Old Testament Conditional
Salvation vs. The New
Testament's Free Gift
of Eternal Life
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Before reading the following
information, some comments
and clarifications are needed.
Due to its importance, this part of our study is repeated in several other articles and commentaries on our website. As a result, some readers may find it repetitious. Due to the current state of apostasy within Christendom, it is necessary to discuss these basic salvation truths, which are rooted in God’s Grace. In our various studies and writings, we constantly refer to something called ‘Galatian religion, Galatianism or the Galatian error’ – which are theological terms used by various Bible scholars. Saint Paul condemned this dangerous counterfeit brand of Christianity in his ‘Epistle to the Galatians’, which is where 'Galatian religion' derives its name. It was also rejected by the ‘First Jerusalem Council’, consisting of the entire apostolic leadership of the early church (led by James our Lord’s half-brother) in Acts chapter 15.
Galatian religion is created when churches and denominations (and their leaders) reinsert various parts of the Levitical Law of the Old Testament, into their evangelistic message ... after Jesus fulfilled and ‘took it out of the way’ (Matthew 5:17, Colossians 2:13-14, Ephesians 2:11-22).
This popular, yet illegal act
of reinserting the Law as
'conditions for obtaining and
keeping salvation' - now makes
God's gift of eternal life
dependent on both obedience
to the Law and Grace...which
mixes Law and Grace together.
As a result of this popular
practice, God's gift becomes
nonsensical and Christ's
salvation is redefined into
something our Heavenly Father
However, Hebrews 7:11-22 states that God was required to annul (invalidate) the old Levitical order - including its law (known as the law of Moses) when Jesus, from the tribe of Judah (not Levi), became the new ‘High Priest’. This made the Levitical Law (or the Law of Moses) obsolete ... requiring it to be replaced with “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”, or the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). As a result, the Grace-based principles and rules of the New Covenant is what now governs Christ's new priestly order of Judah ... and all true believers in the Church.
Paul validates this Biblical
truth in Romans 8:1-4 by
“... the law of the Spirit of
of life in Christ Jesus has
set me free from the law of
sin and death. For what the
law could not do in that it
was weak through the flesh,
God did by sending His
We should remember that a counterfeit of anything (such as counterfeit money) is designed to be nearly indistinguishable from the original. As a result, this popular spiritual counterfeit known as Galatian religion looks and sounds ‘Biblical’ ... and deceives a majority of church leaders and their followers into believing that it’s authentic Christianity. This spiritual counterfeit has plagued the church since the first century – so it’s not a new doctrine. Mainline denominations, on both the Protestant and Roman Catholic sides of the isle, have based their foundational doctrines on its teachings. Galatian religion, which also masquerades as 'Biblical Christianity and Biblical Theology', perverts Christ's salvation and leads many Christians astray in their faith without their knowledge (Galatians 1:6-8).
According to C.I. Scofield - the
architect of the popular Scofield
Reference Bible - those who
embrace Galatian religion, rather
than authentic New Testament
Christianity are often referred
to as being 'Galatianized'.
[ End of Comments and Clarifications ]
Following the crucifixion of Christ and the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, God's Holy Spirit now indwells all true Christian believers. As a result, salvation is received in an entirely different way compared to the previous Old Testament program. Scripture refers to this new era as;
Grace, The Ministry of the Spirit, The New Covenant - and The New and Living Way of Christ (Ephesians 2:4-9, Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 3:4-11, Hebrews 8:6-13, Hebrews 10:19-23). Contrary to popular church teaching, this "new and living way" - or New Covenant of Grace - is not a continuation of the previous Old Testament program. It's an entirely new program of faith established on radically different rules and principles. As a result, if you seek to obtain salvation 'The Old Testament way' - and reject "Christ's new and living way" - God will not honor your efforts, regardless of how sincere or well-intentioned.
Respecting Biblical Context
The words Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26 provides valuable insight into the truths that govern New Testament salvation, which is one of the purposes for this commentary. Numerous church leaders and their followers insist that Christ’s words in this Scripture represents the way salvation or eternal life is obtained today. Yet, by examining the entire New Testament, especially the Epistles of Saint Paul, we find this belief to be false. The falsehood is caused by failing to “rightly (or correctly) divide God’s Word" - as commanded by Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15. It involves a flawed method of Bible interpretation, which has created many dangerous heresies throughout church history.
When Paul uses the term “rightly dividing”, he is warning that the spiritual rules governing God's Salvation before the cross - under Old Testament Law - radically changed after the cross. Paul said that we must respect this Divine change if we want to walk in truth and be approved by God. If what he said is correct (and it is), you can’t ignore the Bible's context, mix things together - then attempt to explain away (or 'spiritualize') the differences. Most Christians tend to ignore that the way Jesus said to obtain eternal life before the cross by keeping the commandments of the Law (which also involves doing 'righteous works') - is not the same way eternal life is obtained after the cross ... which is now provided as the undeserved gift of God obtained without works (See Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7, Romans 4:4-8).
Modern-day Bible teachers who insist that eternal life is obtained (and kept) by “obeying the Law’s commandments” are stripping Christ’s words from their Divinely intended context and denying Christ's finished work at the cross. This is a most serious offense in God's eyes because it leads His people astray. It is essentially the same brand of theology used by the 'believing Pharisees' in Acts chapter 15 - which was condemned by the Jerusalem apostolic council. It was rejected because of its failure to acknowledge that the cross of Christ changed all the rules by establishing "A New and Better Covenant"; making the previous covenant of the Law obsolete ... as stated in these Scriptures:
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"In that He (Jesus Christ) says, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
Jesus was correct in what He
said to the rich young ruler,
when we understand that He
was speaking under the
authority of the Law which
governed before the cross.
However, His sacrificial death
and resurrection three days
later was about to change all
of the old rules.
"This cup is the new covenant
in My blood, which is shed
for you.'"(Luke 22:20)
An Unfortunate Fact
Not everyone is thrilled with the better promises of the New Covenant. Similar to the traditional Jews recorded in Acts 13:42-48, some church leaders and their followers tirelessly work (and even fight) to keep the previous old covenant system operational after God declared it to be obsolete. To accomplish its purposes, this popular brand of theology illegally intermingles the Old Testament program--and Christ's New Covenant program. As a result, supporters insist that Christ's New Covenant is just a continuation (or extension) of the old program. Saint Paul warned that this kind of mixed theology, commonly found in various expressions of fundamentalism and holiness teachings - creates "a different gospel of Christ and a counterfeit faith in Christ"...
That carries a curse and does not come from God. (Galatians 1:6-8)
This "mixed theology" is also deeply entrenched in Catholicism under different names and labels. Due to its complexity, we will not cover Catholicism in this commentary.
A Closer Examination of Christ's
Encounter with the Rich Young
Ruler in Matthew 19:16-26
The context of God's Word must be respected to gain a proper understanding of how salvation is obtained after the cross ... or for us today. As the book of Hebrews points out, Christ's program of redemption, also called "the New Covenant", did not begin until after His sacrificial death (See Hebrews 9:12-17). Jesus gave this young man instructions about how to receive salvation, while the program of the Law was still in operation - and before the New Covenant had started. Legally speaking, the Law continued all the way up to the events involving the crucifixion of Christ. It was Christ’s sacrifice and shed blood that initiated the New Covenant. It was His sacrifice that changed all the previous rules that governed the very nature of our salvation - and how it's obtained.
Here is the actual encounter
between Jesus and the young man:
"Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He (Jesus) said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”"
(You can read the whole account
in Matthew 19:16-26)
This is important: When the young man asked Jesus which commandments to keep in order to obtain eternal life, Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments of the Law in verses 18 through 22.
Confusion tends to exist concerning Christ’s words in this Scripture - because He appears to contradict the way the Apostle Paul said to receive eternal life in his New Testament Epistles to the Church. However, there is no contradiction when we respect Biblical context. Once again, Jesus is telling us the way salvation was received before He went to the cross ... under Old Testament Law. Some Christians understand that the cross changed these rules ... yet interpret this to mean that only the commandments needed to change. Instead of the commandments of the Law Jesus spoke of in Matthew 19 - they substitute the “new commandment” he gave to His disciples at the Last Supper - and the two great love commandments He mentioned to some Pharisees. Here is what Jesus said in those instances:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(Words of Jesus at the Last Supper from John 13:34-35)
The Pharisees asked Jesus a
trick question in order to
trip Him up. Here’s how He
“But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NKJV)
Believers living today should
certainly make it a priority to
keep these “commandments of love”
spoken by Jesus Christ - for the
right reasons. However, as
great as these commandments are
we should also understand that
obeying them is not a
requirement for receiving (and
keeping) eternal life following
Eternal life takes on its new role as "God's Gift" obtained by Grace (or the unmerited favor of God) only after Jesus paid for it in blood. Contrary to popular Christian teaching, if any commandments - regardless of how good - must be kept in order to obtain God's gift ... then it's a reward for behavior and works - which makes God's gift nonsensical. Under the Old Testament program of the Law, salvation or eternal life was never called "God's gift" because it was conditional – based on the obedience and behavior of the individual. It was only after the sacrifice of Christ and the beginning of the New Covenant that the word “gift” was used to describe salvation and eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 6:23).
It's important to understand
that Christ's commandments of
love; both the one given to
His disciples at the Last
Supper and the two given to
the Pharisees - are not the
ones He told the rich young
ruler to keep in order to
obtain salvation in Matthew
Redefining Christ's words by ignoring the rules of context concerning Matthew 19:16-26 makes it appear that He is telling us how eternal life (salvation) is obtained today. Yet, His future crucifixion changed all of the previous rules governing salvation, many of which He taught before the cross. Other teachings given by Christ during His earthly ministry are subject to these same rules of context. The reason Saint Paul insisted that the Word of God must be "rightly (or correctly) divided" - is because the the cross of Christ changed all the rules that govern salvation.
There's More To This Story
Once again; when the young man in Matthew chapter 19 asked which commandments to keep in order to receive eternal life, Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments of the Law. However, the young man claimed that he had kept all of these commandments since his youth. Jesus then gave him one more requirement: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” When the young man sadly walked away, unwilling to obey this request, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23)
In response to Christ's words,
his disiples were astonished
“Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25)
Jesus, knowing what would take place AFTER THE CROSS under the New Covenant that His sacrificial death would establish - answered their question:
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
One thing stands out in this story: Obtaining salvation before the cross required an intense regiment of works tied to Old Testament Law. According to Jesus, it required a level of religious performance that few, if any, could satisfy. This is why the disciples ask Jesus the question: “Who then can be saved?” They knew that the kind of obedience He was talking about is impossible for most (and probably all) people.
BUT, AFTER THE CROSS THESE
REQUIREMENTS CHANGED FROM
BEING BASED ON OLD TESTAMENT
LAW ... TO BEING BASED ON
GOD'S UNMERITED FAVOR KNOWN
"For by grace (or God's unmerited favor) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
Understanding how salvation is obtained both before and after the cross is the key to ending much of the confusion, which is actually caused by either abusing or ignoring Biblical context. Speaking and teaching in the name of Christ, while twisting His words to make Him say something that validates your personal beliefs (or theology) - is a very serious offense that carries unthinkable consequences. Once again, this practice is commonly found in many brands (but thankfully not all) of denominational Christian theology.
Jesus Christ Continues
to Speak from Heaven
"But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2)
Whenever the words of Christ are studied or discussed, various controversies often arise. As a result, many correctly say; “These are the words of our Lord which should be honored above everything else in Scripture.” For this reason, certain Bible translations highlight His words in red. We certainly support this practice. Yet, many well-meaning Bible believers often make the assumption ... that the words Jesus uttered before leaving earth at His ascension - are the only words of importance He spoke. The problem with this belief is that people who are still alive ... continue to speak - which is why the Bible warns that Jesus continued to speak from heaven after His resurrection and ascension.
The New Testament addresses this
often ignored truth by giving
a sober warning:
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him (Jesus Christ) who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him (the resurrected Jesus Christ) Who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’” (Hebrews 12:22-26)
There are several traditional brands of Christian theology that claim the words Jesus uttered both before the cross and before His ascension from the earth (often highlighted in red in our Bible) gives us a complete revelation for all Christian faith and practice.
But...after the cross
Jesus was raised from the
dead - meaning that He now lives
again. Believing this in your
heart is one of the requirements
necessary to obtain eternal life.
Christ who is now alive from
the dead, also continues to speak
from His position in heaven.
This is why we are warned ...
"not to refuse Him who now
speaks from heaven."
Refusing to listen to the words
of Christ from heaven may be an
indication that you do not truly
believe He is alive from the
dead - otherwise, you would
heed what He says.
Tragically, many reject the truth that the previous Old Testament program (and its Levitical law) was first fulfilled and then replaced by God’s new redemptive program called the New Covenant (also called "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"- Romans 8:1-4). As a result of the changes brought about by Christ’s sacrificial death, many of the requirements for salvation that He previously taught - before the cross - are now fulfilled by His sacrifice at the cross ... and replaced with "a new and living way" (Hebrews 10:19-23). The full details of this ‘new and living way or New Covenant' are fully revealed through the Epistles of Saint Paul - which contain the words Jesus Christ speaks from heaven about the way salvation is now received.
(Jesus is speaking) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant (Old Testament Mosaic Law) had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"In that He (Jesus Christ) says, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of the requirements that was against us (Old Testament Law), which was contrary to us. And He (Jesus) has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
If we fail to accept this change...
If we reject the 'new and living way'
Jesus taught from heaven and adopt
the popular belief that what He taught
on earth - before our salvation was
paid for at the cross ... continues to
be the way salvation is obtained and
kept today - then we have no other
choice but to go astray in our faith.
What did Jesus teach from heaven?
That salvation is no longer obtained
and kept by keeping the commandments
of the law...
"Therefore by the deeds of the Law no
flesh will be justified in His sight".
"You have become estranged (separated
or cut-off) from Christ, you who
attempt to be justified by law (or by
keeping the commandments of the Law);
you have fallen from Grace."
As a result, the new way is now ...
"For by Grace you have been saved
through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should
boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9)
This is why Hebrews 12:22-26 warns about the severe consequences of rejecting these “words of Christ” spoken from heaven. Various preachers, attempting to protect their Galatianized brand of Bible teaching, try to persuade us that Christ's heavenly words carry a 'lesser weight' than those spoken on earth. Yet, Christians wonder into dangerous error and even heresy when they fail to accept all His words on an equal basis.
The Pauline Revelation:
One of the Most Suppressed
Truths in the New Testament
There are two primary revelations found in the New Testament. John's "Revelation of Jesus Christ" is the one most are familiar with. However, there is also a 'Revelation of Jesus Christ', which was given to Saint Paul. Bible Scholars refer to it as "The Pauline Revelation". God's purpose for John's Revelation centers on the nation of Israel and the end time Tribulation Period - ending with the Second Coming of Christ. However, God's purpose for Paul's Revelation is vastly different. It was designed to provide the full details of New Covenant salvation for the Church, which was declared to be "a Mystery" - and was previously unknown until God revealed it to Paul.
Why was there so much secrecy
concerning the true purpose and
nature of the cross? Paul gives
us the answer ...
"However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)
The "rulers of this age" that Paul speaks of here are "high order" demonic spirits, which were responsible for planning and orchestrating Christ's crucifixion ‘behind the scene’. These demonic ‘ruling spirits’ were the ones manipulating and controlling the earthy human authorities, who actually performed the act. If Jesus and His disciples (during His earthly ministry) went around preaching the details of the yet future New Covenant - Paul said that these demonic spirits would have never crucified Christ. Why? The New Covenant in Christ's blood (Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25) was God's secret plan (Paul called it "hidden wisdom") to utterly destroy Satan's dominion over the human race. The crucifixion of God's Son was the centerpiece of this plan. The New Covenant couldn't become reality without the crucifixion of our Lord. As a result of Christ's "information blackout" Satan and his demonic world didn't learn about their mistake until it was too late. Contrary to popular church teachings, even Christ's disciples did not know all the details concerning this Divine plan ... until Paul explained it to them.
The Unique Divine Calling
of Saint Paul
In the last section, we learned that Jesus Christ continued to speak from heaven after his death, resurrection and ascension. The obvious question one might ask is ... how does Jesus speak to us? Some say that He speaks mainly through prayer and Bible study. While this is certainly true for individual Christians in their personal relationship with God - this kind of information is far too subjective to be used as bedrock doctrine for the Church. This is the reason God chose a man - Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul) - for this important task. After Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9 ... Paul was later called up to God's throne, where he was given the full details involving the salvation Jesus previously initiated at the cross. The Bible refers to Christ's unique 'Grace-based salvation' as; The New Covenant - which is only fully revealed in Paul's "Epistles to the Church" - and embodied in the statement...
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Paul describes his trip to
heaven and the evangelistic
message Jesus entrusted to
"But I make known to you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the Revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12)
"It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ (Note: Paul is speaking of himself) who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)
Since it was the Lord Jesus
Christ who gave Paul his
gospel message - he must now
issue this warning to all
Christians, which includes
those of us living today:
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-8)
"You have become estranged (separated or cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from Grace." (Galatians 5:4)
It is this 'New Covenant Gospel' (the one Paul received directly from the Lord Jesus Christ while in heaven) that declares eternal life to be the unmerited gift of God ... but pronounces a curse on those who preach any other gospel that differs from his. This includes the previous Old Testament law-based gospel that provides a conditional salvation - which is not a gift. Unfortunately, many in the Christian Church ignore Paul's warning - and choose to embrace a different gospel.
Spiritual War in the Church
Not everyone was pleased with the changes made by the cross of Christ. Beginning in the first century - and recorded in Acts chapter 15 - a group of prominent ministers attempted to replace Saint Paul's gospel of Grace with a spiritual counterfeit that sought to continue the Old Testament law-based program. The case was reviewed by what modern theologians often call, "The First Jerusalem Council" consisting of the apostolic leadership of the early church led by James, our Lord's half-brother. This event was the opening salvo of a vicious internal church war between the authentic gospel of Christ and what Paul would later call, "a different gospel". Despite the fact that the Apostolic Council correctly condemned the counterfeit ... it survived and now dominates the modern-day Christian Church.
Due to its importance, three
full-length Bible studies
were previously written to
address this topic. Rather
than repeating all of this
information here, you can
access these studies at the
The Spiritual Revolution of Jesus Christ
and How the False Church Opposes It
What Does it Mean When God Says
'I Do Not Change'
The Three Stages of New Testament
The information found in these writings involve what the New Testament refers to as; "contending earnestly for the faith" (Jude 1:3-4). It's a form of verbal confrontation used to defend the authentic Gospel of Christ - when it comes under attack by those who embrace what Saint Paul refers to as "a different gospel". In these emotionally charged situations, various well-meaning church leaders and their followers attempt to replace the authentic Gospel with a spiritual counterfeit that they sincerely believe is the real one. Paul warned about those who conduct their ministry in such ways things by saying...
"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19)
It is not our desire to offend visitors to this site. Yet, 'contending earnestly for the faith' is divisive and offensive by design ... and it carries God's approval. Despite the emotional controversy surrounding this topic, we hope the information presented here is beneficial in your relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
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