How Did the Old Testament People Become Christians?

The 260 Journey
The 260 Journey
How Did the Old Testament People Become Christians?

Day 165

Today’s Reading: Galatians 3

The letter to the Galatians is a call back to reintroducing the simplicity of the gospel message. It’s so simple that the formula has not been changed for five thousand years. And Galatians 3 tells us something epic and answers a question I have been asked many times: how did the Old Testament people become believers or Christians?

How did those in Genesis through Malachi have a relationship with God?

This may surprise you, but there’s no better New Testament letter to answer this than the book of Galatians. Paul says this:

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:6-9)

These words are incredible. Paul associates so many New Testament salvation words with Abraham: Abraham believed; reckoned to him as righteous; God preached the gospel to Abraham; and finally called the believer.

Wow! This sounds like a Christian from the book of Acts not someone from 2000 BC, from the book of Genesis. Abraham the believer is a great name for the Old Testament patriarch. 

How did an Old Testament person become a Christian? Simple. The same way we do. They were called upon to believe God—just as the book of Romans tells us that belief in God makes us righteous, or reckoned.

I love that word. Reckoned is a word Paul uses for the result of belief. The word means to impute. To make it even simpler, it is to put into an account. It’s like watching a spy movie and the characters are electronically sending huge sums of money to a Cayman Island account. This is what happens to those who believe in God: God sends righteousness to your account. Righteousness is not from stringing together a bunch of obedient successes and good days in being a Christian. Righteousness is imputed, reckoned, sent to our account, like to a Cayman Island offshore account. It’s something huge . . . righteousness.

All because we do one thing: believe in God.

That’s the gospel of the New Testament and that was the gospel of the Old Testament, which Abraham had preached to him.

Jonathan Whitefield was preaching to coal miners in England, and he asked a man, “What do you believe?”

“Well, I believe the same as the church,” the man said.

“And what does the church believe?”

“Well, they believe the same as me.”

Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitefield said, “And what is it that you both believe?”

“Well, I suppose the same thing.”

That’s elusive belief. The question we should ask is, what did Abraham believe? I think Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” The writer of Hebrews says that we must believe that He is. That means Abraham believed all that God disclosed about Himself. That God is exactly who He said He is.

Why is that important? 

First, it’s not making up things about God’s character but believing what He reveals. And for Abraham, it started with “God is one, not many,” like the polytheistic cultures he was surrounded by. Abraham did what Martin Luther King Jr. expressed: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Apologist Ravi Zacharias said: “We have a right to believe whatever we want, but not everything we believe is right.” As time progressed all the way to the book of Galatians, it still holds true that we must believe that He is. God has shown us a lot more. He has shown more of Himself through His Son Jesus. Belief is based on God disclosing Himself, revealing Himself, and the pinnacle of God’s self-revelation is in the person of Jesus.

Everything starts to make sense when you believe God. C. S. Lewis said it best: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”

So how did Old Testament saints become Christians? The same way we do. Abraham believed God is. We do the same. We must believe God is. The only difference is that to believe that He is became so much clearer in God’s Son Jesus.