Was the Old Testament religion one of salvation by works, while the New Testament one by grace? Many in the church have often framed the contrast between the covenants this way: Law-keeping vs. Grace. But that’s not where the biblical evidence leads, claims Dr. Craig Keener. In this Seven Minute Seminary, we learn that salvation was always by grace through faith, and covenant faithfulness on Israel’s part was expressed through obedience.
The story of the Old Testament is clear: God redeemed Israel out of slavery (Exodus 20); God chose Israel because of his love (Deuteronomy 7), not because of Israel’s righteousness (Deuteronomy 9). However, covenant faithfulness was expressed through obedience to the Law (Deuteronomy 30), just as love for Jesus is expressed in obedience to his commands (John 14:15). The Apostle Paul confirms that the old covenant was based on grace, as does James the brother of Jesus (Romans 10; James 2). So Paul wasn’t against the Law, only against using it to boast, or misusing it to exclude others (Romans 3). This explains how Paul can appeal to the Law (the first fives books of the Old Testament) to teach salvation by grace through faith.
See also this video by Dr. Bill Arnold and Dr. Ben Witherington: “Christians and the Old Testament“; If you would like to learn more about where Jesus is found in the Old Testament, get The Fulfillment: Jesus and the Old Testament by Timothy Tennent from our store. If you’d like to learn more about the continuity of God as revealed in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament, see this review by Andrew Wilson.
Get your copy of The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by John Walton.
Get your copy of The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig Keener.