Salvation of the Jews: The Constancy of the Salvation of the Jews

jewish_starA few days ago, long-time reader Price asked me about the nature of Jewish salvation before the cross.

You pointed out that forgiveness of sin was already available under the Law … and included scriptural support which one can’t really argue with … so is John the Baptist just stating the obvious? That if one repents, forgiveness is available under the present Law? If that is the case, then the sins that are forgiven are a one time forgiveness … not a continual product of grace provided for in the new covenant at the cross … Is that correct ?

I answered in the comments, but I thought the question merited consideration as a main post. Here’s my answer from the comment, edited —

I think it’s kind of in layers.

One layer is that the Jews were always saved by faith — to the extent any one was saved at all. “Faith” includes faithfulness includes repentance. Being penitent is essential to having faith at all. That’s the individual layer. And God saves individuals.

But God also deals with Israel as a nation, and John the Baptist was calling the entire nation to repent because God was granting repentance to the Jews — as a nation — to end the Exile and bring the Kingdom. The opportunity had not existed before because the time had not yet been right. The Exile and the curses of Deu 28 were potentially at an end because the Kingdom would soon come. The nation therefore had the opportunity to repent as a nation, be relieved of the curses and Exile, and be restored to right relationship with God — and so enter the Kingdom and the blessed rule of the Messiah.

I take such Acts phrases as “grant repentance” (Acts 5:31) to mean that the time had arrived for the nation to repent and be restored. The offer of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration per Deu 30 was being made by God through John, Jesus, and then the apostles. The opportunity had arrived. The moment had come.

But the nation of Israel, as a nation, rejected God’s offer and so continued in Exile, accursed, and ultimately found its Holy City destroyed and Temple pulled down stone by stone by the Romans — in an eerie repeat of the Babylonian Captivity. But some Jews had faith in Jesus as Messiah, repented, were forgiven, were restored, and entered the Kingdom. These became the “remnant” Paul speaks of in Rom 11 as having been prophesied (Rom 11:1-5). They are the true Israel — into which the faithful Gentiles were later grafted (Rom 11:17-24).

So, at an individual level, faith/faithfulness/penitence has always been accepted by God. But at a national level — at the level of the destiny prophesied by Moses and the Prophets, John the Baptist was announcing a turning point in Jewish and world history because God was making a last-ditch effort to restore Israel to right relationship so they would all enjoy the Kingdom he had long promised them. God was being faithful to his covenants — and more so — by not only accepting faith as righteousness but sending John and Jesus and the apostles to warn the Jews and plead with them to repent by following Jesus.

So it’s not really about a one-time or continuous forgiveness. It’s about God moving in history to attempt to rescue his people from a worldly perspective that relied on swords and siege warfare to bring about an earthly kingdom, corruption in the Temple, a false reliance on ancestry rather than faith, and a lack of concern for the poor and oppressed — which we might see as national diseases, just as idolatry (very literal idolatry) brought about Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest as something of a national disease.

But at the individual level Jeremiah remained saved despite God’s cursing of the nation. He dealt with Israel as a nation but individuals were saved or lost based on their individual faith/faithfulness.

It’s a difficult concept for Americans because we have such an individualized culture and version of Christianity. Some of this is from Calvin, who individualized election, although in the OT, election is about Israel, not each individual Jew. Saul was among the chosen people, but he was individually rejected.

Just so, we Gentiles have been saved and so grafted into the elect people of God. God has chosen the Kingdom as a continuation of Israel as the chosen people. This hardly argues for individual election — although we struggle to see it any other way. Rather, Israel is elect, and we’re added to Israel and so become elect, too.

This makes much better sense of the predestination passages. Sadly, we generally only care about our individual atonement – not realizing that individual atonement is a corollary of national atonement. If we weren’t invited into Israel — granted repentance unto God (Acts 11:1) — we’d not be saved at all. God is under no obligation to save those who repent — except due to the covenants he made with Israel. The ability to find forgiveness and salvation through repentance is a gift from God, not an entitlement that God is bound to honor.

Hence, predestination is about God’s plan from Abraham to invite the Gentiles in — not necessarily me or you but all nations. (This is what Rom 9 – 11 is really saying. Makes better sense of Eph 1 as well.) To Paul, God’s great miracle and mystery revealed is that the Gentiles become not just blessed but grafted into Israel, allowing them to be saved by faith (like Abraham, by virtue of God’s covenant with Abraham.)

(Eph 3:1-6 ESV) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles —  2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,  5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The mystery — the great surprise found in the gospel — is that God invited the Gentiles into Israel to share in the covenant promises God made to Abraham.

To the Jews and the Gentiles both, this was shocking. Gods were seen as gods of a nation. Or a vocation. Or a place. A God of the entire universe was beyond comprehension. And a God willing to claim Lordship over all other gods in order to invite Gentiles — strangers, even enemies — into his salvation, well, that was beyond comprehension!

We just don’t think that way and so we miss the story and the point and wind up arguing over predestination and election in terms that Paul would not even recognize as Jewish or Christian.

(I readily admit that Calvin raises some challenging philosophical questions re foreknowledge and freewill. I just don’t think Paul was dealing with those particular questions. He was much more worried about how Gentiles could be saved when the promises given by God were only to Abraham and his offspring.)

So to answer your question more directly, if salvation was by faith from Abraham to Jesus (if not from Abel to Jesus, per Heb 11), then salvation is not a momentary forgiveness that dissipates with the next lustful or angry thought. It was continuous as long as faith continued. (I am correcting myself on this particular point. I’m learning as I go.)

But that faith was only “faith” so long as Jesus had not yet been revealed as Messiah. Once God resurrected Jesus and his Messiahship was announced at Pentecost, the requisites for faith changed, as we’ve just covered.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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19 Responses to The Salvation of the Jews: The Constancy of the Salvation of the Jews

  1. Richard constant says:

    When making an analogy like that or when drawing this down like aiming a gun drawing down on somebody don’t ever forget Hezekiah.
    Also you shouldn’t forget Salomon’s Son’s they’re always brought up in all the God’s prophets. I pretty much think people forget about that as being so bad, that God’s prophets seem to always mark that as a turning point. and a blatant turning away for the northern tribes into idolatry. bringing up Saul is one thing, look to 2nd Chronicles chapter 11 verse 13. Jeroboam, and the ten tribes of Israel.
    oh well I have a few things to do today check in maybe this afternoon

  2. Richard constant says:

    Forgot to say keep working on that (“righteous Faith”),
    keep keeping everyone in our prayers or thoughts giving glory to God it’s a beautiful morning out here in Southern California. I’m out in shorts on the patio with the light on and it’s dark. oh yeah forgot and my coffee.
    a wonderful thing to look forward to every morning J thanks again for all your work blessings there big time blessings huh

  3. Price says:

    This passage was mentioned in church yesterday.. As I reflected on it and your posts of the past week or so, it seemed that within my spirit I realized that it’s not so much about offerings and sacrifice, the 5 acts of worship, IM or baptism, or any number of things that we are encouraged, yea verily, commanded to do… but that God wants our hearts. And the only way to accomplish that is for us to turn away from our present ways and Repent… Then everything seems to fall in place… Maybe that’s simplifying it more than it should be.. but I don’t know… The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [2Pe 3:9 ESV].

  4. Richard constant says:

    as a PS might want to look up that word righteous faith the Bible doesn’t use that just for fun.
    you know in that first covenant or and reference to anyone that was in the first covenant kind of like Hebrews 11.
    Anyway blessings J

  5. laymond says:

    It seems that the purpose of Jesus changed, from Isaiah to Matthew. As we know all the humans on earth are descendants of Noah, therefore brothers and sisters in the flesh, except for the regions of the earth we occupy, we would probably be the same in spirit. It seems (to me anyway) that when God chose the Jews as his own they were forgiven of their sins, “they will be my people and I will be their God”. I understand Jesus was chosen to save the “gentiles” not to save God’s chosen people.

    Gen 10:5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

    Isa 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

    Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

    Isa 42:4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

    Isa 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

    Mat 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    How are we supposed to reconcile this statement with the statements in Isaiah?

  6. Dwight says:

    Price, Yes I think turning to Jesus from the world due to faith and guilt are what puts us in the direction we need to go and one in the direction, then we do what we are supposed to obey as a result. If all we did was just obey, then it would be hollow at best. But as we see repentance and baptism together perhaps they are just reflections of one another, one that puts us in Christ way and the other that puts us in Christ and although we aren’t asked to be placed into Christ after baptism, man still is on the journey within the repentance. David was a man after God’s own heart and did some horrible things of which he repented of and yet he always was seeking God grace and acceptance. Of course he sought to do God’s will.

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Price wrote,

    it’s not so much about offerings and sacrifice, the 5 acts of worship, IM or baptism, or any number of things that we are encouraged, yea verily, commanded to do… but that God wants our hearts. And the only way to accomplish that is for us to turn away from our present ways and Repent… Then everything seems to fall in place


  8. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that Isaiah seems to suggest hope of the Gentiles in the Kingdom not yet come (then). The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t read Isaiah that way, or else Paul couldn’t say in Eph 3 that the inclusion of the Gentile was a “mystery” revealed by the cross. But I agree that the Prophets do anticipate the inclusion of the Gentiles.

    When Jesus said that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, he was speaking of his earthly ministry, not the significance of his death. His ministry was to the Jews. And the apostles were told in Acts 1 to preach to the Jews first. And Paul repeatedly stated in Romans that the gospel is for the “Jews first.” The Jews were God’s chosen people, and so they received the gospel first.

    But this was all to build a foundation from which the Gentiles could also be saved. There had to be a Jewish remnant (Rom 11) into which the Gentiles might be grafted. And the gospel had to start somewhere, and it was the Jews who had been promised the Messiah and Kingdom for so long.

    So the statement is reconciled by the fact that Jesus was speaking of his own “sending,” that is, his earthly mission. He spent his days in Judea and Galilee among the Jews — first and foremost. But he also preached to the Samaritans and even to Gentiles —

    (Mat 15:21-39 ESV) And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. 29 ¶ Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. 32 ¶ Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

    Ray Vander Laan concludes that this crowd was largely Gentile, as Jesus was on the Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. The 12 baskets left over after feeding the 5,000 represents the 12 tribes. Here, the 7 baskets left over symbolize the seven nations listed in the Torah as the surrounding Gentile nations — symbolic to the Jews of the Gentiles in general.

    So Jesus was sent primarily to the Jews, but even his earthly mission portended the larger mission that would be given to his apostles.

  9. laymond says:

    “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The word “only” seems, to me anyway, to exclude all but the Jews.
    Yes I understand that Jesus’ errand, would have been “a fool’s errand” if he had not convinced at least some of “God’s chosen people” that he was who he claimed to be, the promised messenger of God. but Isaiah makes it clear that Jesus’ appointed work, God given work, was to bring the gentiles into the judgment, why was this needed? because they were not covered by the “law” and as I said we are all God’s children through the parenthood of Noah. So why would God forsake the majority of his children and deny them at least a chance to join the chosen, in the presents of their Father, in his kingdom?
    Jay, do you believe Jesus died for the sins of those who were not included in the “law” or just those who disobeyed the law.

  10. laymond says:

    ” I agree that Isaiah seems to suggest hope of the Gentiles in the Kingdom not yet come (then). The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t read Isaiah that way”
    Jay, I don’t see any other way to read what Isaiah said, I believe what Isaiah was saying was hard for the “chosen people” to accept, not that they didn’t understand it.

    If you were raised in a rich family protected from the outside world, and got the idea that you were better than anyone else, then one day your mother came to you and said, you know that poor worthless family down the road, those children are your brothers and sisters, they are children of your father, and he has decided to accept them into the family, they will be heirs to all the riches your father has they will become your equal in all things your father has.
    Is this “good news” for you, or that family down the road?

  11. Richard constant says:

    not only were the Scriptures put together like an onion skin by skin by skin.
    We work from the outside in layer by layer by layer.
    Being diligent in the things that we’ve heard Hebrews least at any time we let them slip.
    Now we have traditions for 2000 years and so and so and so the face which which ones for all delivered into this Saints the author and perfecter of faith.
    The faithful seed.
    The descendant to whom the promise was made.
    The faithful to.
    Why because of the will of God as expressed in the covenants all of them.
    As we she revealed through the Spirit of Christ giving glory to God.

  12. Jim H says:

    I’ve never heard this (salvation of the Jews and Gentiles in Romans) explained this way but it does connect missing dots for me as to how Paul reaches his conclusions and further demonstrates the necessity of the importance of the interconnectedness of the OT and NT in the hermineutical exegesis of scripture interpreting scripture. Can you refer me to the resources you used on this series. I would like to read them and add to my library. Great series! Thank you!

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Jim H,

    Only Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope are written at a popular level. Paul and the Faithfulness of God is 1700 pages and a real slog — but profound. What Saint Paul Really Said and Justification are not nearly as difficult, but both assume that you are familiar with Paul’s letters. Keep a good translation close at hand.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    Well, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the older son — likely representative of the Jewish people — found it not good news at all. He lost nothing but was upset by jealousy. I think this parable is about the Jews and Gentiles myself. It fits really well. We identify with the prodigal son because we’re Gentiles. But Jesus was prophetically criticizing the Jews who’d complain about the ease with which the Gentiles would be allowed into God’s household.

    But, of course, in reality it was good news for all, because the Father revealed himself to be generous and compassionate and merciful — which both sons desperately needed.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    Jay, do you believe Jesus died for the sins of those who were not included in the “law” or just those who disobeyed the law.

    I’m not sure I understand the question. By “law” I assume you mean the Law of Moses, and so you’re asking about the salvation of Gentiles pre-Pentecost. Is that right?

    If so, I think Paul gives us the answer in his sermon at Mars Hill —

    (Act 17:30-31 ESV) 30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    There are two possible meanings of God’s overlooking the ignorance of the Gentiles. They could all be saved or they could simply die without experiencing either punishment or reward. Most people assume that humans have souls that are, by their inherent nature, immortal. This is from Plato, not the Bible. The Bible teaches that immortality is gift from God that not everyone receives.

    (Rom 2:6-8 ESV) 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

    (1Co 15:54 ESV) 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

    Immortality is only for the saved. Gehenna — God’s fiery punishment — is for the damned. The damned are not immortal.

    But these passages speak to the world post-Pentecost. Pre-Pentecost, God overlooked the Gentiles’ sins. And so I figure they did not inherit heaven (they were not saved) but neither were they punished (their ignorance was overlooked). Therefore, they receive neither. When they died, they ceased to exist — without hope of resurrection and without fear of God’s wrathful punishment.

    It’s a theory, and there’s not much to back it up. But I’ve never heard anything that makes better sense of the few passages that speak to the question.

  16. Mark says:

    “Laymond asked, Well, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the older son — likely representative of the Jewish people — found it not good news at all. He lost nothing but was upset by jealousy.”

    There are a lot of people who don’t like the story either. In most sermons, the older brother always got criticized. Now he had been good, not done anything wrong, worked hard, and then got blamed for not liking how the other brother got taken (back) into the fold so quickly. When you are in church every Sunday, are a good kid, follow the rules even though you are miserable, work hard and then get condemned to hell from the pulpit for having a particular opinion or for the sins of other youth, there is a big problem. You can’t win. The sinner is welcomed back and you get in trouble.

  17. laymond says:

    Jay, something else I have never understood, what is your opinion for why children of Noah were
    held accountable for the sins of Adam, and Eve , when the bible plainly states that Noah was in the grace of God, and only Noah and his family were saved ? would not the world be washed clean of sin with the killing of all life except that which was under the care of Noah, a family under the “grace of God” ?

  18. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    what is your opinion for why children of Noah were
    held accountable for the sins of Adam, and Eve

    Are you talking about Original Sin? Romans 5? And Augustine’s theorizing here?

    I’ve never bought that we are accountable for the sins of our ancestors. I do buy that we are broken eikons, cracked images of God, flawed, and essentially incapable of living sinlessly. But we are accountable for our own sins and not Adam’s or Eve’s. I really don’t think that was Paul’s point in Rom 5. I’ve covered that point sometime in the distant past, /2010/08/the-age-of-accountability-original-sin/ but I’ve changed my thinking on Rom 5:12-13. I do think Paul had damnation — death in the next age, the Second Death — in mind rather than physical death, but I think he had our inherited weakness and propensity to sin in mind, not inherited guilt. After all, why spend chapters 1 and 2 proving everyone’s actual guilt and actual need for a Savior only to turn around and declare that we need salvation because of Adam. Paul was much more logical than that.

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